This time of year is, in general, more stressful for most, even if you enjoy the holiday season. But when you’re also trying to navigate the challenges of getting pregnant when your body is not cooperating, the ability to find your equanimity will likely be put to the test. Seeing children and pregnant family members or friends may have an even sharper edge right now. So when it’s your turn at the dinner table to speak about what you’re thankful for or find your holiday “joy” – how will you respond?
First of all, know that you have a right to all of your feelings – the “good” and the “bad.” The journey of fertility challenges usually includes a repeated grief cycle; every month when your period comes it triggers a new loss that must be mourned yet again. But know that you also have a choice to move out of the anger, sadness, fear and shame into a more neutral or positive place. It may not always feel like a choice, but each of us can directly control our thoughts – and our thoughts turn on our feelings and body responses (e.g., angry thoughts turn on angry feelings and the stress response in the body, i.e., muscle tension, increased heart rate, etc.).
Equanimity is defined as “evenness of mind especially under stress.” I find that the easiest way to achieve that “evenness” is by using what is by definition, yoga – the yoking of opposites. When we are in pain, we tend to focus only on one side of the coin – what we don’t have, what we don’t like, what we want to be different, etc. “Opposite action” challenges us to do just that – do the opposite of what we’re doing right now. In this case, it would be to find gratitude and contentment for what we do have, for what is – right now.
In Eastern philosophy, “Yang” energy is the masculine energy – the “doing” part of our selves. It gets us fired up to work hard and to achieve – climb the corporate ladder, get good grades, or “make” a baby. But it is important to balance Yang energy with some “Yin” – the feminine energy. Yin is the “being” part of our selves – it asks us to just sit still and receive, to be grateful for and accept what is. Our culture tends to cultivate and reinforce a lot of Yang behavior but many are at a loss of how to tap into the Yin.
Imagine an upright coin sitting in front of you. On one side lies all of your current physical and emotional pain. If this is all that exists in your mind, the coin will topple over, as it is completely unbalanced. So now, take a moment and find things that you are grateful for. I know this question may be challenging at first, but think about the gifts that your fertility journey has brought into your life. Has this brought you and your partner even closer? Have you become a more compassionate person? What have you learned about yourself that you did now know before? Put all of these elements on the other side of the coin. Now see the coin equally balanced – all factors present, valid, real, no element more important than the other. Just observe how that changes you at the emotional, physical and spiritual levels.
People who are skilled at equanimity have the same ups and downs as everyone else – they just expect and accept those highs and lows as a part of life’s journey, rather than fighting it or being in denial. This is also made easier because they remember that everything is temporary and that everything is a lesson. The lemons that life sometimes hands us really are “neutral” – they are neither good nor bad. It’s your perception of the lemon that will put it in one camp or the other. The same is true for your fertility challenges. I know that may be hard to swallow, just like a lemon without any sugar, but from a spiritual place, it “just is.” I’m not saying there won’t be some sour moments along this journey, of course, there are. But how long do you choose to stay in them, and what can you do that’s within your control to make it a little sweeter?
Just remember that equanimity, like any valuable skill, must be practiced in order to gain expertise. The irony is that you need those stressors in order to practice and attain it in the first place. But take heart in knowing that as you hone this skill, those “stressors” will no long be so stressful.