Cultivating Compassion During Infertility

By Laura Pontani, LMHC

When you are doing everything you can to create life such as, numerous doctor appointments, acupuncture, herbs, yoga for relaxation, meditation for inner connection, therapy, no sugar, no gluten, you can feel burnt out.  Defeated.  You may feel down right angry that your body is not responding.

The question that often arises in my clients is “what else can I do?” and then “why can’t I get pregnant, I am working so hard?” The response that follows is: “I deserve this because...” and the reasons stem from childhood trauma to being on birth control or overindulging in sugar. The list of self-blame is extensive. The bottom line is that your body’s inability to ‘easily’ conceive starts to eat away at you and the message that creeps in is “I am a failure.” This sense of failure leads to shame, doubt, anxiety, and depression.

Cultivating self-compassion is a simple approach towards maintaining hope and a positive perspective in the midst of infertility. Research demonstrates that when you embrace a compassionate mind you decrease emotional suffering, and increase hopefulness, self-love, self-esteem, and connection.

What is self-compassion?

Self-compassion is simply treating yourself as you would a friend who is struggling. If your friend came to you and said... “I can’t get pregnant. I am such a failure!” What would you say? You could reflect her same sentiment of failure by telling her to give up, or you could reassure her that she is doing everything in her power and encourage her to keep striving for her family. These are two very different paths to motivation. The first scenario breeds shame, fear, and criticism while the second shows compassion. In our culture, we have been taught that fear is a big motivator. However, new studies are finding that you will have a higher chance of being successful because compassion is a more effective motivator then criticism. At the core of compassion is connection and love. These actions will help you to feel confident and secure during challenging times. Learning to trust yourself will decrease stress and help you to tap into your core desires and strengths.

Practicing self-compassion

There are many ways to have these dialogues with yourself so that you cultivate a mindset of compassion, love and connection. When you notice self-judgment enter your thoughts practice this judgment validation by simply telling yourself a positive statement such as: “I know you are struggling right now, but I love you and this body and know you can do it”. Or, you might like something more tangible like giving yourself a hug, listening to an encouraging song, savoring a piece of chocolate, or journaling your feelings and hopes. The idea is to allow space for your feelings to shift from negative self-judgment to positive affirmations of love, acceptance, and compassion.

The challenge of self-compassion is not that is it hard, but rather, that it is a simple technique that is hard to implement during distressing times. Post it reminders in your car, on your bathroom mirror, or your nightstand are great ways to remind yourself to practice self-compassion. You can also set little ding reminders from your phone or computer. The work is showing up for yourself, every day through the good, the bad, and the ugly and still telling yourself that you are worth it, that you are loved, and that you have hope in this journey that you are on.