Struggling with infertility can be a lonely journey. It may be difficult to put into words the numerous, and sometimes conflicting, emotions that are felt at different points along the way. Even when an individual does want to talk or reach out to others, it is overwhelming to think about who might understand, or where to go for unconditional support. There are two avenues that can be helpful, namely, supporting oneself (self-care), as well as giving and receiving support from others.
Self-care can take many forms and should be tailored to each individual’s needs. It may involve specific activities, such as exercise, shopping, pedicures, spending time with friends, etc or be more “inward” focused, including meditation, breathing/relaxation techniques and yoga. It is important to carve out time for self-care into your schedule so that it is considered a necessity, much like other activities during the day. The most important facet of self-care should be that it is aimed at the particular (and perhaps changing) needs of the individual and is not in service to anyone else. This can be hard to imagine, particularly for women, as many of our roles and commitments are built around the lives of others. It may take some time to understand what self-care looks like for every individual, but I believe it is a question worth pondering.
Along with self-care, the importance of giving and receiving support from others cannot be overstated. Finding a group of other individuals who may also be experiencing challenges with fertility can be invaluable as a means to appreciate the fact that you are not alone, as well as feel validated and understood in any emotions that come up through the process. This social forum can also be helpful in teaching individuals to feel more comfortable asking explicitly for what they need from others. Again, this may change day to day, but can include specific actions (physical touch, words, etc) or just “being present and showing up.” Often people, both when receiving and giving support, feel that they need to be doing something in a tangible way in order to be helpful, when in reality, this is not always true. In addition to receiving support, the act of giving support by listening or being encouraging to someone who may be in a different position, or earlier in the process, can also be incredibly rewarding and healing. Overall, all facets of support, whether self-care or from others, are an essential piece of the infertility journey.