Claudia Callisto is the founder of Shining Light.
My husband and I got married when I was 29 and we experienced infertility for a long time until I desperately decided to seek fertility assistance in my late 30s. I gave birth to my son Marcus at the age of 38 years, after achieving a successful IUI treatment with a fertility specialist clinic. After having my son, I returned to the fertility clinic with the hope of having another baby and underwent IVF treatments for another 5 years with no success.
Feeling Alone While TTC
Being infertile and having to go through IVF when many of your family and friends get pregnant is difficult. It seems like your family and friends don’t care about your circumstances or that you’re hurting inside and how deeply this is affecting you. It feels like they don’t understand. No one really understands unless they have gone through a similar journey. It’s is hard for them as well to know how to connect with you on something they don’t understand. The feeling of isolation and of failure combined with the lack of empathy from those around you is very difficult to accept and overcome.
In hindsight I wished that I had reached out to a fertility counselor to help me overcome those hurt feelings, instead of over thinking each and every situation or comment made. I became very stressed and anxious in social settings, waiting for that dreaded question of when I was going to have a child or even worse, no questions at all. The absence of that dreaded question created a deafening silence.
During this long, difficult time I discovered that it is important to protect your own feelings and try not to over-analyze every situation or comment. If you cannot go to one more family or friends’ happy event or birthday, do not go. If you feel sad, allow yourself the space to face those feelings and feel them, as they will pass. Protect your feelings and recognize that you are very sensitive and hormonal during this treatment process. It is not a normal journey to go through. Remember: nothing about going through IVF is normal.
In reality many family and friends are simply not equipped to give advice or be empathetic during this journey. Unfortunately, it is possible your own partner may find it difficult. Remember, they are not feeling or experiencing your specific emotions of grief and hopelessness, combined with a huge surge of hormones going through your body.
I became very disillusioned and disappointed with friends and family and the entire human race during my journey. This feeling combined with the fact IVF is not spoken about openly and there is an underlying stigma attached to it; I simply felt that no one really cared.
The Toll of an IVF Journey
If I was to go back and change one element in my approach and mindset, it would be to develop more self love towards myself than ever before and still try to focus on some joys and pleasures in life with my partner, family and friends. Being consumed by the procedures and treatments worked against me. I learnt that IVF is not about being disciplined and working hard and focusing on the task. It is something you cannot really control and the outcome will be determined for you by the universe coupled with successful intervention of science.
IVF shakes up your routine and life plans. It makes you feel like cancelling all the fun things and crazy adventures and plans you have in life and focus all your energies on only the things that will achieve a pregnancy. If this was a short term action plan then this sacrifice would be achievable. The difficulty comes when you try and sustain that focus over many years and then the road ahead becomes very challenging, difficult and rocky at times.
In my darkest day of undergoing IVF treatments I could not do it anymore. By the fifth year after stopping and starting cycles with a total of 6 rounds during this time, I simply didn’t have the strength to stop crying and continue on with the planning, the schedule, the blood tests, the injections, the clinic visits and egg retrieval operations coupled with the high anxiety that developed while waiting for the outcome. Not to mention the huge financial burden.
Changing Your Mindset
I now recognize that I had little control over the process and I should really have released control to help myself. IVF is an emotional and difficult program of treatment and therefore you have to spend even more time engaging your thinking side of the brain to calm your emotional brain. Controlling your emotions and not allowing the emotional side to be in full control during this process is what will keep you constant and prevents the negative feelings that create within you to become irrational and stressed.
You will need to somehow change the narrative in your head and think positively. If you change how you feel about yourself, you can change the narrative and during that time of crisis find your real self again. You need to accept the emotions, feel them and then let them go. By changing your mindset to become more emotionally resistant, over time the emotional stress will heal and ultimately it will make you a stronger person and help regulate anger and sadness, especially if the treatment is not successful.
Letting go of your thoughts throughout the process is tough, surrendering to a feeling when that feeling is sadness and loss of hope that you will achieve your dream is a difficult thing. However at some point that feeling goes away and you must be willing to pick yourself up and be grateful that you have many things in life to be thankful for.
In hindsight I wished I did not allow my true self and my spark for life to diminish under a cloud. It was as if I was waiting for that moment to arrive and emerge once I was successful with my positive pregnancy. I wished I had taken advantage of all life’s adventures, danced in the rain, drank that bottle of champagne, went on that holiday with the girls and had sex outside the pregnancy fertile days just for fun.
Journaling Through Your Fertility Journey
In my early 30s, I adopted a daily practice of reading positive affirmation quotes before bed and first thing in the morning before work. I then also commenced writing in a gratitude note book all the things I was grateful in my life, despite the hardship I was facing. Expressing gratitude for things I was thankful for improved my health and happiness before I started IVF and during the treatment cycles. Practicing gratitude provided me a reminder of the good things in my life and an appreciation of life in a general sense (i.e. I was still living and breathing and had a beautiful child and family). It helped release stress and left me feeling a sense of some control in my world of treatments that were pushing me towards a world that was outside my control.
By focusing my mind on things were that are positive trained me to think more positively about life. These gratitude and positive affirmation techniques combined with the concept of mindfulness meditation made me stronger. Meditation helped me rewire the paths in my brain and enabled me to grow and give me the feeling of hopefulness and provide a sense of meaning in my life. Over time, these three things helped me to become more emotionally resilient.
Gratitude Journaling, Mindfulness and Meditation helped me think more clearly. It freed up my mind, increased my self-awareness and my ability to be positive and happy. Most importantly it gave me clarity on issues, allowing me to feel calmer and more in control of my emotions.
These techniques combined with my beautiful child, family, friends and time to recover, saw me emerge from the depths of sadness with a firm resolution that I am still a valuable person within this world: with or without several children. Individuals undertaking this journey need to be kinder to themselves and seek support as it is a difficult thing to undertake without professional support in some form or other.
Please believe me when I say this – You will get through this journey and you must trust that you have the inner strength to deal with whatever outcome is presented to you.
Now five years after my last treatment, the only thing that was conceived out of my attempt at IVF was Shining Light: the small business I created with my sister Diana.
I realized once I was on the other side of the darkness and towards the light again that I wanted to share my knowledge with others and empower other women and children to practice the concept of gratitude, positivity, kindness and mindfulness and in some small way help others find their inner strength.
Claudia Callisto is the founder of Shining Light. With her sister Diana they founded Shining Light, stemmed from the challenges they both faced through their IVF story. Their fertility journey was very overwhelming and difficult at times, however through the use of journals and positive affirmations that they both adopted they were able to believe that they had the inner strength to overcome any challenge life threw at them. In the end they both were ever so grateful and fortunate to be moms of one child each – their Shining Lights. Shining Light aims at providing inspiration and promoting positive affirmations to all individuals to help them shine in their journey.