Updated 11/6/2019 with the latest research!
Science shows that living with gratitude can make you happier- but can it also make you more fertile?
Let’s do a little experiment!
Close your fists tight. Right now, while you are reading this, close your fists tight. Now imagine someone is trying to give you something- a gift, money, a baby. You can’t receive them, can you?
Now open your hands. Shake them out and relax them. Smile. Reach out and take that gift, money, or baby. Say, “Thank you!”
It feels better to receive doesn’t it?
We may know that we need to be receptive and open, but when we are suffering we all go to that place of the clenched fist. We are angry, anxious, scared, and we comfort ourselves, nurse our wounds. We feel victimized, “Why did this have to happen to ME?” We confront God, “Why would you do this to ME?” We become angry with our friends that seem more fertile, “Why is SHE pregnant AGAIN?” We clench our fists, and we skip baby showers. We clench our fists, and we eat more cookies and watch more Gilmore Girls. We clench our fists, and we shake those fists at God.
But- a clenched fist can’t receive. If we are to be open to the miracle of life, if we are to be receptive to the blessings that may be bestowed upon us, we have to be ready to receive. I believe that the best way to open ourselves to be receptive to the miracle of life, in all its many forms, is to practice gratitude.
When we practice gratitude, we become more aware of our blessings and less aware of our despair. We are telling the Universe- I am happy, I am blessed, I am ready. We are reaching out for the baby to be placed in our arms. And, we are practicing being what Julia Indichova of Fertile Heart calls the “Ultimate Mom.”
When we are taking the scenic route to our babies, we can easily move from yearning to hurting, anxiety, frustration, depression, or anger. We yearn to be mothers, and yet it seems like for some reason we aren’t allowed to be. When the doctors told me that my only hope was donor eggs because IVF probably wouldn’t work for me, I was heartbroken. I was already struggling with the anxiety of trying to get pregnant (and stay pregnant), and this last message sent me spiraling. I had to take a break from the whole process to get my head on straight. After that “break” I started a number of mind-body practices to heal myself emotionally and physically, and to make myself more fertile. I did acupuncture, hypnotherapy, reiki, the Fertile Heart Program, Circle & Bloom, dream journaling, praying, walking, time in nature, crafting, and more. One very purposeful thing I did was decide to practice gratitude.
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I did this in five major ways.
1- I started and ended each day with prayers of thankfulness. My morning and nighttime prayers both started with a request for forgiveness (“please forgive me for the selfish things I have done and the unselfish things I have failed to do”) then moved straight into gratitude. In the evening it would be general blessings, “Thank you for my wonderful husband, thank you for my sweet cat, thank you for my incredible family, thank you for my great job, thank you for my warm house, thank you for my nutritious food, thank you for the money to be able to afford organic food, thank you for the availability of organic food,” etc., etc. Sometimes I would fall asleep counting my blessings- something I highly recommend.
For my morning gratitude prayer I took a suggestion from the book The Secret and said thank you for each blessing as I noticed it upon awakening. It would look like this:
Thank you for another day.
Thank you for eyes that open and shut, and that let me see the world.
Thank you for a warm bed and my cat and husband next to me.
Thank you for a roof over my head.
Thank you for legs that I can walk on.
Thank you for teeth that I can brush.
Thank you for my glasses and my contacts.
Thank you for hot showers.
Sometimes, I would just say, “thank you, thank you thank you, thank you” over and over again.
The latest gratitude science suggests that every day you think of one positive experience that happned in the last 24 hours. Visualize it happening again. Bullet point each detail you can remember. Do this for 21 days and you’ll be doubling your daily positive experiences and changing your brain!
2- I did gratitude journaling. I was already doing dream journaling, and writing letters to my future baby, so it wasn’t a stretch to start gratitude journaling. I would take the time each week to write down what I was thankful for. If you need to be formal about it, there are plenty of Gratitude Journals that people love and will guide you through it. But honestly, you don’t need that. All you need is a notebook you love, and you can write down your gratitude.
The latest gratitude science shows that you need to write down three NEW things you are grateful for each day! You also need to be very specific about why you are grateful for the thing. No repeating, and no simple answers :-). Do it for 21 days and change your life.
3- I wrote thank you notes. I invested in thank-you notes that I loved and took the time to send them. I sent them as thank-yous for gifts, calls, and thoughtfulness. I brought a couple stacks to work with me to keep in my desk so I was always ready to write out a thank-you note to a coworker who had gone out of their way to help me.
The latest research suggest that making this a habit can change your life completely. For 21 days, every morning send someone different a heartfelt thank-you note. It could be an actual note, but it could also be a text, email, Facebook message, or Instagram message. Just try it and see how it goes! Research shows this increases our feelings of gratitude AND social connection- one of the greatest predictors of happiness!
4- We gave more to charity & I volunteered. Nothing is better for letting the Universe know you are grateful than giving to others. We increased our monthly and yearly donations to charities we love, and I started volunteering one night a week teaching English as a Second Language to recent immigrants at my church. When you give, you realize that you have so much.
5- I wrote down all the blessings of our baby journey. Instead of feeling hopeless and desperate I started thinking about all the blessings our journey had brought us. In fact, a couple days after I ovulated in the month we conceived our miracle baby I have an entry in my gratitude journal all about the blessings of our “struggle with infertility.” I’ll write another post on that another time, but they included: we had time together as a couple before having kids to travel; we learned how to eat well and cook clean; we removed dangerous toxins from our house and personal care routines; we invested in making ourselves happier (yoga, meditation, Circle & Bloom, Fertile Heart, etc.); our sex life became even better; and the challenge drew us closer together as a couple. These were blessings I identified BEFORE I knew I had gotten pregnant, when I still thought we were going to try IVF (but it would probably fail) and then spend tens of thousands of dollars on donor eggs. I’ve identified so many more since then.
There are plenty of other ways to practice gratitude. If you google it you’ll find lots of ideas including making a gratitude collage, calling your mom and grandma more often, starting a 365 day gratitude challenge, and other ideas.
Make a commitment on January 1st to start your gratitude practice. It will definitely make you a happier person- and it might even make you more fertile!
Are you ready to start practicing gratitude on your fertility journey? Do you already have a gratitude practice? If so, leave a comment below with your commitment!
The 79 Things!
Want to know how I got happy, healthy, and pregnant in less than 3 months after 2 years of infertility and miscarriages?
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When Anna Rapp was struggling with infertility and recurrent early miscarriage, she was diagnosed with diminished ovarian reserve, High FSH, low AMH, low follicle count, endometriosis, and an MTHFR mutation. Despite being told donor eggs were her only solution, Anna used her graduate training in research methods and analysis to read everything she could find on fertility and egg health. Ultimately, she lowered her FSH and got pregnant naturally (twice). She blogs about how she did it and encourages her readers to take charge of their fertility journey and get happy, healthy, and pregnant!