TTC: Many of us really struggle with trying to have a life that isn’t totally consumed by our baby making difficulties. It can feel at times like we’ve lost ourselves amidst the blood tests, injections, scans and tests.

So how can you live whole heartedly with all the love, belonging and connection that you wish for – and still manage the negativity and fear that is a natural part of the ttc journey?

Tea with Mara

One of my teachers, Tara Brach, told this story this week about The Buddha after he had become enlightened. For the next 50 years he taught about compassion and wisdom. But even though he was enlightened he still was affected by his shadow side – insecurities, fears and sadnesses – feelings ruled by God of the shadow-side, Mara.

Each day, thousands of followers would travel to hear The Buddha speak. He would teach in large fields so he could accomodate everyone, and his beloved disciple and devoted companion, Ananda, would be there to help organise the people. Often he would see Mara lurking on the edges of the field, and would rush up to The Buddha saying, “Oh no, Mara is here! It’s baaad, baad!” But The Buddha would tell him it was OK, and then he’d go over to Mara and say, “I see you Mara. Let’s have tea.”

Facing the shadow-side

When we have things in our lives that aren’t working as we would wish, often we push these feelings away. We reject and ignore them.

What this story teaches us, is to do the opposite. When The Buddha says “I see you Mara” – he’s teaching us to name how we feel eg. “I see you fear” or “I see you anger”. When you name it, it stops you from spiralling into the next fear thought and the next… Then rather than running from this feeling, he asks us to have ‘tea’ with it, ie. can you come to know it, rather than dismissing it or pushing it away?

I know this sounds counterintuitive, I really do. But if you ignore your shadow-side it only grows stronger. Instead, if you speak gently to it and bring this feeling close, you change the relationship you have with it. It’s still there, but there is a softness to it. You’re not holding it as tight – and as a result, it lessens.

It may take a while and many rounds of naming your fear and being gentle with what you find before you start to make progress. This is fine. It’s starting that’s the important bit.

A small gesture of kindness

One good way to help you have ‘tea’ and soften, is to give yourself a gesture of kindness when you’re feeling out of control. By placing your hand on your cheek, belly or heart helps to steady yourself, and reminds you that you’re doing the best that you can as you navigate this crazy world of fertility.

So, let’s recap: next time you hit a pothole in the road as you ttc, remember:

  1. Name it eg. “I see you fear”
  2. Have tea with it – soften, sigh out
  3. Give yourself a gesture of kindness – place your hand on your cheek, belly, heart and know you’re doing the best you can.

I’m proud of you. You’ve got this.