What is self-care?
I believe the key to my improved experience with fertility treatment came when I began to care for myself as part of the process. Up until that point - and it had been a couple of years - I took the “put your head down and muscle on” approach. I told very few people of our struggle to conceive, I followed doctor’s orders only with no supplemental assistance, and I let my frustration, loneliness, despair, and heartbreak lead my emotions. I felt flawed, to blame, and that somehow I didn’t deserve to have a child because I’d been blessed in so many other ways.
Wow - just writing that down and reading it back is hard. Yet, I don’t think I’m alone in having these feelings.
If you're reading this - you already at least suspect there’s another way. My perspective as a fertility coach is that to improve the experience, we must put ourselves at the center. While there is much of this journey beyond our control, we can ease our stress and feel more in control of some key parts, starting with how we take care of our mind, spirit, and body. I encourage you to care for yourself just as you would care for the new little life you seek to add to your family.
You’ll hear the term “self-care” a lot on your family building journey. But what does it mean? One of the better definitions I found describes it as “any necessary human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated.”1 This means self-care is necessary and best when designed by you. What it doesn’t mean is that it is forced, draining, or selfish.
So much of what we are told to “do” along our family building journey can cross the line from self-care into stressful demands. These then can quickly become a source of additional criticism we heap on ourselves.
My perspective is that self-care is about being kind to yourself. About determining what truly gives you joy, peace, and a sense of control; it is about what fills you up. Creating a plan and a path to stick to it. And then, allowing flexibility in the plan. What works for one person may not work for you - and that’s ok. By gently caring for, talking to, and loving ourselves during this process we will emerge more calm, centered, and capable to care for our new family when the time comes.