But he *did* heal us. How to talk to my future patients?

Here are some of the things I remember reading in books, hearing from therapists, and from myself, while experiencing Recurrent Pregnancy Loss:

–There are other ways to be a mother. You don’t have to have a child to be a mother. Mothering is about nurturing and you can be a mother to the world, your friends, others’ children, etc.

–When you think of the baby you want and cannot have as a source of healing, you are weighing that baby-to-be down with a lot of responsibility. Think of the baby as wearing a backpack, a pack you are filling with your needs and desires. The backpack is too heavy for the baby to crawl to you. You need to free the baby from his backpack for him to come into the world.

–You need to heal yourself and your relationships before your baby can come into the world. Don’t expect your baby to mend all of your fences.

But here’s the thing: Baby S did mend a lot of our fences. Or more precisely, our family of three and the love and joy being generated in this home every day by what happens has indeed been an elixir so potent it surpasses what I yearned for.

I am steadier, more stable, happier, and I feel a sense of freedom. I can move on. I can grow.

My relationship with my in-laws has changed dramatically, and not just because of how they are behaving; it is how I see them and behave toward them. They are completely for my baby, love him like crazy and would do anything for him. This is all that matters to me, and their offenses seem minor, now, in light of that love. They have been warm toward me, and the black cloud that used to hang over my relationship with DH, because of them, has disappeared.

My relationship with my parents has healed, after about a decade of lots of family crises, and hurt feelings. S brings us together and reminds us how much we love one another’s company. I find myself thinking about how good they have been to me, the opportunities they gave me. I find myself thinking about how they’ve always tried to do the very best they could as parents. Watching them with S, I realize how much love and support they showered me with growing up. It’s easy to forget that as an adult; with S there, my childhood comes back to me and I remember the good things.

I am learning how to be the best life partner I can be to DH. I am admitting my shortcomings and working harder than I ever, ever have to curb things like impatience and irritation. With S there, I see him watching us, and I remember to give Dada lots and lots of hugs and kisses. S smiles when he sees us hugging and kissing. It makes him happy. I feel giddy with love for my boys, and we group hug. Watching DH with S, hearing DH soothe him, encourage him, cheer him on, I have thoughts like: I need nothing else.

So my problem becomes this: What do I tell future patients who are struggling with infertility and pregnancy loss?

I want to eventually open a private practice serving that population. But it might take years—I don’t even think I’d be ready before at least three or four years have passed. The experience is too close. But once I have some distance, this is my plan.

But some of the stuff I used to get through my own struggle—I can be a mother in other ways; don’t weigh down the baby’s backpack with my needs and desires; don’t expect the baby to mend my fences—seem disingenuous now.

Perhaps I told myself that I was following those axioms, but was I actually?

Didn’t I always sense that having a baby would heal my life in countless ways, and that nothing else would in this way?

What I want to allow my future patients to explore is the raw truth (I mean, if, IF any of this is true for them—I would never steer someone away from the freedom of being free of these things and being able to live their life in a different way happily). The raw truth that they can’t fulfill their desire to be a mother in any other way than having a baby. I want to allow them to say that yes, they have needs and desires that only mothering a child will satisfy. I want to allow them to say that yes, having a baby would most likely mend some of their broken relationships—and nothing else would do so as powerfully as would having a baby and becoming a mother.

I don’t want to minimize the enormity of what is at risk for my future patients.

I want to help them look head-on at what is at risk. I want to tell them that it is okay to have these thoughts and feelings, needs and desires.

That part of the human condition for the majority of women is to need this major life transition. That they don’t have to convince themselves of substitutes, alternatives, to motherhood. They don’t have to feel guilty about a backpack. They don’t have to blame themselves if their broken relationships seem stuck. They don’t have to blame themselves if they think, deep down, that having a baby would mend a lot of fences.

Much more to explore with this, but just wanted to get some of my thoughts on “paper.”

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  1. Lindsey

     /  November 14, 2015

    4.5 years of infertility here, two different therapists specifically to work around our infertility and if either had told me that I could “mother” without having a child (not through adoption, foster care or birth) I would have walked out and fired them. Also, duh, infertility is probably not your only problem in life, and having a baby isn’t going to make life instantly perfectly, if you are dealing with infertility long term other bad things will happen to you, but they are made worse by infertility. I just hit my third trimester and we are really fucking happy. The same other bad stuff that just happens in life is happening (job stress, in law bs, money problem etc) but because we are not devastated by infertility it is all sooooo much more manageable. So much doesn’t matter because WE ARE HAVING A BABY!

  2. Even 6 months of pregnancy eased all manner of tensions in my relationships, made frustrations more tolerable because the arose against an entirely different backdrop. Like Lindsey, my (wonderful) therapist never said such things. The thing about the backpack is worst of all because it contributes to self-blame and minimizes the grief of it – like you could just choose not to hurt so bad, and that would get your pregnant for keeps. Stupid. I’m sorry your therapist laid that on you. And there’s hard data (sorry to the childfree crowd) to show that people who come out of IF with a child by whatever means do emotionally better than people who don’t, so those therapists should probably read the resear

  3. I also hate the backpack. I hate anything that insinuates that somehow you can will your baby to come into being, that letting go of your own baggage of any kind can manifest a baby. The most harmful such exercise I ever experienced was in a guided yoga meditation for infertility patients, where a teacher had us do an open heart mudra over our uterus area and “Invite our baby to come to us with open hearts,” LIKE I WASN’T ALREADY DOING AS MUCH FUCKING INVITING AS POSSIBLE. The backpack struck me as much the same way, that that baby isn’t free to come to you because you are weighing it down? BS. I think a baby can be healing, but that healing from the realization that birthing your baby is a process in its own that deserves merit and healing from the realization that mothering a child is NOT an option in any way, due to any number of factors, is also important.

    So it’s so vital to make sure that those messages to someone yearning for a baby don’t put so much fake control in the mind of the patient, that if only they can do this or that then the baby will come. I burned a shitload of candles and smudged my house and invited my baby to come to me, and the only way my baby is coming is through adoption paperwork. I believe that I will feel that healing, that feeling that you describe, when our baby comes home to us, but wonder about those early messages and how they resonate as people realize that you actually cannot manifest a baby and a baby might not actually heal everything.

    It shows that you are an amazing therapist to be working through all this through your lens and thinking ahead to how you can present things to your future patients/clients without perpetrating the same types of things on them that were perpetrated on you. If that makes sense. Even just working through your own lens and being careful not to put that on others with different experiences through therapy means that you are going to be awesome when helping others through the morass of infertility, RPL, life after infertility. I wish you the best of luck as you decide how to translate experience into practice!

  4. I just found your blog and love it.

    Yes, a million times yes to this post. I’m about 30 weeks after four years of IF/IVF/RPL. It really did a number on me and for a long time i didn’t seek intensive help just for the reasons you stated above. I was told, kindly, that pregnancy wouldn’t solve my problems. Of course pregnancy doesn’t solve ALL the problems, but being told to unwant what I wanted was alienating and made me feel ashamed for all the coping behaviours I engaged in to get through tough times, which made me more ashamed, more likely to turn to negative coping behaviours and well you get the idea! (Also I should admit I was one if the biggest proponents of telling myself, nicely, to get over it).

    Now that I am pregnant I feel as though someone released the pause button and I’m back on track. I had gotten help for my binge drinking about 6 months prior to getting pregnant (started drinking heavily between IVF cycles after the first loss). I seek healthy coping mechanisms and activities that make me feel good now. My self esteem is better and I advocate for myself and what I need more. My relationships are better and my outlook on life did a 180.


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