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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 January 15, 2021

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

    The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

    Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

    Posture

    First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

    • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
    • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
    • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
    • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

    All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

    Facial Expressions

    Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

    • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
    • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
    • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

    If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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    1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

    A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

    The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

    This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

    2. Relax Your Face

    New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

    The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

    To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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    3. Improve Your Eye Contact

    Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

    The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

    To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

    3. Smile More

    There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

    Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

    4. Hand Gestures

    Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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    It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

    5. Enhance Your Handshake

    In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

    “Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

    It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

    6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

    As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

    Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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    Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

    Final Takeaways

    Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

    If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

    More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

    Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

    Reference

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