How I became grateful for my infertility

Note: This post has been in draft for four months because it was hard to let it go.

Gratitude and infertility are not words that are used together in the same sentence.

Infertility is more often described as:

“A struggle”
“a flight”,
“overcoming”,
“obsession”,
“a battle”,
“over exposing”,
“stressing”,
“despair”
“loss”

Not exactly positive words that can get a women & couple to an empowered mindset

These are words that couples use to describe infertility. These words are more often used together in various combinations in a sentence but gratitude and infertility….nope, not so much. It has taken me some time to get here, to this space of gratitude. It’s a humbling place to be. The hardest part of infertility is letting go of expectations. There is only one outcome: the one thing is certain, the uncertainty. I am grateful for this dance with infertility, it has made me be introspective and re-caliber my life perspective. It has and will make me a better parent and person. Another experience on my life path.

 Home, "a deep sense of peace". 

It’s Tuesday, my current favourite day of the week, it’s the 6 week support group time with Amira Posner and I’m late. I email Amira and let her know that I’m running late, but for whatever reason, a sense of peace washes over me as soon as I click, “send”.  A brilliant yellow light washes over me. It feels like I am my soul and my soul feels my skin from the inside. I don’t think I’ve ever been so peaceful through this whole thing process as I am now. I hear the clock ticking, my mind yelling at me to get up and go already, “Oh, shut up in there monkey brain, my soul and I are having a moment of deep Universal connection”.

When I’m quiet enough and I let my mind settle, I hear the whispers of my soul. I know the Universe has my back and will still have my back when I’m in the depths of diapers or taking the different route, being a couple with no kids. At the beginning of this year, it was different, as I crashed and burned through a mental health crisis  due to not being to take the emotional ride the fertility world. I’m here now, on the other side. I don’t feel the need to rush towards anything, I don’t feel I need to fulfill anyone’s expectations.

I hear a voice saying, you are going to be OK, you are enough, your Spirit baby is with you, just believe this and know that your body can conceive a healthy baby. I hold on that knowing whatever the outcome, I’m still safe and I’m still going to be me.

Thank you. I am grateful.

The support group, “We’ve got this”. 

Since I’m late, I decide to take my car and drive through the streets of Toronto. I don’t know what has happened to me but the colours in the city so much brighter than they did.  I notice the little things on my drive I didn’t notice before. Was this cafe here on this corner last week? The city is awakening into a new season and I am awakening with it. I can sense the new beginnings, this week has been a good week. The last two before this I was a mess trying to find my sense of purpose in life questioning every single part of my life, asking “WHY” and “WHAT“. As I pass by the Second Cup coffee in the lobby on my way to the group, I round the corner to the elevator, I hear another whisper, “let go, ‘we’ve got this”, except there is no one there next to me whispering this to me. I feel a deep sense of peace just wash over me.

I AM THAT that I AM.

I grateful for my infertility as it has allowed me to go even deeper and become more connected. I am reminded again, that 50% of what I do is my mindset and the other 50% is up to something greater than science.

I am grateful for this experience of infertility as it has taught me compassion towards myself and other women. I see women with children in a different light. I look at their child and smile – I wonder, what has she been through to hold that child in her arms? Instead of judging her and the choice of having a child like I used to in my twenties and early thirties, I am grateful for this new perspective. I have softened. My values have changed. I used to feel sorry for women who had children and couldn’t comprehend why they would ‘that’ to themselves, now, I see that one in six couples had to really commit fully to make the choice to introduce a new life into the world.

Life. We have one in a 15 million chance to make it. For those two cells to connect, yet, somehow they don’t always do.
The universe has your back

 

The Clinic

I am grateful to the Clinic and all the staff. When I hit rock bottom, I stopped all fertility treatment for two months and I took the time to heal and love myself. I can’t stress enough how much I needed to find myself during those two months and regain my balance.  I finally put fertility as one of the many slots of just everyday life. It’s so important to do that because fertility treatments become your life.

I am not my diagnosis and I am not a uterus to be treated.

I am whole and complete.

I am grateful to find people who take the time to help you take another step forward
After the two month hiatus, I was able to walk into the clinic without having a panic attack. The first time after a long time, when the ladies who took my blood didn’t struggle to find the vein. I had tried to switch clinics and found out a ton of information about the Ontario funded IVF. In the very end, the person who I communicated with who was helping me transfer clinics said something that made a big difference for me., “you are in good hands, they really do care there at your clinic. Go do your embryo transfer, and if doesn’t work out after two times, call me then, but I don’t think you’ll be calling me”.

This is how I ended up staying with my clinic. I do finally feel safe here at this clinic. I feel like a human and more than just a treatment. Its so key to trust the people who are helping you create life.

My mindset is different.

balance 2

My two months clinic free, mental health declutter

During my two months ‘off’, I had to face the state of affairs of my relationship, my career, and everything in between. I was faced with the question, “what do I want from life” and “what is my purpose”. I even faced the question of do I actually want a family and what do I value more. How far am I willing to with fertility treatments before I say stop. Am I actually really willing to adopt and why? Am I willing to share this journey with a surrogate? I stepped back and forth between deciding if “mother” is a role I want to take on, or is it that I’m following someone else’s dreams and expectations.

 

Quiet mind

What Infertility has taught me

I see my infertility as a time and space where I am able to explore myself and who I am.

The fundamental question of, “what is my purpose”, “what is my calling”, “who am I” is something that I have been working through while regaining my sense of balance in the four quadrants (health, wealth, spirituality, and relationship). My world was rocked off balance as soon as I entered my job and from the moment I left of my leave, it’s been work to get myself back to who I am. I had to hit the darkest place of depression, anxiety, and panic attacks because of infertility to regain my voice and be strong enough to walk away. The whole month of April was a loss in the sense of confusion and thrashing. I kept asking myself the question, “what do I want?”. I had to face myself and see that one of the reasons of ‘desperation’ was that I wanted to leave where I worked so desperately I was willing to change my life and use a child as a legit excuse. That was one of the stories running in my head. That is not a space to bring a child into, my Spirit baby wants to be wanted and to be loved. That is why when I chose to continue being off work and being unpaid. I had chosen me and my family over an organization. This post has been in draft for four months.

I can’t tell you how raw this is writing this, and I hope that this blog is not found by my organization, but it circles back to, what choices do we make in life to get away from something we don’t want? What if I chose what I do want and be willing to cut cords from anything and everyone who is trying to take my energy away. Actively choosing to live and choosing change.

When I let go of the idea of the next big job and just really focused on why I would want to get up in the morning, I realized that all of these side businesses are meaningless and not useful. I actually love working with people and students who have a disability. I want to get them to work.

Infertily has taught me how to be a parent because from what I know, it’s not a walk in the park. But because I’ve had to reassess who I am, and what I want, as well as what is important to me, I know that while I may be knocked off my feet, I will have something to land on.

I know I would like to do some more personal development, which is why I will be working with a transition coach, Jessie Herald.


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Diagnosis infertility. Job description, advocate.

I made a difference at my fertility clinic. 

At the beginning of March, I met with the Patient experience officer and Dr. B after the failure of a fertility cycle. It was a two-hour emergency meeting. It happened because I was falling apart. We met because I felt like a number. I felt I wasn’t listened to and no one was hearing my concerns. I didn’t know who to turn to because if I asked the nurse the nurse couldn’t make any decisions and there were too many people involved in my care. I wanted one or two dedicated nurses who knew everything on file. I needed to tell them their support group sucked. The waiting room was one anxious space and nothing goes well at the clinic if you are not following one of the prescribed fertility boxes of procedures.

I needed to find MY voice in this entire runaway train and I needed to be heard.

I had no idea that my verbal dump changed many things at the clinic. Two months after this meeting and after my two-month break from not being at the clinic, I’ve become aware of results of this meeting.


Early morning, I’m sitting in the waiting room of the clinic. The chairs are plastic and white the walls are Tiffany blue. The door next to the reception desk opens and closes every few minutes with a sight bang. I wait my turn to see the doc. to figure out what drugs I need for the embryo transfer. I see Vee, The patient experience, walking into the waiting room and out. She waves and smiles as she sees me and stops, saying, “I really want to talk to you!”. I say, “we can talk now, I’m just waiting for one instruction but it’s not urgent”. She motions me in, we open the door, I hear the slight bang as it closes and I followed her down the hall into the boardroom of Anova. Cool, the board room. I’ve never been here, just the dark ultrasound rooms and the doc’s room. Vee seems so excited to talk to me. I wonder why…..

We sit down across from each other and talk about how I’m doing after the two-month break and the fact that I seem to be glowing. I am relaxed. I feel more chilled and definitely more grounded. I’ve put fertility into a box. Just one of the boxes that are me and it no longer rules my world. When I reflect and think about myself and who I was January until May, I don’t recognize myself. I’m so glad I took a break.

At one point, Vee stops and looks me in the eye and says, thank you. I’m confused what for…..? She looks me right in the eye, puts her hands together and says, “Thank you for speaking up, very few actually do. We don’t know how we can be better if someone doesn’t tell us, we can just think what we can do but are not on the other side. We have taken all your comments, complaints and observations and have changed our entire counseling department. We are still not perfect but want to let you know you have made an impact on for other patients”. 

Needless to say, I’m shocked because I think back how much I was hurting during that time and how long the 2.5 hr meeting was with Dr. B and the Vee. I remember I wanted to write about it but was so drained from the conversation I couldn’t bring myself to blog about it.

I tell Vee that I’m so glad this is going on and I hope that I can continue to be a voice for many patients.

What I want the clinic to recognize is that part of functional care and holistic care is to incorporate; counseling, mindfulness, hypnosis and other modalities so we can support the whole person not just the uterus, the egg or sperm.

Find your voice. We want to hear you.

You are not your diagnosis.

Don’t be afraid to let the clinic know what is not working for your treatment, you just never know, you may the catalyst for massive change.

Click here to join the conversation and get more material & resources

 

I’m bleeding out. InFertility & Mental Health

Fertility and mental health: Female Hormones Can Make a Bloody Mess of Your Mental Health

“*Women with infertility felt as anxious or depressed as those diagnosed with cancer, hypertension, or recovering from a heart attack”. (Harvard Review). 

I’ve realized that I’ve been writing a bit about mental health. I think it’s a topic that is close to my heart, professionally and personally. No one is immune. There are two times in this process where I had a mental breakdown, first time at The Clinic in November of 2016,  and the second time just recently. The first time, I walked out of the waiting room and cried like a wild animal in the middle of the hallway heaving in pain. The second time was for a full week right before we found the results after the two week wait which the last two posts have been about. The first time was only a day, the humpty-dumptysecond time I couldn’t pull myself together for over a full week. The unravelling started here. I still feel like Humpty Dumpty (and so does husband) who fell off the wall and now all the kings horses and all kings men, are trying to put Humpty Dumpty together again.

Mental Health Check-up

At the The Clinic, no one checks in on your mental health even though its well-known how much this process will take a toll on you mentally. Just the hormones should come with a <<beware of side effects>> label. Even if we think about a woman who is going through regular PMS, how those hormones affect her, imagine being pumped with MORE hormones than usual would affect a woman. Being a mental health professional, even I didn’t recognize the early signs of things unravelling. Yet, it was so evident that my mental health was bleeding out onto every aspect of my life. Bleeding out is a term that is used when a person’s ability to perform daily functions are affected and there is no separation between the physical and mental. Just think of your brain spilling out and having a hard time distinguishing and separating what is actually real and what is perceived to be real.  When you are in so deep, fertility takes over every part of your life. Think of blood bleeding out and splattering. It gets into the cracks and leaves a stain.

No none of this is healthy, far from it, but what I’m trying to say, this happens so slowly, I didn’t notice it and I’m freaking trained. I’m my worst doctor.

Intuitively I knew something was wrong.

I knew I needed help.

On the second week of the “Two week wait”, I fell apart and crashed mentally and hit a wall. I liken it to a car accident. I’m driving along to my destination and all of a sudden I’m driving through a winter storm. I’m so focused on making it safely to my destination that I don’t notice the truck swerving to the right of me and that threw me through my windshield. That is how it felt. My mental health was out of control. I was anxious, crying at any moment, didn’t want to get out of bed and my energy was so low, I had to take naps during the day. In Chinese medicine they would say, my Qi was off-balance. I was scared to eat anything because I thought I was doing something wrong. I felt so drained, I was getting up, eating and sleeping because of anxiety and stress of waiting if THIS TIME the treatment would work. That week, I went to see a mental health professional and I realized: every aspect of my everyday was now consumed by fertility. Needless to say not exactly the right mindset to have, right?!

I knew there was a problem, when I picked up a pastry in my favourite coffee shop, and my thought process was this:

“Should eat it this because it had gluten in it. Gluten could be a cause of infertility. Maybe I have gluten intolerance and I don’t know it. That is why I am infertile. Why else would a healthy person like me have issues? Maybe I was harming myself by having this pastry. Since I also have PCSO the sugar could be harming me . Ugh, why am I eating this pastry when I should just go Gluten free! Dairy free! Sugar free! 

I had fought this so hard to not have it happen, but it seeped in through the cracks so quietly and so slowly, like water seeping through the cracks.”The Judge”, the voice in my head,  screaming at me, “you of all people should know better”. Before I knew what had happened, my everyday was fertility. Before I knew what had happened, my mental health was affected and I had trouble finding joy in anything. How did this happen?

While the causes of infertility are overwhelmingly physiological, the resulting heartache — often exacerbated by the physical and emotional rigors of infertility treatment — may exact a huge psychological toll. One study of 200 couples seen consecutively at a fertility clinic, for example, found that half of the women and 15% of the men said that infertility was the most upsetting experience of their lives. Another study of 488 American women who filled out a standard psychological questionnaire before undergoing a stress reduction program concluded that *women with infertility felt as anxious or depressed as those diagnosed with cancer, hypertension, or recovering from a heart attack.

http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/The-psychological-impact-of-infertility-and-its-treatment

I had read about this on different blogs and read about it in different the books.  I heard about this happening, but I swore I was going to be different. I swore I won’t have this problem, until it was there…and from what I have seen anyone who has done treatments at one point hits a wall and falls hard.

Asking for help

I went to see someone. She showed me how my thoughts were chaotic and one thought bleed over and over rode all the other thoughts. I walked away after an hour with three practical things.

ONE: Compartmentalize 

I have compartmentalized and really watched my thoughts.

After I walked away from Dr. Julia, I was shocked to realize how much my whole body was and is in flight/fight mode. I did a ten minutes of meditation and my body just slumped into hibernation. So many thoughts circled back to fertility. I’m really not great at this yet, but at least there is an awareness. Right after the appointment, husband and went for lunch and listening about my appointment he discovered that he has unconsciously sought out coping mechanisms too. His was playing the online game  of World of Warcraft, something he had not done years! 

Prescription

I was to assign one hour a day, just like I did with an appointment to obsess over fertility. I was to watch my thoughts and if any thought or something that had to do with fertility I was to tell my mind, not now, that will be doing that at the assigned appointment time.

The work

Its funny, in many ways while this blog was helpful, it also required me to designate a time in the day for it. I would poke and write something at all hours of the day. I realized how our conversations with friends and my husband were all about this freak’n subject. How freak’n annoying not just to me but to those around me.

Spiritual work

The attachment to an outcome.  I had thought I had let go of this attachment, I had not, because it was attached to the fear of letting go of control over the situation.

I had fear that my plan would not work. I had a timeline. I had 6 months for the medical leave and it had to work in the 6 months otherwise I would need to go back.

The plan has not worked out. I was so attached to an outcome. I still am, but working through it. There is no surrender in that. I think it’s also the idea that this family thing is supposed to look a particular way and what if it doesn’t turn out looking that way and I actually don’t get a chance was nature has said to me is so natural? What if I’m still punishing myself for all those years of looking down at moms and pregnant women and my views on family 10 years ago.

If I don’t have my head straight and if I don’t have a sense of peace and serenity, then I can still be misaligned with the opportunity to create.

When I change my mind about my experiences, then my experiences change. It doesn’t mean that the outcome I was expecting will happen, it means how I experience the outcome will change. It’s the attachment piece and an expectation of the outcome.

Gabrielle Bernstein.

This is really hard to process, as how hard it is to not be attached and hoping for an outcome during the two week wait? 

What is my intuition telling me? Its been saying since last year that I should switch clinics, and maybe I should finally listen to that but then there is fear around this switch.

         Fear is such a bitch. It messes with your mind so much.

TWO: Watching cat videos

Prescription:

After my one hour appointment with myself and once I was done obsessing over fertility during the day, I was to watch cat videos or anything funny. This engages a totally different part of your brain that has nothing to do with logical thinking brain. Its like dancing or singing or anything creative.Squirrel

Result….Squirrel!

Have you ever watched that movie, “Up”, where the dog is talking and all of sudden his attention is distracted for a second because there is a squirrel. That is what I’m doing now. Anytime my mind trails off to this topic (you can see it in my eyes) people around me know to simply tell me, “squirrel”. Its funny and it works.

Three: Permission to feel

The work:

I think because I had so much judgement going on in my head and because I was punishing myself for NOT “knowing better”, I didn’t allow myself to feel the true extent of my feelings. Having done lots of personal development there is also a personal development judge that comes up and was punishing me because I wasn’t using the tools that I had learned to use in such situations. In many ways, my training took a knife and decided to hurt me.

Prescription:

In Chinese medicine, “we have an infinate amount of energy and the more we are consumed with negative thoughts and judments then there is less energy to go towards the spark of life.

I don’t think my brain would have accepted permission to relax if it were not a mental health professonal telling to relax and that its totally normal to feel this way. My prescription was to really allow myself to feel the full extent of my feelings where ever they may be in my body.

Final thoughts: so what about all this?

I’ve been writing this post for almost two weeks now, weaving my way in and out of this hitting the wall. I’ve learned how elusive this topic is. Its one thing to talk about infertility which is not as much of a taboo subject anymore, but the mental health piece is. I can truely say, I had a mental breakdown. There really is no way of describing it.

What I’ve learned yet again is that I need to learn to ask for help, allow myself to really feel my feelings and use my voice. This seems to be a theme for me.

As I pick myself up from hitting the wall. I know that this time around it took me almost two weeks to get past this, it just doesn’t go away. I know the next time it could hit me even harder. I just need the tools and compassion for myself to not critise myself so much as I did this time.

The anticipation and anxiety around if our transfer will work, already has my body in tight knots. Before I walk into that process, I need to prepare my mind and body.

In preparation, I decided to do a Mindfulness course on myself again and be more gentle with myself. To really actually do the mediation that I know work but I have not done. To recognize my judge and see him as a protector and someone who wants me to not get hurt. This is the path forward of again holding my heart and saying in the mirror: I love you.

In the book, “Pathways to Pregnancy“, Mary says, “its not that pregancy won’t work, your body is just telling you not now, and most certainly not now when your head and heart are not aligned. You need to sow the soil before you plant the seed. Take care of youself first, before you take care of another being”.

Wisdom of Irene:
“You try, then no expect, then you no sad.”


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