“The idea we can go it alone defies the natural world. We are like animals; we need ties to others to survive. We live in the shelter of each other.” ~ Dr. Susan Love
“Most people with infertility don’t tell anyone they are going through it,” said Alice Domar, a psychologist at Boston IVF. “Most don’t even tell their mothers because there is a deep sense of shame.”
Yes, I was one of them.
I didn’t share my fertility journey with my mother or any other family member until I had a miscarriage at age 41. As I sit here and write this, I realize that the immense sadness, grief, and shame that I was carrying truly got in the way of reaching out to my wonderful mother to help support me through one of the most agonizing times of my life.
Once I shared this painful loss with my parents, I was beautifully held in their love and deep compassion. I found myself calling my mother every day, sometimes multiple times a day, if only to hear her voice, which calmed me in every way. No one seemed to have the magic touch of soothing this immense hurt, knew what to say and when to listen — except my mother.
She became my essential ally, the person who simply listened and let my heart unravel.
Only three weeks after my miscarriage, my beloved mother suddenly passed away. The last three weeks that we shared together became ingrained in my soul. I was filled with profound gratitude that we connected in such an authentic and meaningful way during those precious three weeks.
I carry this sacred time with me; those three weeks are now moments that I continue to hold as treasured gifts. Those three weeks taught me that I don’t want to go through this life alone, that we need people to support us in our darkest hours, to ‘live in the shelter of each other.’
Unfortunately, too many women and couples struggle with infertility in silence. A survey conducted by Schering-Plough revealed that 61% of infertility patients hide their struggle to get pregnant from family and friends.
Why do humans need to connect and confide in others? As Dr. Daniel Siegel, a clinical professor of psychiatry at the UCLA School of Medicine explains, “We are hardwired to connect with one another, and we connect through our emotions. Of all the factors in human life that predict the best positive outcomes, supportive relationships are number one. Relationships are the most important part of our having well-being in being human. It’s that simple. And it’s that important.”
Sharing our stories with others and asking for help can decrease the intense lows of infertility; provide valuable peace of mind, and a greater sense of control.
When it’s your heart’s desire to start a family — and you are having difficulty doing so — it is important to gather allies who will wholeheartedly support you, especially when conception weighs heavy on your mind every hour of every day.
This may lift the heavy burden of feeling alone and help you regain a sense of hope. It is important to find essential allies, a small group of people who are trustworthy companions, those who you allow them to be a part of your fertility journey.
You might think your partner can fill this role, especially if you consider this person your best friend. Remember though, they are on this journey with you, feeling their own sense of sadness. For that reason, it’s best to find others who can listen and support you. A miscarriage affects both partners.
My mother was truly my essential ally and, in many ways, still is today even though she is no longer in the physical. When I meet with clients, I want them to feel that I can sit with them in their pain, to truly be “in it” with them, while holding compassion and understanding as my mother had done for me so long ago.
It doesn’t surprise me to witness many of my clients trying to move through their pain and sorrow by themselves. As I remember my mother graciously listening with such love and attention and without trying to fix anything, I impart her wisdom to my clients and share with them the value of letting someone in.
Who is your essential ally? If the image of a trusted friend or relative doesn’t immediately pop into your head, take a moment to think who could play that role in your life. Then set up a time to get together, talk, cry and help each other navigate life and improve your health and well-being.
Building relationships and connection with others you trust is fundamental to the healing process. We have a great need for each other.