I recently read a quote in Helen Adrianne’s book, On Fertile Ground that made me shiver. She says, “Infertility creates a frenzy that sends the mind into outer space and leaves your body to walk the planet like a zombie.”
We experience this mind-body split when things are so out-of-control we can’t cope. That’s how I felt in India.
Some of you may recall that in 2011, I relocated to Pune, Maharashtra – a small city of 8 million people. (Yes I did it for a man.) Never in my life did I feel so out of control. Where we lived, the local people spoke little to no English and my basic Hindi wasn’t much help since they spoke another dialect. It was really hard for me because I wanted to say more than ‘hi’ and ‘bye’ to the woman who scrubbed our floors every morning, or call the rickshaw driver out on his delirious detours. Lunch became an almost comical experience because I couldn’t read the menus so the waiters would come out with serving dishes and I would point at what I wanted to take home. Some days I laughed, but most days I cried. I was frustrated and infuriated.
Who am I?
I went from being a strong, competent, independent woman, to someone who was terrified of crossing the street alone. If you want to see how insane it is, check out this video and see for yourself!
My fertility clients tell me, infertility has a similar impact on the hardiest of women. I’ve worked with lawyers, project managers, teachers and therapists and they all tell me that going through fertility treatments ‘reduces you to a crying fool’.
That’s who I was in India. A crying fool. Almost every day I called my best friend crying.
When things fall apart
All the ideas I had about who I was and what my life was supposed to be were falling apart. I was coming undone. “When the bottom falls out and we can’t find anything to grasp, it hurts a lot”, writes Pema Chodrun in her book When Things Fall Apart. And that’s exactly how it felt – like the bottom fell out. All my usual safety nets were gone. I didn’t have my friends, my family or my work to grasp on to for comfort or distraction. And boy did it hurt.
India cleverly kicked my ass into letting go and ‘letting God’.
Once I realized I couldn’t control the situation or make things better I surrendered. In that softening I found peace. And for the first time in 35 years, I really knew where home was.
Let go and let God
If infertility is kicking your ass, and you’re trying desperately to make sense of it all, here are 3 Buddhist teachings to help you let go, and ‘let God’
1. Stop trying to solve the problem
If you’ve already spent hours on Google looking for answers, popped a myriad of expensive herbs and pills, and cut out coffee and gluten – not doing enough isn’t your problem. So instead of problem solving, I’m suggesting problem feeling. Our natural tendency is to make the make the pain go away by taking a pill or distracting ourselves (insert T.V., books, internet). Pain hurts so it makes sense for us to want to avoid it. But we don’t need that kind of encouragement,because distancing ourselves from pain is what we do naturally. It’s good to know we do that – not as a way to make ourselves wrong, but as a way to develop self-awareness and compassion for ourselves.
2. Nail yourself to the present moment (As Pema Chodrun says)
When you feel the compulsion to get on line and start searching for what to do next, stop. Take a moment to feel what’s behind that drive for answers. I’m not telling you it won’t hurt but it will help you gain some much needed understanding. Sometimes when we run out of options for escape we encounter the most profound spiritual truths.
Get quiet. Feel. Wait. I guarantee the Universe will rush-in to fill the void. And your question, “why is this happening to me?” may even get some answers.
3. Allow the tenderness in
Take a moment right now and close your eyes. Place one hand on your chest and one hand on your belly and just feel. What painful feeling do you need relief from?
Fear? Sadness? Heartache? Worry? Anxiety? Whatever it is, just close your eyes and feel it. If you cry, it’s o.k. Ride the waves of each inhale and each exhale and let the feeling wash over you, without judgement. Just experience it. This is the beginning of healing with compassion.
Breakdown or breakthrough?
Seema (a new fertility client) and her husband, have been trying to conceive for six years. When I asked her to do this exercise she realized her biggest fear is growing old without children. After trying everything including 5 rounds of IVF, she feels stuck and scared. What if she’s unable to complete her family and move on to the next phase of life? At this point she’s decided to stop Googling for answers and get to the heart of the matter.
When things are shaky and nothing is working, we might realize we’re on the verge of something big. This is a very vulnerable and tender place. We can shut down and distract ourselves or we can touch on that throbbing quality and be with it. Breathe, feel and allow tenderness to show us the way home.
If infertility has turned your life upside down, and you’ve left your body to walk the earth like a zombie, go back and do the exercise. Let go and let God show you your way home.