Infertility Guilt and "What If's"
There are two words in the English language that are guaranteed to have you run around in circles emotionally.
Ever play the "what if" game?
I have. I certainly did when it came to infertility and fertility treatment.
I have never won.
I get my butt kicked in that game over and over again.
Here are the rules:
Find something from the past that you feel badly about. It may be feelings of sadness, discomfort, anger or some combination of those. Maybe it’s disappointment or regret. Something you wish you could change. Something you can simply wonder about how it could have gone differently.
Great. You’re on your way.
Now consider it every time you feel even mildly unhappy or dissatisfied. Bring it into your mind and roll it over and over again. Focus on it instead of what is actually going on in front of you. Continue to turn towards the past, disregarding your present moment.
With infertility I constantly played the "what if" game. What if I had started earlier? What if I had never used birth control? What if I had never drank alcohol or tried recreational drugs? What if I had eaten better, exercised more regularly, slept more, stressed less, meditated, practiced yoga?
What if I had tried that treatment or that medication or that protocol? What if I saw a different, better fertility specialist?
You get the idea.
Pointless as it is, it can be nearly impossible to resist.
The goal of the game, after all, is to find out the reason why.
Why am I not getting pregnant? Or staying pregnant? Or getting pregnant again?
That’s the reason for all the what ifs. It’s to discover a reason that maybe we can fix. It’s to change something we are doing in the present so that we don’t have to continue to live in the results of something that we’ve done in the past to have caused the infertility.
Something that we perceive that we’ve done in the past.
I wonder how often there is something that we’ve done in the past that has directly caused our infertility diagnosis.
I can make a long list of diagnoses that there is no doubt whatsoever, we have not caused. My diagnosis would be on that list. Chances are, yours would be too.
To go further, recently I was reading about how human beings punish themselves over and over again. Not content to punish ourselves once, we do it over and over again.
It’s called guilt.
More about that part of the game tomorrow.
For today, my suggestion? Give yourself a break. Give yourself a hug. Give yourself a treat.
About Lisa Rosenthal
Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.
Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.
Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.
Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.