Holidays can be hard for anyone dealing with feelings of anger, grief, and loss. They’re especially difficult for hopeful parents having trouble trying to get or stay pregnant. At Conceptions Reproductive Associates of Colorado, we understand that infertility care requires that we look after both your body and your mind.
With Mother’s Day 2023 around the corner, we wanted to share some suggestions and tips to navigating the many emotions you might be feeling if you’re an infertility patient. We sat down with Molly O’Connell, LCSW who is part of our extended Conceptions Emotional Support Team, to talk about Mother’s Day and coping with the ups and downs of infertility treatment.
You’re a new addition to the emotional support team here at Conceptions, correct?
Yes, I have been working as a clinical social worker in the Denver area for the past 9 years, but after experiencing my own struggles with fertility, I wanted to expand the work that I was doing to include those who were going through similar experiences. I feel very fortunate to have connected with Conceptions given our shared interest in supporting patients through their family-building journeys.
Can you tell me more about your professional and personal connection to infertility treatment?
Of course. I understand, firsthand, the many emotions that my patients are feeling – I had them too. Being able to combine my professional and personal experience has allowed me to help patients unpack all that comes, both clinically and emotionally, with infertility care. There are so many different terms, acronyms, and treatments and I think that working with someone who is familiar with what all of that means can really help when it comes to processing the many emotions, such as sadness, loss, anger, and grief, and decisions in front of you.
Mother’s Day can be hard for an infertility patient, what can they do to reduce the unhelpful negative emotions they might be feeling?
All holidays can be really difficult when experiencing any type of grief and loss. The world around you is experiencing joy and celebration and there are picture-perfect images everywhere you look, both from those you know as well as those put out there through advertisements and marketing. When you are experiencing such profound emotions, it can make you feel even more lonely and isolated than you already were.
Mother’s Day in particular can be hard because the entire purpose of the holiday is to uplift and recognize moms and the role they have in our families and our communities. When so much of your world (emotional, physical, financial), revolves around becoming a parent and you’re not there, it can be really painful.
First, it’s important to recognize and accept whatever it is that you are feeling. Give yourself the same grace and kindness you would give to others going through something similar instead of feeling shame or guilt about how you feel. Use those emotions to help you decide how you want to spend the day. If being around others and turning your focus to celebrating someone important in your life, like your mom, sister, or friend, will bring you joy and give you energy, do it. If the idea of being around others makes you feel more overwhelmed, sit it out.
There is no need to adhere to any social obligations or pressures to be present. Find something else to do that will bring you some amount of joy, whether that’s watching movies all day or making dinner plans with a supportive partner or friend. Having someone to spend time with that will just be present with you and listen, is so important.
Second, stay off of social media. It can be such a highlight reel filled with perfectly curated images of families and celebrations. You’re not seeing the meltdowns that happened right before the picture was taken, the behind-the-scenes fighting, or what it took someone to build the family in front of you. Allow yourself some space and a break from those images and reminders.
Third, remember to take care of yourself, not just emotionally, but physically. Strengthening that mind-body connection, whether through taking a hike or going to a yoga class, can do wonders for your stress levels and mood. Don’t forget to invest in your well-being even in the midst of struggle.
And don’t underestimate the importance of quality sleep. It’s such a huge thing. Have you ever noticed in the middle of the night when you’re having a hard time sleeping, the problem hits you, and there are no solutions to be had? Everything feels heavier, everything feels more difficult. And then you wake up in the morning and it doesn’t feel quite as heavy, right? Everything feels like you can tackle and process it a little bit better with a well-rested mind and body.
Finally, consider connecting with a counselor or a support group. When struggling with infertility, there are triggers everywhere because our life exists with children everywhere. Having therapeutic support along the way can help you to manage things before they get too far for you to handle. Being able to talk to people who truly understand can help you to feel less alone.
Is there too much information for patients about infertility care out there?
Feeling knowledgeable about your options is so important, but without the right context and support, too much information can feel overwhelming. There is so much out there, whether through a Google search or anecdotally on online forums, it can be easy to go down a rabbit hole of information.
Everyone’s experience and situation is so different, with so many factors at play. So yes, make sure you feel well informed and empowered to make the right choices for you, and also make sure that you trust and feel confident with the team you are working with and being guided by.
For over 20 years, Conceptions Reproductive Associates of Colorado has been a pillar of success and hope for patients across Colorado and around the world with clinical outcomes that meet or exceed US benchmarks.
We’ve been part of some of the most important clinical research projects and global advancements in reproductive medicine from PGT-A, Single Embryo Transfer to using the most advanced storage system for cryopreservation. We also work with a team of emotional support experts to help navigate the many emotions of infertility care. To learn more about Conceptions, visit www.conceptionsrepro.com.