FertilityReal-Stories

Fertility Limbo – How to get Unstuck and Take Control

By February 25, 2021April 7th, 2021No Comments

Trying for a baby is one of the most exciting yet scary times in your life. Once you decide you are ready to embark on the journey into parenthood, it’s normal to expect that it is all going to happen magically! But for many of us, this is not the case. If it does not happen quickly (and it rarely does), it can become one of the most frustrating and heart-breaking experiences you will ever face.

I had a six-year journey (that, believe it or not, is not over) to hold my baby in my arms. When we (my husband Mark and I) started, we were excited, optimistic, and dreaming of our future family. However, it was not long before the excitement turned to disappointment, with test after test coming back negative. All of a sudden, trying to get pregnant — something that should be fun — took over our lives.

It was this ‘taking over’ that suddenly made me feel out of control. I was in control of my life- until now, at least: completed college, working in a job I loved, married to my soul-mate, and blessed with the fantastic friends and family. And yet the one part I could not control was getting pregnant.

I suddenly felt in ‘limbo’, which is a particularly apt description as it implies a temporary state, a lack of movement forwards or backwards in life. And let me assure you, being in limbo, and all that it entails, is incredibly uncomfortable.

Being in limbo meant — or at least felt like — I had no direction, no goals or actions in my life, no meaning, and I was not moving forward. Worse still is the fear that accompanies the feeling of being in limbo: fear of the future, fear of the unknown. And then there’s the fear of outcome that can immobilise our thoughts and actions.

Another discomfort — and arguably the hardest one —is the feeling of losing control. Today, in addition to the loss of control, we are compounded by a world that, for the time being, at least, also seems out of control. You might be feeling stuck – stuck at home, stuck in lockdown, stuck on a fertility treatment waitlist, and stuck in that fertility limbo.

There’s a famous quote by the late Maya Angelou about the power of change: “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude.”

Applying this to how I felt in limbo, I realised that change was required. Sure, I could feel sorry for myself and remain in limbo indefinitely, allowing myself to be consumed by — and paralysed by — negative thoughts; or I could take a proactive role in my fertility health.

Thankfully, I opted for the latter and decided that I would take control of the ‘controllable’ things – factors and variables of which I could determine the outcome. After all, your sense of control is how much control you feel you have over your life; having the right amount of control is what helps keep you balanced.

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach, sadly, but what worked for me may be helpful to others. So, with this in mind, the following areas are the ones that helped me get ‘unstuck’ from limbo and take control during my fertility journey.

Plan!

Do you have a plan for your fertility journey? It might sound boring, admittedly, but taking steps to plan and prepare for your fertility journey is essential. Having a plan kept me — a self-confessed planner — focused and more in control, and that’s always a bonus if you’re struggling with fertility.

Take time out with a piece of paper and a pen and think of your plan. Do you have all the information you need to understand where things stand with your fertility? Armed with information, you can better understand your options and how appropriate they will be for you and your unique circumstances. Only then can you make an informed decision about what the next right step is for you.

Regardless of whether you’re a die-hard control freak or utterly disorganised, planning is empowering and can help you feel more in control of your fertility and your future. There is no one-size-fits-all prescription: everyone’s journey is different but think about your lifestyle and what changes you can make – stop smoking, reduce your alcohol intake, start your supplementation regime, focus on your food and nutrition, and ensure you get sufficient daily exercise.

By doing all you can to boost your fertility and chances of conceiving, you will feel more in control and more positive as you take ownership of your journey. Rome wasn’t built in a day, of course, and — additional cliché alert! — fertility struggles tend to be a marathon rather a sprint, but by doing all you can and taking each step daily, you will edge ever closer to your goal.

Allow yourself to hope

Every month, I expected to see those two pink lines, and each month I was presented with a blank space. As the months began to blur (and the pink lines still failed to materialise), my hopes, which were already dwindling, started to plummet.

Looking back, this was my self-protection mechanism: by not allowing myself to dream, I was saving myself from the inevitable hurt. But no matter how hard you try to convince yourself, you can’t cheat your feelings. No matter how much I convinced myself there was no chance of conceiving, it still hurt me to the core. And that’s when I thought, sod it! I decided that I would let myself hope and to hope BIG.

I allowed myself to visualise what I wanted in life: a baby. Granted, it might sound very ‘new age’, but research has shown that visualising what you want in life can accelerate how quickly we achieve it! And that’s why it’s important to make time daily to imagine the family you dream of. Create a visualisation board with pictures, words and thoughts to bring that vision to life.

Talk & get the support you need

I am a private person and, consequently, felt our journey did not need to be shared. But I was WRONG. There are far too many emotions, feelings, and (usually negative) thoughts associated with fertility struggles to muddle through and sort all by yourself.

Having fertility challenges can be incredibly isolating. It can be hard to be around people who are pregnant or who have just had babies, as they may, naturally, seem to talk incessantly about their pregnancy or their children or, worse, complain about them. At gatherings, you may feel worried about being surprised by the unexpected announcement of a new pregnancy, or being asked yet again when you will have children, or why you’re not yet pregnant.

Quips, comments and questions are invariably well-intentioned, but frequently utterly insensitive. Even people who care about you and have your best interests at heart often fail to understand what you are going through, or blurt out the most hurtful things.

It’s important to fine someone you trust and feel comfortable to share your story. It could be a close friend, a colleague or a neighbour. It may be a professional and could even be someone you have never met before but who happens to be going through something similar.

Irrespective of who you chose to confide in, be sure to let yourself be heard. Finding a trusted person with a positive outlook who can listen to what you have to say and who does not judge or blame you can be incredibly therapeutic and healing.

Be thankful for what you have

Practicing gratitude daily is proven to make people happier. When you obsess about getting pregnant, you can lose all sight of the good stuff in your lives and take it for granted.

It can be hard to see the positives in life when all you see and feel are the negatives. We can also compare ourselves to others around us who are getting pregnant – but they are not you. They do not have your life, your family, your friends and your circumstances, whether they be genetic, financial, personal, or whatever. We are all unique, so it’s pointless — and counter-productive — to make comparisons

Without wishing to come over all Monty Python, there’s an awful lot to be said for looking for the positives. So, try to begin and end each day with some gratitude. Remind yourself of all the good things in your life – no matter how small.

Allow yourself to cry

When it comes to emotions, they’re usually better out than in. And by cry, I don’t mean elegant, ladylike weeping; I’m talking full-on red face, snotty bawling!

I spent far too long bottling my emotions up because I was supposed to be the strong one, and — more than ever since I felt out of control when it came to my fertility struggles — I needed to control my feelings. Instead, I was like a volcano, ready to erupt at any moment.

Find a safe place and time to express these feelings (which will look different for every person. And probably — but not necessarily — should not be while queuing in Tesco!) and let them all out.

Pick yourself back up

Disappointment is lurking menacingly on every corner of a fertility journey. You build yourself up so much, then you see a big fat negative, and it all comes crashing down. And that’s why it’s so important to learn to pick yourself back up.

Good things are not always easy to come by, and failure is part of the process of getting there. Take each step daily but still know there is the next step – every step brings you closer to your goal.

Journaling

I have kept a journal since I was 13 years old! Journaling enables you to create a ritual. It is not just about writing stuff down but creating a space where I can be me: warts and all. No judgment. I can release my emotions through pen and paper; I can organise my thoughts and get them out of my head.

Be mindful of your mind

Stress does not cause infertility, but fertility challenges cause stress! Research has shown that people are struggling to conceive similar emotional distress and stress levels as those going through a divorce or who have been diagnosed with a life-threatening health condition, such as cancer or heart disease.

Thankfully, there are many effective ways to manage or reduce the negative impact of stress. These include yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, guided imagery, acupuncture, massage or bodywork, counselling focused on useful coping tools and relaxation techniques, Mindfulness-Based-Stress-Reduction-Training, journaling (as mentioned above), and expressive artwork. Find whatever works for you – and use it! Your body and your mind will thank you for it.

Nurture Yourself

Fertility challenges are tough. It is essential to be kind to yourself and to treat yourself with care and compassion. That’s not to say that you need to max out your credit card with some online retail therapy, or splash out on a luxury cruise; self-care can take a number of forms, and need not entail a bank loan or overdraft facility!

You may choose to look after yourself by reading a favourite book or magazine. Perhaps it’s switching off your phone and luxuriating by candlelight in a long bath. It could be a walk outdoors by yourself, with your best friend, partner or pet. Or it could be treating yourself to an impromptu bouquet of flowers, a new scent or perhaps a coffee or smoothie. My point is that it can be anything, so long as it makes you feel good. These little pleasures can make a huge difference to your sense of wellbeing, so don’t forget to incorporate them into your routine whenever you feel the need.

Do what is right for YOU

All too often, we told what we should eat, how we should move, how we should think – all, yes, these are all important. But the one thing I learned was to do what was right for you.

Your fertility journey will be full of different phases and stages, but it unique to you. It is your decision as to when and how you take each one of those steps.

Be prepared to make changes & make the decision to make one change today
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

There’s a lot to be said for this, and that’s why I always recommend the following brainstorming exercise:

  • Grab a pen and paper.
  • Focus on what is making you feel helpless now about your fertility.
  • Choose an area where you have been able to achieve positive results in the past.
  • Take 15 minutes and write down ideas about how you can change this problem you are facing.
  • Do not criticise or judge any of your thoughts or ideas.
  • Rate each idea from 1-10 depending on how likely you will try the idea in the next week.
  • Pick one idea and try it this week.
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Amy Martin

Marketing Director

Amy is a high achieving individual with a number of marketing awards under her belt, including Young Digital Business Person of the Year 2019. She is a big believer in digital marketing and an expert in executing personalised targeted campaigns. Amy strives to learn from data and campaigns that show return on investment.

Robert Gordon

Managing Director, Gordons Chemists

 

Robert Gordon, director at Gordons Chemist's. Gordons Chemists is a chain of more than 60 pharmacies, located in NI and Scotland. Gordons Chemists is Northern Ireland's largest independent pharmacy chain.

Dr. Debbie Collins

MBBchBAO MRCGP

 

Dr. Debbie Collins MBBchBAO MRCGP, a practicing GP and partner in Belfast. She has a passion for patient education and advocacy. Her special interests are Women's Health and Fertility

Sarah Trimble

Nutritional Therapist

 

Sarah Trimble - a nutritional therapist with a passion for good food instead of fad diets. Sarah has a particular Interest in using the power of nutrition to support hormonal imbalances and reproductive health.

Barbara Scott

Director, Seren Natural Fertility
Chair, Association of Reproductive Reflexologists

 

Barbara Scott is Chair of The Association of Reproductive Reflexologists, founder of Seren Natural Fertility and author of Reflexology for Fertility. In 2017, she was awarded ‘Complementary Therapist of the Year’ by the Federation of Holistic Therapists and has been nominated for several awards within the field of complementary therapy. In 2019 she was awarded the Innovation in Reflexology Award by the Association of Reflexologists.

Barbara speaks and lectures globally on her integrative approach to supporting couples having difficulties conceiving. She has spoken at many of the Fertility Shows and Fertility Fest. Alongside her own busy clinics, she also trains practitioners in providing this integrative, approach to fertility and reproductive healthcare and well-being. The ARR (Association of Reproductive Reflexologists) has trained practitioners globally, from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Europe, and most areas of the UK.

Her expertise and passion is in advocating a patient-centred and integrative approach to supporting both men and women on their journey to parenthood.

Cindy Charles

Fertility coach and Founder of Fertilelife

 

Cindy Charles- Fertility coach and Founder of Fertilelife. Cindy is a committed advocate of social and personal development. Her own life experiences inspired her fertility support services. Cindy has worked with the Fertility Network UK, and has had the privilege to work as a resident Fertility Coach for the London Women's Clinic on Harley Street. Cindy believes in the importance of nurturing our own fertility.

Dr. Lyuda Shkrobot

MD, MSc Gynecologist, Fertility specialist at unq.life fertility clinic

 

Dr Lyuda has a special interest in reproductive immunology. Dr Shkrobot assisted in establishing the first European Donor Egg programme at Sims, coordinating and liaising with Intersono Clinic in Ukraine Advisors. She is passionate about patient-centred, results-driven care.

Jill Martin

Business Development Director

 

Jill Martin is a trained nurse and highly experienced pharmaceutical professional. Most of her business acumen and skills were developed by the world class training she received at Glaxo Smith Kline (GSK). Hard work and focus have resulted in a varied and successful career working in several different disease areas. As part of the Diabetes team at GSK, an opportunity arose to develop and support education programmes that were rolled out to the NHS across the UK, which resulted in improvement of Strategy and Patient Care. Jill feels that education is the key to understanding and has made it a personal goal to self-improve and support learning for others especially within the healthcare arena. The last 10 years have been devoted to trying to impart the importance of Fertility Health early in the life cycle of us all, rather than when infertility issues arise. She is delighted to have joined Nua Fertility on their mission to support people and communities to understand the importance of gut health on our fertility well-being.
 

Share a little about yourself—the things we wouldn’t learn from simply reading your professional bio.

The most important thing to me in life are family and friends, it breaks my heart when people are broken and I know that I am always trying to find solutions to problems. I love being outside rather than sitting at a desk and would rather lift the phone and have a chat with someone rather than email or message. I find people interesting and will often be that annoying person who starts a conversation on a train or plane.
 

What was your journey to parenthood like?

I feel very blessed to have had my family naturally, although not without some challenges. Following a miscarriage and thyroid issues conception wasn’t as easy as I would have hoped. My personal experience made me appreciate how important it is to value ways to improve your fertility health. This set me on my own journey to find out more, by surrounding myself with a network of experts in this area who I am continually learning from. When possible I take every opportunity to share best practice or send information to others that I know who are also seeking to understand more.
 

What is your ideal way to relax and unwind?

Juggling home life and working full time with a lot of travel, for most of my adult life made me find a way to relax that may seem strange. I love getting my trainers on and going for a long walk or run, even in the rain! Sometimes I will listen to a podcast and other times just be mindful of my surroundings. I find this a great way to clear my head, think about priorities and take time out for myself.
 

If there was just one thing you could impart on women on their journey to parenthood, what would it be.

From an early age I loved to make jigsaws, little did I know that this skill would help me later in life to understand the complexity of fertility and the miracle of life. Everyone is unique, every situation is different, like a jigsaw there are lots of pieces that need to be put together to become complete. Explore all options, chat to experts don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Aoibheann Murphy

Chief Financial Officer

 

Having trained with PWC, Aoibheann qualified as a Chartered Accountant in 1997. She subsequently spent eight years working in industry, gaining invaluable experience in many areas In 2005 Aoibheann became MD of Pangur Consulting, providing professional expertise to a broad client base. She is looking forward to the new challenge of Nua Fertility.
 

Share a little about yourself—the things we wouldn’t learn from simply reading your professional bio.

 

What was your journey to parenthood like?

Right craic!
 

Do you prefer podcasts or books? And of the one that you prefer, what is a show or title that you recommend?

I love sport…any sport…and the outdoors. Living in the Barrow valley I get to enjoy swimming and kayaking in the Barrow and exploring the Blackstairs mountains. Since I hung up my soccer boots (the body just couldn’t take it anymore!), I’ve been cycling with my lovely friends in Mount Leinster Wheelers and was chuffed to have completed the Ironman 70.3 triathlon event in Dublin in 2019!
I’m an avid reader…books beat podcasts hands down!...although recently I’ve dabbled with audio books through the library app Borrow Box. “A Little Life” left its mark on me. A harrowing story, definitely not for the faint hearted.
 

If there was just one thing you could impart on women on their journey to parenthood, what would it be?

Don’t be consumed by the roles in your life – parent, partner, employee etc. Parenthood, be it getting there or going through it, will have its tough times. Cherishing yourself as an individual and making time for yourself can help you through those times….it’s good to be a bit selfish!!

Mark Mullins

Director of Sales

 

What was your journey to parenthood like?

To be honest it was very difficult. At the beginning we thought that when we decided that we wanted to start a family Deborah would fall pregnant shortly afterwards like many of her friends. As time went by, we started to suspect something was wrong. After initial tests we found out that I had a low sperm count which meant that we would have to go down the assisted pregnancy route. This took me several months to get my head around as I blamed myself for this. All I wanted was my wife to be able to go through the pregnancy journey. We couldn’t wait to become parents. There were many long and painful nights where I thought this would never happen for us. After several failed attempts we decided to look at further ways of improving our chances. This led us to look at fertility supplements, our diet, exercise. I will never forget when that morning during our Two Week Wait when Deborah woke me up at 5 a.m. to show me those two lines, we had both been yearning for! We are blessed to now have our beautiful daughter.
 

On challenging days, what kept you going? Where did you find inspiration?

My wife was my inspiration. She kept me going through those challenging months and years. She was there to help me deal with everything. The guilt I felt when I saw her having to go through everything.
 

What is your ideal was to relax and unwind?

My latest passion is cooking on my BBQ. I find it so peaceful and I just switch off. It just gives me a bit of alone time which everyone needs.
 

If there was just one thing you could impart on men as they begin trying to become parents, what would it be?

I would highly recommend communicating with friends and family. A problem shared is a problem halved. Failing that there are some really good private Facebook groups for men suffering from infertility. I found this great support through the good and especially the bad times.