In previous weeks we’ve explored the impact of infertility and miscarriage on emotions and mental health as well as on relationships with others, this week we’ll consider the impact on your relationship with your own self. It might seem odd to focus on that but how you view yourself and treat yourself is important. Many women experience a shift in how they view themselves while going through the challenges of infertility and miscarriage. Being able to have biological children is something that is often taken for granted as an expression of femininity, and when that doesn’t come as expected, it is confusing and painful. Trying to understand what’s happening, many women wonder what they’re doing wrong. This can lead to feeling a lot of shame as they come to believe there is something wrong with them. This can become evident in the kind of self-talk you engage in. Take some time to notice the things you say to and about yourself. Are you often critical or harsh? Do you rehearse all the things you don’t like about yourself?
You are inherently valuable and deserve to be treated with empathy and compassion.
It’s also easy to tie your identity and self-worth to what you are able to do and the different roles you have. This can lead to feelings of despair, anxiety, and hopelessness when you experience loss or disappointment related to those identities. I believe your value is not based on what you do or the roles you take on in life. You are inherently valuable and deserve to be treated with empathy and compassion. If you struggle to believe this, ask yourself why. How did you come to believe that you are not valuable if you are not able to do something?
Taking care of yourself is an important part of coping well with the challenges of infertility and miscarriage. It is not selfish to recognize and take care of your needs. Practicing regular self-care will give you energy and capacity to face your current challenges and attend to other aspects of your life. One of the ways to do self-care is by practicing self-compassion. Try talking to yourself as you would a friend. Avoid using negative labels and generalizations, and instead spend time each day identifying at least 5 positive traits about yourself. Remind yourself of those things throughout the day.
Physical health is another important aspect of self-care. Make sure to eat a balanced diet, get plenty of sleep, and exercise regularly. Exercise can take various forms so find one that you enjoy and that fits well with your life so that you are more likely to stick with it. Some suggestions are walking, hiking, bike riding, swimming, tennis, and yoga. You might also consider asking your partner or a friend to join you every once in a while. This can be great for accountability as well as maintaining the social support that you need. Relationships are another aspect of self-care. This might look like planning regular date nights with your partner, having a girl’s night, or setting a boundary with someone. Self-care also looks like caring for your mind and emotions. Examples include reading, taking a class, attending a workshop, talking with a friend, and journaling. Spiritual health is another aspect of balanced self-care. What gives you hope? Where do you derive meaning and purpose for you life? Are you part of a faith community?
Maintaining a positive self-image and practicing self-care can be hard but you can do it. If you’d like some help as you work through these things, I’d love to help. We’ll also be talking about these in our infertility and miscarriage support group, which starts soon. Call me today for more information!
Written by therapist Ndunge Marquardt
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