Our Infertility Journey

The Illustration That Got Me Through My Infertility Grief

My last post was a perfect example of the period of despair that follows the feedback of yet another negative pregnancy test.

The good news is that I’m through that stage of the infertility cycle.  However, I have to admit that it took a lot more effort this time than any of the past times.  Thankfully, that period of darkness fell coincidently on the day of a pre-scheduled grief counseling appointment.

That appointment was a life changer.

The Illustration: Automatic VS Logical Thoughts

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My counselor had drawn this illustration for me several times before in helping me through the grief of my brother’s passing.  However, this time, a light bulb finally was lit as I understood what was happening in my mind.

The illustration is of a concept in cognitive behavioral therapy called, “Automatic Thoughts.”  Automatic thoughts ‘pop up’ or ‘flash’ in your mind without conscious thought.  It takes no effort to conjure automatic thoughts, much like it takes no effort to kick forward your lower leg with firm tap to the tendon located just below the kneecap.  It takes a lot of effort and energy, however, to conjure logical thoughts.  This has to be trained.

Examples of automatic thoughts:

  • Situation: I made a mistake >>>  Automatic Thought: I’m a failure.
  • Situation: We broke up >>> Automatic Thought: I’m going to be alone forever.
  • Situation: My pregnancy test is negative >>> Automatic Thought: I’ll never a mom.

In the Illustration is depicted a weighted scale.  The scale on the left represents logical thoughts.  The scale on the right represents automatic thoughts.  The illustration is supposed to represent the balance between your logical and automatic thoughts before the course of a triggering event.

When you receive feedback or encounter a situation, you form beliefs.  Those beliefs are structured with automatic thoughts, that then “kick over” to logical thoughts.  For example, seeing the result of a negative pregnancy test (the situation) is visited with an automatic thought of “I will never be a mom,” but then kicks over to a logical thought of, “This is just a single pregnancy test, and we have 1 more cycle of IUI still to go.” This “kick over” happens when you are experiencing normal levels of energy, as this change in thought takes a good deal of effort.

Now Enters the Second Illustration: Being Stuck in Automatic Thoughts. 

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This second illustration depicts what happens when you do not have enough physical, emotional, or psychological energy to ‘kick over’ your cognitive thought pattern.  If you are experiencing triggers and energy depletion in any of these areas, you are at risk of not having enough cognitive energy for that logical thought “kick over.”

In my last post, for example, I was going through each of the following:

Physical:  It was Day 1 of my Cycle, and I’ve been on Chlomid for 3 consecutive cycles.  My hormones were literally out of control.

Emotional: I was sad about not being pregnant, of course.  But I was also mourning having been pregnant and losing it.  I was also mourning the loss of my brother, as this is his birthday month.   On top of that, it was a crazy work week and I was anxious about that day’s series of Client presentations.  Last thing – Brett and I actually had a fight a few days before that (which is SUPER rare).  

Psychological: I was beyond stressed at this point because of the physical and emotional effects listed above.  On top of that, I was fearful that I would never be a parent, and that Brett would leave me because of that.

That, my friends, killed my “kick over.”  I was cognitively incapable at that moment to get back to the logical side of thinking.  I would not have been able to recover that day, had it not been for my counselor helping me understand what was going on.  I immediately felt better after she made me re-focus on logical thinking by asking me a series of direct questions after I would explain to her how I was feeling:

“Tell me, Patty – have you and Brett ever talked about what would happen if you could not have children?”

ME: “Yes, actually, we have.  We’re actually crazy-stupid-happy-in-love with each other and have been since we started dating over a decade ago.  Brett told me really early on that he loves our life together.  He said that, though kids would be an awesome adventure, so would our lives together without children.” 

(LIGHT BULB – Oh, ya… that makes more sense than the automatic thought that he’d leave me — he of course never would).

“Tell me, Patty – What did the Doctors say about why you aren’t able to conceive?”

ME: “Um…well.. the doctors did all the tests to Brett and me that they could, and couldn’t actually find anything wrong with us.  They said we fall into the group called, ‘unexplained infertility.’  Our new doctor actually told us after our miscarriage that he believes that IUI will be effective for us since it was effective in the first round.  He actually told us that he feels confident that we will be pregnant within the next few months with continued IUI treatments, and have a healthy and uneventful pregnancy”

(LIGHT BULB – Oh ya… that makes more sense than the automatic thought that I’d never be a mother).

And just like that, balance was restored.

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My homework from my session was to (when I was ready and not super emotional from PMS) write out the logical thoughts about my infertility, and keep them up where I can see them.  If this happens at every cycle, then the positive affirmations will help give my “kick over” a jump start.

I really think it will help.  Brett does, too.  He wants to buy my counselor a thank you gift. LOL









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