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Infertility Cubby

Living one day at a time: the challenge of coping with infertility
by Linda Tillman

The process of infertility treatment can bring with it a lack of energy, hopelessness, and depression. Using cognitive restructuring can help you gain a positive approach.

***Moments are Magic Choices***

Every moment of time offers us a choice. We can choose to spend the moment looking backwards to the past, looking forward to the future, or we can live in the present.

Whatever choice we make can determine our spirit and attitude for the day, week, month, year. Our choices have the magic effect of changing our attitudes. Let's examine two of these choices.

*Looking backwards*

Many couples spend the course of their infertility looking at the past. Sometimes looking backwards can be helpful in infertility treatment. In the process you may learn something important from history that will make a positive contribution to addressing the infertility issue today.

Most of the time looking backwards results in "if only..." statements.

"If only I had known to wear boxer shorts....." "If only I hadn't had that abortion...." "If only we had started trying to get pregnant earlier." These "if only..." statements are about negative events and lead to sad thoughts.

The past is just that - time that has past. It can't be lived over again and it can't be changed. So dwelling in the past feeds depression and allows us to think punishing, self-damaging thoughts.

Looking backwards takes a lot of energy - both energy to remember our regrets as well as energy to punish ourselves or to rethink how it might have been.

*Looking to the future*

Sometimes looking to the future can be a positive event. Imagining life with a baby in it can spur you on to the next step in treatment. Looking to the future can provide you with energy to make a plan for treatment or to be assertive with your health care provider.

Looking to the future can be the beginning of a cycle leading to depression. At first the future involves idealization:

"It will be so wonderful when we get pregnant and have a baby."

This is followed by frustration if trying to get pregnant isn't very easy.

And of course, this can be followed by depression.

Looking to the future can be a negative event in another way as well. "What if the IVF doesn't work this time?" "What if we miss the right ovulation moment?" "What if my follicles don't get big enough?" "What if....."

"What if...." questions can often lead to negative speculation. Spending energy on what we wish might happen can be energy wasted, especially if such thinking leads to negative self-talk.

***Negative Self Talk***

The messages you received while growing up may be a part of the past that is active in your present.

Cognitive therapists refer to negative self-talk as playing negative tapes in your head. The voices on these internal tapes may be saying that you don't deserve the baby that you want or that you'll never find an answer to your infertility.

Alice Domar in her book, Healing Mind, Healthy Woman reminds us that most negative thinking is based on tapes we have incorporated in the past. She suggests four questions to ask yourself about the negative thought: 1. Does this thought contribute to my stress? 2. Where did I learn this thought? 3. Is this thought logical? 4. Is this thought true?" --from Domar, Healing Mind, Healthy Woman.

Take your time in answering these four questions. Once you have determined what the truth is, you will be prepared to restructure the thought in a more positive way.

***Living in the Present Moment***

The most positive use of moments is to live in the present time. When you experience yourself looking backwards or speculating about the future, when you experience a negative self- thought, resolve to STOP and look only at the present.

When you feel sorry for yourself, ask yourself how you are using that very moment. You are taking energy in the act of feeling bad about things. That same energy could be used to keep your spirits up.

So much of infertility treatment is about waiting. Claim that waiting time. Use the present moments to take a class and learn something new. Maybe try something you never dreamed you would do - learn to weave or take yoga, be a painter or learn to sing, write a novel or begin baking bread.

If you find your mind wandering into sad places, look around you to bring yourself back to the present moment. Maybe there is a new wildflower growing in your front yard. Maybe there is a person at work that you have never noticed before. Maybe there's a book on the shelf that you have never read.

Practice looking at life one moment at a time. Look around your life right this very moment. What do you see that you haven't really looked at before? Whatever you look at, frame it in a present and positive way.

Linda Tillman is a licensed psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, where she has been in practice since 1984. Linda received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology in 1980 from George Peabody College of Vanderbilt University. Over the years Linda's practice has included infertility clients in increasing numbers. Currently women and couples dealing with infertility comprise about one fourth of the clients with whom she works. As new methods come available to overcome infertility, more and more women and couples turn to different Assisted Reproductive Technologies for help. Often an emotional roller coaster is the effect of all the hopes and dreams that are hooked to the various treatments of infertility. Linda has found that coaching women/couples through the process can be very helpful to a positive outcome. Linda takes a very positive approach to the challenges of trying to conceive.

Linda Tillman is the founder of FertilityCoach (TM), a professional and personal coaching firm specializing in working virtually by phone or in groups with couples or individuals dealing with infertility. For a free consultation contact her by email: linda@fertilitycoach.com or by phone: 404-638-6111 or visit her web site at: http://www.fertilitycoach.com.

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