Staying Present Through Fertility Treatment
In addition to my work as a both a Certified Professional Midwife and an Ordained Interfaith Chaplain, I am also a human with over 12 years of experience with fertility treatment. Cycle tracking? I’ve done it. Expensive and invasive testing? Had it all. IUI? A couple. Smorgasbord of medication? Taken it. IVF? Did it. One hallmark struggle for me was staying present through fertility treatment when the past and the future seemed to constantly be fighting for my attention.
Living in the past is easy. I would think about what we had tried, I’d worry and wonder about why it hadn’t worked, and I would think about whether there was anything I could have done differently. The biggest challenge for me with living in the past was wondering irrationally if I had done anything wrong to “cause” my two early losses. (Hint: I hadn’t, it’s never your fault, and so many people have this worry.) As I got caught up in looking back and wondering about things I couldn’t change, the present moment was always zooming right past me. Poof! Gone for good, and I hadn’t even noticed.
Living in the future is even easier. It’s so incredibly normal, when you’re trying to start a family, to stop focusing on the present and start focusing on a future time “when I get pregnant” or “when we have kids.” Maybe it means worrying about vacation planning, about timing a move, or about investing in a forever home. For me, it meant constantly wishing away vast chunks of time—“making it through” a two week wait (or 144+ of them), distracting myself until embryo genetic testing results came back, or wishing I could sleep away the two months between my consult and starting IVF. Does any of this sound familiar?
The problem with looking backward, looking forward, and living only in those moments, even though it’s such a normal impulse, is that in doing so, the only thing in the world that actually exists, the right now moment, completely passes us by. The beauty and wonder of your life today, your life just as you are, is begging to be seen and acknowledged. That doesn’t mean never reflect on the past or never plan for the future; it simply means to also try as best you can to live in the present and to notice the one and precious life that you’re living day to day.
Strategies for Staying Present
Wiser people than I have had much to say about the art of staying present, but as you try to do so on your fertility journey, I would like to offer you four (of many!) strategies for getting out of the past and future and getting into “the now.”
1. Indulge Creativity
Make absolutely anything—and I mean anything! Bake bread from scratch, buy beautiful pens and learn to bullet journal, rediscover an old art medium that you haven’t used in a while, dust off that pile of magazines (remember magazines?) and make a collage, redecorate a room, buy yourself a pack of Play-Doh from the toy section of the dollar store and get to sculpting. Any time we engage our creative minds, we pull out of intrusive worry and get into our sensory experience of the moment. There’s nothing more present than watching moment to moment as something comes to life in your hands.
2. Find Opportunities for Experiencing Awe and Wonder
What are the things that make you feel small (in a good way!) and connected to the greater everything-that-is? What inspires curiosity? Is it looking up into an impossibly starry night sky? Viewing your hometown as a tiny spec from the top of a mountain? Listening to powerful music that moves you deeply? Working on your genealogy and realizing just how many stars had to align just so you could be born? Find the things that give you shivers of amazement, that make you drop your jaw, or that make you sigh a contented “woooooow”—carve out space in your life to bask in those moments. Stop and take it in.
3. Practice Gratitude and Appreciation
We know that even just making mental lists of what and who we are grateful for has the power to shift an entire mood. The process of allowing thankfulness in also lowers blood pressure, decreases systemic inflammation, and improves immune function—it’s quite literally good medicine! Most especially when everything feels stressful or hopeless, simply take a moment to mentally note 5 things that you’re grateful for or 3 people you appreciate and why. Notice what happens to your body when you do that. Feel how it helps you to be gently present.
4. Exercise Spiritual Connection
We can do this whether or not we’re religious, and it can look many different ways. For a Christian, spiritual connection might look like prayer. For a Buddhist, it might look like mindfulness meditation. For a person with a nature-focused spirituality, it might look like going for a hike to move the body, soothe the mind, and connect to surroundings. What all these types of spiritual connection have in common is their ability to help us be present through relationship. Whether it’s a relationship to God, to our higher minds, or to our Earth home, spiritual connection conversations keep us very much in the now.
Being present is such a crucial part of caring for your spirit during transformative journeys like the one you’re on. The past is just a memory, and the future doesn’t technically exist in any tangible way—the only real and true thing is the current present moment. There are many strategies available for staying present during fertility treatment, for anchoring our hearts and minds in the now so that time doesn’t merely slip by. I invite you to become curious (not judgmental, just curious) about how much time you spend in the past and in the future and about your own personal strategies for staying more in the present along your fertility journey. If you would like to do some brainstorming together, please reach out and connect.
In the meantime, be well, keep breathing, and keep going—you’ve got this!
We are so thankful for Rev. Abby Hall Luca for sharing this blog with us! Abby is a Certified Professional Midwife and an Ordained Interfaith Chaplain who specializes in working with people undergoing infertility treatments.