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How To Support The Infertile Loved One

How To Support The Infertile Loved One

Being a mother is so much more than just the process of conceiving a child and giving birth to him or her – it is something most women feel compelled to do; born to do in fact.

Yet, there are a staggering amount of women out there who are fighting a battle they cannot see; a battle from within that often extends to a cry of frustrations to the heavens. This battle is infertility and it has caused a suffering that simply cannot be explained by words. It entails sacrifices, disappointment and never-ending nights spent sobbing because the ache within your soul is just too much to bear and no one could possibly understand – despite how many times they try and tell you they do.

Firstly, I want to start off by talking to the loved one who was once a little girl who that laid on the floor with her best friends and dreamed of the perfect life with a bunch of children running around in the backyard, the ideal spouse and the perfect house. A dream they might have put at bay once to focus on obtaining their degree, doing great in their career or even just because they had not yet found the person they wanted to share a child with.

If you are feeling overwhelmed with guilt because you did not grab the opportunity to have a child with both hands, I want you to stop for a second and hear me out: You have no reason to feel guilt-ridden that you were not at a place where you were ready to be taking care of a child – you had to go through a process; a refinement and whether you believe in God or not, there is a time and a place for everything and you do not know what would have happened if you did indeed have a baby at a time when you did not feel mentally or physically prepared. You have to start re-directing your thoughts towards a place of acceptance, love and peace.

This world and everything in it is fickle – we have to stop blaming ourselves for things we have absolutely no control over. Guilt, resentment and shame are natural emotions one has to experience, but too allow it to take complete control over your life and relationships is not healthy. We often forget how damaged we become once we allow those emotions to consume us. Allow the emotions to enter, feel it, and embrace it if you must – but then try and move past it. It is the only way you and your spouse will survive the road ahead, you have to take each other’s hands and walk side by side on this journey.

And here is how:

Please Don’t Avoid the Elephant in the Room

Many times you will feel you have to talk around your friend’s painful situation or avoid talking about your kids and the experiences you have with them – all just to make them feel better. Yet, what you have to be aware of is that if they get the sense that you are walking on egg-shells around them, they will feel even more self-aware and ashamed. You are only highlighting their predicament and how it has already penetrated and influenced your relationship.

Respect them enough to not avoid the issue. This does not necessarily mean they want to talk about it, but be aware that your discomfort around them will hurt them even more. They do not always need consolation, but they do need to know that you are always there for them. This brings me to my next point:

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All They Need is A Shoulder to Lean On

Coping with infertility is extremely exhausting, physically and emotionally. Often all they need is someone to help lighten the load – whether it be with physical acts like offering to drive them to the fertility clinics, or just taking them away from all the tension and drama in their lives for a couples retreat or girls weekend away in the mountains or at the beach.

Hold their hand and walk with them. Do not scold them for the emotions they are feeling, especially if they are angry. It is their right to feel frustrated at the fact that the one thing they were biologically created to do seems to only end in futility. It is immensely heart breaking – so much so that it resembles the grief one feels when one loses someone; a grief that completely changes you.

This grief is often brought to a climatic point when they are overwhelmed by social media feeds of their friends having their first sonar, the birth of their babies, the babies’ first everything – this is by no means a persuasion for the friends to stop sharing their happiness, but to simply understand if the loved one becomes quiet and withdrawn. It is not that they resent you, they just crave what you have – and this often makes keeping the relationship hard.

Be aware that they will most likely try and pull away socially – but that you need to pull them back. Depression is a dangerous pit, especially if one falls in it alone. You have to pull them out and away from it; remind them that despite the fact that they might not be able to conceive, the world is still filled with wonder and it is still possible to have a great life with phenomenal experiences.

If your loved one feels ashamed because of it – it is your duty to let them know that they have nothing to be ashamed off; assure them that their struggle doesn’t make them less human, or less a parent. They need a support system that might not always understand exactly what they are going through, but that supports them all the same.

They need to be able to vent all their frustrations, their fears and their anxieties and if you cannot always be that person, help them find support groups that will provide them with the right people and tools that will aid them. There are numerous online support groups where one can find people who truly understands the process of trying to get pregnant and the emotions that go along with it. It might also be a place where they can be provided with a lifeline of hope.

Provide Them With a Beacon of Light:

Infertility makes a person feel completely alone and defeated; they are fighting a battle that cannot be seen, with different weapons that might not always help them. It is up to you to let them know that despite how they feel – they are not alone and there are many other options out there for them to tap into that intrinsic nature they so desire to express.

If IVF treatment is not working, you need to help your loved one come to the realization that it is not the pregnancy that makes them a parent – but the nurturing and the care that they can give a child, whether it be through pregnancy, adoption, being a part of a foster care system or volunteering to help out with fundraisers that support and bring comfort to disadvantaged children in the world.

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However, also inform them that there have been a number of cases where the impossible was made possible – where miracles happened right in front of the couples’ eyes; leaving not only themselves in awe, but also the family and friends who were a part of every step in the couples’ struggling journey.

One such case is of a dignified lady that is my aunt by blood, but whom I consider more my sister and best friend. I will leave you with Chantelle’s testimony and I hope that it brings forth a sense of inspiration and new found hope for those who find themselves lost in the darkness of defeat – because despite what the world might want you to believe, there is a bigger plan at work and often all you have to do is trust that it is all working together for your good. Hold on to this relentless faith – more often than not, this is the weapon that will bring you the victory you ache for.

Please bear in mind that this is a testimony used as a banner for hope and it is by no means used to “convert” anyone; this is an inspiring and truthful testimony that deserves to be told. My request is that you see it as such and respect it:

Don’t quit just before your miracle – this phrase gives me goose bumps, and as I am sitting here I can feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. For eleven years I looked at motivational phrases like these, and made it my inspiration in the midst of my longing.

Yes I longed. I longed to be a mother and no matter what we tried, it just never happened.  I received a word from God that I will have a child, and that I should name her Abigail, which means ‘her father’s joy / The Lord has heard and the Lord has provided.’  Being able to hold on to this promise helped me, but some days it just made it so much worse – especially when everyone around me seemed to be announcing their pregnancies, which led to me feeling like God’s orphan child.

I would ask questions like ‘Why God?  Why is everyone getting what I am longing for? Why are they receiving what You have promised to give me?’ In my heart I felt like Sarah, always trying to help God along with His promise; I felt like I had to do something. I felt that I couldn’t just sit around passively and wait for something to happen.

My husband and I went for IUI’s – all unsuccessful. Eventually the struggle took its toll on me and I decided to just take a break. I was tired beyond words and emotionally drained, consumed by my emotions with only a one-worded question that penetrated my mind ‘Why?’

A few days later, I walked straight into a farm attack.

I came home and six armed robbers were waiting for us. They already had my mother in law and one of our workers tied up inside the house. Our Rhodesian ridgeback acted funny and I couldn’t understand why.  He was barking at the one wall, and I followed him towards it.

When I turned the corner, the attacker grabbed me in front of my chest, and stuck a gun against my head.  His words were:  “Today I’m going to kill you.”  I was so shocked, yet somehow an unexplainable, quiet calmness came over me.

They kicked us, threw us around, tied us up and wanted our money. I started praying quietly, as I knew that this was a battle against an evil beyond our control and that we could not win this alone.  For a split second, the answer came to me: This is why you did not became pregnant: Today you might die and if you were pregnant, so would your baby.  After that thought came to mind, a distinctive determination came over me and I decided to pray aloud!

Ten minutes later, the house became quiet, and they fled! We know the statistics of our country; farm attacks do not end this way! As soon as everything was over, I was so thankful towards God, and I knew that my life had a purpose.

I also knew that my time was coming.

A few months later, I went in for a laparoscopy and hysteroscopy in order for the doctor to find out what the reason behind me not getting pregnant was.  My husband and I thought the doctor would tell us that they’ve found and removed cysts or endometriosis and that all will be well to go forward with treatments.

The outcome was everything but: The doctor said that he was sorry, but that I should forget to have children. He went on to say that my fallopian tubes were abnormal, and if I should – wonder above wonder – ever fall pregnant, that it would end up as an ectopic pregnancy.

My husband and I were broken! I told God that I was done trying to help Him. I told Him that I knew His word never comes back empty, and He promised me a child!  No obstacle was too big or too small for Him, and I knew that He loves situations where He could show His abilities to work miracles.

I felt like Hannah from the Bible: shattered and aching, but I left it there.  For the first time in my life, I made peace – what else could I do?

Two months down the line, my husband tells me that he is sure that I’m pregnant.  I thought he was ridiculous, and I got so angry at him for bringing this sensitive issue up again. He made me take a pregnancy test and I did it just to tell him “I told you so!”

Well, there they were: Two clear stripes….I WAS PREGNANT!!!  How did this happen?  I went in to see my doctor and there it was, a clear heartbeat. I was 5 weeks pregnant!!!  My doctor was flabbergasted, so was I – yet so, so thankful.

He is my little miracle, my constant reminder that GOD’S WORD NEVER RETURNS EMPTY!

Here is a picture of my miracle:

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    I want you to hold on – your miracle, whatever it might be to you, is on is on its way and waiting to happen. Hold on to hope, to faith and to the relentless belief that miracles do still happen.”

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    Bianca Gouws

    Freelance Writer, Director and Actress

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    Last Updated on March 30, 2020

    What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

    What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

    Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

    You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

    This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

    What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

    According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

    Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

    There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

    How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

    When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

    Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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    1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

    One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

    The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

    Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

    2. Be Honest

    A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

    If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

    On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

    Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

    3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

    Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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    If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

    4. Succeed at Something

    When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

    Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

    5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

    Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

    Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

    If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

    If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

    Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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    6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

    Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

    You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

    On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

    You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

    7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

    Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

    Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

    Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

    When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

    Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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    In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

    Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

    It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

    Final Thoughts

    When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

    The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

    Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

    Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

    Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

    More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

    Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
    [2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
    [3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
    [4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
    [5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
    [6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
    [7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
    [8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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