MindBodyWisdom

Suffering in Silence: The Emotional Toll of Infertility & IVF

photo credit: Louis Galvez

I will forever have the imprint in my memory of waking up unnaturally early (anxiety-filled) to dark, cold mornings in route to the clinic before work. New York City, supposedly “the city that never sleeps,” was quiet and deserted. My secret mornings, heading uptown on an empty subway car while the rest of the concrete jungle was fast asleep felt surreal, depressing and shameful for me.

Upon arrival at the clinic, I’d sit in a packed waiting room — walls covered with pictures of flowers blooming, upbeat music and tons of other people like me, waiting for their turn to be called and hoping that this was the cycle that would work. We never spoke to one another, but I felt much less alone in those waiting rooms (albeit still anxious) during that time in my life than most other places in the world.

Following the appointments, including often unexpected bad news about my prognosis, I headed to work and slapped a fake smile on my face. As lonely as it was to keep my fertility journey and shameful secret mornings to myself, the alternative of sharing into a void where most people didn’t understand, didn’t care or had unsolicited advice and judgment felt much worse. 

The Hidden Struggles: Navigating Infertility in Silence 

Infertility is not merely a physical challenge; it’s a deeply emotional journey that so many endure in silence. The pressure to conceive, the disappointment of failed attempts, and the heartache of the losses along the way are painful and often traumatic.

Feeling trapped by socializing with others who don’t understand or don’t care to understand what you’re facing is a major struggle. Discussing anything other than fertility feels futile, yet sharing about your fertility experience feels exhausting and overwhelming. Thus, you are left with yourself – your burdened psyche and your overwhelmed body – feeling alone.

Sneaking Through Shadows: Coping Strategies for the IVF Journey

As you tiptoe through the shadows of uncertainty, it’s vital to arm yourself with two things: coping strategies and a support system. Mind-body tools like these and these to calm your body, decrease your anxiety, and comfort yourself are some strategies that help. Your support system might include a fertility-competent therapist and/or fertility group, acupuncturist, or masseuse as well as a friend or family member who respects your boundaries about how and when you do or don’t want to talk about your struggles. Think about what you need in terms of tools and support, so that you can buffer yourself throughout the challenging process of fertility treatment (IVF).

Your Unique Journey

As you undergo the labyrinth of infertility and IVF, remember that your journey is uniquely yours. Do your best to be gentle with yourself. It’s a grueling period of your life – and every time you honor your needs, consider it an act of self-care and a big mental health win.

Rachel Shanken, Somatic Fertility Therapist in New York City

Anger Towards Your Body in IVF: Coping Strategies

                  photo credit: Alexander Krivitsky

In the emotionally charged landscape of in vitro fertilization (IVF), you may find yourself grappling with a complex array of emotions, including anger — particularly directed towards your body. This internal struggle can be deeply challenging and painful.

If you are struggling with feelings of betrayal, frustration, and inadequacy in the face of infertility, you aren’t alone. Sometimes, it’s helpful to know why you feel this way, the impact of these feelings and learning how to implement concrete go-to coping strategies.

The Why:

  1. Sense of Betrayal: Your body may have become a perceived adversary, failing to fulfill the fundamental biological function of conception. This sense of betrayal can evoke profound feelings of anger and resentment towards your body, leading to a fractured relationship with yourself.
  2. Frustration with Functionality: Infertility can trigger frustration and anger towards the perceived malfunctioning of your reproductive system. You may feel a deep-seated sense of injustice, questioning why your body isn’t able to perform a seemingly simple task that others take for granted.
  3. Loss of Control: The inability to conceive naturally can leave you feeling powerless and out of control, exacerbating feelings of anger and resentment toward your body. This loss of agency over your reproductive capabilities can be deeply distressing and often contributes to a sense of helplessness.

The Toll of Anger on Emotional Well-Being

  1. Negative Self-Image: Anger towards your body can fuel negative self-perceptions and undermine your self-esteem. You may internalize feelings of inadequacy, viewing yourself through a lens of deficiency rather than recognizing your inherent worth and value beyond your fertility status.
  2. Strain on Relationships: The emotional intensity of infertility and IVF treatment can strain relationships with your partner, family members, and friends. This anger may manifest as irritability, withdrawal, or conflict, impacting interpersonal dynamics and communication.
  3. Psychological Distress: Persistent anger and resentment towards your body can contribute to psychological distress, including symptoms of anxiety, depression, and emotional dysregulation. These mental health challenges may further exacerbate the burden of infertility and IVF treatment.
  4. Loss of Confidence: Questioning what it means to be a woman/man and feeling “less than” because your body doesn’t do what other bodies of the same gender as yours can do sometimes leads to feelings of worthlessness. It’s not uncommon to feel insecure in your relationship because you don’t feel that your body can do its part in creating a baby.

Cultivating Self-Compassion and Acceptance

  1. Acknowledge Emotions: Recognize and validate the emotions you’re experiencing, including anger, frustration, and sadness. Allow yourself the space to grieve the loss of the envisioned reproductive journey while acknowledging that your worth extends far beyond your ability to conceive.
  2. Practice Self-Compassion: Cultivate self-compassion by treating yourself with kindness, understanding, and patience. Challenge self-critical thoughts and replace them with affirmations of self-worth (even if you don’t initially believe what you’re telling yourself).
  3. Seek Support: Contact trusted friends, family members, or mental health professionals for support and validation. Sharing your feelings and experiences with others can provide perspective and alleviate feelings of isolation.
  4. Explore Coping Strategies: Engage in self-care activities that nurture your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Whether it’s mindfulness, creative expression, or relaxation techniques, find practices that help you cultivate a sense of peace and acceptance amidst the challenges of IVF.

Anger towards your body in the context of IVF is a natural and understandable response to the challenges of infertility. By acknowledging and validating these complex emotions, you can begin to cultivate self-compassion, acceptance, and resilience in the face of adversity. Remember, your worth is not defined by your ability to conceive, and you are deserving of love, compassion, and understanding — especially from yourself!

Rachel Shanken, Somatic Fertility Therapist in New York City

Explanation Fatigue during Fertility Treatment

Photo by Joel Muniz on            Unsplash

Fertility treatments can be an emotionally and physically demanding journey, requiring significant resilience and patience. Among the many challenges faced, one often overlooked is explanation fatigue—the exhaustion that comes from repeatedly explaining your situation, progress, and emotions to those around you. As a therapist and a former IVF patient, I’ve seen firsthand how this can strain interpersonal relationships, adding another layer of difficulty to an already complex process.

Understanding Explanation Fatigue

Explanation fatigue occurs when you feel physically and emotionally drained by the need to continuously share and justify your experiences, decisions, and feelings with others. In the context of fertility treatments, this can involve:

  • Describing medical procedures and their emotional impact.
  • Explaining the reasons behind certain decisions, such as pursuing IVF or choosing not to share certain details.
  • Repeating updates on progress or setbacks to concerned family and friends.
  • Managing well-intentioned, but often intrusive, questions or advice.

This repetitive explanation can become burdensome, leading to frustration, resentment, and emotional exhaustion.

The Impact on Relationships

1. Emotional Drain and Disconnect

Constantly having to explain oneself can be depleting, leaving little energy for other aspects of life and relationships. You may feel isolated, as the science of ART/IVF and the emotional burden is hard for others to fully comprehend. This can create a sense of disconnect between you and your loved ones.

2. Increased Stress and Tension

The need to continually provide updates and explanations can increase stress and tension within your relationships. Well-meaning questions can feel like pressure, and you may start to avoid conversations or interactions to escape the exhausting cycle of explanation.

3. Misunderstandings and Frustration

Misunderstandings can arise when others don’t fully grasp the complexities and emotional toll of fertility treatments. This can lead to frustration on both sides—you may feel unsupported or misunderstood, while loved ones may feel helpless or inadvertently say something hurtful.

4. Strained Communication

As explanation fatigue sets in, communication can become strained. You may choose to withhold information to avoid the repetitive cycle, leading to a breakdown in open and honest communication. This can create a barrier in relationships, making it harder for loved ones to offer you the kind of support you need.

Coping Strategies for Explanation Fatigue

1. Setting Boundaries

Clearly defining what you are comfortable sharing and what you prefer to keep private can help manage explanation fatigue. Communicate these boundaries gently but firmly to your support network, helping them understand your need for space and reducing the frequency of repetitive questions.

2. Utilizing Support Groups

Joining a support group, whether in person or online, can provide a safe space to share experiences with those who truly understand. These groups can offer emotional support and practical advice without the need for extensive explanations.

3. Designating a Point Person

Consider designating a trusted friend or family member as a point person for updates. They can relay information to others, reducing the number of times you need to explain your situation. Choose them wisely, as you don’t want to encounter further explanation fatigue with them or misinformation being dispersed.

4. Creating Informative Resources

You may find it helpful to create a blog, email updates, or a social media group where you can share information about your journey. This can keep loved ones informed and reduce the need for repeated explanations.

5. Seeking Professional Support

A fertility-competent therapist can provide a confidential and safe space to process your emotions, without putting the burden on you to explain each nitty-gritty detail of the process. They can also help you develop coping strategies for dealing with explanation fatigue and its impact on your relationships.

Supporting Loved Ones

For friends and family, it’s important to:

  • Listen More, Question Less: Offer a listening ear without pressing for details. Let the individual share as much or as little as they are comfortable with.
  • Show Empathy: Acknowledge the emotional and physical toll of fertility treatments. Express support and understanding without attempting to offer solutions or advice unless asked.
  • Respect Boundaries: Understand and respect the boundaries set by your loved one. Recognize that their need for privacy is a form of self-care.

Explanation fatigue is a real and challenging aspect of the fertility journey, impacting emotional well-being and interpersonal relationships. By recognizing this fatigue and implementing strategies to manage it, you can protect your emotional health and maintain stronger, more supportive relationships during a time when you need it most.

Remember, this is your process so you get to decide what you share, when and with whom.

Rachel Shanken, Somatic Fertility Therapist in New York City

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Suffering in Silence: The Emotional Toll of Infertility & IVF

I will forever have the imprint in my memory of waking up unnaturally early (anxiety-filled) to dark, cold mornings in route to the clinic before work. New York City, supposedly “the city that never sleeps,” was quiet and deserted. My secret mornings, heading uptown on an empty subway car while the rest of the concrete […]

Anger Towards Your Body in IVF: Coping Strategies

In the emotionally charged landscape of in vitro fertilization (IVF), you may find yourself grappling with a complex array of emotions, including anger — particularly directed towards your body. This internal struggle can be deeply challenging and painful. If you are struggling with feelings of betrayal, frustration, and inadequacy in the face of infertility, you […]

Explanation Fatigue during Fertility Treatment

Fertility treatments can be an emotionally and physically demanding journey, requiring significant resilience and patience. Among the many challenges faced, one often overlooked is explanation fatigue—the exhaustion that comes from repeatedly explaining your situation, progress, and emotions to those around you. As a therapist and a former IVF patient, I’ve seen firsthand how this can […]

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Sage words from guest blogger, Courtney Carver of Be More with Less… How to Listen to Your Heart. Your body was designed to connect with your heart. Every day, your heart sends you powerful messages, but unless you have the time and space to pay attention, you might miss them. A busy, stressful life gets […]

Can you answer these 4 Questions?

Take a moment to honestly answer the 4 simple questions below. Do you enjoy on meaningful conversation? Do you thrive on personal growth? Do you value the mind-body / body-mind connection as means toward living more fully, freely, and joyfully? Are you someone who feels most alive when you’re connected with like-souled, like-minded, like-spirited people? […]

MindBodyWise Living Room: Connect with others just like you…

Navigating life’s challenges is hard. It can feel lonely, scary, stressful, overwhelming and downright depressing. Sometimes, it probably feels like you are doing it alone and you wonder if there are others out there having similar struggles. And if they are out there, WHERE ARE THEY? You no longer have to go it alone or […]

How to support people in emotional pain

How to support people in emotional pain. You want to be a good friend or partner, but it’s easy to feel helpless when you see someone that you love feeling badly. Sometimes, it’s hard to know what to say. It’s really important, though, to find ways to verbally acknowledge someone’s experience, instead of minimizing it.  Here […]

Love-Loading vs. Carb-Loading

Whether you celebrate V-Day or it’s not your thing, let it be an opportunity to give love to the most important person in your life – YOU! Love-Loading vs. Carb Loading – An anecdote When my beloved grandfather, affectionately known as Pop-Pop, passed away, our family was distraught with grief.  He was full of love […]

Something you can’t live without…

“What’s something you didn’t know existed before that now you can’t imagine living without?” asked my brilliant, lovely, talented friend Marsha (of Yes Yes Marsha) on Facebook. Most people, including me, posted a lot of technology-related stuff (Netflix, Internet, Fitbits etc.). However, later in the day, while doing a brief self body scan (as I […]

Be better at balancing it all…

Be better at balancing it all.  So here I am at about 7 years old… posing happily on a floor balance beam.  Only one month before, I had been selected as the newest member of the gymnastics team. In this picture, I see a little girl beaming with pride and joy. I absolutely and completely […]

10 Gifts of Inspiration for You…

10 Gifts of Inspiration for you. In 2015, I posted over 140 times to Instagram. Most of what I post includes a quote or insight of some kind, that many have said is inspiring. So, I’ve collected the posts that got the majority of “likes” (and ones that I like the best) to share with you […]

Stop Self-Criticizing, Start Meditating

Are you seeking a path back to self-acceptance and self-worth? Have you considered meditation? Maybe it’s time you do! To get started on your path, read this informative article, written by Crystal Fenton of Rewire Me with commentary from yours truly! Enjoy… Admit it, you’ve been there: acting as your own worst critic by doubting yourself. As a […]

Healing the Post-Holiday Hangover Blues

Do you ever experience a post-holiday depression or emotional hangover? This year, maybe the holidays met your expectations, exceeded them or depleted you. Whether you’re a lover of the holiday season or you thrash through it painfully, you may experience a dark-mood day or dark-mood week that follows the end of the season. This is […]

1 simple way to free yourself, once and for all

The joy that comes with being free from attachment is a “felt” sense that cloaks all of who you are, inside and out. If you choose to look at yourself from the inside, you can gain perspective and agency over how you move through your life. The practice of freeing yourself begins with bringing awareness […]

How to make 2016 your best year yet…

A brief note: You live and you learn. With reflection and introspection, you can make adjustments and pivots to enhance your life as you purposefully step forward into it. In this very spirit of reviewing, learning and redesigning, I am sharing the year-in-review exercise I sent out last year, but I’ve made changes to enhance it […]

5 Ways to Feel Good Every Day…

Can you feel good every day? The awesome news is — it’s totally possible! It will require some work, on your part…but…the coolest thing is that as you do this very personal and self-focused work, the benefits expand into all areas of your life. The more you do to actively care for yourself – the […]

Setting a Resolution that Lasts…

 It’s your life. Choose your path and fully embody your whole self. It is with this intention that a beautiful journey will unfold within and before you. Make 2016 YOUR Year ~ Free Your Body, Free Your Mind Every new year, you make resolutions that don’t stick. Maybe you sign up for denial-driven programs that […]

Don’t miss it…!

“It’s a one-shot deal…” How many times have you heard this and it’s rarely (if ever) true…?  This time it IS true!   Recently I have been exposed to several untimely deaths, others who are struggling to stay alive and others who have recently been diagnosed with life-altering diseases. Although we all know that death is part of […]

Wondering where to find the wonder?

With summer ending and a new season beginning, it gives us an opportunity to become present in our lives in a new way. But how do we get present and find the wonder? A reflection…a suggestion…and an opportunity… I’m just returning from 2 weeks of being away from my everyday life. My first week away […]

6 Seconds to Stress Relief…really!

6 seconds to stress relief. Did you know that hugs are a natural stress reliever? How cool is that?! Hugging for only 6 seconds releases dopamine — the feel-good hormone — in both the hugger and the “huggie” (is that even a word?). A few more words about hugs and your health… Hugs reduce cortisol […]

Are you having fun yet?

It’s never too late to have fun in life.  It was recess and the game was Capture the Flag. My big brother was in the sixth grade, and I was a few years behind in second grade. Usually, only the older kids played, but this time my big brother invited me to join his team. […]

Inspiration & Empathy ~ A Human Experience

Have you noticed that stories of triumph often support you in feeling most alive, inspire you to overcome your own challenges and sometimes even bring you to tears? Me too! Did you know there’s a neuroscience and mind-body supported reason why these beautiful, life-affirming stories move us so deeply? I might be a bit of […]

7 Mind-Body Creativity Hacks

Do you want to become a better problem-solver, innovator and to access more of the creativity within you? Of course you do…who doesn’t! The most effective way to enhance your creativity is to get your whole body into the process. Here are 7 scientifically supported and totally awesome mind-body creativity hacks that involve all parts of you. Some […]

Stand Up for Yourself

Stand Up for Yourself. By this subject line, you may assume that I’m suggesting that you hold your ground, or speak up for yourself, or stop being a people pleaser. However…I’m actually talking about… Standing up for yourself and for your health! STAND UP! Get out of your seat! Yep, it may seem like a […]

Love More, Live Longer

Live more, live longer. This one’s a short and oh so sweet one…! Create relationships. Connect. Give and receive support. Love. Be loved. Continue surrounding yourself with good people and meaningful relationships. Fill up your “connection containers” and live a longer, healthier life. This isn’t just touchy-feely stuff. This is back by facts! There are […]

Transform your Perspective

We all know that our mood can affect your perspective. Knowing this fact and knowing what to do about it is a whole different story. I love this 3.5 minute video, based on the Growth Model from Carol Dweck. The video simply explains why it’s sometimes hard for us to shift our perspective.  The video also confirms that it takes […]

What Invigorates You?

When’s the last time that you felt full of life? How many days, weeks, months have passed since you last felt invigorated? You don’t have to wait or hope or wish that you could recreate that feeling of excitement about getting up every morning and starting your day. It doesn’t have to be difficult or […]

Authentic to the Core

How do you know when you are being your authentic self? What does it mean to be authentic?   When I am being my true self, I know it because I feel ease in my mind and freedom in my body. I am neither anticipating what’s next or belaboring what came before. I am present. […]

Are you living a “Good Life”?

How do you define living a good life? Are you living it? If not, what steps are you taking to create it? What does it feel like to think about these questions? It’s not uncommon to hear people say “I want a good life” but not really know what that actually means…and it’s so unique […]

Simple Shifts, Lasting Changes

Do you know there’s more to life than this but you’re finding it challenging to create change? Do you feel a bit alone in your quest for health and happiness? Do you feel a little stuck about what to do next? Do you make promises to yourself, but find it difficult to keep them? Often […]

Spring Cleaning for your Soul

Are you leaving space in your life for new challenges and new opportunities? Are you creating space in your body, lengthening and stretching and reaching, to create the life you want for yourself? For transformation and personal evolution to occur…to fully squeeze the juice out of life…both your mind and body have to be a part […]

Peace in Motion

Do you want to meditate, but think that you aren’t or wouldn’t be “good at it”…? Walking meditation might be your solution! First of all, just so you know, there is no such thing as not being good at meditation. All of us struggle with wandering minds – that’s our brain’s job (and we can […]

Are you Crazy-Busy?

Do you reply I am crazy busy when people ask, “How are you?” Over the past few years, many articles have emerged about the function of our being so “busy” and how this “busy-ness” serves to distance us from our unique purpose, from connecting with others and from connecting to our authentic selves. If we […]

It’s All Connected!

What is the mind-body connection? How does it work? How do you access it? Why would you want to? Only a few words this time…and instead some awesome mixed media to help you understand, appreciate, and gain some tips on how to access your mind-body connection! I could list endless references, movies, and more here, […]

How to Love your Life

How to Love Your Life. “Death is very likely the single best invention of life.” – Steve Jobs We all know that we have limited time here, in this precious life. Yet, we don’t always live like each moment is our last, nor would it be healthy to do so! However, it’s valuable on occasion […]

Making Peace with Pain

You know it and I know it: PAIN IS NO FUN! If given the choice, it would be very difficult to turn down a life of a pain-free existence, right?! However, there is no magic healing wand – sorry! And, this may sound nuts, but our pain can offer us powerful and often profound life […]

6 Life Lessons from a Balinese Offering

6 Life Lessons from a Balinese Offering. I just returned from a yoga vacation in Bali. It was an amazing, magical and beautiful trip on so many levels. One of the most striking aspects of Bali is its people… They are kind and they smile often. They are generous and warm. They take time and […]

5 Ways to be More Courageous

Being more courageous means.. Do you fear … Speaking your truth? Trying new things? Being your authentic self? Exploring the unknown? Going for your dreams with all you’ve got? “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have […]

Releasing Regret and Finding Freedom

Do you have regrets? Most of us do.  What function does regret serve? How can we live more freely and release the pain of the missed opportunities of the past? When I was growing up, the quote “I woulda, coulda, shoulda, but I didn’t” was on my family’s bathroom wall (and is still posted there […]

Coming from Love

What’s your Heart Saying? If we approached all of life and every human interaction from a place of love, what would life be like? If we all lived from the voices of our hearts, what would our world be like? What might be different? Who might we be? We are often so go-go-go that we […]

How to Feel your Feelings…

You may be wondering, why would I want to feel my feelings ?! Because…it’s life-changing in many great ways… If you missed last week’s discussion about the importance and value of feeling your feelings, you can read about it HERE. As promised last week, here are some ways to connect and begin the practice of […]

5 Life-Changing Reasons…to Feel Your Feelings!

Do you avoid allowing yourself to feel what you are really feeling? As human beings, we crave safety. We crave comfort. Often, our same-old same-old routine becomes our safety and comfort. Sometimes, it may seem easier to go on autopilot, without any consciousness about our internal experience. It’s natural and adaptive to want to avoid […]

Moving through the Blues

Moving through the blues. Are these cold, short days getting into your body and making you feel a little slower than usual, a little more down than usual, or a little less motivated? Weather and sunlight can have a profound impact on your physical body as well as your mind. So, what can we do […]

Happiness Jar

Capturing Happiness As I’m sure you know, the more we allow in and connect with the happy moments in our day (even the very ordinary happy moments), the happier we are…duh…! I know, this idea isn’t groundbreaking, but sometimes putting this happiness thing into practice isn’t quite as simple – especially on those not-so-great days […]

How to Live with Intention

How to live with intention. A new beginning is a marker that gives each of us an opportunity to get conscious about what we are creating inside ourselves and in the world. It’s a chance to start fresh, (re)design our lives, build new relationships, deepen existing relationships, and connect to our purpose. You get to create […]

Revisiting your Year

Reflecting Back… Looking Ahead… Living in the Present… As 2014 comes to a close, we are given a great opportunity to reflect, rewind, recall, revisit, relive, and then ultimately reinvent. This process can be exciting, sad, joyful, frustrating, scary and more. As human beings, we often experience many conflicting feelings all at one time, which […]

3 Ways to Lean into Joy

Do you lean into joy? Or do you find yourself waiting for the other shoe to drop? Are you often looking over your shoulder in expectation of the happiness you feel to disappear at any moment? If we don’t learn to be grateful or be vulnerable and present to what is in the moment, we […]