EXPLORING FERTILITY, LOSS & THE YEARNING FOR BABY
Nothing aims to define a woman so much as reproduction. From the start of our monthly cycle in adolescence through to its cessation in menopause we have a constant reminder to pay attention. Avoid pregnancy, get pregnant, stay pregnant, stop the pregnancy, yearn to be pregnant, despair of ever being able to be pregnant, mourn the loss of the ability to be pregnant again. Girl through to great grandmother, whether straight, lesbian, bi, trans, or queer we are circumscribed through our gender and our reproductive stage.
Because of this social defining – whether we really want a baby or don’t want a baby – when this aspect of our life doesn’t move smoothly we can feel great anguish.
As a woman (mother of two, and now menopausal) in a women-only therapy practice here in Canberra, I stay attuned to these parameters of female experience in my clients. It is helpful to have a safe place to come to, a listening ear, a caring heart to share the load.
WALKING A TIGHTROPE WITH LITTLE CONTROL
There are many fertility stages: menstrual issues, accidental or unwanted pregnancy and termination choices, trying to conceive, pregnancy loss, gruelling pregnancies, still births, challenging births, and coming to terms with new parenthood.
Each stage has its own challenges and decision points. You can easily feel overwhelmed and lost in trying to move forward.
Trying to conceive: I will be complete with you, baby
While rationally as an adult woman you may feel you are perfect just as you are, you may also still yearn for a baby. If you then have trouble having a baby it can feel devastating. You may feel as though you cannot survive it. “Who am I if I can never be a mother?”
This is often a silent, humiliating journey. Sometimes our partners cannot support us or it feels too frightening to let them in to the emptiness one can feel. Looking further around you, you may see others getting instantly pregnant, or friends complaining about unplanned pregnancies, see parents bored and unengaged with their children, or be continually asked “when are you going to have a baby?”. These experiences are triggering and drive your feelings deeper to fuel a sense of hopelessness and unfairness.
Unhelpful advice along the way
“Stop thinking about getting pregnant, just go on a holiday, try not to want a baby so much, eat this food, read this book, just try to relax”. These well-meaning yet unhelpful suggestions from those around you tends to hurt and then toughen up your outer skin, making it harder to show and express the deep sense of loss and despair that trying to conceive embodies.
You need to find a safe space to work through this sadness, anger and frustration.
The wonderful event has occurred – you are pregnant. Your dreams for the future are full of ideas of who this little person might be, what sort of mother you will be, how your partner will be as a parent, how it will feel to be heavily pregnant, what your life will be…and then the sudden shock.
Perhaps it is at your ultrasound, or as visceral as blood and cramps signaling all is not well. Physical and emotional pain instantly descends as you realise your pregnancy is ending.
It really doesn’t matter in that moment that 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage, because the life you saw and imagined moments before has vanished. That is 100% of loss for you.
Some women who have chosen to terminate a pregnancy might also have these feelings of loss and distress and a ceaseless going over and over the decision.
At Empathic I can help you explore and work through these feelings of shock and loss.
Walking the path of IVF and infertility treatments
By the time you get to the IVF stage you are already exhausted, grief filled, tear-stained and with feelings of shame of not being able to effortlessly conceive and maintain a pregnancy through to the easy birth of a healthy baby.
The expectation of the never-arriving pregnancy has set you up on a cyclical grief/hope rollercoaster. If it has taken a year before your referral to a fertility specialist that is 12 cycles of hope, dashed to disappointment, perhaps building to despair.
IVF and other fertility treatments can feel like an administrative and medical conveyor belt, and there are many deep feelings and ideas-of-self produced along the way: these can be best explored in therapy, out of the medicalised setting.
Social constructs that being female means mother
For many women, our deep desire to have a baby is primal, powered by our biological imperative, fueled by warm images of snuggling babies, giggling toddlers, a closeness like no other. When you are not able to effortlessly conceive self-judgement runs deep.
But there are other ways through this: we can be creative together to work out the best way through for you.
ARRIVING AT infertility
When the path is exhausted, and there is no more doing that can be done. Only surrendering: working through the grief, exploring and understanding the heartache.
A heartfelt moving forward
What would it be like to let your heart open again? To feel hope again? A new opening up in a different direction?
What other options are there? And if not medically, how about emotionally?
Together we can work on how to build your self-care and self-compassion, as well as re-building your connection to others in your life who are caring and nurturing. It is a process of trusting yourself again, and giving yourself a break through creativity and perhaps even humour.
REACH OUT TO TRACEY AT EMPATHIC
I can offer a new way of approaching fertility and infertility, and all the stages in between. We can explore your experiences and your grief together as a team. You don’t have to do this alone. I have lived experience including issues trying to conceive, miscarriages, pregnancy complications, and being an older mum so have perhaps walked a similar journey.
Please reach out through email, check out the Fees & Bookings page for more information or book a session using the button below:
If you would like to chat on the phone before deciding whether to book a session, I offer afree 15 minute phone call appointment. You can ask questions, tell me a little about yourself and decide if we are a good fit.