To yearn is human.
From an evolutionary perspective, yearning is engrained in us. It’s a catalyst for progress. We want something, we strive for it, we achieve and then our yearning moves on and finds a new target.
But, what if that yearning is for something that cannot be easily achieved? What if it is completely out of our control, can it damage our spirit? Can it affect our life and the lives of those we hold dear?
A few years ago my yearning to become pregnant with my second child almost consumed me. The desire to have a baby was so strong that all I could think about was what was missing. It was all consuming and couldn’t be pushed aside.
The yearning mind is powerful. It makes us believe we are not enough and constantly nags that we should be doing more. My yearning left me guilty, isolated and depressed. I began to question my own self-worth.
It’s an easy leap for the yearning mind to equate infertility with lacking what we as women were built to do. Conceiving is seen as a basic human function and when the “natural” process of creating a child doesn’t work, our yearning deepens and can be joined by fiercer emotions like jealousy, anxiety and radical self-doubt.
I remember all these emotions. I felt out of control trying to manage the situation and really spinning my wheels accomplishing nothing. In desperation I turned to “Google MD” spending hours researching my fertility diagnosis searching for answers and insight. I gravitated toward fertility forums and the anecdotal stories of women who were “just like me” or at least seemed to be sharing my experience.
Like junk food, it was a quick fix, an addiction, a way that I could calm my yearning mind but inevitably the demons reared their ugly heads the minute I logged off. What I didn’t realize at the time was that by trying to control and solve the situation, I was actually making my yearning worse. I gave more energy and power to those jealous, anxious and doubting voices in my mind.
The good news in all of this is we are not our yearning. We are so much more. What if there was a way to work with our yearning and change the way we think about it to loosen its grip?
The first step in this process is to recognize the times when the yearning arises. I know when I am fully present, in the moment and engaged in whatever I am doing. It is then that the yearning falls away. When I am busy and click into autopilot, that is when the yearning creeps in.
Yearning is natural and in itself, is not negative but when we become singularly focused on the object of our desire, it can eat away at our psyche. We can become so focussed on what we are unable to achieve that it can lead us to a psychological stalemate.
If we become mindful of our yearning mind, we can get control of it. Cultivating mindfulness towards yearning requires us to be aware of our thoughts and feelings, even what’s going on around us moment to moment. We need to accept the emotions as they come, allowing them to rise and fall within us. If we refuse the emotions, try to fight, fix or ignore them all together, we harm ourselves. By acknowledging them, we can learn to be gentler on ourselves through this process.
For me, it was about riding the wave of yearning, saying, “OK, I really want a baby and I’m struggling.” I took a step back, centered myself and breathed through the emotion. This allowed me to experience desire to have a child without needing an immediate solution. I could gently let that feeling go. Seeing it as part of the process really allowed me to be still in myself. I continually reminded myself that I am not my yearning.
It’s time to normalize yearning when it comes to infertility. This is a different kind of desire. It hits close to home. It’s an orphan child, screaming inside us. We need to answer and then choose how we process those feelings.
As Virginia Woolf wrote in To The Lighthouse, “To want and not have, sent all up her body a hardness a hollowness, a strain. And then to want and not to have – to want and want – how that wrung the heart, and wrung it again and again!”
It is up to us, and only us to protect our hearts through this journey of infertility. We must strive to be gentle on ourselves, to remain in the present and acknowledge that deepest of yearnings: bringing new life into this world.