It’s a while since I shared a story with you & I’m really pleased to share Lorna’s which is both beautifully written & includes many nuggets of advice.
Just reading the 2nd paragraph had me cheering, both when she said that she’s made many tweaks and changes in order to rebalance my life to give myself more time to do more of what makes me happy and what makes me, me! & has become a more confident, improved version of myself. I refused to continue to be the victim of infertility. Now, I see myself as the victor.
Lorna has also recently published a book which you can read more about after her questions. Over to Lorna..
1. Where are you on your journey now?
For 10 years, infertility was an interloper in my marriage, eroding my self-esteem, bank balance and happiness. I joined online support groups and forums, read a library’s worth of books, blogs and helpful articles, nevertheless, few places offered sanctuary from the perpetual feed of pregnancy, and proud new parents. Accosted by our child-centric society, I felt like I was the only one not getting pregnant, scrabbling to keep all my marbles in place. I felt very alone.
Now that is behind me, and over the years, I’ve made many tweaks and changes in order to rebalance my life to give myself more time to do more of what makes me happy and what makes me, me! I have come to accept my circumstances and celebrate the woman I have become who was once sucked under by grief, but who has managed, through the kindness, wisdom, love and support of many others, to rise up to become a more confident, improved version of myself. I refused to continue to be the victim of infertility. Now, I see myself as the victor.
Being a stepmother unable to have my own baby nearly finished me off. I was very depressed, in fact unwell, for almost a decade. A decade interspersed with failed IVF treatments, a marriage that almost ended, and a life that was simply exhausting juggling trying to conceive, my stepmum responsibilities and my career. However, once my husband and I sought regular professional help from an amazing relationship psychotherapist, our lives began to change for the better.
I realised that there were many women, just like me, struggling with infertility and childlessness. The more I researched and spoke to others about it, the more I felt impassioned to write about it, poems, prose… a book. I felt increasingly compelled to support others who were struggling, giving them hope with a sprinkle of humour to lift them up to be in a happier healthier place again despite the sadness of childlessness. I thought to myself, ‘Why should we feel like this?’ We need to help each other more!’
And so, I set out on my mission to write my book, Everyone One Else But Me, which took 8 years. Getting the tone just right by speaking and listening to others as they shared their own experiences of loss, loneliness, tears and frustration and also how they too managed to survive and thrive again, was a privilege and so insightful. These conversations with remarkable women led to the creation of Everyone One Else But Me, a story of courage, determination and emotional support, (especially for women & couples confronting the demands of step-parenting alongside the rollercoaster of infertility, & involuntary childlessness.)
Whilst, at first glance, there’s little to laugh about in this whirl of heartache and loss, a sprinkle of dark humour can help us through even the most testing times. This is what the story and poems inspire; comfort, reassurance, the release of a bottled-up tear, and laughter! We could all do with laughing a little more! I’m very proud of my book and how it is helping readers in their own journey.
3. What helped you to heal/how did you deal with your grief?
Through honest, empowering conversations with two fantastic therapists (at different times) I learnt to be honest and not bottle up my feelings. There was no shame in how I felt. It was normal. I then learnt to stop fighting myself and telling myself I should be more able to cope with the terrible grief of losing my IVF embryos, my future children. With professional help, I realised that to feel better, we must give ourselves permission to feel sad, to cry, to ask for help, to understand our feelings, and to grieve our failed treatments, our ‘lost’ embryos, and unresolved childlessness. We shouldn’t feel guilty or ashamed!
I started being much kinder to myself, practising self-compassion, and being aware of my emotional stamina levels which are key to survival. I was more realistic with what I could and could not manage. I no longer fell into the trap of comparing myself with others, feeling I should be more like them. In reality, we’ve no idea what is being concealed behind closed doors. Everyone operates differently, has different strengths and challenges. Once I really grasped this, I focused more on valuing and developing my own strengths.
4. Previous story tellers have found working on one or more of these areas to be helpful. If one or more of these helped you to work through your grief, please explain how?
- Some sort of body work, such as yoga, dancing, walking, CST, pilates etc
- Those tricky concepts beginning with ‘self,’ such as acceptance, love & kindness
- Having a writing practice
- A gratitude practice
I get a natural high from singing, so I joined a soul choir to help keep me topped up with positive creativity. It was brilliant to connect with new people in safety, away from children. This did my confidence, and mental space the world of good. Plus, every week, listening to our voices harmonising together, being part of something so beautiful, something my body could do well, made me feel, well… just wonderful!
To ensure I had the right elements of balance in my life, I sought out and invested in friendships that nurtured me, reignited my inner spark, and filled up my emotional tank rather than depleting it. I also prioritised more time with friends who were able to provide a safe environment, non-child related conversational content, and a calm mental haven – imperative for me a usually confident woman who had found herself developing anxiety issues when it came to social events, or even leaving the house.
I set aside time and space for more self-care as a priority. It took trial and error to hone what realistically would work for me, but over the months and years it became an essential part of my life, balancing out the sadness that still bubbled up from time to time. For me, in challenging periods, a combination of talking therapy, increased rest, running, writing my poems and my book, cooking and music have been what I needed to work through my grief. (I love the endorphin hit from running. Mentally, running has been a very healing and worthwhile practice.) I found my unique self-care recipe for what works in my busy life, especially combining it with my work pressures too. When work was super busy, it was hard to maintain it. It still is. But it is fundamental to my physical and mental well-being.
5. What positives (gifts) have come into your life now?
Several years ago, I took the decision to work part time. Financially, there have been some tricky moments, but I’ve always been resourceful and able to find extra work, like tutoring, to top up the funds. Since going part-time, I’ve grown fitter and stronger. I started running again around the meadow, along the sea front or through the forest. Plus, my husband and I adopted a rescue a dog, Faith. What a joyful addition to our family she is! She is our loyal companion and loves exploring with us. My husband’s smile when our dog goes bananas as he walks in from work, is wonderful. She’s an instant tension-easer for him, me and my stepdaughter.
Through this process of grieving, then self-renewal, let’s call it, I’m wiser. I care far less what others think. I’ve a better understanding of my own worth. And I’m far kinder to myself than I used to be. I’m also more confident when it comes to choosing or even filtering out who it’s healthy to have in my immediate support network. Becoming a shinier, happier version of myself is an on-going process, an evolution. It is such a positive to feel freer and more confident, to be healthier, to have more time to write and encourage others.
Finally, one of my greatest achievements, my greatest positives that has come into my life now, is my book! I’ve finally become an author!
6. What is possible in your life now?
I no longer feel completely drained and distracted by grief. I realise that my writing is important and not just a whim or self-indulgent hobby. It’s my passion! My poetry in particular, as well as reading, and connecting with others has helped to keep toxic thoughts at bay.
Also, as I now have an expansion of head-space, heart-space and self-confidence, I now I have the mental resources and resilience to give more to others professionally and personally, rather than only just keeping myself afloat. I’m now studying to become a counsellor and/or life coach.
In different ways, my husband and I both have the heart of encouragers. I love seeing him thrive too. Now, I have more capacity to encourage him in his desire to follow his path. We have a stronger more authentic relationship.
7. What advice would you give to those who are in the midst of their grief?
Seek professional help as soon as you are able. Seeing a counsellor regularly to talk about our feelings and emotions, having that support is vital for our mental health. Being unable to have a child whilst witnessing the bond between my husband and his, was definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. There were days when I wanted to stay curled up on the sofa and cry all day. There were others when I suffered from anxiety and making decisions and going out just seemed too hard. So, take each day at a time. If that is too hard, just take each hour at a time. If you are having a bad day and feel sad, allow yourself to feel the pain, allow yourself time to grieve.
Be kind to yourself and don’t force yourself to be in situations that may be too difficult or will have negative ramifications. When there is no way to avoid a situation with pregnant women or families, think through how you will react and then give yourself time to decompress afterwards. Being open with people was the best strategy, usually resulting in greater understanding and kindness. Plus, treat yourself with love and kindness. Put that self-care above all else. If you do need to have a day at home on the sofa, take it and don’t feel guilty. Your sanity is more important.
I believe in the power of words. Saying positive words to yourself can affect your mood and how you react to things. Personal mantras and positive visualisation made things easier. Daily meditation, visualisation and mantras helped considerably. You also need to surround yourself with lovely people. You need a support crew. Let the people who say the offensive things drift out of your circle for the time being.
If you are unhappy at work, then look for solutions to make it better. If reducing working hours, changing or quitting your job feels like the right thing to do, then do it. Learning to say no to taking on too much work, going for walks at lunchtime, reducing my working hours and workload helped me feel less stressed. The more you can do to make your life less busy and stressful, the better. Adjust your expectations of yourself, so that they’re kinder, more realistic.
Nurture your relationship. Find ways to support each other and spend quality time together. Talk and listen to each other, having regular check-in together. Not long rants, and whinges, but honest, caring conversations. Don’t forget to support each other and communicate about how you are feeling.
Finally, it’s your journey and only you can decide how that is to be travelled.
8. What’s your 6 word memoir?
From Smith Magazine’s Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six Word Memoirs from Writers Famous and Obscure. I invite you to click here to find out my 6 Word Memoir. I hope you enjoy!
More about Lorna
Bio: I’m an author, infertility survivor, trainee counsellor/coach, performance poet, teacher and stepmother, working in primary and secondary sectors in the UK and abroad. I’m originally from Dorset in the UK, but now live with my husband and rescue dog in Murcia, Spain. I love running, singing and spending time outdoors either enjoying a bit of space and reflection time alone with my dog, or with my husband, friends or family.
More about ‘Everyone Else But Me: Life, Love, Loss & Laughter through Infertility’
Long-term infertility causes a mindboggling array of hidden issues, from workplace discrimination to financial instability, from marital difficulties to serious mental health concerns. Yet, in an age of deconstructing social taboos with access to almost limitless information, there remains a significant lack of understanding of these harmful repercussions. Offering powerful insight into the struggles of sufferers, and raising awareness to spark enlightening conversations leading to greater support is at the heart of Everyone Else But Me.
Ultimately a story of love, resilience and survival through infertility, the stories and experiences of other remarkable women are also woven into this sometimes harrowing, yet uplifting scrutiny. Each thought-provoking chapter’s core message explores a different theme, ending with a carefully crafted poem audibly brought to life via a QR code. Whilst, at first glance, there’s little to laugh about in this whirl of heartache andloss, a sprinkle of dark humour can help us through even the most testing times. This is what is hoped the poems inspire; comfort, reassurance, the release of a bottled-up tear, and laughter.
This is the book; the story, the poems, the research, the facts, the advice, the care and the humour that I would have appreciated reading when at the peak of my own psychological tussle with this shadowy and elusive nemesis. I believe this book will be an excellent resource for the increasing number of men and women facing these challenges who wish to rise up from the adversity of grief to feel more empowered and less alone.
Everyone else but me: Life, Love, Loss & Laughter through Infertility shines light into infertility’s murky, misunderstood corners in a way that supports the self-care and well-being of infertility sufferers, educates the uninformed, and entertains those who need a pick me up. And for those who keep going, year after year, for those who need encouragement to go forth with wisdom, strength and renewed optimism, this book is for you.
“It’s important to tell it as it was and now is. Now, I give myself permission to acknowledge and respect how I felt. That is the way it was. And now I am a new version of me. Like a phoenix from the flames. Stronger, wiser, a little haggard perhaps, and sometimes still sad, but no longer so sad, ashamed or anxious.”
“A tale of knock-backs, resilience and oh so many laughs. Even in the darkest moments of her fertility journey, Lorna emerges in glorious technicolour with a message of hope for others. And her poetry is golden!” ~ Emma Burgess, Editor
Do you think your story could inspire others?
I started publishing Inspirational Stories so that women who are struggling can be inspired. The purpose is:
- To show that it’s possible to have a positive life,
- To explain what’s positive about being childless and
- To explore what helped healing & how to make it happen.
So if you think your Inspirational Story could help other women this is how it works.
I’ll send you a list of questions, and you choose and answer a minimum of 6. I’ll post your story in your real name or any other that you chose to give me. If you have a website or blog I’d be happy to link to it so I’ll need the details and a short bio.
If you think you could inspire others please contact me or leave a comment below.
Over to you
Has reading Lorna’s Inspirational Story helped you? If so please add your comment below.