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Utah blogger and author, Kerstin Daynes shares tips to find strength while dealing with infertility.
In order to survive infertility, we must change.
Surviving means to continue to live. Surviving means to be of use. Surviving means to remain happy, healthy, and unaffected in spite of what goes on around us ( dictionary.com teaches us all of that). In the midst of those ever present pains of infertility (we all know them), it is sometimes hard to feel like you are of use, happy, healthy, and unaffected. What you really feel is broken, sad, and without purpose or direction. You feel as though infertility's grasp has changed so much about what you thought life would be. Perhaps in order to feel of use, to be happy, healthy, and unaffected by infertility there are a few things we could change or tweak. The change could be the way we think, the way we act, or even the things we say. These changes can end up setting us up for success and empowering us to survive difficult circumstances.
Here are only a few ideas…
Think of yourself as brilliant. Have you ever felt that people around you assume that because you cannot get pregnant, it is probably because you don't know what you are doing? That perhaps you might not actually know how to do "it"? Yeah. I have felt that. But guess what—that is not true. Infertility is caused by actual, legitimate physical problems, not stupidity. In fact, as I spoke to a woman who works with patients at a fertility clinic, she said that those who seek help with their fertility are some of the most educated people—they come to doctors having studied and done extensive research. Keep up the studying…educate yourself…add to your brilliance!!
Think of yourself as being a part of the "in-" crowd. Let me tell you: "You are not the only one dealing with infertility." You are part of a HUGE group of people who are infertile (try 7.3 million in the US)—that makes you part of the "in" crowd for sure. Do not feel alone. Make a list of all the people you know who are dealing with infertility. Your list can include good friends, a member of your family, someone you go to church with, or a friend of a friend of a friend. Every person counts. List them by husband and wife since they are in it together. As you become aware of more people, add them to your list. Look at it every once in a while. Each time I look at mine, I realize that infertility is not so strange, that it goes beyond just me, and I have a whole bunch of people who can understand what I am experiencing.
Find a passion. Life should not be 100% infertility. Shake things up a bit and focus your energies on infertility only 10% of the time. Fill your life with things that bring happiness and make time to live in realms where you feel successful. You might take up a hobby, volunteer, become more involved in a sport, or travel. You might find writing or reading or taking pictures as therapeutic or energizing—bringing extra joy into each day. Don't allow infertility to overshadow the wonderfully meaningful parts of life.
Find the reason. Let me pass on three thoughts… "Less than half [of couples having conception issues] seek help from a health care provider," (Beth Cooper-Hilbert).
"Today, we have the ability to learn virtually every reason why a couple cannot achieve a successful pregnancy…infertility is merely the result of a broken component or dysfunctional step within the reproductive system that keeps it from working. If we can correct the broken step, then 100% of our patients can achieve pregnancy," (Dr. Russell Foulk).
When you have a reason, or a prognosis, you can move forward and find solutions.
Develop support groups. Yes, plural…support groups. May I suggest…
a. Yourself. Be your first support group. Take care of yourself. Pause every once in a while and evaluate your feelings. Write them down. Ponder how you feel about comments others make, how you feel about treatment options, etc. Spoil yourself. Encourage yourself.
b. Your spouse. Nurture your relationship with your husband or wife. You are in this together. Talk about your feelings. Express frustrations. Shed tears. Strengthen each other through words of encouragement, thoughtful notes, and celebrating small victories.
c. Heavenly Father. Pray frequently. Talk to Heavenly Father about what you are feeling, what your options are, how you should respond to others, and what paths to take. Pray to Him alone and pray to Him with your spouse. Unparalleled strength will come with this "support group".
d. Your family. Every family is different. You might feel like talking with your family about your infertility is like beating your head up against a wall. Or, you might feel like they are your biggest cheerleaders. At least making an effort to invite them to be part of your experience. You might have to do some educating along the way, but if it results in positive support, it will be worth it.
e. Your friends. It always helps to have at least one friend who you can talk with about infertility. The best ones are often those who know infertility first hand—that common bond is a powerful one that allows great understanding and strength.
Talk about it. One of my mottos is "talking about infertility is much better than not talking about infertility." Sure, it is hard and uncomfortable—it is an intimate part of life, after all. But, as you talk about it, it becomes more normal and you find a voice for what you are dealing with. Additionally, you will likely find others who are dealing with the same thing you are!! You might also find that once you start talking about infertility, it is sometimes difficult to stop. Don't be ashamed of infertility. Say it…"I am infertile. I don't like it, but I am not afraid to talk about it." Louder…"I am infertile. I don't like it, but I am not afraid to talk about it." Doesn't that feel good?
Be armed, but not so dangerous. Be ready for questions and comments—they come when you least expect it and they can easily conjure up feelings of anger and sorrow. When you come up with exact phrases to use at specific times (and practice them every once in a while), you will be prepared instead of being caught unaware. When you are prepared, it is easier to remain calm and in control. "Your responses should be positive and non-offensive…how we respond to the comments of others speaks volumes about us personally: we can either be seen as bitter, deeply angry and unapproachable, or we can be seen as willing to educate others...and desirous to foster relationships of love and understanding,"
For more tangible ideas, check out Kerstin's blog at www.ldsinfertility.org or check out the book: Infertility; Help, Hope and Healing.