The Importance of Talking to Someone Who Understands the Fertility Journey

the importance of talking to someone who understands
Photo by Neil Thomas on Unsplash

Infertility can be a deeply isolating experience, filled with emotional and physical challenges that can feel overwhelming. The experience often floods your system with a spectrum of difficult feelings and sensations. As a somatic therapist who has personally navigated the complex journey of infertility and IVF, I cannot stress enough the importance of speaking with someone who truly understands.

Understanding the Emotional Toll

Infertility affects every aspect of life, from personal relationships to self-esteem. The constant cycle of hope and disappointment can lead to anxiety, depression, and a sense of hopelessness. Speaking with a therapist who has walked this path can provide much-needed empathy and validation. I understand your unique emotional rollercoaster, offering a safe space to express feelings that others (no fault of their own) may not comprehend.

The Power of Somatic Therapy

Somatic therapy focuses on the connection between mind and body, addressing not just the emotional but also the physical manifestations of stress and trauma. This holistic approach is particularly beneficial to you if you’re undergoing fertility treatments. By integrating talk therapy with body-centered techniques, somatic therapy helps release tension, process trauma, and restore a sense of calm and balance.

Personal Experience Enhances Professional Insight

Having personally experienced infertility and IVF, I bring a dual perspective to my practice. I know the clinical side of treatments and the personal struggles that come with it. This insight allows me to offer practical tools for managing stress, such as mindfulness practices, breathing exercises, and gentle movement, tailored to support your fertility journey. It also allows you to cut through the explanation fatigue that often comes with the territory of IVF.

Building a Supportive Connection

One of the most healing aspects of therapy is the sense of connection and support it fosters. Knowing you’re not alone in your struggle can be incredibly comforting. Through my practice, I aim to build a connection with you so you feel seen, heard, and supported. The tools and the insights are equal parts vital in your management of such a tumultuous time.

Long-Term Healing and Empowerment

The goal of therapy is not just to survive the infertility journey but to thrive beyond it. By addressing both emotional and physical aspects, somatic therapy provides long-term healing and empowers you to face future challenges with resilience and strength.


Infertility is a challenging journey, but you don’t have to navigate it alone. Speaking with someone who understands, both professionally and personally, can make a profound difference. Through somatic therapy, you can find the tools and support you need to manage the emotional and physical challenges of infertility, fostering healing and empowerment every step of the way.

I’m here.

Rachel Shanken, Somatic Fertility Therapist in New York City

Ambiguous Grief: The Hidden Pain of Infertility

Infertility is a deeply personal and often silent struggle that brings with it a unique type of grief—ambiguous grief. Unlike traditional grief, which follows a loss recognized and validated by society, ambiguous grief is characterized by the lack of closure and the continuous hope that remains despite repeated disappointments.

What is Ambiguous Grief?
Ambiguous grief is a term that describes grief that occurs when the loss is unclear, undefined, or without closure. It often arises when the loss is ongoing or not recognized by society as a legitimate source of grief. For individuals experiencing infertility, this form of grief can be especially challenging because it involves mourning the loss of a future that is continually hoped for but not guaranteed – the mourning for a child that was never conceived or born, yet deeply desired and imagined. The invisibility of the loss(es) can intensify feelings of isolation and invalidate the pain felt by those struggling with infertility.

The Layers of Ambiguous Grief in Infertility –
1. Loss of Control: One of the most profound aspects of infertility is the loss of control over one’s body and reproductive future. This loss can lead to feelings of helplessness and frustration.

2. Unseen Grief: Unlike other forms of loss, infertility is often a private struggle. The grief is not visible, and therefore, it can feel invalidated or unacknowledged by those around you.

3. Hope and Despair Cycle: Each new cycle of fertility treatment brings renewed hope, only to be potentially followed by disappointment. This cyclical pattern of hope and despair can be emotionally exhausting.

4. Identity and Self-Worth: Infertility can challenge one’s identity and sense of self-worth. The inability to conceive can lead to feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.

5. Isolation: The experience of infertility can be isolating. Friends and family may not fully understand the depth of your grief, leading to feelings of loneliness.

6. Financial and Physical Strain: The financial burden and physical toll of infertility treatments add additional layers of stress and grief.

Navigating Ambiguous Grief –
As a therapist, I work with clients to navigate the complex emotions associated with ambiguous grief. Here are some strategies that can help:

1. Acknowledge Your Grief: Validate your feelings and recognize that your grief is real and legitimate. It’s important to give yourself permission to mourn the losses associated with infertility.

2. Seek Support: Connect with others who understand your experience. Support groups, whether in-person or online, can provide a sense of community and understanding.

3. Communicate: Share your feelings with your partner, empathetic friends, or a therapist. Open communication can help alleviate feelings of isolation and provide emotional support.

4. Practice Self-Care: Engage in activities that nurture your well-being. This can include mindfulness, exercise, creative pursuits, or simply taking time to relax and recharge.

5. Set Boundaries: Protect yourself from situations or conversations that exacerbate your grief. It’s okay to set boundaries and prioritize your emotional health.

6. Find Meaning: Explore ways to find meaning and purpose in your life, regardless of the outcome of your fertility journey. This can involve focusing on personal goals, hobbies, or other areas of fulfillment.

7. Therapeutic Support: Consider seeking professional support to help you process your grief. Therapy can provide a safe space to explore your emotions, your body and develop coping strategies.

Remember, your grief is real, your pain is valid, and you are not alone in this struggle. Seeking support and finding ways to honor your experience can be crucial steps in managing the ambiguous grief of infertility.

Rachel Shanken, Somatic Fertility Therapist in New York City

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

The Importance of Talking to Someone Who Understands the Fertility Journey

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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 […]