During one of the talks, she shared with us how she and her husband struggled with infertility for 5 years before conceiving their daughter, who ended up being their only child. I was floored by her story, which was a pretty miraculous one, as these stories go, and felt a strong connection with her because of our IF situtation.
Fast forward a month or so: one morning in February, things were just so heavy and my heart was burdened so much by our childlessness that I couldn't bring myself to go to work. Instead, I took a sick day and spent most of the morning laying on the couch thinking, praying, crying, and paging through old journals. (I was quite the journaler, especially pre-marriage. I think I'm up to number 52 or so.) Anyway, I was reading back through more recent entries, and I was struck with how hard the IF cross has been for how long. Like more than a year of consistent intense emotions and having to handle CD1 after CD1 after CD1. It had clearly taken its toll - hence the "sick" day.
I thought of Dr. K at that moment, and how good it would be to get some solid professional advice from a therapist who has a strong faith and also suffered from IF. So I called her up and, thankfully, she said she'd be happy to work with me and we set up our first appointment.
Two appointments later, I'm so grateful for her help. Here are some things she's taught me so far, that I'm trying to work on:
- Infertility is a grieving process, and like every grieving process has various stages: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and eventually acceptance. These "stages" aren't linear but cyclical, so they could happen at any time.
- To cope with anger (something I really needed to talk with her about): anger is like a fire that starts with a spark but can blaze out of control. Just like a real fire, when the "anger fire" starts, Stop, Drop, and Roll. Stop and realize that you're angry. (For me, I think "stop" could also mean just stop what I'm doing - put down the chart! Sit down and don't pick up anything because you'll want to throw it at the wall...) Drop the mask and realize that anger often covers up other more vulnerable feelings - sadness, hopelessness, despair, feeling unloved or forgotten. Anger is a defense mechanism against these more vulnerable feelings. Roll with the underlying feelings - talk about them, write about them, scream about them, but recognize them and go with them. She also said it's okay to be mad at God - He's a big boy, He can take it!
- To cope with pregnancy "jabs" that seem to build up and pounce when I'm at my weakest: don't just push them from my mind (I do that and think I'm "over them") - actually take the time to feel them. Feel the sadness, the feeling of being left out, the unfairness, whatever. Take time to process them now, and they won't be shoved as easily to the dark corner of my mind just to come out a'blazing the next time I'm extremely sad or angry. Mr. M is good about letting me "talk things out" - I'm trying to do this more frequently, so emotions don't build up inside. (I'm not sure how to do this in public or at work....maybe make a mental note to deal with the feelings as soon as I can?)
- Don't let the unitive aspect of marriage be swallowed up by our pursuit of a baby. Come together in non-fertile times to nurture our relationship. She also encouraged me to lighten up on the the charting if I need to, if I feel like charting is making our intimate relations feel forced or like an item on the "to-do" list. I need to give this one more thought. I usually do lighten up on charting the last part of the cycle, since what's done is done anyway, and that can be a relief and a break.