I remember the day I was diagnosed with secondary infertility. At the time, it felt like everyone around me was pregnant with their second child. I carried around so much negativity towards my experience and myself. I was very focused on figuring out the “problem” with me. Why couldn’t we conceive again? I was sure there was a big problem. I became a detective searching to uncover what was wrong? I was obviously defective.
Eight years later, I have MUCH more empathy for my 33-year-old self. I was so rough on myself. My negative self-talk took hold of the dialogue in my head.
Practicing self-compassion is an active process that can be used to change the way we feel in difficult circumstances. If I could change anything about my fertility experience, it would be changing the way I related to myself and the people around me throughout the journey. I would have offered myself some self-compassion. I know It’s easy to say in hindsight and much harder to put into practice.
One of my favorite writers on the subject of self compassion is Christopher Germer, Ph.D. He defines compassion as a way of accepting the self instead of what is happening to the self. Self compassion is an accepting and honouring of our feelings. It’s giving ourselves permission to let all the different feelings rise and fall, come and go, with gentleness and love.
Envy is a common emotion that runs deep for those dealing with infertility. We may avoid certain events if we know it will trigger a bad feeling. It’s not uncommon to feel waves of jealousy towards others who are pregnant or who conceived with ease. These different feelings and inner dialogue can interfere with even our closest friendships.
Practicing self compassion starts by acknowledging and validating our feelings and experience. Feelings of jealousy, sadness, anger, fear and hopelessness are all very normal. There is nothing wrong with these feelings. Instead of adding the extra layer of judgement, by asking why am I feeling this way? I shouldn’t be feeling this way; there is something wrong with me, self-compassion gently lifts the layers by providing acceptance and validation.
Self compassion cultivates a kinder inner voice. So instead of the “what’s wrong with me” thoughts, we start to practice gentler thoughts such as “I am feeling sad in this moment and I’m just going to let it move through me.” There is no need to run from it. From a self-compassion perspective, the way you feel is not fixed. It will come and go and then maybe return again.
If you want to learn more about the Art of Waiting and self compassion tools for your fertility, you may be interested in our upcoming Mindfulness Fertility Series. We begin this series on October 18th. http://healinginfertility.ca/mindful-fertility-program/
Amira is a Social Worker in Toronto, Ontario. She works with individuals and couples who are struggling with infertility. Amira facilitates the Mind-Body Fertility Group at Mt. Sinai Hospital.
She is also a mother of three miracles.
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