When you’re struggling with infertility, sometimes it feels like the world is one giant trigger.
From the random woman walking down the street with the adorable bump to the stupid TV commercial of a mom baking Rice Krispie treats with her daughters, sometimes it feels like the world merely exists to remind you how terribly empty your uterus is.
And while many triggers can’t be anticipated, there are some ways you can get to know your individual triggers and find ways to try to preemptively protect yourself.
Learning Your Personal Triggers
This may be obvious, but everyone has different triggers and sensitivities – not only that, they’re always changing. And what can upset you one day, might be totally fine the next day. (These inconsistencies drive my husband Brad insane, but TOO BAD…) Sometimes the triggers are obvious…like sonogram photos, Facebook pregnancy announcements, baby shower invitations, or certain plot lines in TV shows or movies. Understanding your triggers can help remove some of their power almost immediately. Yet what’s a trigger for one person, might not be one for you. You might be able to look at photos of positive pregnancy tests all day and not feel anything. Listen to your own gut and what is and isn’t good for you.
Once you know and understand your triggers, then you can start building a safer space around you. Of course there’s no way to anticipate every trigger out there. There will always be pregnant coworkers and the random third cousin politely asking when you’ll have kids, but there are some concrete tactics you can use for certain triggers.
For example, my biggest trigger became Facebook announcements (particularly with ultrasound photos. Just kill me…). This inspired a 4 month Facebook break after our first IVF failed.
At the time, I felt way too vulnerable and just knew that scrolling through Facebook was an invitation for heartbreak. I wasn’t willing to gamble my emotional stability so I took a break until I felt emotionally prepared to face the random pregnancy announcements again.
I also tried to steer clear of any shows or movies that I suspected could trigger me. While there’s always the rogue trigger-filled plotline (I’M LOOKING AT YOU, LENA DUNHAM!), usually I know that watching Stranger Things over Call the Midwife is probably a safer move for my own mental health.
Recovering from Exposure
As stated earlier, a lot of triggers are simply unavoidable. Your best friend tells you she’s pregnant. You see a celebrity pregnancy announcement on Twitter. This is just the price we all pay for living in a fertility-obsessed world. So what can you do after you’ve been emotionally kicked in the uterus?
Yup. After you feel emotionally knocked down, it’s your job to lick your wounds, care for yourself and make sure you are getting what you need. Maybe that means leaving work early. Or taking a nice long nap. Or going to get ice cream with your partner. While having a full-blown pity party is never recommended, having a pity happy hour is totally fine. Wallow. Feel badly. Write about it. Confide in a friend or fertility mentor. Take a bath. Have some champagne. Cancel your plans. Do whatever you need to do to find your balance again. It’s not easy…especially if you’re dealing with a larger scale issue….like a sibling or best friend announcing a pregnancy or something. But remember that you are in charge of your own mental well-being, so doing whatever it takes to get your groove back is imperative.
Building Yourself a Strong Support System
Most importantly, make sure you have a full team of support set up around you to help you find your emotional footing. Here are some recommended team members to help support you on your journey:
- Your partner – if you have an empathetic partner on this journey, trust them with your feelings of heartbreak. It’s good for them to see and understand your pain, even if they can’t fix it. Just remember that you don’t need to put everything on them. Finding others to talk to can help alleviate some of the pressure your partner might feel around needing to find the exact right thing to say.
- Safe, trusted non-TTC friends – this might not be your best friend in the whole world. It might not be your mom. But it’s your job to find the people in your life who know you and rock at empathy and can help find ways to help support you through this.
- Fellow fertility warriors – support groups. Message boards. A fertility mentor. These are YOUR people who know first-hand what everything feels like. Trust them. Lean on them. Open up to them.
- A professional therapist – professional therapy rocks. It is truly an invaluable resource in infertility and beyond. Therapists are trained to help you process the complex emotions that surround infertility (grief, fear, anxiety, social pressure, relationship drama). If possible, try to find a therapist who specializes in infertility or grief.
- Self-care pros – maybe it’s a masseuse or an acupuncturist. Perhaps it’s a yoga teacher or a bomb-ass chiropractor…but find someone who specializes in self-care and relaxation to help guide you through the process and treat you physically and spiritually.