Coping with Infertility: Grieving the Loss of the Ideal Pregnancy
One of the hardest things about struggling with fertility is that it means grieving the loss of the dream of the ideal pregnancy. In our culture, many of us have internalized the idea that getting pregnant is supposed to be simple and that after we meet our partners , start our careers and decide that we are ready to start a family, we will be able to easily get pregnant “naturally”. However sometimes the dream of natural pregnancy doesn’t always play out like we thought it would. Maybe we aren’t able to get pregnant after months and months of trying, or we realize after coming off birth control that we have hormonal issues or other complications, or we are able to get pregnant but struggle with recurrent pregnancy loss. All of these scenarios can bring up a lot of emotions including grief, sadness, anger, envy, and shame. These emotions can feel overwhelming and often take up a lot of our mental energy and can have an impact on our daily well being, relationships, and overall mental health. Discovering that you are struggling with fertility means the loss of a dream of an “ideal” pregnancy; whatever that dream entailed for you. Grief is part of the human experience and is a way of expressing our sadness at any type of loss in healthy way. Many of us struggle to have the tools to grieve this loss. In our culture, we only learn about grief in the context of death but yet there is so many other ways that grief shows up in our life. As a counsellor specializing in infertility, some ways that I help my clients to grieve include:
Give yourself permission to feel all of your feelings: your sadness and anger are all part of the grieving process. Allow yourself to cry, punch a pillow, or just sit with your emotions without pushing them away. Emotions may feel very intense and overwhelming at times but grief often comes in waves. Remember these feelings won’t last forever.
Cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness is the practice of present moment awareness. Instead of getting lost in your thoughts and the narrative of what it means to be infertile, try to simply notice your thoughts as just thoughts rather than truths (easier said than done) Often the act of just bringing more awareness to our thoughts allows us to let them go or challenge them.
Practice self care. Taking care of yourself is so important during this time. Infertility is an incredibly stressful life event and if we aren’t taking care of ourselves we may not be able to cope with the stress. Self care can look like so many things for different people but basically it means taking time to relax and do things that you love and that make you feel good. Some of my favorite self care practices include: yoga, taking a bath, lighting a scented candle, going for a walk or getting into nature, dancing, spending time with friends, cooking a special dinner, and enjoying a glass of wine or cup of tea. Other ideas might be meditating or praying, journaling, taking up a hobby or sport, or simply just taking some time to sit and enjoy a coffee without being rushed or distracted.
Reach out for support to others. Perhaps there is another woman who has gone through a similar journey or a trusted friend who has the skill of being able to listen that you can reach out to. If you are experiencing depression and anxiety and/or your emotions are too overwhelming to feel, you may want to reach out to counselling for more support.
It may feel like the loss of an ideal pregnancy isn’t something that needs to be grieved but if your infertility is causing you stress and/or impacting how you feel, there are probably some emotions that haven’t been worked through or felt. The beautiful thing about grief is that although the thought of feeling those difficult emotions seems overwhelming, when we allow ourselves to actually feel them we often feel better and lighter. Grieving this loss will create space for a new way of being and a new journey to take place in your life.
I’m a Registered Clinical Counsellor and Certified Intuitive Eating Counsellor in Vancouver, BC specializing in women’s health including reproductive and perinatal mental health and disordered eating and body image.