“I don’t know if I can go on.”
We hear these eight words a lot at Pulling Down the Moon from women who have experienced deep disappointment in their fertility journey. But the women do go on. They are resilient and go on to not only survive, but thrive. And believe it or not, you will too.
You are resilient. To be resilient is to be able to withstand or recover quickly from difficult conditions. It is a quality that some are born with, and that some come to learn. Anyone who has lived through the challenges of infertility — a failed cycle, a miscarriage, a difficult piece of news, the loss of a hard-fought pregnancy — and still goes on to try again is learning resilience.
No matter how you feel right now, the good news is that resilience can be learned. In my experience, it comes down to six simple steps.
Six Steps to Resilience:
1. Allow yourself to be truthful about what you are experiencing and feeling.
Find someone– whether it be a support group, a therapist or a good friend – that you can be absolutely truthful with about what you are going through. One of the biggest ways we become resilient is by combatting the tendency to hold on to our negative thoughts and feelings. Seeing yourself reflected in compassionate eyes begins to heal the self-blame and anger that comes with fertility challenges.
2. Nourish yourself with healthy food.
The food you eat not only fuels your body, it impacts your ability to handle stressful situations. In short, diet contributes to resilience. Lean protein and complex carbohydrates smooth out our brain chemistry and balance blood sugar, while protein stimulates neurotransmitters and helps us focus. Healthy fats form the backbone of our mood-managing neurotransmitters, improving our mood. Also consider supplementing your diet with essential fatty acids and probiotics, which have been shown to help prevent depression and anxiety.
3. Get sleep.
Researchers have known for years that shift work (working nights or rotating day/night shifts) is associated with depression, obesity, breast cancer, menstrual irregularity, endometriosis, infertility, miscarriage and pre-term birth. There is evidence that melatonin, our sleep/wake hormone, impacts the ability of the uterus to receive an embryo. The fast pace of modern life has put everyone at risk of chronic sleep deprivation. Give yourself the amount of sleep you need to feel rested and not in need of caffeine, sugar or other stimulants. Feeling tired, sleepy, cranky or having trouble concentrating are all signs you're not getting enough sleep. Pinky-swear with your partner that you will spend the next seven days improving your sleep technique.
4. Develop a yoga habit.
Yoga reduces stress and anxiety. It helps you release muscular tension in your body, improve blood flow and lower stress hormones. Yoga works directly on the vagus nerve, stimulating our body’s rest/digest/nest processes that are the physical equivalent to resilience. Through yoga, your body can begin to relax and to heal. Once your body allows itself to relax, your mind will follow. Yoga is also the ultimate practice of resilience – we use the poses to bend, but do not break; we hold them with strength.
5. Stay sexy.
Fertility troubles can often take the spice out of an otherwise normal sex life. Exercise regularly so you feel strong and shapely. Splurge on a new nightie that emphasizes your curves and makes you feel like a sex kitten. Make an aphrodisiac meal that you can share by candlelight with your lover. Sex helps you release tension and rekindle the closeness you might be missing as you and your partner work through your challenges.
6. Lighten your load and begin to let go.
Resilience is about discovering what you need to shed. In my 12 years at Pulling Down the Moon, during many of which I was working on my own fertility journey, I have seen that we all wear some negative emotion or belief like a shell. We believe our shell gives us form and shape, and fear that if we release this deeply held belief we will no longer be the same. The shell can be made of many different things - grief, fear, blame, anger. We believe that if we work hard enough and are a good enough person, we will get what we want. Some of us believe our fertility defines us. Resilience is the ability to begin to address these questions and fears, rather than allow them to shape our world. Once we let go, we begin to come out of our shell and take the form in life that reflects our potential. Infertility is a painful process, but one that can allow for immense liberty and personal growth. Don’t be afraid to bend. You will not break!