Staying Healthy During Infertility
You have the stick on the bathroom counter but your back is to it because you aren’t sure you want to see what it says. This makes the umpteenth time that you have peed on a stick in three years and, though you really think this time is it, you just don’t want the disappointing confirmation that always comes on the heels of “I think this time is it”.
Finally, you turn around to look. One line. That’s it. You pick up the stick that holds so much of your hopes and dreams in one tiny package and examine it closely in the light, searching hard for a faint indication of a second line. But it just isn’t there.
The next morning you wake up to cramps and think yet again, “Should have saved the money I spent on the stupid HPT.”
Your body is betraying you and not allowing you the basic ability that women were meant to have from the beginning of time — to conceive and carry a child. As the months take their toll in this journey called infertility, it is a struggle to keep your head up emotionally and mentally, not to mention take care of yourself physically. Yet, taking care of your physical health, as well as your mental, emotional, and spiritual health, is vital during this time.
When your world is falling apart, how do you do this? How do you take care of yourself when everything seems so wrong and it would just be easier to lose yourself in front of the television day after day while eating comfort food? How do you achieve emotional well being when you ride an emotional roller coaster that seems to fly higher and plummet lower every month? How do you find spiritual peace when all you can think is how unfair God lets life be that you can’t get pregnant, yet you saw two pregnant teenagers at the mall today?
You do it one day at a time.
Some days, you do it one hour at a time.
Taking care of yourself physically involves eating correctly and exercising regularly. Although the definition for eating correctly is up for debate, given all the different diets that are out there, there are still general guidelines you can follow. For example, staying away from processed foods and substances such as sugar and caffeine can do wonders for your overall health.
Eliminate deep fried foods and incorporate more homemade foods. Replace your chips and candy with crunchy vegetables and sweet fruits. Pour all your soda down the drain and start guzzling water instead.
For water intake, the International Sports Medicine Institute says this: “We have a formula for daily water intake: 1/2 ounce per pound of body weight if you’re not active (that’s ten eight-ounce glasses if you weigh 160 pounds), and 2/3 ounce per pound if you’re athletic (13 to 14 glasses a day, at the same weight).”
Daily exercise is also important. This cannot be stressed enough. Daily exercise is more than about getting fit and losing weight. Exercise also serves to release certain chemicals in the brain that can reduce anxiety, combat stress, and decrease depression. It is a natural energizer and has the wonderful result of producing an improved mood and clearer way of thinking.
In addition to any medical help that you are seeking for your infertility, you may want to consider seeking out nutritional and alternative health assistance. This help may come in the form of personal research done via reading and the internet, or it may involve actually scheduling an appointment with a nutritionist or alternative health practitioner.
Our bodies are intricately designed, and while we can’t rule out what modern medicine can do for us, neither can we rule out what getting back to nutritional basics can do for us as well. It can be beneficial to seek out possible root causes for infertility, such as hormonal imbalances. We can strive to correct these root causes with nutritional eating and supplementation instead of, or in addition to, synthetic hormonal therapy. Not only will you be treating the infertility with natural means, you will also be helping your entire body.
Along the same lines of seeking alternative health resources is the option of seeking chiropractic and massage therapies on a regular basis. Because our bodies are intricate and delicate, there is a balance that these particular practices can help restore if used regularly. If you are unsure about the validity of these particular alternative health practices, read up on them and research them before completely eliminating them as possible options in your pursuit of total health.
In addition to the physical aspect of staying well during infertility, don’t forget to take care of the other dimensions of your life as well. You are more than just a physical being and you are more than a woman who has an infertility diagnosis. Don’t ever forget that!
As difficult as it may be, stay positive. Anger and bitterness only increase with time if left unattended, and will affect your physical state as well as your mental and emotional state. Use music, good books, enjoyable movies, and surround yourself with upbeat people to help keep you focused on all the beauty that resides in your life.
Get involved in activities that have nothing to do with Trying to Conceive (TTC). Having once walked the road of infertility, I am aware of how difficult it is to live a normal life while seeming to have it tainted by the inability to have a baby. Yet I am also aware of how important it is to realize that you are more than a woman who can’t have a baby. Find things that you love to do and do them.
Nurture your soul during this time. This may include attending a local church every week, reading spiritual growth books or the Bible, and participating in prayer and meditation. A soul that is nurtured is more apt to be at peace. Internal peace equals health.
Find an infertility support group. Although a face to face group may not be possible in your local area, if you have the internet at your disposal, it is possible to tap into this resource. Some blogging sites have groups that fit within certain categories, and through those groups you can meet other women who are also going through infertility.
Connecting with other women going through this can be incredibly refreshing. Only they can understand why you are angry when someone says, yet again, “Just relax, it will happen.” They will be infuriated with you when you have that friend call up sobbing because she’s pregnant and doesn’t want to be. They can empathize like no one else when the HSG exam was more painful than you thought it would be. They will weep with you as experience yet another failed cycle. Do not underestimate the connection with other women experiencing infertility during this time.
Not only do you need to take care of yourself during infertility, but taking care of your marriage is also a necessity. The farther along the journey goes, the more you and your husband can lose each other in the pain. Making love has become trying to make a baby. Romantic dates have been replaced by numerous doctor’s appointments. Sharing your hearts has turned into each of you withdrawing into your own silent cocoons of pain and disappointment.
Communicate with your spouse during this journey: Talk, talk, talk!
If you need to, cry together.
When communicating, make sure to include in the conversation the different paths that the journey before you may have to take, such as IUI’s, IVF’s, or adoption. Talk through your options, hear each other out, and be in agreement as much as possible. If necessary, seek out marriage counseling, especially if you reach an impasse in what to pursue next.
Don’t assume that infertility affects just you — it affects your husband as well. It may bring up feelings of inadequacy that he can’t fix this for you and he may have his own layer of grief at having no children, just as you do.
Have regular dates. Work purposefully to keep the romance alive and well, apart from the monthly struggles of trying to get pregnant and being disappointed. Make romance as much of a priority as conceiving — maybe even more so.
Make love often, especially during those times of the month that aren’t “the window”. Work hard and consciously to not lose the wonder of the sexual relationship in the midst of baby dancing two times a day for an entire week. If necessary, take a month off (or three) from TTC to reclaim the physical spark that was once there.
Even though your body, and life in general, seems to be betraying you, don’t aid that betrayal by giving in to the negative emotions that threaten to consume you. Be determined that infertility will not destroy you. It will not cause you to let your body go nor will it crush your spirit. Determine instead that it will result in a more beautiful soul and it will bring about a marriage that everyone envies because of what you have gone through as a couple.
You may not necessarily enjoy the journey, but you can keep it from destroying you.