Nurturing Your Heart on Mother’s Day 

 

Dear Heart, how are you feeling this week? 

Are you finding ways to support and comfort yourself through the sticky moments of this journey? 

There is a lot going on at the moment. This past Sunday marked ‘International Bereaved Mother’s Day’. It is also ‘Maternity Mental Health Week’ in various countries at the moment, and of course Mother’s Day is coming up on Sunday, 8th May. It can be a confusing and bittersweet period where we each do our best to walk the fine line between grieving loss and infertility, and celebrating motherhood/the mothers in our lives. 

In recent years, I’ve noticed more and more awareness around and consideration towards the infertility and pregnancy loss community. I’ve seen many touching posts offering support to women dealing with infertility and to those who’ve experienced losses on social media over the last week, as well as a lot more media coverage on these topics. A few companies have also shown some sensitivity with their email lists, giving subscribers the option to opt out of receiving any Mother’s Day related correspondence as they are aware that it was a difficult time for some.

I appreciate these small thoughtful gestures because they are indicators that wider society is acknowledging the emotional and mental impact of infertility and pregnancy loss. It gives me the sense that years of speaking out, educating and advocating for understanding and sensitivity towards women who struggle with infertility and how it affects their lives is paying off, is helping to shatter the silence, the stigma and the shame that often accompanies it. It opens up space for those of us who face infertility to feel seen and it says – ‘You’re not forgotten, your loss is not forgotten, we see your pain and you’re included in our societal narratives’. Being seen, acknowledged and included is profoundly healing in many ways. With this as a foundation, my hope is that it becomes easier to keep building forward, allowing women/couples to better access the support and resources that they need.

Nurturing Your Heart

Even so, this week may still be a challenging time that amplifies your hurt and sense of longing for motherhood. It also doesn’t erase the realities and the pain of your struggle that you face on a daily basis.

“Despite the overwhelmingly positive narrative of Mother’s Day that we see in commercials and advertisements, we know that this is a tough day for people experiencing infertility and loss. And it is important to remember that for many, this day is even more emotionally fraught if their own mothers have passed away, if they have conflictual or complicated relationships with their mothers or if they have one or more kids but have also lost pregnancies, infants or children. This day can catch us up in so many layers of sadness, anger, jealousy and profound grief.”  

~ Dara Roth Edney

So, I’ll offer this gentle reminder: Remember that you are not alone. You are entitled to your feelings, be kind to yourself and give yourself permission to do things that nurture your wellbeing. If you feel the need to, then by all means, disconnect from social media and all the Mother’s Day messaging and take some time to do things that you enjoy. It is okay to set boundaries to protect your emotional health.

“Keep those rivers of self-compassion and love flowing over you, with an abundance of patience and kindness.”

~ Shannon, Mothering Your Heart

Three years ago, shortly after my ectopic pregnancy loss I came across a wonderful email series called Mothering Your Heart (https://www.motheringyourheart.com) This email series was created as a support resource for women after pregnancy loss. Around Mother’s Day they sent out a series of soul soothing emails. These daily messages were beautiful anchors for grace and came with a workbook of journaling prompts. One of these writing prompts was about ascertaining the best way for you to access calm on Mother’s Day. They asked several questions along the following lines:

• What is the most soothing place I could physically be today?

• What is the most calming event I might include in my day?, and

• What is the most comforting music that I’d like to listen to today?

Just having these simple thinking points to guide me forward brought some ease to something that could have been much more emotionally challenging. The contemplations felt so healing to me. It gave me something different to focus on, allowing me to spend my weekend taking care of my own needs.  

“…be proactive about taking care of yourself. Take the time leading up to Mother’s Day to try and anticipate what will make the day or weekend harder, and then take steps to protect yourself.”

~ Dara Roth Edney

I’d thus like to encourage you to contemplate what your needs are right now and then investigate how you can nurture them this week. 

What is your heart calling for most at this time? 

How can you hold yourself in self-compassion? 

Don’t be afraid to give yourself these things. Set self-nurturing boundaries in order to prioritize your own needs if necessary. Set aside self-judgement and meet yourself with acceptance and compassion. Nurture yourself and your heart lovingly. 

I’ll end off by sharing a verse from a moving affirmation that I stumbled upon last year, as it really touched my heart. It is called ‘Mothering Heart’ by Carly Marie, and reads as follows:

“While I may not have any children here to raise on Earth, I became a mother the moment I opened my heart to the idea of bringing a child into this world. My mothering love has grown and blossomed since that day.”

Love Notes For Tough TTC Days

It’s easy to be happy some days. It’s easy to be optimistic, hopeful and positive that at some point things will turn around again. On those days, I have this inner knowing that eventually I will wake up feeling alive, blessed and centred in the family focused life I’ve always dreamed of. Yet, at the same time, the bad days always come around – those treacherous days where I feel like I’m falling apart because nothing’s working the way I want it to. Doubt and depression rise slowly to cast their silent shadow in spaces that hope and certainty once filled, and the underlying sense of sadness becomes that much more palpable. I find myself feeling like a marching quiver tree in the semi-arid Namaqualand desert acutely aware that in order to thrive I need to make my way to higher ground, to a place where I am better able to breathe, refocus and support my well-being.

Motivational speaker and author, Dr. John Demartini, wrote that “The quality of your life is based partly upon the quality of the questions you ask yourself daily.”  I’ve incorporated this philosophy into my life and you may have noticed that I have a tendency of including questions in the blogs or articles that I write. So, when I am plodding through the troughs I try to ask myself questions that I know will help redirect me in a positive direction. I ask myself things like:

How do I want to feel?

What will help me cultivate those feelings?

And the one question that I often encourage my TTC sisters to examine when they are feeling overwhelmed – What is the most healing thing that I can do for myself right now?

I’ve learnt to trust the answers that come up because nine times out of ten, they’ve helped me get to a more grounded mental and emotional space. One practical idea that I stumbled upon while examining these questions was to create little ‘love notes’ for myself. These ‘love notes’ are like touchstones that guide me back to myself, back to a place of wholeness and calm. They take various forms. I jot down impromptu inspirational notes in my journal to refer back to when I need a pick-me-up. I write affirmations and short uplifting messages on cardboard bookmarks and place them in the books that I’m busy reading. My favourite love note is a kind of pep talk letter that I wrote for myself. I keep it in a special box on my bedside table and reading it on my lowest days always lifts my spirit.

I’ve accepted that as humans we are cyclical creatures. We’re always shifting through seasons of life and cycles of emotions. I’ve written about this many times before – while I’ve surrendered to the fact that there are so many things that we cannot control when it comes to subfertility the one thing I know I can exert some level of influence on is the way I feel and how I choose to approach this experience. Creating love notes for when the going gets tough is one small way of doing so.

How do you offer yourself love and care on the bad days?

What helps uplift you when you’re feeling low?

I believe that it is important to reach towards these things whenever you can. This simple practice of crafting love notes has been a bit of necessary soul balm from time to time. So,if you would like to create your own ‘love notes’ for days when you need a pick-me-up, then here is a little guideline:

Write Your Own Love Notes

Think of one of your close friends or family member, someone that you care very deeply for. You want good things to happen for them. You want to see them happy, thriving and living out their dreams. Now imagine they were going through a rough patch.

What if they are struggling with the exact same thing that you are experiencing? Navigating subfertility, going through the gruelling process of fertility treatment and trying to cope with the sense of loss, failure, anger, depression and a whole host of emotionally challenging curveballs that come with the territory?

What would you say to them to offer some comfort and reassurance?

How would you encourage them to care for themselves and their emotional well-being during their lowest moments?

What would your PEP talk for your friend sound like?

I’d like to encourage you to write down your thoughts, capture your words of comfort and encouragement for a moment.

Then turn the things you’ve jotted down into a compassionate pep talk letter. But instead of writing your friend’s name, write your own name. Write down all the things that you need to hear when you find yourself sinking into that sometimes dark and lonely place.  Pour all your love into it.

When you are done, fold the letter and put it in a safe place where you can access it later on when you really need to hear those words.

If you like, select some of your favourite lines and write them on bookmarks or make affirmation cards with them so that they are easy to use on a daily bases.

Fertility and Setting Boundaries During the Holiday Period

As the year starts to wind down, the festivities of the holiday season take hold. This period is full of excitement and beautiful things to celebrate. Yet, it can be a stressful and sad time too. Although you experience the longing for motherhood throughout the year, something about the holiday period can intensify that longing and the sadness around it. For many people, December means lots of demands on your energy, all kinds of family dynamics and social events to navigate and the pressure of either hosting or attending various engagements. Dealing with subfertility adds another layer of stress to the mix, even more so if you are grieving a loss or happen to be going through a cycle of fertility treatment and your hormones are all over the place at the time.


It’s natural to feel extra triggered during a time when everything seems centred around children and celebrating the gift of family, especially when you are made acutely aware of what’s missing in your life and just how much you want kids of your own. And of course, many family and social gatherings make the prospect of being surrounded by lively kids, pregnant family members or friends and getting loads of intrusive questions about why you don’t have any kids or comments about your advancing age and the ever-present biological clock that is just ticking away inevitable. You’re bound to be faced with a whole host of unsolicited advice about what you should be doing to get pregnant or why you should be considering adoption. This sort of thing tends to make you feel judged and unsupported in something that is extremely personal to you. Most people are kind and well meaning, but not everyone will be sensitive to your emotional state or how their words and actions affect you. It is important to take care of your own wellbeing, something that may very well mean examining how you can set boundaries and manage your energy in a way that nurtures you.


Over the last couple of years, I’ve felt the need to simply my life around the holiday period. So, I’ve made it my priority to protect my space and keep things as stress free as possible. Instead of big family gatherings and social activities that often can feel busy, chaotic and stressful, my husband and I have taken to keeping things simple by doing small gatherings with just immediate family. It’s been a significant change for the ‘people-pleaser’ in me who in the past spent a lot of time trying to find the perfect gifts, making amazing dinner spreads and taking on a lot of work to make everyone else happy – things that left me drained and depleted. It’s been a relief to give ourselves breathing space and to just move through life at a calmer pace knowing that in doing so we are supporting our fertility as well.


If you’ve been pondering how best to navigate the holiday season in the context of your fertility journey, then take some time to think about how you can make this period of the year a little easier for yourself. Here are a few guiding points to explore as you do:


Set Boundaries around Social and Family Engagements

Try not to overextend yourself. Do an inventory of all your invitations to holiday social events and family gatherings. Which of those feel like fun engagements to look forward to? And which of them are you dreading? Knowing what to anticipate will inform your decisions around how you manage your social engagements, time and energy. You don’t have to say yes to every invitation. You may feel the need to decline certain ones when things feel too overwhelming. Allow yourself to take time out for you without feeling pressured to do what you don’t feel up to.

Ask yourself: How can I set firm and healthy boundaries in order to minimize holiday stress and foster a supportive environment that nourishes me and my fertility?

Make the most of the festive celebrations you’re looking forward to. And in cases where you can’t avoid certain events, then prepare for inevitable situations and work on reframing your thinking about them. Decide how much you are willing to discuss about your fertility experiences when probing or somewhat insensitive questions or unsolicited advice arise. Maybe you want to prepare a standard answer or simply let people know that you’d appreciate them respecting your privacy to reinforce boundaries if it’s something that you prefer to keep discrete.

Healthy boundaries empower you to protect your right to your own space. Shield yourself from harsh attitudes or judgement. You don’t owe anyone explanations or details about things that are personal to you.

Manage Demands on Your Time and Energy

If there are any draining or time-consuming activities that you could do without for the meantime because they don’t add much value to your life right now, activities that you are willing to let go of in order to create more space for you, then do so. A simple step like drawing up an “Absolute-No List” of things to take off your plate could be a great supportive tool to help you eliminate whatever diminishes you inner joy and peace of mind. Again, consider what would make your life easier at the moment. Shop online to avoid busy malls, plan a simple stress-free menu and mute your social media for the holiday period if necessary, especially if you feel affected by the loads of pregnancy announcements or baby pictures that seem to peak around this time. Free up your time for activities that make you happy and for people who lift your spirit.

Consider a Holiday Getaway: Perhaps you may even decide to skip all the holiday activities altogether and go away on vacation just the two of you instead. A change of scene is always wonderful for the soul. It may also give you and your partner the opportunity to relax and reconnect with one another. Facing fertility challenges leads to various levels of stress and emotional turmoil that is likely to put strain on your relationship as well. This makes it important to create a supportive environment in which your love and marriage can continue to thrive despite the testing time you may be living through together.

Create Your Own Traditions

This is one of the beautiful ideas that my husband introduced a couple of years ago. He has always stressed that we are our own family whether we have children or not. So when we set the intention to disconnect and create space for ourselves, we made a point of starting our own nourishing traditions that we hope to eventually share with our future children.


Are there any holiday traditions that you’ve dreamed of doing with a little family of your own?

Then why not start creating meaningful holiday traditions with your partner in the meantime. Discuss what kinds of family traditions are important to the both of you. What would you like to introduce your future child to? Then decide on how you can begin incorporating them into your life together this holiday. This will help you lay a beautiful foundation for togetherness and family, something that your children will fit into perfectly when they arrive.

[First published on ConceiveIVF.com’s Slow Swimmers and Fried Eggs blog November 2019]