How Infertility Impacted My Parenting Style
I didn’t think a lot about parenting while I was pregnant. In fact, I was so focused on getting and staying pregnant, at my 39 week appointment with my first son I cried when my OB said the baby was on his way. I was shocked, overwhelmed, and terrified.
About 27 hours of labor later, he arrived. So I had a little bit of time to get my head around the idea that I would no longer be pregnant - something I’d worked, dreamed, and prayed to be for more than 4 years - but that I would soon be a parent.
Of course I was overjoyed, but I appreciated that little bit of time to process as Ben took his sweet time coming into this world. He still takes his sweet time to do a lot of things...put on his shoes, eat food, settle down for bed. And in those moments where my patience is ever-so-thin, I try to remember the lessons I learned on our journey to bring him and his baby brother into our family. Try is the key word; like many, I’m a mom in progress.
Here are a few things I learned along my fertility journey that have impacted my parenting style:
Patience. Patience. Patience.
Now, when I say I learned “patience” - what I mean is that I learned that patience is hard for me. I don’t like to wait, I quickly get frustrated with delays, and I’m usually running a mile a minute. With my fertility journey, patience became the name of the game. I was forced to wait - wait for my cycle to start, wait for test results, wait in an overcrowded waiting room...wait, and wait, and wait.
I wish I could tell you I’m always patient with my children - but that would be an outright lie. What my fertility journey did teach me is some strategies that help: anticipate the delays, have activities at the ready, and take 5 deep breaths on the regular.
“We worked hard for this”
This phrase is something my husband and I say to each other often. Usually, in the midst of a lot of crying, a large mess, and sheer exhaustion. It makes us laugh - and it reminds us of the fact that we DID work hard to have our family. We wanted children very badly...and just like anything, there are good and not-so-good times.
So even in those trying moments, we try to be grateful for the chance to clean up the mess and wipe the tears.
I’m a Type B Mom...or something
All my life, I’ve been called a Type A person. I like to plan, be in control, organized and neat. Going through infertility, though, has made me a more relaxed parent than I would have been without the struggle to motherhood. There are a LOT of things I could worry about, plan, clean, organize, and control. But I often don’t.
I’ve let a lot of things I think I “should” do go. Safety and kindness are no compromise areas. But the rest? The rest doesn’t really matter to me.
Frankly, I’m just happy they are here.
Everyone is going through something - even if you can’t see it
Compassion and empathy are traits I want to have and hope I demonstrate often. Most of us would say the same. Going through our family building journey, I first came to truly understand that we rarely really know what someone else is going through. There are countless examples of when I hid my sadness, hopelessness, depression, or anger from other people. But I know I was short tempered, rude, sullen, and maybe even downright mean in my interactions as I tried so hard to keep my emotions “in check”.
I think about that now - how I felt, how hard I tried to keep it in - when I encounter someone who is unpleasant. They may be just trying to hang on. I try to smile instead of returning the unpleasantness. On my best days, I succeed.
Self-care doesn’t stop
A key part of my fertility journey was learning to care for myself. I think for many people, self-care can seem selfish or “fluffy” - unnecessary. That could not be further from the truth. We must care for ourselves so we are fully whole and can, then, care for others more effectively.
When you’re parenting, it may seem you are always “something”: always needed, always compromising, always putting yourself last. Whether it's reheating the cup of coffee all day because you never really get to finish it, going without so you can buy something new for your child, or actually ceding all of your personal space to your toddler - it can be easy to forget the YOU inside you.
Knowing the power and importance of self-care from my fertility experience has helped me hold it as a priority. For me, that includes alone time, appointments to exercise, and time with women who make me laugh and teach me something new. It probably looks different to you. No matter what your formula is - find it, insist on it, and take control of it.
Your family depends on it.
What lessons from your fertility experience have you carried into parenting?
If you or someone you know is in the midst of an infertility struggle, I may be able to help. Please contact me to schedule a complimentary session and begin planning your own approach to self-care and a more positive family building experience.