The longing to have a baby may consume your thoughts when struggling with infertility. Idealization of what life would be like with your child and whom your child will grow up to be may consume your mind, leading to an increase in anxiety and or depression.
Idealization and the desire to become a mother or parent?
Under most circumstances, when you have a goal to accomplish, there are specific steps you can take to obtain your desired goals. Infertility is different because the desired outcome, which is to bring home a healthy baby, is out of your control and is not guaranteed. When struggling with infertility, one of the most challenging things to do is to let go, relinquish control.
Prolonged infertility treatments are monthly cycles of hope and loss. The fear of “What ifs” exacerbate anxiety symptoms. What if I have a miscarriage? What if my body doesn’t respond to treatment? And if there is a positive pregnancy test, “What if I cannot carry the baby to term?” “What if…,” the list of questions goes on and on.
As cliché as “letting go” may sound, infertility forces you to let go of your preconceived ideas of what and when things should happen. The more you hold on to the idea that you can control the outcome, the more helpless you may feel when the result is not as you had hoped.
What does “letting go” mean?
The act of letting go is being open to all of the possible outcomes of fertility treatments, with the hope that the treatments would be successful. It is important to define what success or failure means for you and the life that you’ve envisioned. Letting go is scary and may leave you feeling vulnerable and uncertain, but it is necessary. Letting go is empowering because it allows you to come to terms with the sorrow and pain you have endured. Letting go takes away the harsh self-criticism of not being good enough, feeling broken, and allows you to explore the positive qualities that you have. Letting go does not mean that you will not experience grief from the loss; it means that you will acknowledge and grieve the loss when those feelings arise.
How do I let go?
Implementing strategies to “let go” takes a conscious effort. Some practices to put in place are:
Rewriting what your story looks like. Rewrite and explore what different outcomes look like for you and the sadness and joys of each.
Choosing to engage in activities that make you happy – Remember the activities you enjoyed before learning about your infertility? Pick one of those activities, set a date and time to engage in at least one activity, and see if you still experience joy from that activity.
Acknowledging the pain – Sitting with the pain and acknowledging what you are experiencing physically and emotionally when your emotions make you feel overwhelmed.
Understanding grief – Understanding that with infertility comes grief and loss; as a result, your feelings may ebb and flow. Embracing the grief when it hits you is also the process of letting go. Be okay with knowing that some days will be more challenging than others, even though you have chosen to let go.
Engaging in mindfulness and relaxation activities. – Focusing on your breathing is a powerful tool at your fingertips to help you feel relaxed when you feel emotionally overwhelmed. Focusing inward brings stillness, calm and distracts you from the racing thoughts in your mind.
Letting go and relinquishing control.
When struggling with infertility, you are likely to do everything within the limitations of your power to obtain the desired outcome. Although the goal may be to get pregnant and have a beautiful, healthy baby, the vision of how that beautiful baby may come into your life may not be what you had envisioned originally.
Relinquishing control may seem scary, but sometimes what we desire the most may become more apparent when we let go of trying to control everything.
I am a fertility psychologist in Los Angeles and offer complimentary 15 min initial consultations. If you are a woman or couple seeking infertility counseling, you may click here to schedule an appointment.