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From Bitter to Grateful During Infertility and Loss

*Trigger Warning: this post discusses miscarriage and loss. 

For anyone who has walked the trying to conceive (TTC) journey, you know that it can be long and that you can encounter struggles that can leave you with feelings of bitterness, jealousy, and sadness.

During my own TTC journey, those negative emotions began surfacing after we had been trying for over a year and began thinking we might be dealing with infertility.

Then shortly after receiving our infertility diagnosis, they began to consume me. Everywhere I looked there were babies, pregnant women, or something that reminded me of my own body’s failure to get pregnant.

 

I was jealous, envious, and angry that everyone else was able to get pregnant.

 

I became a very bitter version of myself that I didn’t like. Now, I need to backtrack to help you better understand where I am coming from for this next part.

Many years ago, I had a mentor in my life that practiced daily gratitude first thing every day. Under her mentorship and leadership, that was something that I began to learn and practice, eventually making it part of my daily life.

But, when the TTC struggle bus arrived it knocked me off course and allowed that bitter version of myself to take control. Instead of starting each day being thankful for the things in my life, I was getting on social media, watching TV, or doing something else that allowed those negative emotions to take the lead and set the pace for my day.

 

Shortly before my husband was set to deploy I had an epiphany.

 

I was talking to a friend and she said something to me that stopped me in my tracks, and I realized how negative my attitude had become over the last year.

I was so focused on what was going wrong with our TTC journey, and that everyone else was getting pregnant except me that I missed the shift that was happening with myself.

 

I went home that night and vowed to get back my life and rid my life of the bitterness.

 

That next morning I restarted my old morning routine with a new gratitude journal, writing down at least three things that I was thankful for in my life, and slowly the bitter version of myself faded away.

Those first few days it was hard to have a grateful heart, my husband was days away from deploying, and we were still struggling with the fact that our plans for a baby were being put on hold for an entire year, but I did it anyway.

That first month some days I was simply thankful to have a roof over my head, but starting my day off on a positive note really helped the rest of my day.

As I continued with my gratitude journal first thing in the morning every morning I became my old self again.

Now don’t get me wrong, I still had plenty of moments where those negative emotions creeped in, but overall I was much happier and had a more positive outlook.

And if we are being honest I don’t know if I would have come out on the other side of the deployment a stronger person without that daily habit of gratitude.

 

There were certainly moments where I had a lot to be thankful for. Successful fertility treatments, job promotions, and those kinds of happy events naturally generate lots of thankfulness and positive emotions.

However, multiple miscarriages, a global pandemic, death of loved ones can make finding things to be thankful extremely difficult. After each of my three miscarriages, I got depressed and almost stopped journaling in my gratitude journal.

Thankfully, it was a habit and something that I always did. I won’t lie during those tough times I was sometimes only able to be thankful for my comfy bed, or that I had chocolate and wine in the kitchen.

I believe that it was my habit of finding things to be thankful for each day that kept me from going to a really dark place.

It is also one of the reasons I had hope and continued on our fertility journey.

 

No one is perfect, and sometimes we break habits or life gets in the way, and after over four years of starting my day with gratitude, it came to an end a few weeks before my miracle IVF baby was born.

I was just so exhausted all the time, and I just didn’t have the energy or the ability to curl up on the bed and journal. Then following the birth of my daughter life was chaotic and I dropped the habit altogether.

I’ve thought about trying to reintroduce the habit a few different times since my daughter’s birth, but I just haven’t found a consistent time to make it happen.

Then a few weeks ago, a new mentor made a comment to me that I need to be more positive.

Talk about a wake-up call. I immediately got defensive, thinking I am a positive person, he just doesn’t know the situation like I do.

But as he pointed out I’ve let my current circumstances get the best of me, and I have begun assuming the worst. Not exactly the bitter and jealous version of myself from a few years ago, but definitely not the version of myself that I want to be.

I once again vowed to find the time to practice gratitude because I know that when I do, I have a much more positive mindset.

While I have always found journaling my thankfulness therapeutic, in the busy days of being a mom to a toddler and undergoing fertility treatments, practicing gratitude can happen in a variety of ways.

In the last two weeks, I have not figured out a time early in my day when I can journal so I think about my three things that I am thankful for while I am brushing my teeth, or driving in the car to one of my many appointments.

The only rule I am giving myself in this busy season of my life is that I do it before lunchtime.

For me the practice of gratitude has the greatest effect on my mindset when it is done early in the day versus the end of the day.

If you are thinking about joining me in creating a habit of practicing gratitude in your daily life I have three tips for you:

 

  1. Give yourself grace, it takes time to form a new habit.
  2. Do what works for you, and try a few different ways out. Journaling isn’t for everyone.
  3. Having a consistent time and place will help you create a lasting habit.

I hope you will give gratefulness a try and see how it can have a positive impact on your daily mindset, even in times of great loss.

 

 

*For more from Julie, Visit her M:M Author Page. To learn more about inferfility, check out RESOLVE.

 

Author

  • Julie Eshelman

    Julie Eshelman is originally from Pennsylvania and met her husband while they were both attending James Madison University in 2009. She has been with him since he was in ROTC and has experienced military life as a significant other and a spouse since marrying her husband in 2015. Throughout her husband’s career, they have been in every type of duty status within the Army Reserve and are currently enjoying life as an Active Guard Reserve (AGR) family. They have been stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, WA, Scottsdale, AZ, Darien, IL, Fort Leavenworth, KS, and are currently stationed in Schuylkill Haven, PA. Julie has held careers in film & media, aquatics, and in the nonprofit worlds. She is passionate about advocating for military and veteran families through storytelling and raising awareness. Julie loves exploring new places, especially National Parks with her husband and daughter.

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