Guest blog by Kendra Tolbert MS, RDN, RYT of Live Fertile.
Broken. Betrayed. Frustrated. If you’ve ever used these words to describe yourself or your body, you’re not alone. Whispered through tears, these words have been used by countless people experiencing infertility. When each negative pregnancy test feels like a negative appraisal of who you are, your relationship with your body can take a hit.
Infertility impacts far more than your ability to conceive. It affects your finances. It affects your schedule. It affects your relationships. And not just your relationship with others. It changes your relationship with yourself. Being labeled, “infertile” can be a major blow to your self-identity, both who you are and who you envisioned yourself becoming.
There’s another side to the body image and infertility discussion too. Experiencing infertility is often a catalyst for transformation. I can’t tell you the number of women who have shared that having trouble conceiving birthed a sense of compassion and patience for themselves and others they never had before. Despite feeling betrayed by their bodies, they have become more grateful for their wisdom.
For many, this is the first time they’ve taken a close look at the constant ebbs and flows of their hormones. It’s the first time they’ve thought about the number of hormones and physiological processes that coordinate to facilitate conception.
There’s no right or wrong way to feel about your body on your fertility journey. And it’s incredibly common to see-saw back and forth between feeling resilient and feeling defeated. It’s ok to feel bad and it’s ok to feel good. Both are valid and valuable. The goal is not to only think positive thoughts and feel happy 24/7. The goal is to connect with yourself, show compassion to yourself, and support yourself no matter how you’re feeling.
The three practical practices below are a few ways you can do just that.
This meditative practice can be a lovely way to move and breathe your way to a better connection with your body. By giving you the space to explore your emotions and the sensations in your body, you can create new feel-good moments in and with your body.
Yoga is a tried and true way to build interception (your ability to clue in on the sensations arising from your body) and resilience. Both of which will serve you well as you trek down the road towards parenthood.
After receiving an infertility diagnosis, a recent client shared how she had begun to see her body, and as a result herself, as a failure. The negative self-talk drowned out every other thought. And canceled out her achievements and positive personality traits. Those things no longer mattered or had value. All that mattered, the only thing that felt true anymore was that she was having trouble conceiving. Until she started practicing yoga.
She would later share that her yoga mat was the only place the incessant insults her mind hurled at her body would take a break. On her mat, she stopped hating herself. The flexibility and strength she developed on the mat surprised her and reminded her that she was more than her infertility diagnosis.
I hope yoga can help you experience the same.
Wondering what type of yoga to try? Fertility yoga classes are becoming more popular. So check out the local studios in your area. If you can’t find an in-person class, head over to YouTube. You can also opt for any local gentle or slow-flow yoga classes that focus more on connection and contemplation than pushing yourself to physical extremes.
Whether group, couples, or individual therapy, the benefits of having someone to talk to openly and honestly without judgment can’t be overstated. Airing your unspoken thoughts and feelings to an objective party can provide catharsis and perspective.
This is another area that is becoming more popular. More and more fertility clinics and ObGyns have in-house therapists or therapists they can refer you to. Don’t be shy about asking your providers for the support you need.
Don’t worry, this isn’t where I encourage you to be grateful for infertility. No good comes of spiritually bypassing your real feelings about a situation. However, this is where I encourage you to be grateful in spite of infertility. Easier said than done, I know.
The very real truth is your body might not be functioning exactly the way you want it to. And that’s a hard thing to experience. It really is. It’s also very true that your body is doing a lot of things that can easily go unnoticed. Sitting with both can be uncomfortable AND empowering.
Ask yourself, “What are some ways my body IS showing up for me day in and day out?” Write those ways down. Maybe your eyes have allowed you to see this year’s newest crop of wildflowers. Or your ears allowed you to hear a joke that left you crying from laughter. Or your taste buds filled you with delight when you bit down into your favorite dessert. Whatever it is, no matter how big or small, acknowledge it.
Wherever you are in your journey, remember it is a journey. One you and your body will sail together. And like all relationships, it will be tried. But it can come back stronger than ever on the other side.
Kendra Tolbert MS, RDN, CDN, LD, RYT, Cert AT is a registered dietitian nutritionist, registered yoga teacher, and certified aromatherapist specializing in PCOS, fertility, and PMS. She completed her Masters degree in Nutrition and Public Health at Teachers College, Columbia University. She was awarded the Emerging Professional Award from the Women’s Health Dietetic Practice Group.
Kendra has experience helping individuals, families, and communities make improvements to their health and lives by adopting healthier habits. Her areas of expertise include women’s health, PCOS, fertility, community nutrition, and integrative and functional nutrition. Kendra has been featured on and written for a number of websites.
Previously, Kendra worked as an acute care clinical dietitian, outpatient oncology dietitian, nutrition educator, a community nutritionist, and consultant for nonprofit organizations. When not reading, writing, or coaching her yoga and nutrition clients, she enjoys taking dance and yoga classes, journaling, and body rolling to 90’s pop and R&B.