How to heal

When I read on-line fertility forums, I am sometimes dismayed to see how much pain is out there and how few lifelines are thrown to the drowning person….

I wrote this post today on one such forum:
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A lot of suffering is shared on this thread.

I want to underline that healing fully from infertility IS possible. You do not have to move through the rest of life feeling a failure or feeling that there is a raw, weeping scar running across your heart.

That pain may be one phase of the journey but it is not the end point. However people can become stuck in that dark place and in writing this, I hope to hold up a lantern for those who feel they are stuck.

Issues like infertility, pregnancy loss and many other challenging life issues are calls for us to develop deeper inner qualities that are already within–waiting to be BORN. These qualities can be things like courage, compassion, insight, love or understanding. Everyone’s journey is uniquely their own–but certain paths are more helpful than others and sometimes there are tools that help us move forward.

To move forward we have to understand WHAT our losses REALLY ARE and GRIEVE them fully.

However sometimes the pain of fertility losses is mixed up with other earlier wounds
that have not been resolved. For example, women might have older losses associated with traumas such as sexual abuse, rape, abandonment, terminations, even difficult relationships with their own mothers that are not worked through and which may need attention.

The feelings from those events can get mixed up into the pain of infertility–so the healing path may be more complex than it first appears. It’s like sorting out several colors of yarn that have gotten snarled together.

Sometimes the story is simpler and only related to fertility issues.

One reason the fertility loss service was developed and run in London & Scotland for years was to give an appropriate place & structure to honour and mourn the hidden losses around infertility and unwanted childlessness. The next service is Sunday, April 26th and you are invited to attend. It’s free and you can read more about it elsewhere on this thread.

Sometimes group work with others facing the same issues is deeply healing. In the safety of a well-run group where there are confidentiality agreements and good boundaries, participants benefit from sharing their stories on a deep level and hearing from others in the same room. The sense of isolation is alleviated. Often lasting relationships emerge from such groups that provide mutual support for years. Certain exercises can help find solutions to moving forward in appropriate ways.

Therapy with a counsellor skilled in fertility issues can be hugely helpful too (for those who can afford it). Couple therapy can also be vital–though sometimes the partner is not willing.

For those who cannot afford therapy of any kind, here are some books that are particularly good.

Infertility—Old Myths, New Meanings by Jan Rehner
(1989) Second Story Press

Never to Be a Mother by L.H. Anton (1992) Harper

A Mother in My Heart; How to overcome the pain of
involuntary childlessness by Ginny Fraser (2001)
Nightlight Publishing (available at a discount directly from
the author for £6.95 plus £1 p&p) email: ginnyf@tiscali.co.uk

Beyond Childlessness: For every woman who ever wanted
to have a child—and didn’t by Rachel Black & Louise
Scull (2005) Rodale

Male infertility—Men talking by M. Mason (1993)
Routledge

Most of these books are available via Amazon, some
very inexpensively (second-hand). Local libraries should be able to obtain them too.

If you have books that you’ve found particularly helpful, please share them.

As wonderful as on-line forums are for sharing issues with others on similar paths, there are limits to internet forums. Fertility touches some of our most delicate regions: the intimate, private part of our bodies, our relationships and our sexual dimension. On-line forums are too public for most people to go deeply into their painful feelings on these matters–so certain difficult material is rarely, if ever, shared in this format. Some people may be sitting with that kind of material feeling lost, confused, ashamed and alone.

One example: In workshops where the group has come to trust one another, we have explored the sexual wound from infertility. (Strict confidentiality rules are agreed for this.) I ask everyone to rate (anonymously) the depth of the wound to their sexual relationship caused by their fertility issues. They are given identical pens and paper–no way to know who wrote what–so everyone feels able to be honest. People are asked to rate the depth of their wound from 1 to 5. Number 1 is unwounded–feeling healthy & good; number 5 is profoundly wounded–perhaps no sexual relations with the partner for years. The slips of paper are put into a bowl and tabulated.

Every time I’ve done this almost everyone is at 4 or 5–and hugely relieved to hear that they are not alone.

I share this in the hope that those who feel bereft & lost realize that there are several pathways out of this maze and many useful tools to help you if you look around.


Recommended books

Recommended Books for Coping with Infertility

These are my particular favorites:

Infertility—Old Myths, New Meanings by Jan Rehner
(1989) Second Story Press

Never to Be a Mother by L.H. Anton (1992) Harper

A Mother in My Heart; How to overcome the pain of
involuntary childlessness by Ginny Fraser (2001)
Nightlight Publishing (available at a discount directly from
the author for £6.95 plus £1 p&p) email: ginnyf@tiscali.co.uk

Beyond Childlessness: For every woman who ever wanted
to have a child—and didn’t by Rachel Black & Louise
Scull (2005) Rodale

Male infertility—Men talking by M. Mason (1993)
Routledge

Most of these books are available via Amazon, some
very inexpensively (second-hand).

If you have books that you’ve found particularly helpful, please add them.