How I Cultivate Self-Worth in the Face of Fertility Challenges

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I ask you to meet yourself with kindness in this moment. Put your hand over your heart, breathe deeply and send love to yourself. I know how much you need it. Lean softly into the calm intuitive wisdom of your centre. Affirm to yourself: I am worthy, simply because I exist. I have a right to be here, simply because I breathe. I am whole. I belong. I am enough. I value myself. I love myself. I accept myself as I am.

Say these affirmations as many times as you need to. Let the medicine of these words seep like healing honey into the depths of your soul. Now think of one kind or healing thing that you can do for yourself right now, and then focus on allowing yourself that loving gift today.

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 I see it every day – women who feel broken, worthless and betrayed by their own bodies. They are hurting, all the while making their best effort to smile, to heal themselves and the bodies that they feel stuck in. They are nursing their broken hearts on the path to fulfil their deepest desire, the path to becoming a mother. I understand what it is like to grapple with the experience of being a childless mother. I know first-hand how easy it is to turn the war inward, to internalise the sense of failure that you feel for not being pregnant and not yet having created the family that you long so deeply for. A simple thing – you tell yourself – that any woman should be able to do effortlessly. And in a society whose patriarchal gaze places little value on our empty wombs, one where your success is quite often still defined by whether or not you are married and how many offspring you are able to produce, how could you feel any differently about yourself?

“It takes years as a woman to unlearn what you have been taught to be sorry about.” ~ Amy Poehler

In my case, it took hitting rock bottom at mid-point of what has turned out to be bumpy 6-year long TTC journey for me to see this reality clearly. Somewhere between descending the downward spiral of depression and trying to keep breathing through grief, uncertainty and shame, I started to see how my perceptions of my situation and of myself were harming me. As my longing for motherhood remained unfulfilled, I’d allowed myself to be defined by a growing sense of inadequacy. In addition, not meeting the social expectations of what a woman my age ‘should be’ eroded my self-worth. At my lowest point, I found myself at a crossroads – either I would continue on a very painful path deeper into the abyss of negativity, or I could rescue myself by beginning to take positive steps that were more beneficial to my wellbeing. Making this change has not been easy. It’s still a daily effort to choose self-compassion over self-judgement.

Throughout the process of seeking out better ways for myself to cope, I was forced to ask some important questions, like – How do I value myself when I feel like my body is broken or like I am constantly failing? And most importantly, how do I redefine my sense of worth in a way that empowers me and allows space for joy or at least some level of inner peace as I navigate life in the meantime?  I discovered that in this kind situation, you are met with a decision. You have to explore what the most healing thing for you to do would be: To wrestle with, berate and judge yourself OR to find that gentle middle ground where you can access your capacity for compassion and offer your breaking heart the balm it really needs in order to feel more whole?

This is when I began the simple, yet effective practice I call a ‘Heart-centred pause’ to help reframe my toxic thought patterns, anchor myself in presence and re-cultivate my self-esteem. Whenever I wound up in a sticky place, felt inadequate, depressed or unworthy, I began to bring my attention to my physical self and focused on the feeling of being in my body. With the ‘heart-centred pause’ (just like the one I’ve shared as the opening to this blogpost) – I place my hand on my chest and visualise connecting with my heart-space, my soul. Thinking of it as a touch of love, I send love inward and then affirm healing or uplifting self-worth mantras to shift my mindset. I say the affirmations slowly, inviting them into my center and allow myself to embody these words.

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Some days are easier than others, but I keep at it until I feel the funk lifting. Over time this practice has become a deeply nourishing way for me to simply begin again when I fall into a rut. It’s a reminder to keep valuing myself whether I end up having a child or not, because either way I still have so many gifts and a lot of love to share with the world.

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In addition to practising presence with the heart-centred pause, here are a few more ideas to explore that may be useful when it comes to cultivating self-worth:

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Create Your own Definition of Your Worth: One of the mantras included in the affirmation at the beginning of this post is: “I am worthy, simply because I exist.” That is an incredibly powerful truth that we often overlook. Your worth should not be defined by someone else or by preconceived societal expectations. It’s important that you create your own definition of self-worth. Remind yourself that you are entitled to the space that you take up in the world by virtue of the fact that you the Universe brought you into existence to fill that exact space. It’s also helpful to learn to separate your sense of worth from your fertility and to keep in mind that you are not defined by the challenges you may be facing.

Feel Good File: What do you love about yourself? What are you good at? Which accomplishments and experiences are you most proud of? Think of the people in your life and note down how you’ve played a positive role in their lives. Keep a journal or ‘feel good file’ of all these things. When those feelings of worthlessness start to surface, then visit your ‘fee good file’ or journal to refresh your memory about all the important reason there are to love and value yourself regardless of whether you are a mother yet or not.

Focus on Your Other Goals: Women facing fertility challenges often go into survival mode and the stress or anxiety of this rollercoaster ride (where you are constantly shifting through cycles of fear, anger, grief, disappointment, loss and resentment) can become all consuming. Having other goals to focus on aside from TTC can help to keep a balanced perspective in your life. Ask yourself – Just as I create space for a baby in my life, how can I also create space for myself to keep living joyfully in the meantime? Find a few things that light you up, create a little vision board or mini-bucket list of inspiring things to look forward to and make space for activities or experiences that boost your sense of worth, peace of mind and inner joy.

Reframe Negative Self-Talk and Use Positive Affirmations: Shift your focus away from self-judgement and reframe the negative thoughts that destroy your sense self-worth and confidence. How can you look at your situation or yourself differently? How can you meet yourself with compassion instead of harsh criticism? Take note of your limiting beliefs and then work on replacing those toxic thoughts with positive, nurturing and empowering ones. Positive affirmations and inspirational oracle cards provide a wonderful daily focus to meditate on so that you start to reframe your thinking in a way that builds your sense of self-worth and also supports your wellbeing. It’s so easy to come down hard on yourself for not getting things ‘right’, not being ‘good enough’ or worthy of love or happiness at such times. These are the very moments when you need to be kind to yourself and show up as your own nurturer.

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How do you cultivate your own sense of self-worth in light your of fertility journey? Do you have soulful anchors to guide you back to a gentle and grounded space where you feel more whole? Revisit the heart-centred pause at the beginning of this post. How do you feel when you connect with your heart and say the affirmations? Are there other ways in which you can support yourself and keep strengthening your self-esteem and sense of worth?


 

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Create Your Own “Soul Therapy Box” for TTC Self Care

Soul Therapy Box.

A little space for you to retreat to when you need some extra love.

Fill it with gentle things to comfort, ground and restore your soul on those difficult days when life feels so hard.

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How do you keep breathing through your hardest moments?

You know those days, the ones where you’re feeling triggered, where anxiety runs high and your heart is heavy with grief and longing? Those days where the stress of trying is taking toll on your tired body and you don’t know how to stay strong, positive or hopeful anymore?

Are you able to meet yourself with kindness?

You often tend to be hardest on yourself during those sticky moments when you’re plagued by feelings of inadequacy and are slipping slowly into the depths of despair. Yet, that is the very instance when you need to soften, breathe deeper and lean into the mothering energy of the inner nurturer.

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In my last blog post, I wrote about identifying your restorers – the soothing things that you can reach for when you are feeling depleted. Building on that foundation, a ‘soul therapy box’ is simple idea that serves a similar purpose since it is a self-care tool you can turn to when you’re in need of comfort and restoration.

I keep exploring different ways to integrate *TTC self-care rituals into daily life. I feel that this sort of practice is an integral part of creating balanced in our lives and restoring some semblance of harmony within. Emotional/mental distress is a very real by-product of a difficult (and sometimes traumatic) fertility journey, so having the right kind of support is important (both professionally and personally). It’s just as important to create supportive tools and healing strategies for ourselves in order to cope better. That means creating space to show up for YOU when you’re in a place of vulnerability, space to nurture yourself and to offer your inner self the balm it needs when the going gets tough. This is exactly what keeping a ‘soul therapy box’ has allowed me to do for myself. I’ll add that I recently created boxes for a few of my soul sisters who have experiencing a lot of stress lately as well. I was really moved by their overwhelming feedback, because it reinforced just how effective a self-care tool the simple act of keeping a ‘soul therapy box’, ‘care package’ or ‘rescue me kit’ is. In a small way it lessened their mental load, gave each of them permission to carve out more space to tend to/restore their well-being and inspired them to keep cultivating a daily practice of self-love. It really has reminded me once more, not to underestimate the profound impact that taking little steps to be there for yourself can have.

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What to include in your Soul Therapy Box:

You can include anything that you find calming, grounding and that helps bring you back to your centre. Here are some ideas of what works well for me:

  • Rescue Remedy (Bach Flower Essences) – I always think of flower essences as a gentle hug for my heart
  • Calming Essential Oils (Lavender – for relaxing baths, Geranium + Chamomile for my oil burner)
  • Soothing Tea (brewing a pot and taking a moment to breathe as I sip a cup is a therapeutic forms of meditation)
  • Gentle crystals to meditate with/calm my mind
  • A Love Letter/Pep talk to Myself (I found some beautiful botanical print cards to write some love letters to myself in. Think of all the encouraging things you’d say to one of your TTC sisters going through similar to what you are right now, then write all of that down in a heartfelt love letter to yourself. Write down everything you love about yourself + everything you have to feel proud of so that it fills you with good vibes/happy feelings when you read it in your time of need.)
  • Bath oils + Facial masks + Skin care treats for a little bit of pampering 
  • A Mini-Gratitude Journal – It’s so helpful to shift your attention to all the wonderful things that are already in your life when you’re feeling a little low. 
  • Remember to keep refilling your soul therapy box so that you continue to enjoy a nurturing routine that supports your well-being.

I added some nice chocolates to the boxes that I made for my friends (though not to mine since I’m trying to manage my PCOS/hormones/Insulin). So the idea is to find whatever will work best for you, whatever helps lift your spirit and restore your inner resources. When your self-care is a regular practice, then you begin to offset the effects of prolonged stress and distress that could otherwise become overwhelming. And while there are so many factors that are outside of your control, it feels empowering to know that you can take mindful actions to guide yourself back a place of balance in small but nurturing ways.

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Have you tried this out? What other supportive routines/daily rituals do you turn to nurture your well-being while TTC? Please share your experiences and ideas in the comments (or use the hashtag – #ttcselfcare on Instagram

 

[ *TTC – Trying to Conceive ]

What Are Your Restorers?

What restores you? What brings you back to wholeness when you are utterly depleted?

A warm bath with rose petals
A steaming cup of chai tea
The therapy of watching the rain from your window
Reading beautiful poetry
Dappled light dancing on your face
The romance of stargazing from the porch on balmy evening

Your restorers are simple things, soothing things. They are things that rebuild your tired body and mend your soul. They are gentle healing touchstones that resuscitate your inner life. They say that ‘desperate times call for desperate measures’, which makes it easy to reach for the destructive things that could send you further down a spiral of negativity. But, do you know how to reach out for the things that restore your balance or refuel your inner juices instead?

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What do you turn to at the end of a long day?

A hug

A heartfelt conversation with a friend
A healing crystal

Dancing to your favourite song

A vase of flowers on your night stand
Beautiful soft cotton linen
Lavender under your pillow

The more I explore conversations with women around self-love, self-care and depletion (especially during times of extreme emotional turmoil), the more I see how we don’t create space for the sacred ceremony of restoration. Instead, we wait until we reach the messy edge of quiet desperation, a place that all too familiar. A sentiment constantly reinforced is that there are so many things that demand our energy. We are the givers, lending our hands and hearts to those who need us. We are the hard workers, pouring everything we have into the beauty we wish to create. We lose ourselves in the process. We forget to nurture ourselves back to fullness and so we run dry. But why should it take takes reaching breaking point to heed your soul’s call or for you to remember to breathe easy, be gentle, nurture and restore so that the chambers of your heart fill up with the energy, light and inspiration your need to keep going?

If there is one profound lesson that reaching back to life from the edge of burnout, of dealing with lost pregnancies and those taxing moments midst of my fertility journey has taught me, it’s that  – I need to be my own nurturer. Sometimes, it’s harder to choose what serves my well-being over what will cause more harm, because those bumps in the road can become excuses for all the wrong things (overindulging in sugar, not exercising, not meditating, relinquishing important commitments, etc). This understanding inspires me keep asking questions about how I allow moments for restoration daily in order to nurture my well-being and where I can integrate self-care rituals so that they become a natural part of my life that continues to raise my vibration or keep me both spiritually and emotionally grounded.

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I’ve found these two questions are powerful anchors that guide me back to myself and I encourage you to explore them for yourself too:

What is the most healing or nurturing thing I can do for myself right now? and What restores me?

Take stock of whatever your restorers are. Remember them, write them down and keep them close to your heart. Make room for them at the end of each day. They will serve you. They will heal you. They bring you back to life when you are on the brink of falling apart. And if you do fall apart, because sometimes you need to, they are the balm that will piece your fragmented soul back together.