In common parlance, most folks these days know what is meant by left brain logical and right brain creative/intuitive thinking. You probably know what your stronger suit is. Maybe you feel a satisfying balance of both. One thing is certain: It is typical for artist and scientist types to think differently.
You might ask, “What does that have to do with my quest for a baby?” The answer could be “Everything.” To cut right to the chase, your medical team is, by training, most likely of the left-brain/logical ilk. Someone, sooner or later, is apt to present you with your statistical chances of getting pregnant based upon age and maybe other factors. In no way am I suggesting that your medical team is devoid of compassion because they are oriented toward statistics. I am saying that they are doing their job with their orientation to the science of reproduction, which, by definition, does not involve the needs of your heart. Especially when it comes to a longed-for child, your heart is more than an organ.
My 38 years of experience in this field has taught me that statistics can be enraging. Yet at the same time, being presented with statistics, or perhaps even seeking them out on your own, has a magnetism not unlike passing a car accident and finding it impossible not to look. Your supposed chances worm their way into your psyche; once known, they can’t be un-known.
What might be left out of the story is a more user-friendly way of titrating what can be hard, cold, left brain numbers. Your doctor or IVF nurse could say to someone who has, perhaps, a five percent chance of conceiving:
“If you are one of the lucky five who conceives, your chances will have been one hundred percent. Now let’s explore your options for maximizing your chance by getting your body/mind in the most receptive place. And keep in mind that you will be benefitting from state of the art medical treatment.”
Wouldn’t that feel different? Softer? More digestible? Optimistic? And if you’re the one who sought the statistics, wouldn’t the above feel like a kinder picture to present to yourself after you’ve let the genie out of the bottle? (And, by the way, I’ve worked with people with seemingly abysmal statistics who made it to the finish line. This is an arduous journey. Keep the faith.)
There are larger issues attached to statistics. How does reducing the quest for a family to numbers impact the challenge?
For starters, I’ve never met a person whose level of self-esteem hasn’t taken a nose dive. Harsh self-judgement and self-blame can take on the energy of a marching band if you succumb to the inner maniac who lives inside each of us. While it is not easy, if you can resist the temptation to attack yourself, you will be spared the folly of participating in breaking your own heart. I’ve witnessed the most confident of people who have attained goal after goal admit, “With infertility, I’ve met my match.” Now more than ever, the time is now for you to be respectful of your inner resources, which will enable you to muster the massive emotional and physical strength required to navigate this path.
Perfectionism is another stumbling block that gets revved up even more in the face of statistics. Perhaps you are unaware that perfectionism can be a pathogen. It’s one thing to have high standards. It’s another to expect that your track record remain permanently at one hundred percent. This is true in general, but when it comes to fertility, there is an enormous emotional drain due to the need to live with uncertainty for an indeterminate time.
Another pitfall can be inadequate coping skills, which leave us vulnerable to the stress of any adversity. Up until now, your coping skills may have worked for you. But infertility is an animal in a category all to itself. If you cannot answer the question—“What do I need to add to my coping repertoire in order to better navigate this rough road?”—seek help. To complicate matters, if you and your partner have different coping styles, you may find yourself on a collision rather than a parallel course. You might want to seek help with this dual learning curve as well.
The good news is that lost self-esteem can be regained, perfectionism can be titrated down and effective coping skills can be acquired.
The best way for infertility to add up is to adopt what I call a “3A attitude”: Accept that you’re in this battle; build Awareness of your options; which allows for Adaptation to this unfortunate reality. Mind/body stress reduction techniques, including clinical hypnosis, are adaptive and work wonders to provide relief form this emotional ordeal.
For an abundance of free information about mind/body approaches to stress reduction, check out this link www.helenadrienne.com. My book, On Fertile Ground: Healing Infertility has proven useful to many.
Helen Adrienne, LCSW, BCD