Infertility Trouble With a Capital I
What do you do when you get into trouble? Whether it's trouble with your primary relationship, work, feeling stuck, infertility trouble or your own personal version of trouble; what do you do?
That was the question that I was asked in a yoga class yesterday by a beloved teacher, Mary Gerdes. She always asks the question that I need to hear, that resonates deep within and bubbles up with something new.
What do I do when I get into trouble?
LOL. Just being honest. I completely realize that it is not helpful, nor conducive to solving problems. I get that.
Experiencing Infertility - A Look Back
When I think back to experiencing infertility though, that’s exactly what I did. First month, I was sure I would be pregnant. Same with the second and third month. I was pretty confident until the ninth month. The ninth month hit hard, most probably because that’s the gestation time of a baby. By the ninth month of trying with no baby, the realization that something was needed beyond having loving sexual relations with my husband was undeniable.
Trouble was Infertility with a capitol I.
And so off to panic I went.
I didn’t know what to do first, who to listen to, what to pay attention to; that wasn’t for lack of reliable sources and available help. That was due to the panic that had ensued and clouded my thinking and ability to discern what was helpful from what was unhelpful.
Breath and Awareness
Mary asked and answered the question yesterday. What do you do when you get into trouble?
What do you do when you’re happy?
What do you do when you’re disappointed?
I could go on, but you get the idea. We breathe whatever emotion we are in, whatever situation is raging or loving around us. We breathe.
I’m not saying we always pay attention to the breath; that was Mary’s point.
My point is, actually, no matter what? We breathe. That’s what we were born to do. To keep breathing no matter what, otherwise, we are no longer alive.
Mary’s point, as interpreted by me, was “can we bring our focus to our breath when we are in trouble?” We will be breathing or hyperventilating as the case may be, but we will be breathing. We can’t get into trouble and just not breathe, then there’s a whole lot more trouble.
We breathe because we were designed to breathe every moment of our lives. We have to, there is no choice. Bringing attention to our breath, that’s different.
When I pay attention to my breath, even as my panic rises, I pause. I consider. It gives me just that amount of time for the panic to recede and a sort of reason to return. Not everything is worthy of panic. Ramping things down is healthy, physically and emotionally. Cognitively, we make better decisions when panic is not the ruling force.
I wish I had known in the middle of infertility that even though I felt panicked, there was a pause that was available. A place and a way to settle myself that didn’t count on anything except my breath and awareness.
Thanks Mary, for a glorious class as always. I appreciate always the physical movement of yoga. If I had to pick though, I’d pick the question brought up and reinvestigated in the practice.
What do you do when you’re in trouble?
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Dr. Cynthia Murdock wrote yesterday concerning first trimester bleeding, about what it could mean. She also commented on a new study that supports that light bleeding is often not a reason to panic about losing a much wanted pregnancy. Dr. Murdock asked me to follow up with some suggestions on how not to panic. Especially in the midst of your panicking.
Panic, in of itself, is not a bad thing, it moves us to action, lets us know that something important is happening. We tend to attach labels to certain feelings and reactions. So called negative feelings, that are considered bad, have their place in our lives. Fear, for instance, is considered a bad thing. It’s also what keeps us alive, alert to things that are truly dangerous, and aware of things that are possibly dangerous. Sadness, anger, resentment too, are opportunities to see ourselves more clearly and honestly.
The idea is not how to prevent panicking or sadness or anger, but to recognize them when they show up and know how to handle yourself, gently, to minimize the damage that those feelings can cause in our psyches. I am not a mental health professional, you all know that. I am a patient advocate of many years, an infertility educator, and a leader of peer support groups for over 20 years, a student of mind/body relationships and a yoga teacher.
Here are a few things that I have found work. My Fertile Yoga students find that they work, as well.
Breathing deeply works. Here is what I wrote in a previous blog:
Psychology Today has this to say about breathing, deep breathing.
Deep-breathing. It’s remarkable how we can use this basic life function to keep our minds clear in a crisis. There's no excuse not to learn deep breathing, ever. It costs nothing. It requires no special equipment. And you can do it anywhere, any time. Deep breathing has a direct calming effect on the nervous system, so much so that it relaxes the muscles of artery walls and measurably lowers blood pressure.
Here's one very simple way of deep-breathing. Put your tongue on the roof of your mouth just behind your front teeth. Breathe in slowly through you nose to the count of five. Hold your breath to the count of seven. Then exhale slowly and audibly through pursed lips to the count of eight. If you put you hands to your abdomen you can feel it rise as you inhale. By the fourth exhale, you should feel noticeably relaxed. By the tenth, renewed.
Knowing the right steps to take when you are in a panic or can feel anxiety rising is also helpful. Looking honestly at what is troubling you and deciding on a plan of action lets you move forward and not get stuck feeling upset. It might be that you need to make a phone call or make an appointment or speak to someone personally. It might be that you need to remind yourself of the possibilities of what is occurring and decide how to take care of yourself. That might be sitting down and closing your eyes for a few minutes. It may be that you need to have something to eat or drink, your blood sugar being off balance will only add to how you are feeling. Perhaps you need to cancel something later in your day or add going on a walk to calm yourself. The idea is to decrease stress, not add to it. So if canceling something will make you feel guilty or uncomfortable, don’t do it. If adding something to your day will push you over the edge, don’t do it.
Maybe a cup of herbal tea? Chamomile tea has calming properties and is very soothing. A ten minute phone call with a friend, your partner, family member can help. A yoga class is always a great idea, but you knew I was going to say that.
Distraction is a possibility as well, especially if there is nothing to do but wait. Simply nothing that you can do in the moment to affect the outcome of what you are panicking about. Sometimes that is just the case, that only the future will tell you whether things will be ok or not. That is often the case with light first trimester bleeding. You wait and see if it stops. You wait and see if it happens again. And for the most part, there is nothing concrete that you can do. In that case, I recommend pleasant distraction; a book, a movie, a television show, a phone conversation, a walk, coffee/tea with a friend, a lovely meal, baking, shopping, a warm bath or even a nap. It’s possible that you already have a list, pick the one that is most appealing, not something that you should do or have to do; something that really feels like it would be wonderful to do.
And feel the panic recede. My experience with panic and having to wait it out is that it ebbs and flows. It’s stronger, then I calm myself, then it returns, and I recalm myself. Be patient with the process, be patient with yourself.
After all, panic serves a purpose, as do all the other emotions that we have. They have a place in our lives and often when we spend less energy shoving them away as hard as we do, they recede more easily and more quickly.
Any suggestions that you would like to add? Something important or basic that I missed? Please let me know and I will add them so that others can benefit from our collective wisdom.