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’s Slow Swimmers and Fried Eggs blog November 2019]

Mending Softly – The Book that I’m Writing About Recovering After Ectopic Pregnancy Loss

It’s so strange to think that around this time last year I was pregnant. Of all the things that have been thrown my way, I’d never imagined that I’d ended up having ectopic pregnancy and face the fallout thereafter. Needless to say, it’s been a tumultuous year,  one where we’ve dealt with one obstacle after the next – from the pregnancy loss, to my husband being retrenched  and everything in between. It took a lot to remain grounded and positive when it felt like everything was falling apart. This is way I am so grateful to have come to a much better space, feeling inspired and stronger that I’d imagine possible.

One thing that was very striking for me was how different the experience of ectopic pregnancy loss was from previous miscarriages. I was also stunned to find very little information and supportive resources around the recovering from such a traumatic experience. This force me to do a lot of research and apply the many self-care and emotional healing tools that I had in my toolbox to my own situation. I ended up documenting my own healing journey and along the way felt guided to write about book about my recovery process. This is how my upcoming book, Mending Softly: Hope and Healing After Ectopic Pregnancy Loss, was born. In this book I share my experience and the steps that I took to support myself through the process of grieving, healing and ultimately learning to find hope again. During my quest for healing, I connected very deeply with various analogies about pottery and the art of mending broken pottery pots or ceramics, something that I’ve woven into the various themes throughout the book, and something that in part also inspired the book’s title.

The Mending Softly book is due to be release in June 2020, mostly likely around the solstice. In the meantime, I am would love to share a little glimpse into it’s contents:

MS Cover 300dpi


“Imagine that your life before infertility was a vase. One day a loss or trauma tips that beautiful vase to the ground. Tiny and large shards of glass are everywhere. What are you going to do with these glass shards?” ~ Joanna Flemons

I wish I’d fallen softly. Light and graceful like a feather drifting slowly to the earth on a warm and dreamy summer’s day. I wish that I’d landed softly too. But there is nothing soft or graceful about that devastating moment when the worst has come to pass. The unavoidable truth is that it is hard, cold and brutal. All that you know to be true and good in life shatters in an instant. You feel like a delicate pottery bowl violently tossed from your place of rest, watching yourself crash and scatter across the hostile dark earth. The sound is deafening. Time stops. Inside, the quiet ache of shock and heartbreak slowly makes its grip known. They cut deep, these jagged edges of broken sherds. You gasp for air hungrily, yet somehow forget how to breathe.

Is there any point in breathing if this is what the world is asking me to face? You think to yourself.

Somehow though, whether through madness or magic, you find a way to. You keep breathing even when you don’t think you can. You surprise yourself.

The fall is hard – the crashing, the breaking, the scattering of your broken clay body. What I found however, is that the mending is slow, soft and although somewhat ungraceful still, you sense yourself being held by an unseen force, something greater than you wrapping you in its balm. Remember this on those days when it feels like healing will never come. Perhaps it is true that you may never be the same again going forward. Innocence is lost after all, the innocence of hope and the innocence of a joyful or easy pregnancy. While I don’t want to diminish the depth of your hurt, trauma and fear of an uncertain future, I do want to offer a glimmer of hope for the possibility of finding healing and wholeness beyond the pain. No one likes hearing that healing comes with time, but the truth is that it does.

Over the years, I’ve read many stories about how ancient sherds of broken pottery are mended. In the aftermath of my ectopic pregnancy loss I kept revisiting literature about this mending process with great fascinating for reasons I couldn’t understand. There’s a slow and mindful art to carefully piecing back together each sherd in order to recreate the remnants of what the original artefact once was. A deeply thoughtful and somewhat intuitive art, if will. Something in this process of mending broken pottery seemed to resonate in the context of my quest for hope and healing. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly why at first, but the deeper I reached in search of meaning, the more clearly I saw just how it mirrored my own unravelling and how it offered itself as a metaphor for my potential to mend myself. Each individual piece with its distinct shape, with its unique lines and curves is a memoir of its own, a tale of what was before. Like a quiet whisper it narrates the story of the devastating blow that was dealt and gives insight into how things fell apart.

Then comes the restoration, the time laboured effort to gently rebuild what’s been broken. The act of mending asks three important things of you – patience, trust and surrender. The fractures, the cracks, the staples and the revealing swaths of glue stand out boldly like the wounds in my heart and soul that cannot be hidden from sight. And the missing pieces, those gaping holes are anecdotes of the things that are lost forever – my baby, my fallopian tube, a piece of my dignity and fertility – the things you learn to live without. Or perhaps I should say the things that you learn to carry on living for in spite of what has happened, because through surrender and acceptance you discover the power of your personal strength and resilience. Something profound happens when you wake up in a calm green pasture on the other side of the treacherous storm you thought would end you. You discover who you are beyond the unimaginable. You discover what you are made of. Suddenly, the thing that may have broken you becomes the very thing that empowers and emboldens you.

Granted, this is difficult to imagine when you are at your lowest point. However, in the moment of my deepest despair I found myself faced with a choice – either I would sink even lower into the dark and scary place I felt I was losing myself to, or I could find a way to reach towards life. The depths of depression scared me more than the idea of living. Ultimately, I wanted my would-have-been-baby to mean something and for their memory not to be swallowed by a black hole of persistent misery. So, I began my path to mending softly, willing myself to breathe again, moment to moment.

I’ve had to dig deep to re-establish my sense of self and unearth the person I had become on the other side of tragedy. And writing this book has been part of my heart’s mending. I offer the words upon these pages in the hope that sharing my story with you as honestly as I can will bring some kind of comfort to own quest for healing. I want you to know that you are not alone, darling heart. I walk this road with you. While I don’t know how the rest of the journey will unfold or how either of ours will end, I do know that we are both survivors and thrivers. Keep breathing. May you find your place of peace through you own process of mending softly.”