Fear of missing out and your inner critic – how that plays out in the minds of women trying to conceive
My biggest fear around my fertility was not that I would not be able to be a mother.
It wasn't even the potential to lose babies along the way – though those losses broke me in a way I had not thought possible.
No, my biggest fear was I would lose the man I loved because I was not able to give him children. That I would lose his affection, respect and be left alone in sadness, unlovable and unworthy of happiness. OOF!
I was afraid he would leave me, and there was no fighting it, it would have been the right thing for him to do, the logical outcome, right?
I mean, there we were in our early 30s, committed to each other but I was letting the team down.
My inner critic nearly drove me crazy and almost ruined my marriage. It sat heavy on my heart and hurled abuse at me the entire time:
C'mon woman, what's wrong with you, why aren't you up the duff yet?
Stop being so teary and emotional.
You're so needy one minute and aloof the next.
Why can't you do this one simple thing? You must be doing it wrong.
Why was it so easy for everyone else?
I was doing everything the doctors were telling me to do and it still wasn't working.
The doctors didn't know why it wasn't working for us, calling it 'unexplained infertility' when all the tests they could perform on us came back with no clear reason or defect… one test elicited a comment of 'magnificent' from my doctor… And my inner critic had a party with information:
Maybe you're just not meant to be happy, or have what you want…
Deeper and darker the inner spiral of negative commentary in my head would get with every passing month… another lost chance or wasted opportunity to fall pregnant. Another month of daily, hourly self-criticism and self-inflicted psychological torture …
What were you thinking having that drink… that coffee… the soft cheese… the sushi…?
You should have worked out more/less/differently
How could you possibly expect to fall pregnant if (in my moments of weakness) you don't follow the rules and advice to the letter…
Had I done something wrong that meant I wasn't allowed to be a parent? Was this my karma?
Eventually I realised that all of it – Every. Single. Thing. my inner critic was saying to me – was utter bullshit.
Why was I being so horrible to myself?
Why didn't I take better care of me?
I was in pain.
In pain in a way I'd never known before and had no idea how to relieve.
Looking back now I can see that I was trying to plug a baby-shaped hole in my heart, and in my husband's life, that I had entirely imagined. He didn't feel that way about me. He was worried about me, but I hadn't shared with him how horrible this inner critic was being. He just wanted me to be happy.
I'd been so wrapped up in the process, I had forgotten that the two of us and our happiness was where a baby would grow from. That chasing the goal of a baby meant I was running in the wrong direction, and away from what I actually wanted – which was to be happy and feel love and give love. The feelings I already had with my partner.
In reality my body was freaking out, just like my breaking heart.
It was protecting me from the stress I was feeling. But stress is not a place from where our bodies are happy to make babies. It triggers the flight/fight/freeze response that helps us when we're actually being chased by a bear or tiger.
The tricky bit is that our bodies and subconscious don't know the difference between our stressed feelings and actual, physical danger, so everything gets shut down and switched off so we can direct our energies to being on guard instead of nesting. Do you see the cycle? Stress about FOMO, stress about test results, stress about everyone else getting there before us… all adds up to that big fat negative and more tears of frustration, and around we go again.
So if you're seeing this and hearing the deafening tick of your biological clock or the hurtful mutterings of a cranky inner critic as you struggle to conceive, then I urge you, as gently and lovingly as possible, to put that bitch in her place. Only then will you be able to focus your energies towards being happy now, and not beating yourself up for any number of imagined reasons.
Fear of missing out can really mess with your head and it only hurts your heart.
I don't want that feeling for you. And you can bet your partner doesn't want that for you either.
If you'd like some help to flick that cranky inner critic off your shoulder, then let's have a chat soon. You can find a time to suit you here: https://sandifriedlos.as.me/coffeechat Simply BYO beverage of choice and we'll get to know each other better over zoom while we discuss whether my fertility support service is your next step on this journey.
Big love and baby dust to you.
Your friend in fertility,