Cognitive hypnotherapist Naomi Woolfson
While I was trying to conceive, I stumbled across a beautiful article on the days before motherhood. Written by midwife Jana Studelska, it described the emotional and physical changes experienced in the run-up to labour. An in-between place marking the boundary between the woman you were and the mother you are about to become. This place of waiting, anticipation and tension.
A land where nothing quite feels real anymore. Raw emotions, fluctuating hormones and a sense of disconnection from everyday life. Sound familiar?
This is how I experienced infertility
The woman I was before we started trying for a baby became a pale comparison to the mother I imagined I would be. I was ready to step out of my old world and into the new. But my new world was not ready yet and I was left in that in-between space, not able to go back, and prevented from moving forward.
“You know that place between sleep and awake, the place where you can still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you, Peter Pan. That’s where I’ll be waiting.” -Tinkerbell
Living in a state of limbo
That limbo world evokes a sense of longing and has a dreamlike quality. Your time incarcerated in infertility can be spent imagining the life you thought you would be living, whispering to your unborn children, willing them to take your hand and lead you out from limbo. You are not fully living in the present day and yet are unable to go back to the life you once knew.
The article talked of the time before birth as a necessary transition, one that should be acknowledged and respected.
But what of the time spent trying and failing to conceive?
Culturally this time is invisible. The phrase ‘trying for a baby’ conjures up images of ditching the birth control and having lots of sex. It does not encompass the waiting, wanting, the anxiety, the loss. If we as a society at large had a word to represent this time other than infertility – which in itself does not encompass the all-consuming focus of this period of our lives – would it then be easier to bear?
The use of the word ‘trying’ sets us up to feel like we have failed if we do not succeed
When we set out to achieve something, we generally say we are learning: I am learning to drive, I am learning to speak French. You wouldn’t say I am trying to learn to drive or trying to learn to speak French – you just are. It may take you an extended period of time to actually learn to drive and pass your test, or be able to fluently speak a language.
What if we had a word that summed up our aspirations as well as our desolation? A word that encompassed the physical, personal and spiritual growth that infertility can force us to undertake. A word that touched on the anticipation, however fleeting, that a miracle can occur in any given month. A word that we could use to describe this transition period of our lives that would empower rather than inhibit us. A word that would give us permission to express what we are experiencing without others feeling the need to pity us or bolster us up.
Finding a new terminology
I propose we change the terminology to open up this period of time to encompass all that we experience, that would allow us to express the fullness of our emotions yet also allow us to live our lives whilst trying to conceive rather than feeling like our lives are on hold.
As a woman, you can be in one of four states:
1 Consciously avoiding pregnancy
2 Giving no conscious thought to conception
3 Consciously trying to conceive
I believe that once you have made the decision that you want to become a parent you enter into a new stage in your life that only a few people come back from. From that moment on, you are aware that your actions now are not only influencing your own life and that of your partner, if you have one, but that of your as-yet-unconceived child. Every decision on what you eat, how you look after your body, your financial situation, your home, is now taken into consideration through the eyes of somebody bringing another person into the equation. I feel that this is part of the reason that it can be so difficult to just carry on with life as normal while you are trying to conceive, as you have walked over that bridge.
I said that we needed a new word and the one that resonates for me is matrescence
Matrescence describes the transition from womanhood to motherhood, similar to adolescence. This word encompasses the profound physical, emotional, spiritual and cultural shifts experienced during that period of life. The word was coined by Dana Raphael in the 1970s and is slowly making its way into popular culture, giving rise to much-needed conversations around postnatal depression, postnatal depletion and the care and support needed for women as they go through this life-changing process. Imagine if we were not aware of adolescence and had no word to describe the huge changes that a child goes through in order to become an adult.
The point at which a woman enters matrescence is currently seen as the moment of birth of her first child.
I believe that a woman enters matrescence the moment that she decides to become a mother
By viewing this period in your life as the beginning of your journey through matrescence, my intention is that instead of seeing each month as a success or failure, you are now constantly moving forwards into motherhood.
In my 12 week online mind-body fertility program The Embrace Fertility Method reframing how we think about infertility, treatment and triggers such as pregnancy announcements plays a part in bringing relief from the tsunami of emotions we can go through whilst trying to conceive.
There are many paths to parenthood and perhaps yours will look significantly different to how you imagined it would. Having connected with hundreds of women who are trying to conceive and from my interviews the world’s top fertility specialists, I can confirm that the vast majority of you reading this will become parents. This may be through natural conception, assisted fertility treatment, surrogacy, donor eggs or sperm, fostering or adoption.
How does it feel to say out loud “I am on my journey to motherhood. I have entered matrescence”?
Whilst I was going through infertility, my overriding fear was that the decision to become a mother had been taken out of my hands and I may never get to have that experience. I can now see that while there is a tiny proportion of couples that are unable to become parents from any of the ways listed above, the figure is so minute compared to the millions of parents in the world who got there from unconventional methods. You do not need to decide right now which routes to parenthood you are comfortable with. You only need to decide the next step. Then take the one small action you need to move you forwards.
Our thoughts affect not only our mood and happiness but our decision-making, relationships and health, with a knock-on effect to fertility.
On Sunday afternoon I’m running a free masterclass ‘Fertility & the Mind: The Truth’. Sign up for your free place and learn about the mind body techniques that not only bring relief from anxiety and overwhelm but have been shown to increase your chances of conceiving sign up now for your FREE ‘Fertile Thoughts Activation Process Quick Start Pack’ which includes:
♥ An invitation to the Masterclass on Sunday 24th May 4pm | UK
♥ The Fertile Thoughts Reset MP3
♥ An ebook sharing how to play the emotions game for instant relief from negative feelings
♥ The beautiful heart anchor technique to connect you to feelings of gratitude, joy and peace
♥ How to implement simple fertility enhancing changes from today
Sign up now by clicking here