Fertility is the new Infertility
Updated: Feb 7
Infertility is already a stressful and angering experience. I've been noticing lately I've been avoiding saying the word "infertility" and swapping it out for "fertility" or "fertility problems" or "trying to conceive." There is something about labeling ourselves as "Infertile" that really disrupts our sense of being capable powerful women. Adding an "in" to the beginning of a word takes all the power out of us. Think about the words Inflexible, inhospitable, incompatible, insecure, insufficient. Now stop thinking about those words. Yuck.
What if we were to start using language around "fertility" instead? Words are powerful, and our heads are full of them. Henry Ford said, "Whether you think you can or you think you can't, you're right." Your thoughts are made up of words, and words make us feel different things, regardless if they're true or not. I'm not saying changing your thinking will necessarily get your pregnant right away, but having different thoughts flowing through your mind will certainly help the time you're spending in the land of conception be much more tolerable, even positive.
I watch women try to protect themselves with their words, preparing for what feels like an inevitable truth each month: "It probably didn't work." Yes, there comes a time after many months or years of trying to conceive that it can even feel foolish to think it might have worked this month. So to quell the monster of hope we say things like "It probably didn't work." and start preparing for the period to come.
The answer is not to flip a negative statement into a positive one. Your brain will know right away what you're trying to do. The answer is to find a neutral statement rooted in the present. A statement you might try after your ovulation window is "I did everything I could." or "Now I get to listen to my non-fertility related podcasts." or "I'm doing everything I can to meet my baby." Every month you fear you're not pregnant, but it also feels absurd sometimes to hope that you are. The Buddhist monk Pema Chodron says “Hope and fear come from feeling that we lack something; they come from a sense of poverty. We can’t simply relax with ourselves. We hold on to hope, and hope robs us of the present moment."
Of course you're hopeful that you'll get pregnant this month. But part of what trying to conceive does to us is rob us of the present moment. And in all reality, the present moment is all we truly have. If you're not pregnant, you'll find out in due time. And until Day 14 post ovulation you get to be in the present moment every single day. Or at least remind yourself to come back to the now every single day.
While you're in this luxurious place called the Present Moment, pay attention to the words your brain is giving you (thoughts). So often we're concerned with thoughts being "true." Right before you give a presentation at work do you tell yourself "I'm going to suck at this" or do you tell yourself "It's going to be fine, I've got this." We're not interested in what's true, we're interested in what's helpful. Next time you hear yourself talking about your "fertility problems" (not infertility) see if you can change your wording slightly, like adding the word "yet": "I'm not pregnant yet." Test out other variations. I'd love to hear what you come up with.
Allison Ramsey is a licensed clinical mental health counselor and fertility counseling specialist seeing clients online throughout North Carolina, Washington State, and internationally. She’s a member of Resolve, The Infertility Association and the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Contact her to start feeling better.