REPRODUCTIVE TRAUMA, INFERTILITY 'SUCCESS' AND REDISCOVERING ME.
When you look at this picture what do you see?
What do you think? What do you feel? What judgments do you perhaps possibly find yourself unconsciously making?
Depending on where you are in your life, what is going on for you, what needs are or are not being met, what thoughts currently take up space in your mind, how you are feeling about you, about others, about purpose, about what you want, all of these will influence your answer.
This picture was originally going to be used as part of a piece on infertility and entitled ‘this is me just relaxing – the supposed answer to my infertility’.
I was quite surprised that when I sat down to type, I was stopped by the thoughts that came up for me as I looked at the picture. Really looked at it and asked myself the same questions I am asking you now.
What do I see, think, feel and it really made me reflect on my journey.
I’ve been the women sitting in the chair, staring at the sea, tears streaming down my face from behind my glasses. On holidays, ‘relaxing’, spending ‘quality’ time with my husband. Completely drowning in anger, resentment, loss, grief, judgment, shame, loneliness, sadness, heartache, disappointment, frustration, bitterness and uncountable other thoughts and emotions. And of course oblivious to the effect it would have on not just my life then but for my future self, along with my relationships, friendships and sense of identity and worth. My entire being was flooded with intrusive and unhelpful thoughts towards myself and others. I was unable to stop, enjoy myself, enjoy the precious free time with someone who loves me or to just switch off and relax. I have been the woman that sat there and thought of all the things I wasn’t because I couldn’t have a baby.
Today I sit and as a mother, person, woman in the middle of a 2 week midterm break, and I look at the picture and it highlights a different longing and different need. A longing and need to have that amount of space, amount of peace and time to myself to breathe and to just switch my thoughts off. The ‘motherload’ of thoughts that consume my brain from the minute my foot steps out of bed to the minute it gets back into it and on occasion keep me awake.
I reflect upon the time I spent wishing for what I have now, and I feel my chest lighten as the tears start to come. This time they come as a release and the awareness that once again something I want is not being met. Something is different this time. There is no guilt or shame or me telling myself I am ungrateful, rather an internal gigantic hug of awareness, kindness and compassion.
I am aware too that these above paragraphs span an 11 year time frame in my life. It has been and continues to be quite the dynamic journey. It is only in the last year or so that I realised, that despite becoming a mother, I was still identifying as the women sat in the chair.
Almost 3 years into motherhood and I was still the ‘infertile’ one who was not enough. That is over a decade of feeling like a failure and stuck on the infertility train.
I was very much stuck in the narrative and stories that I was telling myself. I was using unhelpful coping mechanisms that unconsciously supported my effort to continuously prove over and over again that I was indeed a ‘failure’.
Years of feeling like a failure and not enough, despite ‘successfully’ becoming pregnant and becoming a mother, were well and truly engraved in my psyche. I did not identify as ‘successful’ because it took 7 years of trying and IVF. I had not become a mother ‘naturally’. I had not birthed ‘naturally’. My breastfeeding journey was not a success and I was not able to provide my child with a sibling. I was not woman enough or enough in general, I was co-existing and I was entirely oblivious to it.
Until a year ago I was completely unaware that reproductive trauma was even a ‘thing’. How could I not have known? Why, because we don’t talk about it, that’s why. We don’t talk openly or honestly about grief, loss or trauma when it comes to our reproductive, pregnancy or motherhood journeys or indeed life without baby or the family we thought we might have, but won’t.
I find myself sharing this today because it is a reminder to me that healing is a dynamic journey. That sharing helps me and it helps others realise they are not alone in their thoughts and very often aids their healing journey too.
The tools I use every day with clients I also use to help myself navigate life now. They have become something that I use as naturally and regularly as breathing.
Is it always easy? NO! But I am no longer co-existing.
I allow myself to feel how I need to feel and I listen to what is going on for me and then I do something about it. Remembering that sometimes action can be doing nothing, as in taking time out and the breathing space to process what is going on.
As a person, mum, wife, friend, peer, therapist and an individual I am doing my best. I can fully embrace and acknowledge that I don’t and won’t always get it right, nor do I have to. That when I do what feels right, I am doing right by myself. There is so much freedom in that and it is a lot less exhausting! I know I can learn and grow from all my experiences and conversations. Instead of guilt, shame or judgement when I get stuck or overwhelmed I show myself self compassion and I freely do so. Giving it freely to yourself makes it a lot easier to hold space for others.
If you would like to learn more about me, what I do, how I support others as always please feel free to continue to follow me here. You can also follow @thefeelingzoneacademy. I am excited to continue my training there as I continue to support others to find their own flow and what feels right for them as they navigate their personal fertility, otherhood, pregnancy or motherhood journeys. As the wonderful Dany Griffiths says - If you follow what feels right you can never do what feels wrong. That is an incredibly empowering, insightful and wonderful gift to give yourself. One I am most thankful for and will continue to use to help myself and indeed my amazing clients.