One in eight couples struggle with infertility, one in four women have experienced a miscarriage, and one in 100 pregnancies end in stillbirth. The odds are that you know someone who falls into one or more of those categories, and you may fall into one or more of them yourself.
These are not clubs that anyone wants to be a part of.
And while you don’t want anyone else to be in the club with you, you probably feel a bit of relief when you learn that someone you know is in the same boat because you become a bit less alone. I was a member of the infertility club for almost nine years before conceiving my first child and became a member of the stillbirth club with my second.
Speaking from experience, I’ve probably felt most of the feelings that you have if you’re a fellow member. You feel the ache of the hole that can only be filled by the baby that you’ve hoped and prayed for. Social media posts about pregnancy announcements and birth announcements are like stabbing pains in the heart. Gatherings, where friends, relatives or co-workers have their new babies (not to mention baby showers), are unbearable. Over in the stillbirth club, I’ve discovered the new pain of seeing pictures of siblings together, knowing that my son will never even meet his sister. And then there is the guilt you have about all of these feelings. Why can’t you just be happy for others?
Trust me when I say that all of these feelings are typical and normal, and nothing to feel guilty about. Loss mamas and hoping-to-be mamas – you deserve some peace. And while everyone’s experience is different, here are some things that have helped me to find some and may help you.
There are support groups available to you all around the city, whatever club you are in. If you are struggling with infertility, the doctor or clinic that you are working with may have a group associated with them. One group I can recommend is offered by Parental Hope, a nonprofit that works to support couples emotionally and financially on their journey to parenthood. If you are dealing with a loss due to miscarriage, stillbirth or infant loss, the hospital or health group you delivered at likely has a group. For example, Tri-Health offers a monthly group. Something really helpful I’ve gotten from the support group I attend is the knowledge that how I’m feeling is ok and nothing to feel bad about.
Find answers, help or just distraction in books.
There are myriad books available regarding infertility and grief, and you are sure to find one dealing with your specific area. These can help with providing some next steps and some hope that there is light at the end of the tunnel. Additionally, reading for pleasure can provide some much-needed escape. A new true-crime story, a motivational/self-help book to boost your spirits (I highly recommend the author Glennon Doyle), or just some juicy fiction… it’s all good.
Take a step back.
Sometimes, you’re just going to feel too overwhelmed and you need to allow yourself that space. Take a break from social media. If that’s too hard, mute or snooze people that you know may post things that are triggering for you. If possible, decline invitations to events (the aforementioned baby showers, for example) where you know it’s just going to be too much. If you have to attend, excuse yourself to the restroom when necessary to cry, have a panic attack, silently scream, whatever you need to do. Nobody will judge you for these acts of self-preservation, and if they do, take a step back from them as well.
Volunteer or find other ways to help in your community.
Helping others makes your soul feel good – that’s just the plain truth. This is hard to do during social distancing, but once things return to a new normal, find something. Help a refugee group, donate to a food pantry, volunteer at a fundraiser for your local school district… there are so many ways. Your community may already have a women’s group that you can join to not only help others but make new friends.
Lean on friends and family.
This may seem obvious, but you may be someone (like me) who doesn’t always like asking for help or sharing your feelings. However, the loneliness you’re probably feeling can so easily be relieved, even just for a short time, by texting, calling or emailing your mom, your sister, your best friend, your favorite cousin, etc. You probably have people who have already reached out to you, but you also probably have some that are just waiting to be asked because they don’t want to intrude. The potential downside is that you may discover that some of your relationships are not quite as strong as you once thought they were. The silver lining is that you will more likely than not strengthen other relationships. Additionally, lean on your partner and allow them to lean on you. They are going through the same pain, and who better to share your pain with than the person you’ve chosen to share your life with.
Give yourself some grace.
This is the hardest one, at least for me. Don’t give yourself a hard time because you think you should be over things by now or that you shouldn’t get so upset in certain situations. Your feelings are nothing to be apologized for. You are going through something that is incredibly difficult and you are doing the best you can. Keep telling yourself that over and over. Write it on a post-it note and stick it to your bathroom mirror if you need to. You’re stronger than you think you are.
Is there anything I’ve left out? What has helped you that you think may help others in the same situation? Remember, you are not alone in this.