As someone who has been through many ups and downs during our infertility journey, I have learned SO many things, but at the end of the day, the most important thing to note is that trying to conceive is JUST as much a mental journey as it is physical. Although you will be dealing with plenty of physical stressors (hello shots and more shots!), it is so incredibly important to make sure your mental health is taken just as seriously.
From dealing with not being able to get pregnant, going through IVF treatments, and feeling like you have to explain yourself constantly, there are so many things that go through your mind when you’re on this challenging journey that you really do have to remind yourself that a) you’re only human, b) this is NOT your fault, and c) you’re not alone!
During my journey, I felt the walls caving in so many times, especially after facing a miscarriage, and this is when I felt it was best to speak to an outside source about my feelings and what I was silently dealing with inside my mind. Luckily, there are plenty of counselors and therapists who specialize in infertility/relationships.
I had the chance to connect with the beautiful, amazing, Chiemi Rajamahendran, founder of Miss Conception Coach. She is an infertility support counselor that offers individual and couples support sessions in person and digitally worldwide. Chiemi has experience with women’s emergency crisis lines, miscarriage support, and pre-conception health and wellness among other environments.
This amazing woman took the time to share some of the most helpful tips that she reminds her clients of constantly no matter where they are in their infertility journey. When I spoke with her after our failed cycle she let me vent about how frustrated and hurt I was with my body and truly helped me work through some of the overwhelming emotions I was feeling. See below for her insightful advice.
“Feeling more ‘positive’ doesn’t mean we no longer feel the hard stuff. Instead, it lies in understanding how to manage our emotions and acknowledge our own behavior, because all feelings and behaviors make sense in the context of infertility trauma & loss. Learning new tools and techniques that allow for subtle shifts in our thinking is key to working through these painful emotions. And having a safe place to share and be validated in a non-judgmental way is so crucial to our healing.
The truth is, infertility trauma can look like a smile if it has to, because no one ever communicates with one single emotion, we feel in circles, not straight lines. Our joys don’t simply dissolve our pain; they just learn to coexist. It’s ok to laugh one minute and cry the next, to feel strong but also second guess everything we thought we’d learned.
It’s ok to laugh one minute and cry the next, to feel strong but also second guess everything we thought we’d learned.
Other people’s inability to validate these emotions and experiences can be another layer of grief and is often one of the main reasons why we don’t share our feelings – which can result in feeling more alone. There is fear in being rejected when we open up and are vulnerable, and often, this state of vulnerability is only met with indifference or platitudes. Like “don’t worry, just relax, be grateful for what you have, have you tried ___.” This is extremely frustrating and draining.
Re-establishing a sense of safety both emotionally + physically is crucial for working through these trying times. Infertility trauma stems from the compounded feelings of “not having a choice”, and having to endure stressful experiences repeatedly. These experiences could be procedures, tests, schedules, protocols, and even dynamics with health-care professionals, and these scenarios often make you feel powerless and vulnerable.
Sometimes these painful emotions resurface from feeling like you’ve already had to sacrifice so much. It’s okay to grieve the loss of the fun planning, spur of the moment sex, the anticipation of the two week-wait, the excitement of peeing on a stick, the ultrasound keepsake and the cute, creative way of telling your partner. These are not just ‘little things’. It takes time to adjust to a new normal.
I often hear our community express:
- “What was supposed to be just ours is now shared between so many. Other people get to know the status of our pregnancy before we do.”
- “People tell us when, where and how – which makes nothing about it effortless.”
- “Every pregnancy announcement, shower invite, and gender reveal stings so badly. We see the excitement and glee in your eyes, and we are scared we will never feel that. Or that we will, and it will be taken away.”
The truth about infertility trauma Is…
- You don’t need to hit rock bottom to be deserving of empathy.
- You don’t need to lose your mental health to accept emotional support.
- You don’t need to be physically unwell to need time to rest and heal.
These hard, complicated emotions are never a reflection of your character or how well you are handling things. Infertility doesn’t have to be a lonely, isolating place. Hanging on by a thread doesn’t have to be the norm each month. You were not meant to do this alone.
As an infertility counselor specializing in trauma & loss, these are the truths I want to raise more awareness about and normalize:
- You will feel pressure from others to move on.
- Don’t. Healing and emotions don’t have a timeline. It’s ok if you are still feeling upset. Go at your own pace.
- Infertility trauma brings out the best and worst in close relationships.
- Setting boundaries with people is healthy. People will try to push those boundaries. Stay true to them and keep triggers away because you deserve to heal in a safe environment.
- Anger is a very healthy part of the process.
- It’s ok to let out anger and be frustrated about the injustice of infertility. It’s healthy to express it and have it validated.
- People will say insensitive, hurtful things without even realizing they are.
- It’s ok to admit comments like “just relax” annoy you. Even when people don’t mean to, the truth is they do! By sharing our story, using proper terms and spreading awareness we stay true to who we are. The truth is: Spreading awareness and helping people understand is extremely draining and it’s okay if some days you just don’t have the energy to do so. Share with people who just get it and can hold space for your story with compassion and respect.
- Hormones and medication exasperate emotions.
- We can’t underestimate the effect that hormones play in our overall mood. Our bodies undergo an incredible amount of hormonal change each month naturally and with medication, which alters our moods drastically. Give yourself grace in how your body is reacting to things around you, and remember it will often be vast swings of highs and lows. It’s normal for you don’t feel ‘like yourself’ some days. On days you feel extra sensitive to things around you simply nourish and soothe yourself any way you can because you truly deserve it.
Healing comes from CONNECTION! Stay connected, and keep sharing your truth no matter how you feel, because it is always valid. The more we validate these truths, the less shame we feel about them. The less shame felt allows for others to step forward and share their story/truth too. We don’t get over it, we just get through it. Together we will get through this.