Coping with infertility on Mother’s Day – Approved mental health toolkit

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No matter where we are on our fertility journey, Mother’s Day can bring up some really difficult emotions. Not everyone around us will truly ‘get it’ – and it can feel like a lot to handle. 

Your Mother’s Day mental health toolkit

Wondering how on earth you’re going to get through it?

Whether you’re there for the first or the fifth time, know that, from those of us on the team who’ve been there too, you’re not alone. We see you, and we’ve got you. 

Back with expert practitioner Dr. Marie Prince – The Fertility Psychologist – we’ve put together a toolkit with coping mechanisms and tips for navigating this time – from the lead-up to Mother’s Day, and beyond. 

We’ll cover off;

  • Dealing with triggering scenarios around Mother’s Day
  • Managing difficult emotions 
  • Tips for staying focused during IVF
  • Coping with miscarriage and pregnancy loss
  • When to access more support

Marie is a compassionate and experienced Consultant Clinical Psychologist, specialising in therapies to support people through their fertility journey, and treating the symptoms of trauma. 

From journal prompts to worksheets to help identify your needs, she also offers a range of support resources that you can download for free here.

Now, over to Marie.

Start by asking yourself what feels difficult, and why

Scenarios that you may find triggering and difficult to cope with when you’re trying to conceive (TTC) are likely to be heightened in the lead-up to Mother’s Day. 

These can include;

  • pregnancy announcements
  • spending time with other people’s children
  • seeing flowers and cards in shops 
  • endless social media posts about babies 

I encourage you to really stop and get clear on what feels difficult for you. If we don’t, there is often a pattern that takes over where we assume we cannot cope and that it will all, definitely, be awful. 

However, you may be able to change this narrative. There may be parts of Mother’s Day that feel tolerable or neutral, and there may even be aspects that you feel ok about. Once you’re clear on these things, you’ll know where to intentionally put your energy.

How can I navigate these triggering scenarios, especially ‘on the day’?

Everyone is different, so whether you’d prefer to just have a quiet day at home doing things you like to do, or go out for a girl’s day brunch with mimosas, put aside other’s expectations and just do you.

Finding this hard to unpack? You can download my free pdf for support with identifying your needs.

Here are some strategies that are likely to benefit most of us.

  • Think about curating or limiting your social media feed, prioritising self care and managing your boundaries
  • Consider what self care looks like for you. You could even take some time to go beyond the classic self care strategies of walks, baths and books (although I do love all of those) 
  • Find people you can really connect with, be honest with and have fun with. Connecting with those who share a similar experience can enhance your sense of belonging and validation.

As well as family and friends, I’d consider online networks like The Ribbon Box to find your tribe.

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I’m struggling with my feelings – what can I do?

If this applies to you, my top tip is to allow yourself all of the emotion. Making a little space for how you feel can help you tolerate the distress that can sit alongside Mother’s Day.

It is so easy to minimise our distress and be self-critical or even angry when we feel emotional. This suppression of emotion builds up in our body, often until it feels intolerable. 

Expressing your emotions is healthy and protective, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable and authentic will help you heal and continue your fertility journey.

Not everyone wants to talk about how they feel, and if that’s you, journaling is a tool to help you process your feelings and experiences. Download my free journaling prompts to help get you started. 

I’m currently having IVF – how can I stay focused during this time? 

My key pointers for keeping focused and hopeful as you navigate the IVF emotional side effects at this time are to tune into your sense of self compassion and gratitude

Self compassion pause 

Self compassion encourages you to accept yourself and where you are, to stop criticising yourself and embracing all parts of yourself. 

Try this: Make yourself comfortable, place one hand on your chest and one on your stomach. Check in with your body, how easy is it to take a slow, deep breath? Where do you feel tense? Where do you feel soft and relaxed? Take a few deep breaths, in through the nose and a long exhale through the mouth.

Give yourself some words of compassion such as: ‘I am loved’, I am valuable’, ‘I am worthy’. You may find this triggers a lot of resistance that you may need to overcome or you may feel soothed and calm.

Gratitude pause

Practising gratitude helps us tolerate distress. It helps prevent feeling overwhelmed with worry or stress, it reminds us that even when life feels tough, it is not all bleak, there are things we are grateful for and it disrupts negative thinking patterns. 

Try this: look around you right now and notice 5 things you are grateful for. Maybe your phone, your comfy chair, your cup of tea, living in a safe place, your health, the people around you. Once you get started it can be hard to stop noticing the small things that bring pleasure or make life easier. 

You can do this as often as you need to. To get maximum benefit do it regularly, the more you do it the easier it gets.

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I’ve experienced miscarriage and loss – what can I do to cope?

Mother’s Day or not, feelings of loss and grief are potentially the hardest part of any fertility journey, whether this is the loss of a pregnancy or a child, or the loss of a predicted future or social role. 

Many people tell me that they don’t think they should feel ‘so bad’, or that they feel silly for grieving something they ‘never had’.

What I want you to know is that your grief is valid and real and I see that. 

All of the points above will help you sit with your feelings of grief and loss during Mother’s Day.

Working through grief, gently

In times of grief, there is a balance to be struck between taking time out to rest and allowing all of the emotion, as well as taking some gentle steps to look after you and your mental health

Here are three things to remember; 

  1. If talking about what happened feels too raw, I encourage you to move your body, to start with this could be as simple as stretching in your bed, a short walk or if you feel up to it, more energetic movement such as dance or running. 
  2. If talking feels available to you, I encourage you to move your body whilst thinking about your grief. This will help you to emotionally process how you feel.
  3. You might feel traumatised by your loss and feel you cannot get it out of your head, that you are reliving parts of your experience, or that you cannot continue on your fertility journey. On these occasions, I use EMDR, a trauma therapy to help people process their stress and trauma and be able to move on with their fertility journey.

How and when to access more support

Here at TRB, we acknowledge that self-help strategies may not be enough, and at times professional support is what we need to help build our own toolkit. 

Connect with Dr. Marie Prince at The Fertility Psychologist, for more expert help

She offers online group therapy for you and your partner – helping you manage your fertility journey, and teaching you science-backed strategies to your support mind, body and soul.

Want to hear more from Dr. Marie Prince? Read this next: How do I get through the holidays? A psychologist’s survival guide

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