Losing Myself While TTC - Lindsay's Perspective

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When I was seven I wanted to be a butterfly.

At ten I thought I'd run for President.

When I was twenty-one I worked toward becoming a teacher.

Now I'm 36 and none of those things.

The one thing that has been a constant for as long as I've thought about my future? Wanting to be a mom, to have the two kids and the partner, to feel secure that the reason I do anything has more purpose than myself.

Yep, read that again.

Somewhere in my journey I stopped dreaming about what I could be for myself and started dreaming about what I'd be for everyone else.

We treat people who don't have kids like they're selfish or like their dreams and goals aren't as important because they aren't attached to little people, their genetic code not being passed along somehow invalidates everything they do. Sure, society doesn't directly state this to anyone. But we all know it's true: somewhere along the line, when you were trying to conceive, your worthiness as a human came into question in your mind.

You wondered if you'd ever truly get the title of becoming a mom.

You remembered back to that one time someone invalidated your family of two by saying you weren't actually a family yet. 

You questioned who you'd be or how you'd cope if what if became a reality and you had to walk away from treatment and take a different route, no matter what route that might be.

We get so wound up in fear of it all that we're willing to sacrifice a lot of good in our lives because babies are "worth the wait."

Right?

When we found out we needed IVF I immediately started researching the trauma pieces of the journey. The truth is, the outcome felt so out of my control at that point. Sure, I could do my best and fight for what I wanted, but I also had to stop telling myself that a biological kid might be in the cards. We were at one of the final stages of treatment, when everything else had failed, and if I convinced myself it was definitely going to work I knew I'd start acting insane. I'd go one too many rounds or resent my husband if he wanted to stop.

I've been known to go so hard after the things that I want that everything else gets neglected and wrecked, because if I believe in something, I believe in it with all of my being.

Plus, my mind is a bitch sometimes. I take things too hard or too personally when others are hateful, and having a background of abuse makes me question if those thoughts are true OR if I'm crazy for believing them. I hardly ever give myself the benefit of the doubt when I'm struggling, so combine my give-it-everything tendency with my you-suck brain, and you could say I took on infertility like it was all my fault, my issue to fix, and every time I got a negative it confirmed how much I was failing.

Legitimately, on my worst days, when I wanted to lay in bed all day and sulk, because that's the kind of depressed person I am: I will lay in my own filth for days at a time and validate my own negative beliefs of unworthiness:

"How can you raise a kid when you can't even take care of yourself?"
"You're gross inside and out; you don't deserve to be clean."

I hadn't felt the heaviness in my soul for a few years, but I knew that pain, the isolation and longing to be understood and heard and held up, and I knew my own identity was going to take a massive hit if I didn't do something to process and move through those feelings.

We hadn't even started cycling yet.

That's when it hit me, that I knew these feelings because I'd survived them before, and so I thought back to my trauma therapist and what she would ask me about those beliefs and my behaviors.

"How are you taking care of yourself, Lindsay?"

In that moment I made two promises to myself:

Practice some kind of self care every single day, no matter what.

Let go of the idea that being rigid and forceful could change the outcome.

Self care, for me, isn't luxurious most days, because even though I practice it each day it's still work. I always feel better after completing it but always question if I should. On my worst days (in bed), I'd simply force myself to get up and do basic hygiene, like brushing my teeth and showering. On better days, I'd meditate or go on a walk, and on the best days, when I was doing all of the above for myself anyway, I would find a way to help someone else struggling.

Helping other people has always been a way for me to feel good about myself, if I'm honest. Mostly, because my soul knows what it's like to want or need assistance and then to receive it; to feel seen, heard, understood, and validated. To give someone else that moment of hope or grace felt like an easy way to ramp up my feel good endorphins.


And this type of commitment to myself is still necessary now, even after having success.

Because pregnancy after infertility can be very traumatic (and was for me).

And delivering your babies after a healthy pregnancy can also be traumatic (and was for me).


And parenting, no matter how much perspective you have or how happy you are to finally be a parent, still comes with its own unique set of challenges and heartbreak. And it's hard to wrap my brain around that, still. I feel guilty saying I struggle.

Life, with or without kids, is going to throw trauma on your lap. We don't get to control that. What we do have control over is our movement within those painful moments. We get to choose how to show up both in the world and within ourselves, and if you're practicing self care while you struggle you will not feel so drowned by the pain, at least not all of the time. Yes, you'll have hard moments. Yes, you'll still have to consciously make the choice to show up for yourself. But it will get easier and you will feel better.


You deserve to come out of this journey and feel good about how you showed up in it, no matter whether or not you have a baby on your hip. Society's bullshit ideas about who should be celebrated and who shouldn't should NEVER be where you base your worth, because each of us will always find a reason to feel invalidated, whether it's because of our infertility, our sex, our weight, a beauty standard, a political leaning...whatever...we're all inundated with bullshit that tries to make us feel like crap all of the time, and it's time we take back the power over who gets to tell us how we should feel.

Because you should be the one making those decisions.

You deserve that and so much more.

XO

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Feeling stuck with life during or after Infertility? 

We get you, honey. Let's work it out together. 

Consider facing your fears head on surrounded by healing scenery and a tribe of like-minded women in Arizona this September at the Immersion Experience. 

Losing Myself during IVF - Tia's Perspective

I remember the moment I realized just how far down the rabbit-hole I had gone with our attempts to make our baby. I had been feeling off all week, knowing I was likely pregnant, but unwilling to take a pregnancy test yet as my beta was days away. I had been down this path before. When I was pregnant with my son, walking gave me asthma attacks. I had difficulty breathing at times and it always felt like my heart was racing. The same thing was happening now, only at a less hectic pace. My intuition told me this pregnancy wouldn't stick around even if it was positive.

My husband, Mark, was on his way to our rental property to check on the progress of our tenant move-out. We had been anticipating this day for a while as their willingness to pay on time or communicate had come to a stand-still. 

The phone rang. It was Mark. "Tia this place is a complete disaster. Can you get off of work? Bring all the cleaning supplies and garbage bags we have with you. Oh, and gloves. HEAVY gloves. It's not good."

Shit.

What if I AM pregnant? I shouldn't be around heavy chemicals and lifting a lot of stuff, right?

I took a test.

At the end of the three-minute mark, the second line finally popped up but I didn't believe it.

Last time it was blazingly positive as soon as my pee hit the stick. 

Something's wrong.

I started shaking, knowing I needed to help Mark. Knowing I was sort of pregnant.

I looked up at the bathroom mirror and didn't recognize my face. I couldn't really remember the last time I really took note of how I looked. All I saw this time was fear. Sunken eye sockets.

Long, unkempt hair that limped around my temples. Dry, chapped lips.

I tugged at the bottom of my shirt. It was more snug than it used to be.

All the IVF medications injected into my body over the last couple of years didn't really make a dent in my weight, but my miscarriage did, and I never really put any effort to try and get the weight off since I insisted we dive right back into another cycle. 

The cycle I was currently in. The one that took all year to complete because I just couldn't bring myself to accept this journey was over. I wasn't going to be a mom. I wouldn't be getting the biological baby I worked so hard for. The one I poured every second of every day into achieving for the last six years.

I had become this lifeless, exhausted, pale person. 

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Is this who I was going to be if I became a mom? 

Is this how I was planning to show up for my child?

Is this the person my husband saw?

Is this my life now?

Because it sure wasn't who Mark married. And it sure as Hell wasn't the same person that started trying to make a baby in 2012.

What. the fuck. happened?

I'll tell you what happened. I took my Type A personality to the extreme, dove in head first, and went all in on the bigger life goal I wanted. I held myself hostage to keep fighting.

I pushed aside everything single thing that wasn't TTC related because I believed it was just background noise. Not worthy of my time.

I chose not to invest money into my appearance, my clothes, or my self-care routines if it meant there was more money for IVF.

I chose not to connect with friends, family or even Mark because there was so much research to complete in between clinic phone calls.

I was restricted from working out, my main source of relief in an already chaotic world, so became restless and irritated with no tangible outlet.

I stopped planning weekends, trips or parties. The only planning I was doing was for every possible due date. When maternity leave may take place. What I needed to save for baby. Which daycare would I choose? 

Projects on hold.
Hobbies on hold.
Fun on hold.
LIFE. ON. HOLD.

I lost everything that made me ME in the process of baby-making, and that last early miscarriage was my tipping point. I wanted to take the reigns back on my life and the only way to do is was to stop the addicting cycle of TTC. For me, it was all or nothing. So I finally chose to walk away.

Having gone through the wringer in a way that didn't serve me well, here are some alternatives if you find yourself more aligned with how I went through IVF.

It's necessary to come up for air between cycles. If you find yourself needing more than one IUI or IVF cycle, there is NOTHING wrong with taking time between them to actually lean into and process your emotions. In fact, I would encourage it. This in-between is an excellent time to reconnect with your partner, plan a fun outing, reconnect with your friends and family or simply pick-up the hobbies you love.

Your reproductive system isn't going to turn to dust if you don't commit to back-to-back cycles.

I always felt like time was against me. As if my eggs were going to shrivel up if the clinic didn't suck them all out of me as soon as possible. The reality is; there will always be more money if this is what you choose to spend it on. There will always be a reputable clinic available for your next cycle. Your biological clock may be ticking but it's not the frantic downhill slope that outsiders may lead you to believe. 

Set a budget for self care and use it. I completely understand that fertility treatments can trump any and all available money you have. Of that amount, I encourage you to set aside a monthly or quarterly budget for things that make you feel good. Whether it's a new outfit, a hair cut, a massage, a book, ANYTHING that reminds you of the badass woman you are is money well spent, in my opinion. Set it aside and DIP INTO IT.

Write it out. Whether it's in a journal, on a blog or simply a series of calendar invites to yourself with details of the day, documenting your days before, during and after treatment give a sense of clarity to just how long each season has been going on. I try to highlight the fun stuff AND the trying stuff because to me, it's ALL important and worthy; equally.

Be honest with yourself. What IS the goal of this? What IS the bigger picture? Do you want to become a mom to a child or to your biological child? Would an alternative route be more suited for you? What do you miss about life before TTC? How's your mental state? Do you think you just need guidance or do you think you have exhausted your boundaries? This type of honest gut-check is crucial to evaluate your quality of life. I would recommend doing it every few months or at the very least, yearly, based on where you're at in your journey.

Thanks for reading :)

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Feeling stuck with life during or after Infertility? 

We get you, honey. Let's work it out together. 

Consider facing your fears head on surrounded by healing scenery and a tribe of like-minded women in Arizona this September at the Immersion Experience. 

Alternative Methods to Manage Grief and Triggers

A trigger only continues to be a trigger when you give your power to it. 

The more we play up the drama with the people and environments around us, the more we internalize feelings of damage and scarcity. 

Simply put, we must take back our power with outside words and actions.

So, how can we work to accomplish this?

Lindsay provided a few valuable grounding techniques (ones that we will dive deeper into at the Immersion Experience) and I, obviously, have tried and true techniques that have worked wonders in my own life, for those folks like me that are more direct with their actions.

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I should preface this to include that both of our insights will reach different people and can easily be used separate or together to find solutions that work best in your life.

I'll give you an example in my professional life. For years, my perceived worth in my job was based solely on what I could do to ensure my boss's happiness. If he was having a bad day, I internalized it and interpreted it as "he was mad at me....I did something wrong....I need to fix this before I get fired" even if it had nothing to do with me.

I interpreted someone else's actions as me not trying hard enough, not being perfect enough, making too many mistakes. 

In a nutshell, I felt unworthy and unqualified. 


When fertility treatments started and I began to reach out to others, research coping strategies and practice outlets for my mental anguish, I started to realize the shame spiral I was putting myself through. 


My biggest take away was this:

I am digging deep and doing the best I can in my life. I cannot control the actions and events outside of me. I can only control my reaction to them.

Over time, and with much practice, I stopped focusing on how other people should act and what they should say, reminding myself I could not control them.

Instead, whenever something started ruffling my feathers or made me uncomfortable, I started repeating this mantra under my breath:

How can I remain calm and in control of my own actions in this moment.

Over and over and over until I could visualize myself in full. From the way I stood, to the emotions on my face, to the words I spoke. 

There is no reason to fight fire with fire, and quite frankly, no use wasting precious energy fighting at all. 

Writing down and repeating OUT LOUD canned responses to sticky situations helps neutralize the issue so you can remove yourself and recompose (and then consider some of those groundings techniques!)

Is it a perfect method? No. We are human and are guaranteed to make mistakes. 


When I'm feeling spicy I may simply ask the person to elaborate or further explain their remark, so at the very least I can determine if their comment was well meaning and if I should exude mental energy on them with education and empathy. Sometimes it works out and sometimes it's better to part ways.

When grief bubbles to the surface, and it will if you have walked through any sort of traumatic event in your life, be it infertility or otherwise, this is when the practice and extra effort you have been putting into neutralizing triggers and refocusing your mind really shine.

Although I am hard-headed, strong-willed and determined, I am not immune to grief. I carry it with me and even walked with a small episode this week, if I'm completely honest.

For me, the effects of a trigger from grief present themselves with emotional childhood, lethargy, and lack of interest in my surroundings. I may experience something that makes me nostalgic about my grief, then the next couple of days I will process it.

I always tell my husband it's coming. The last thing I need is him not fully aware I'm acting different for a specific, tough reason, and him calling me out, me interpreting it as "I'm unworthy of my feelings" and starting a shame spiral. It's paramount that the ones closest to you understand, or at the very least, provide the pillar of strength or the space you need at the time. 

I am direct with him. 

"I am having some grief. I am sad. I will likely cry for and it's not going to be pretty. Please don't try to fix me. I am okay, but these emotions need to go somewhere other than my heart."

I know that sounds blunt, but it has been the biggest lesson learned about the dynamics as husband and wife. He needs me to literally spell things out to him, so I do.

The episode will happen. I will take the time to cry as hard as I need to followed by many cleansing, deep breaths. I will wash my face, hug my bulldog and my husband and choose to move forward. 

Sad moments are welcome in my life just as much as happy ones are. Accepting the good and the bad moments is a practice I am so very thankful for.


As always, if you find yourself struggling to achieve these sort of methods and are looking for individualized help, we encourage you to take a seat at our Immersion Experience this September. Our girl's trip with a purpose is guaranteed to leave you refreshed and empowered. 

When Triggers and Grief Hit...

This week on Instagram Tia and I will be talking about our own experiences with triggers and grief, and how we've managed them both in the moment and afterward.

Let's dive right in.

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I don't believe you can learn to not be triggered or grieve entirely. Mostly, it's because someone will say something you've never heard or been asked before and you'll find little bits of your soul you didn't realize need massaging. In life, there are no guarantees things will go smoothly, we all know that, and yet we keep moving forward. Learning to deal with triggers is the same as learning to deal with infertility: it's a bumpy, ugly road we can make a little nicer by learning really good coping skills.

There are people who get very annoyed by the term trigger. They like to mock people who experience hard emotions or instantly feel sadness or anxiety when a memory, feeling or thought is triggered. The thing is, it's not like you want this to happen. If it were up to the person who was hurt, they would prefer to not be hurt. And so, when people mock those who have these experiences, you can attribute it to their lack of knowledge of the experience. Meaning, they're really fucking lucky they haven't had to hurt like you.

However, we can also overcome some of the knee-jerk reactions that ultimately make us feel bad afterward. I don't know many people who verbally assault someone, meltdown, or do some form of either of those, vomiting their emotions on the offender and feel good about it. Most of us would prefer to not react in the face of someone who is saying something hurtful, whether intentionally or not.

I can't promise you you'll do this perfectly or stop feeling what you do, because that's not true. But I can promise you there are ways to help you begin to react less often and maybe less harshly. I learned about them seven years ago and, for the most part, they've become part of my lifestyle. I still get defensive and can be an asshole occasionally, but it definitely doesn't happen as much as it used to.

Grounding techniques are exactly what you need to learn how to implement when you're on high alert or feel highly reactionary, because it will not only help you in the moment but it will help you cool down afterward.

The point of grounding is to help you stay present and bring you back to the moment without the emotional baggage. They really don't have to be difficult and, ultimately, the hardest part about them is coming prepared for them. I've created a pretty hefty list of exercises for those people attending the Immersion Experience, but I want to give you an example of one of those exercises here, too.

This one is called 5-4-3-2-1 (or something like that...I'm going off memory). It combines the use of your five senses and helps you get back to the present moment.

Step one includes taking a few deep breathes, inhaling through your nose and counting to three, and then exhaling through your mouth for the same count. Once you've done this a few times, you open your eyes and look around you.


Then you'll name:

5 - Things you can see right there (whether they're in your room or outside of the door doesn't matter. Just name five things).

4 - Things you can feel right there.

Ex:

  • The texture of your shirt

  • Your breath on your face

  • Anything you can touch in the room (go do it)

  • Your hair

3 - Things you can hear. 

2 - Things you can smell.

1 - Things you can taste (I always kept a piece of gum or snack around for this, honestly. And when I was super triggered I used something like sour candy - Lemonheads - to help shock me back to the present)


Then take three more deep breathes at the end.
That's it.


At first this might seem like a lot of work, but once you've practiced doing it several times it actually happens very quickly.

The entire point of doing this is to divert your attention from the thing that has caused your emotions to spike so that you can refocus your energy in healthier ways. This one isn't typically used right in the altercation/conversation with the person or event that caused it, but immediately after when you're able to do this without on your own.
These are exercises taught to people with PTSD who need to get their emotions in check, as I did after my abuse convinced me the world was a scary, scary place. Doing the grounding exercises not only helped me diminish the immediate fear I felt, but it also helped me overcome a lot of other complicated emotions, like shame for reacting in a way I ultimately felt was inappropriate.

If you feel your reaction to triggering situations or grief episodes is unhealthy, I'd highly recommend finding a grounding exercise that works for you. It won't solve the issue completely, but it will allow you to look at what happened from an empowered place of logic and you will move through it faster.

This is a process, friends. One that you can absolutely do on your own.

I believe it with all of my heart.