When you are experiencing fertility challenges, you can feel so isolated, so lonely, so stuck, so consumed by the lack of progression in your life, like you are drowning in your own pool of trauma, grief, hurt, upset and fear.
Having personally experienced fertility challenges over 13 years, from hormonal imbalances, structural problems, miscarriages to numerous fertility treatment cycles and all the despair, the loss of connection to yourself, to your partner, to your body, to your life, the loss of identity as a person that comes with explained or unexplained fertility difficulties, I can truly say that my own formal and informal Mindfulness practice has been a saviour in my ability to cope.
So much so, that through my lifestyle overhaul, implementing a more mindful way of living my everyday life and learning to love my body, I am currently expecting my third baby, which is a naturally conceived little miracle. Despite the medical findings, the diagnosis of a natural conception being ‘medically and structurally impossibly’, I feel that this pregnancy has been achieved because of the balance, the present moment living and awareness, self-compassion and empathy that I have introduced to myself and to my relationships through Mindfulness and Self-Compassion.
When we learn how to practise Mindfulness, how to live in more present moment awareness and how to become more ‘compassionate’ towards ourselves, our partner and in our relationships, we gain a greater understanding of common humanity. I soon realised that my husband and I were not the only couple experiencing fertility difficulties. Millions of other couples around the world experience similar complexities every day. I learned how to accept that this ‘horrible’, ‘painful’, ‘hurtful’, ‘overwhelming’, ‘invasive’ experience of struggling with fertility challenges was my experience and my husband’s experience. I learned various coping tools and techniques to help myself to start to live in this experience, to stop questioning why it was my experience and not someone else’s experience, why my friends could progress forward and start or expand their families and I couldn’t. I learned to have immense gratitude and appreciation for all the incredible functions that did work in my body and that keep me alive every second of every day.
I learned to recognise when my mind was getting pulled into deliberating thoughts of past mental, emotional and physical pains and trauma in relation to my fertility challenges and also when my mind was swirling in a thought storm of ‘you are not good enough’ and ‘nothing will ever change’, about myself and my future on this fertility path.
I started overhauling my whole life step by step. I used mindfulness, wellness, meditation, yoga, gratitude journaling, a consistent healing and empowering morning routine, a complete diet overhaul, consistent early bed times at night and early morning rising times, using essential oils and a cultivation of respect, care and nurture towards myself, my mind, my body and my emotions.
Over time I started to feel so much more balanced in my everyday living and I started to realise that I was ‘healing’ and ‘repairing’ myself from ‘the inside out’. I for the first time in my life started to feel ‘love’ and ‘warmth’ towards myself and it felt amazing!
This combination of Mindfulness and Self-Compassion helped me to recognise how much I had been and was pushing my physical body and in turn my mental and emotional systems through excessive and invasive fertility treatments and medications. I learned to gently console myself and my partner and this helped us both to make peace with our fertility experience.
By adopting a mindful and self-compassionate way of living our lives, myself and my husband learned how to laugh again. We learned how to feel alive, how to disconnect from the painful highs and lows of fertility challenges, the pains and trauma of the previous 13 years. We learned how to enjoy our lives again, to feel alive in the moment, in our present moment.
Just like choosing to nurture, care for and encourage a plant, flower or tree from seed to full bloom, I chose to be respectful to myself and my fertility experiences. I chose to nurture and care for my mental, emotional and physical health from despair to bloom. I chose to release myself from the never-ending self-critic, from the thoughts of failure and despair. I chose to create and become the ‘very best version’ of myself that I could be in each moment while living alongside my fertility challenges and for my husband and I, this has truly transformed our lives in unimaginable ways.
A beautiful empowering quote I love:
“Perhaps the butterfly is proof that you can go through a great deal of darkness and still become something beautiful”
HOW to be Self-Compassionate during Fertility Challenges:
The following is a step by step guide on how to be Self-Compassionate during Fertility Challenges:
1. Sitting with a straight spine or lying down, gently close your eyes, release any tension from your temples and jaws and begin by taking 3 regulating breaths, in through the nose, out through the mouth.
2. Now bring to your awareness the difficult fertility challenges you have been struggling with. Notice any emotions, feelings or sensations in your body as they arise. Notice what this feels like and realise that this is a moment of stress and suffering.
3. Soothe yourself with reassurance that stress and suffering are part of human life and that you are not alone in your suffering, it is ok for you to feel like you do.
4. Now gently place one or two hands on your heart and soothe yourself with kindness and compassion. Feel the warmth, love, care and compassion beaming through your hands into your heart.
5. On your next 3 breaths, breathe in kindness and compassion towards yourself and breathe out gentleness and acceptance for yourself and your fertility challenges (you can say these phrases to yourself as you do so).
6. Speaking to yourself like you would to your very best friend, say the following to yourself: ‘May I love myself in this moment, May I be a friend to myself right now, May I give myself kindness and compassion, May I accept myself as I am.
7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 for as long as you wish. When you are ready, bring your awareness to how you are feeling now, remembering to ‘allow’ and ‘accept’ whatever it is you are feeling in this moment and gently open your eyes when you are ready.
Leona has recorded a full ‘Mindfulness and Self-Compassion for Fertility Challenges’ programme, which is available to purchase on her website, by clicking the following link:
Thank you so much to Deirdre Rusk for her amazing images! Check out more amazing images from Deirdre Rusk Photography at https://www.deirdrerusk.com/
Thank you also to Brian O’Loughlin and his team at https://www.westmeathexaminer.ie/ for all their wonderful help!
As published by The Celtic Media Group in The Anglo Celt, Connaught Telegraph, Meath Chronicle, Offaly Independent, Westmeath Examiner and Westmeath Independent newspapers w/c 16/11/2020)