Nurturing Emotional Health On Your Fertility Journey
*Originally published as a guest post on Your IVF Abroad* Writing this guest post prompted me to reflect on my personal journey. I had two precious daughters when I was very young. My youngest daughter was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at 20 months old. Following arduous chemotherapy and surgery she survived. Given what my child had endured, I was completely terrified about the prospect of having another child and preoccupied that the same illness might afflict further children. I went to my GP to discuss my concerns, which led to me being booked in to be sterilised. This happened very quickly, within a month. I was clearly not in a stable emotional or psychological state to make such a life changing decision and also I was a mere 24 years old.
In my early thirties, my circumstances had changed, significantly and I found myself desperate to have a child. This was not a desire but a need. In addition to the overwhelming thoughts, I experienced physical feelings that veered from an aching emptiness to a yearning that caused knotting pain in my abdomen. Then followed, expensive, private, painful surgery to reverse my sterilisation which resulted in short term horrific complications and a prolonged recovery. Eventually I was blessed to have my wonderful third daughter, however, the two years prior to that were unbearable. This is the reason I was completely blown away by the possibilities, support and hope, ‘Your IVF Abroad’ offers people.
Countless research has been undertaken evidencing how being emotionally healthy impacts positively on physical wellness and can only benefit you and support your fertility journey. As a therapeutic practitioner my purpose is to encourage and facilitate the emotional health and wellness of people. The impact of fertility issues on individuals can understandably completely take over. At the point of fertility treatment, it is a reasonable assessment that many will have experienced feelings of loss, hopelessness and helplessness prior to making decisions about treatment. Although difficult, stages of loss, such as denial, anger, bargaining and sadness are crucial to arriving at a point of ‘acceptance.’ Acceptance is not about “giving up” or “getting over it” but accepting where you are at, which then allows responsive rather than reactive decision making and plans of action.
Feelings of stress and anxiety are to be expected, however not conducive to fertility or positive emotional health. I describe anxiety as, “fear of something that has yet to happen.” The reverse can be applied to hope, “joy and excitement of what is yet to happen.” Fertility treatment symbolises hope. Although within this there may also be a fear of, “getting hopes up.” The reality is that existing in a state of hopefulness is far more agreeable than the alternative.
Stress and anxiety are altered states which exist to keep us safe from harm but avoid us making considered decisions and can have a negative impact on our behaviour and relationships. Sleep and physical health can be affected adversely. The lions share of my work focuses on encouraging behaviours and practices to shift people out of that state whatever their presenting issue.
Introducing new habits and behaviours can be helpful in reducing or eradicating feelings of stress and anxiety:
Self expression: talking, writing, singing, dancing, art, crafting, music.
Yoga, mindfulness, complementary therapies, crystals, meditation.
Worry box and to offset also vision boards.
Exercise is widely accepted as effective in reducing stress and anxiety.
Self soothing, baths, pampering, tactile items.
Cuddles with pets, people and soft toys are comforting.
Create a peaceful space, candles, oil burners, music, soft furnishings.
Shifting your thinking to measured, reflective thinking, “What is concerning me?” “Do I have evidence for this thinking?” “Is this in my control?” “What or who could help?” This measured strategy to managing unhelpful thinking may feel awkward initially but with practice is beneficial in avoiding ruminating and catastrophising. I often liken it to learning to drive, it feels mechanical and clunky initially but rapidly becomes second nature.
Honouring your spirit can provide comfort and needn’t be about conventional religion. Some of the listed tools and practices can help. For many being outdoors and feeling connected and grounded in nature can boost emotional health.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has meant that to a greater degree, life and all its plans have been suspended. This can provide an opportunity to take stock and use the time to nurture all aspects of self care; mind, body, emotional, spiritual and social, even if in a constrained capacity. It also allows time to make plans for when things return to ‘normal.’
The greatest gift and reward of fertility treatment is the potential of a small person in your lives, this is the goal. As with any overarching goal, it is important to have treats and rewards along the way to bolster the journey. Planning regular incentives can be done during this limiting time, to avoid being all consumed, which in turn can limit relationships and experiences. The current environment provides space to prepare for change in terms of treatment and all that entails.
Your IVF abroad is founded and run by former successful IVF abroad patients Emma and Adam Haslam. Their mission is to make fertility treatment affordable and accessible to more people. Your IVF abroad matches patients to clinics abroad and organises everything for you including consultation with the clinics, via Skype. Working with Your IVF abroad will save you around 40% vs costs in the UK, including their fee, flights, medication and accommodation. Your IVF abroad is the UK's only independent reproductive agency, working with a number of clinics across Europe who they do not take a commission from, instead passing this onto their clients for a discount against treatment. For more information Your IVF abroad offers a free, no obligation telephone or Skype consultation.
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