It’s been a long time since I wrote a post on this series, not because I’ve struggled to find a topic to write about, but because I wanted to make the most of the last two items in this series, and before now didn't quite feel I could commit to this.
The 24th in my list of the Gifts of Infertility is really a summation of many of the other items. It is one of the biggest gifts of the heartbreak that came from infertility and loss. It is self-discovery, and hasn’t just helped me deal with infertility, but has spread into all aspects of my life.
Self-discovery and personal growth often come out of difficult times. Sure, there are plenty of people who go through difficult times and come out of it just as selfish as they were before, just as some people come out feeling much more afraid, less trusting, and more self-focused than they were before this. But after a long time, I certainly recognise the benefits of the personal growth that resulted from of those difficult years.
Self-discovery does not mean that we have all the answers. I think that self-discovery means that we are more open to the realities of who we are, and can face up to both our talents and our flaws.
I have a lot of flaws. I think I’m aware of most of them, as I admit them to myself even if I won’t always admit them to others – just in case they haven’t noticed (yes, I live in hope). What I’ve learned though is that it doesn’t help me if I berate myself over them. I’ve learned to try to change them if I can, to face them – as I faced my shyness when I left on a student exchange when I was 17 – as issues that need to be dealt with or lived with, rather than to judge myself because of these issues.
Self-discovery came to me when I allowed myself to grieve. It came to me when I allowed myself to be vulnerable, to really feel emotions, rather than tamp them down. It came to me when I needed to think about what made me happy, after spending a long time of being very sad. It came to me when I needed to look at what I had, because looking at what I didn’t have wasn’t doing me any good. It came to me when I showed self-compassion, and so could face my flaws without terrible guilt and self-hatred and shame. It came to me when I was as kind to myself as I would be to friends and family, when I stopped beating myself up.
Self-discovery came to me when I saw what worked, and was honest about what didn’t. It came to me when I dropped the judgement, and tried to be productive instead. It came to me when I learned more about others, and that helped me learn more about myself. Self-discovery came to me through hard work and tears. It came to me through love and compassion. It came to me from inside myself, and from learning from other wise women who were walking alongside me and helping me.
Self-discovery is a continuing journey, applicable in all aspects of my life. It is a journey that can still bring disappointment in myself, and could easily be halted by shame. But if I don’t allow the shame to take hold again, if I can commit to the honesty required to get past it, self-discovery can also deliver satisfaction and joy and confidence and growth. The best thing about it is that it can banish a lot of fear, and that results in self-imposed burdens tumble from my shoulders. That freedom has allowed me to embrace the future, whatever it might bring. Self-discovery truly is one of the ongoing gifts of infertility.