Grief. Shame. Regret. Sadness. Anxiety. Worry. So many emotions. Will I ever be able to have another child? Was there something I did wrong to cause this? Am I being punished for mistreating my body for so long? Did dieting, restricting my calories and over exercising cause infertility?
For the past few years, I dedicated myself to obtaining the “ultimate” physique and competing in fitness competitions. I over exercised and dieted like it was my full-time job and nothing else in my life mattered more. When I got a first place trophy and won my “pro card” (which by the way is a tiny piece of paper that does NOT have any value), I still felt empty. To obtain the “winning” physique, I lived in a bubble, I isolated myself and never wanted to socialize. I lost my period, I had zero sex drive, I wasn’t present in relationships, and I had lost interest in any other hobbies outside of the gym. My worth was defined by six-pack abs and chiseled shoulders everyone would complement me on (hashtag bodygoals). Every waking moment, my mind was consumed with food and every calorie I was going to put in my mouth that day. When I would lay my head on the pillow at night, I would feel satisfaction in knowing I was at a caloric deficit and feeling my muscles tingling in pain from an intense workout that day. I felt accomplished when I felt hunger pangs. I felt a sense of pride when I did an “ab-check” in the mirror each morning. My value was defined by the reflection in the mirror. I was sick and I was slowing killing myself.
What saved me was infertility.
Fast forward nine months. I got married to an amazing man and we decided to start trying for a baby right away. I knew I had hormonal issues, since I had lost my period while competing, but I had no idea the damage I had done. After seeing a Reproductive Endocrinologist, and running lots of tests, everything seemed to be very healthy, including my supply of eggs, but my hormone levels were that of an adolescent boy and my body wasn’t sending signals for ovulation or to grow eggs on my own. This was a huge slap in the face.
Right away we started the long process which included lots of testing, different types of medications, blood draws, ultrasounds, nightly injections and more testing, eventually leading us to IVF. I was advised to stop intense exercising and restricting my calories.
Through the process, I felt a lot of shame and a lot of regret, had many sleepless nights thinking about my past and my future, and I cried until there were no tears left. I felt lost. I fell into a deep depression and my anxiety was at an all-time high. For months, I woke up feeling like I was sleep walking through life. I wasn’t fully present and I had no sense of purpose. I was sad. Just sad.
Through the grieving, I realized there is nothing I can change about the past. It is done. It is over. I can use the lessons learned through the experience and move on, stronger and wiser. I chose to love and be compassionate towards myself. Each day, I began to pick up the pieces, little by little. I wrote down my goals (which for once, had nothing to do with how I wanted my body to look) and some healthy habits to commit to. I know I am strong enough to deal with the struggles that come with infertility. Through the highs and lows, the failed cycles and the grief, I won’t let it take away the vision I have for my family and the yearning of motherhood in my heart. I will remain hopeful despite all the heartache. I remind myself daily how blessed I am to already be a Mom and will remain hopeful in receiving another addition to my family. I am deciding to live in faith, not in fear.
Although my journey is far from over, here are some important lessons and insights I’ve gained from infertility:
· Sleep is #1: I focus on sleeping 8-9 hours per night. I used to wake up every morning at 3:45 a.m. to workout, despite how tired I was. Bonus: My migraines are gone!
· I found a new loving way to move my body: Yoga and stretching. I used to think it wasn’t worth my time unless I was pushing my body to the max. Yoga is now a huge part of my weekly routine and it has changed both my mind and body. Not only do my joints feel so much healthier, but I have learned how to slow down and BREATHE!
· Practicing meditation and listening to my intuition allows my soul to speak: I was so disconnected from the signals my body was giving me and I was constantly up-in-my-head. Now, I feel so much more spiritually connected.
· I am grateful: I count my blessings every single day. Infertility has a way of opening your eyes to how many good things you do have in your life.
· I am much more present in my all of my relationships: I have also evaluated my friendships and learned who I can count on when times get tough.
· I am more than just a physical body: How I look on the outside does not reflect who I am on the inside. I am so much more than my exterior. Although I still have some insecurities, my goals have shifted from wanting a perfect body, to wanting to feel and be as healthy as I can.
· The most valuable lesson of all: I have hope for my future. I am no longer sleep walking through life. I am LIVING.
Thank you infertility.