Not knowing how much hope or positivity to feel during infertility
Hope plays a special role in infertility. Many of us start trying to conceive full of hope. And then the hope slowly slips away month after month of not having success.
It's common to feel that if you allow yourself to hope, it will make failure hurt more, leading to more disappointment than if you hadn't felt so hopeful. Or it might feel silly to hold onto hope after repeated disappointments. And on the other hand, you might feel pressured to feel hopeful because other people seem to suggest that you should “never give up!” and “keep your hopes up!”.
Let’s address two important things about hope and infertility:
- We cannot hope ourselves into pregnancy.
- But, hoping less will not take the pain away if things don’t go as planned. No matter how realistic you try to be, a failure will be tough, so you may as well allow yourself to hope.
If it feels hard to access hope, it may help reframe what the concept means. Consider this perspective from Václav Havel: "Hope is a state of mind, not a state of the world. Hope is an orientation of the spirit, an orientation of the heart. Hope is not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out."
Basically hoping doesn’t have to be about forcing positive thinking, or avoiding pain. It can be about allowing yourself to believe in the reasons behind your efforts.
Humans are capable of feeling multiple feelings at the same time, even during a deep crisis. It can help to compartmentalize your feelings in different rooms (literal rooms, or parts of your mind). You can then step in and out of these spaces without having to let go of the others. Your sadness, grief and anger are still real and valid even if you step into the room of hope and positivity at times.
Here’s what you can do:
One way to create a designated space for hope is to keep a hope journal.
When you write in this journal, allow yourself to hope and dream - and not just about fertility. Write about the things that you envision for yourself, no matter how unlikely they might be. Focus on what you hope for, knowing that what you are hoping for makes sense, regardless of if it happens or not. Let this journal hold onto your hope on days when you have trouble feeling it.
Try these exercises in Tilly's app...
- Allowing yourself to hope
A practical tool to help you figure out the role that hope can play for you.
- Validating your own feelings
When you’re feeling lonely or need a little hope, it can be helpful to learn to validate yourself.
- Cherish happy moments
Try this practical activity to lean into the positive side of life.
- Gratitude journaling
These prompts can help you identify things you’re feeling grateful for, which can boost your mood and help you embrace the bright side.
About the author
Maya Maria Brown, M.A., is an infertility mental health expert. She has a master’s in Counseling Psychology, and has worked with individuals and couples on infertility and relationships. She also has personal experience with infertility and is currently in treatment.
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