Helen Adrienne L.C.S.W.

On Fertile Ground

Infertility as Transformative

You can grow from the challenge of infertility! Learn how.

Posted Sep 06, 2011

The following passage is from the Essene Book of Days. It was given to my daughter and each of her classmates by the Dean of the college at their graduation ceremony. College graduation is among the many life changes that can be anticipated. Infertility is never anticipated. Even though you are tossed unexpectedly into an unwelcomed set of circumstances, the wisdom of these words provides a valuable perspective to adopt when infertility renders your life unrecognizable.


"Sometimes, I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings. I'm either hanging on to a trapeze bar swinging along or, for a few moments in my life, I'm hurtling across space in between trapeze bars.

Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. It carries me along a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I'm in control of my life. I know most of the right questions and even some of the right answers. But once in awhile, as I'm merrily (or not so merrily) swinging along, I look ahead of me into the distance, and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me. It's empty, and I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart-of-hearts, I know that for me to grow, I must release my grip on the present, well-known bar to move to the new one.

Each time it happens to me, I hope (no, I pray) that I won't have to grab the new one. But in my knowing place, I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar, and for some moment in time, I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar. Each time I am filled with terror. It doesn't matter that in all my previous hurtles across the void of unknowing, I have always made it. Each time I am afraid I will miss, that I will be crushed on unseen rocks in the bottomless chasm between the bars. But I do it anyway. Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience. No guarantees, no net, no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because somehow, to keep hanging onto that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives. And so for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, I soar across the dark void of "the past is gone, the future is not yet here." It's called transition. I have come to believe that it is the only place that any real change occurs. I mean real change, not the pseudo-change that only lasts until the next time that my old buttons get punched.

I have noticed that, in our culture, this transition zone is looked upon as" nothing," a
no-place between places. Sure the old trapeze bar was real, and that new one coming towards me, I hope that's real too. But the void in-between? That's just a scary, confusing, disorienting "nowhere" that must be gotten through as fast and as unconsciously as possible. What a waste! I have a sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is the only real thing, and the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid the void, where the real change, the real growth occurs for us. Whether or not my hunch is true, it remains that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places. They should be honored, even savored. Yes, with all the pain and fear and feelings of being out-of-control that can (but not necessarily) accompany transitions, they are still the most alive, most growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments in our lives.

And so, transformation of fear may have nothing to do with making fear go away, but rather with giving ourselves permission to "hang out" in the transition between trapeze bars. Transforming our need to grab that new bar, any bar, is allowing ourselves to dwell in the only place where change really happens. It can be terrifying. It can also be enlightening in the true sense of the word. Hurtling through the void, we just may learn how to fly."

Infertility can feel like "hurt-ling" thorough space. Despite the fact that you didn't sign up for this challenge, you still get an opportunity to turn the tables on this unasked for change. In particular, learning mind/body stress reducing skills can go a long way to more effective coping, enabling you to ride this "tsunami" rather than be swamped by it.
You might enjoy reading the stories of the twenty-four former fertility patients of mine whom I interviewed in my book, On Fertile Ground: Healing Infertility. As their skill with mind/body interventions grew, every one of them realized that the void created by their infertility actually was a fertile time, pregnant with possibilities for growth. Every one of them, believe it or not, felt that they came out of this adversity not only with their families, but transformed into a new, improved version of themselves.

The void cannot be avoided. But it can be utilized to your advantage.