There is a distinct moment that separates the time before someone is diagnosed with infertility and the time after. The time before is full of hope, plans and dreams. The time after is a rollercoaster of emotional distress, grieve, loss, anxiety. People easily forget all the goals they ever had, and life is consumed by the single goal of getting pregnant. Every month is marked by hope, followed by frustration and despair. This can last years, if not a decade of life.
Being diagnosed with infertility at the young age of 17, I could very easily have let this pattern be my whole life, but I was determined to be happy. The moment I made the decision to live a happy and fulfilled life no matter what, was the beginning of a long journey. At the time I didn’t know how I was going to make my life meaningful, fulfilling and happy but I determined. Over the years, I used different strategies that would help me notice that despite my circumstances, I am blessed, and I do have a lot of great things in my life. Mindfulness meditation was one of those strategies.
Mindfulness is described as the ability to focus on the present moment, noticing the sensations, thoughts and emotions that are present in our body and mind, unjudgementally.
This means, mindfulness is not about feeling happier, calmer or relaxed. It’s more about noticing the present moment, noticing whatever is happening right now as an outsider as if we were watching a movie. And by noticing, we are more aware, flexible and joyful. Our mind is free to explore options, enjoy and create. It’s when we are relaxed enough, that new solutions come to us, solutions that maybe we hadn’t thought of before.
We start noticing other aspects of our life, being grateful and appreciative. And the journey to parenthood, is still challenging, but is no longer the unique aspect in our life that defines us. It is no longer the only focus on our life.
Eckhart Tolle in ‘The Power of Now’ says “The quality of your consciousness at this moment is what shapes the future”. Mindfulness helps us manage our negative thoughts during our fertility journey. These thoughts come from fear of the unknow, fear of unmet reproductive goals, fear of not being loved, fear of not being enough. When we start practicing mindfulness, we are changing our mind’s focus to positive aspects and are paving the way to a better future, filled with more of those positive experiences.
How do you incorporate mindfulness in your day to day?
If you have never practiced mindfulness meditation, it can seem a bit challenging to begin with, but there is a process you can follow and the more you practice, the easier it will be.
1) Set intentions and affirmations. These are positive, meaningful, personal statements that sum up what/how you want to feel. You can say something like “I am healthy, relaxed and connected with my body”. Read and write these intentions every morning when you wake up. You can find more affirmations for fertility here.
2) Start by introducing mindfulness to an everyday activity, like eating breakfast. Notice the colour of the food, the shape, the smell, how it feels in your mouth when your tongue touches it for the first time, when you bite and swallow. Listen to this mindful eating meditation and notice how it changes your relationship with food.
3) Try a simple Body Scan meditation, where you notice every muscle and every part of your body. You can listen the recording here:
4) End the day with a gratitude journal, noticing and writing down aspects of your day you are grateful for and reinforcing your intentions and affirmations. You can get a gratitude journal here.
Emotional distress is the most common reason to stop fertility treatment. Mindfulness can help you navigate this journey with a calmer mind, able to cope with the challenges and still in tune with the positive aspects your life presents to you every day.
This strategy is part of the Enhanced Fertility Programme, the evidence-based programme that improves your physical and mental health for fertility. If you want to learn more about the programme, check it out here.
Andreia Trigo RN BSc MSc