How I Survived the Emotional Rollercoaster of Infertility

Health

“Your sperm is healthy but it’s no gold medal winner. And it won’t make up for her deficiencies” said our Fertility Specialist to my husband as I sat next to him. “I’d give you a 2% chance of falling pregnant. 10% with IVF.”

When I replay those words now, four years later, I confidently think – asshole. But, at the time, twelve months into three years of a fertility nightmare, I felt hopeless. Helpless. Ashamed. Guilty.

It wasn’t fair my husband had to go through this, I’d think. If he’d married someone else maybe he’d already have a baby by now? “Her deficiencies” haunted me for years.

One in six couples have fertility issues. Meaning it takes them over a year to fall pregnant. And the numbers are rising.

Research shows infertility causes the same levels of anxiety and depression in women as cancer, heart disease and HIV+ status. It may sound surprising to those who haven’t experienced infertility. After all, it’s not life threatening. But to those of us who have, it rings true.

Procreation is our strongest instinct. And when friends and family conceive easily it intensifies the feelings of failure. I was focussed on trying to “fix” everything physically, but if I had an emotional breakdown in the process we’d never make it. So how did I get through it?

THE INFERTILITY ROLLERCOASTER

A rollercoaster of emotion is how I describe our journey. I lived my life in two-week increments for three years. The second two weeks of the month were an emotional high. I’d imagine myself pregnant. I’d think this month would be it. I’d count ahead to possible birth dates. I’d imagine how I’d tell my husband the best news ever.

Then came disappointment. What felt like inevitable disappointment. I’d feel silly for having thought it was possible. The hormonal lows of my period exacerbated the pain of another unsuccessful month.

Negative thoughts consumed me. We should have started years ago! Why did we wait so long?

Why did I take the pill all those years? Why are my periods so painful? It must mean I’m not healthy enough for a baby. My friends started to announce second and third pregnancies. Why do they get to have two or more? I’d be ecstatic with one. I felt like I was grieving for a baby I’d never meet.

Denial. Anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. I’d reach acceptance and pull myself together. And somehow start to feel positive again.

And everywhere I looked there were babies. Pregnant women. New mothers. Happy grandmothers. I’d try to guess the ages of pregnant women. “She looks older than me”, I’d rationalize to myself, “I’ll be ok”.

I’d read another book. Find a new natural practitioner. Take another supplement. Change my diet. Do more yoga. Get a massage. More acupuncture. Experiment with femoral massage. Decide to start IVF. Delay IVF. Talk to friends more. Talk to friends less… And for want of a better term, get back on the saddle and try again.

NOBODY UNDERSTANDS

Couples battling infertility often suffer in silence. Friends of mine endured five years of IVF and a late-term miscarriage. And I didn’t learn about it until their healthy son was born. Sometimes it’s easier to avoid questions. Or silence. And to avoid disappointing others.

We decided to share our struggle with family and friends. It was a source of encouragement, support and strength. But we had our moments.

A close friend bragged she fell pregnant within one month “because her husband must have super-fast sperm”. Friendships can become strained. Another friend avoided parties and family gatherings if there were children there. It was too painful for her. My husband was my ultimate ally. And champion.

CONQUERING DEMONS

In the final year before falling pregnant I felt depressed. And emotionally exhausted. Babies were all I could think about. It consumed me. And then I read The Mind-Body Fertility Connection by James Schwartz. It’s about how hypnotherapy can unlock the power of the mind.

I understood it was important to be positive. And to relax. Easier said than done.

But Schwartz explained subconscious beliefs may block conception. And suggested old emotional injuries can create obstacles, which may disrupt a healthy reproductive system. Studies suggest hypnosis may increase chances of conception for women undergoing IVF by up to 50%.

HOW DOES THE MIND AFFECT THE BODY?

The body reacts to a stimulus, whether it is actually happening or not, if the mind believes it’s happening. An example is watching a scary movie. You know what you’re seeing on the screen isn’t real. But your body reacts as if it is. Your heart rate increases. Your breathing becomes labored. And you may jump in your seats.

Top athletes are famous for tapping into the power of the subconscious. By imagining scoring the winning goal they improve their chances of success.

Schwartz explains when people in positions of authority (like doctors, teachers, parents) tell us something our subconscious generally stores the information as a truth, even if we think what they said isn’t accurate. This is especially true for young people who are more impressionable.

I was sixteen when I had my first laparoscopy for endometriosis. The gynecologist told me after the surgery I’d probably have trouble conceiving. I didn’t think I believed him.

But I’d seen countless fertility specialists. Natural and conventional. I had plenty of eggs. I was ovulating regularly. My tubes were clear. My cycle was like clockwork. My husband’s sperm was healthy. So our final option was to try IVF but I didn’t believe it would help us.

There’s no clear correlation between endometriosis and infertility. Sure, it can hinder implantation, but IVF wouldn’t make a difference. Nobody could explain a physical reason for why we weren’t falling pregnant. Maybe it was my subconscious? I had nothing to lose by digging a little deeper.

THE FAIRY LIGHTS GO ON

I saw a clinical hypnotherapist, specializing in fertility, for six sessions. It was a game changer. Hypnotherapy helped me tackle subconscious blocks I wasn’t aware I had and put me back in the driver’s seat.

In my mind, I travelled back in time. I spoke to the gynecologist who’d told a vulnerable sixteen-year-old she’d have trouble falling pregnant. And I spoke to the fertility specialist who suggested I had a 2% chance of falling pregnant. I spoke to them as a strong, healthy, empowered woman, confident in my ability to fall pregnant.

I spoke to them as my own best friend. And I spoke to myself. My family. Friends. My husband. But most of all I spoke to my baby.

I began to feel positive and relaxed every step of the way. Of course I was disappointed when my period would arrive, but I didn’t feel the despair I had before. My mind had a job to do – to tell my body what to do. I had no energy to waste on negativity.

At the start of the month I imagined myself having a spring clean. Out with the old and in with the new. Throughout the month I visualized healthy eggs maturing and releasing. Fairy lights lit up an enchanted fertile space. A tiny pink fairy would tap her wand and work her magic. I’d smile and believe I was pregnant.  I used this visualization over and over.  Three months later I was pregnant.

CHANGING YOUR GAME

What makes the difference for each couple is unique. We all have to follow our own journeys, seek our own truth and find our own answers. But I do believe many small changes add up . For us, I think it was a combination of being obsessively healthy, having regular acupuncture, using natural progesterone, practicing hypnotherapy and sheer determination.

Hypnotherapy empowered me. It kept me going when all I wanted was to crawl under the bed covers and never come out. I uncovered blind and unwavering confidence in my body’s ability to conceive if my mind showed it the way.

“If you’re going through hell, keep going”. – Winston Churchill

Through infertility I became a stronger person. It taught me patience, determination and perseverance. The mantras I lived by were “I’m waiting for my baby” and “This will make me a better parent”. Both statements came true.

Your baby is worth fighting for, so although this may feel like hell, keep going. I wouldn’t wish infertility on anybody, but I can’t say I’d change it now. My little man wouldn’t be the same person if I hadn’t waited.

And nor would I.

COMMENTS
  • February 01, 2016

    Tracy – Thank you for sharing your experiences; your courage is inspiring! We can feel so isolated when facing life’s challenges – we forget that it’s ok to reach out, to ask for help or support – and that we are, in fact, not alone. You are helping create a supportive, caring community that encourages growth, healing and positive change. Thank you for that!
    Nicolette

    • February 02, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thank you Nicolette. You are right and infertility, especially, is invisible and can be so incredibly isolating. When we do reach out though the sense of relief can be overwhelming and often it’s the kindness of strangers that is easiest to tap into. Thank you again so much for your support.

  • February 02, 2016
    Jenna May

    I’m new to your site – I found you through Twitter, and just wanted to say thank you for your bravery in sharing your story. I have had similar struggles, but have been less able to voice them publicly. It’s refreshing and inspiring to see someone share such a vulnerable part of themselves so openly. And I second Nicolette’s comment above in thanking you for creating a caring community where we can come to heal and support one another.

    • February 02, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thank you for your kind comments Jenna. We struggled for three years and when we were going through it I wanted to write about it but it was too painful. I hope it helps you in some small way and wishing you well on your journey. Feel free to reach out any time you need support. Sometimes it’s easier to talk to strangers. Thank you again and I am so happy you found Raised Good.

  • March 01, 2016

    Tracy – I love that you have so beautifully shared your story! It is so well-written and I’m sure it will inspire others who are going through the same thing (it’s true, so many people suffer in silence…and suffer is definitely the right word)!

    • March 02, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks Jenn and so happy to see you here!! It sure is the right word..it’s an invisible pain for so many people and isolating as well. So many mixed emotions go along with fertility challenges. Thanks for reading 🙂

  • March 11, 2016
    Anita

    Thanks for sharing your story. I’m just new to your blog after reading your guest post on Go diaper free.
    My husband and I tried for 4 years. We had 5 failed Ivf cycles and a miscarriage. Then I got pregnant naturally in my 2nd month of meditating. I was also doing weekly acupuncture and eating cultured veggies. I think the mind-body connection is a powerful thing.

  • October 05, 2016
    Hannah Lawson

    Thank you for your story. Just curious, what was the natural progesterone you used?

    • October 05, 2016
      Tracy Gillett

      My pleasure Hannah. My naturopath wrote a prescription for the natural progesterone cream and it was dispensed by a pharmacy. Do you have a naturopath you could ask about it? I had blood tests and then started the cream. I hope that’s helpful and wishing you the best of luck xx

  • February 10, 2017
    Karen Zaghiyan

    Hey Tracy,
    I am very happy that you get pregnant and thanks for sharing your story with us. This is very inspiring for those who let their hope that they can conceive. Yes, its true that it all happens with Hypnotherapy because you had set up your mind that you can’t conceive. But after understanding all these things you are successful in getting pregnant.
    🙂 Have a happy life.

  • April 15, 2017
    Lisa

    Slightly different topic, but I want to share a very important book title: ” One in Four, Shifting the Balance on Pregnancy Loss” by Barbara Toppin. A MUST read for women with unexplained losses.

    • April 15, 2017
      Tracy Gillett

      Thanks so much for sharing Lisa – I must check it out!

  • August 25, 2017
    Leticia

    Tracy, thank you so so much for sharing & very happy you got pregnant! I usually dont leave comments but i was almost in tears when reading your story..not of sadness but just to realise thats exactly what i’ve been feeling and I am not alone! Your words are truly inspiring and so helpful! At 37, Ive tried for 2 years and had 2 ectopic and 1 early miscarriage, It has been a rollercoaster to say the least but i know i am on the right track! Doctors have urged me to do IVF but i dont want to. After changing diet, recently doing weekly acupuncture, saw also a therapist for emotional block..i will now try the femoral massage, castor oil pack&meditation/visualization.
    But mainly wanted to say thank you !

  • March 18, 2018
    Anastasia

    Thank you Tracy. Reading something like this makes me feel like I’m not all alone in this. Like so many people I don’t talk about my infertility issues. Right now I feel that in my mind I’m going crazy over the problem: every period I start in tears, I feel hate towards my body that can not conceive. I feel bad and ashamed that I can not give a baby to my boyfriend, I Also feel like I’ve been a bad partner to him cause I have been just obsessing over my problem.
    The worst part is that no one knows what the cause is. I’ve seen 4 different doctors, my boyfriend has seen two. Everything’s good. My period always comes on time with hardly any pain, I’m just 31, don’t smoke, exercise and all the good stuff. Not knowing what the problem is has probably been the toughest part.
    I do realize that I have to work on my emotions cause they are definitely taking over me.
    Thanks again and I will most certainly follow your recommendations.

  • May 21, 2018
    Megan

    I have lived this pain. I have taken so many pregnancy tests that I should own stock. This was me for 6 years. I started to resent hope. We never gave up, never stopped trying, never relaxed. After seeking fertility help and all other options failed, we turned to IVF. And yet also found salvation in Ukraine. I was very impressed by medicine in this poor country. Our medicine center was also in Kiev city. Our clinic even provides us with transfer any time we wanted. Now I look back and remember how much it hurt – emotionally to not understand why it failed. I also now look at the three children that followed those years of pain and just rejoice with joy. I will NEVER take for granted this life. Infertility made us so much stronger.

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