Infertility is seen first and foremost as a physical problem. It involves body parts and human cells that either work and come together to create a new life or they don’t. When you’re diagnosed with unexplained infertility, as far as any doctor can tell you, everything seems fine. You pass all the tests with flying colours except the most important one, the one where you get to take home a baby. This diagnosis often leads couples to try many alternative treatments, things they would never consider or even imagine to be helpful. One such treatment for me was hypnosis.
My only association with hypnosis up until that point had been what I remembered from the cartoons of my childhood or the television comedy specials my dad would watch when I was growing up. It involved the patient lying on a couch, with the hypnotist waving a pocket watch, repeating phrases such as “You are getting sleepy, very sleepy — now bark like a dog.”
So you can imagine my skepticism when I read that hypnosis was becoming a more common treatment for women with the specific diagnosis of unexplained infertility.
The more I read and researched, the more I realized that there was growing evidence to support the importance of the mind/body connection as it related to fertility. I was already familiar with the work of Dr. Alice Domar, who developed different mind/body techniques that included relaxation training and stress management to help women navigating infertility. Many of the women in her program went on to achieve pregnancy and their psychological symptoms were greatly reduced.
A quick online search lead me to a certified hypnotist who practised five minutes away from my place of work. She informed me that she was not specialized in infertility but had a colleague who was. This colleague worked in another city, an hour away, so I told her that if she was willing to take me on, we could muddle through together.
Looking back now, I can say how fortunate I feel that she said yes.
Together we worked on pregnancy-specific, anti-anxiety and peace-inducing visualizations and affirmations. I did lay on a couch, and candles were burning but it was not that different than a treatment at the spa, only this time it was the mind we were focusing on and not the body.
The basic aim of hypnosis is to reprogram patterns in the mind, enabling irrational fears, thoughts and suppressed emotions to be overcome. I listened to and repeated phrases such as “I fully accept that I’m worthy of motherhood”, “I’m thinking the best thoughts I can at any given moment” and “I’m finding it easy to connect with a sense of trust. I’m expecting the best to happen.” She had me visualize the life I wanted to live, pregnant and giving birth and raising a family with my husband.
But even more crucial to my healing was the work we did surrounding grief, and self-compassion. She told me to experience grief as it occurred, in waves, and to not be ashamed of it. She encouraged me to forgive the body that I felt was betraying me and to focus on all the wonderful things it did allow me to enjoy, like a good meal or a beautiful piece of music. She helped me deal with the ugly emotions of envying other people’s seemingly effortless pregnancies and had me treat myself as I would, a young child, with compassion and empathy.
She became my go-to person when I was having a bad day, or even month.
She was just an email or a phone call away when a treatment cycle failed, or another surprise pregnancy was announced. She forever encouraged me to practice self-care like going for walks or enjoying dinner and a movie with my husband. She advised me to create a file in my mind containing images of joyful moments for reference during the particularly difficult ones. She was also one of the first people I told that I was pregnant after seven years of trying and she cried tears of joy for me.
I now consider her a dear friend and from time to time, she helps me deal with the ups and down of life and motherhood. During those two years that we worked together, I learned so much about how taking care of your mind and soul can have long-lasting effects on how your body deals with adversity. I was able to reduce stress and better able to support myself to deal with life’s challenges. I was able to live life outside of constant pain and frustration. I was able to look to the future with hope but most of all, peace.
By Lori S