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Hobbies After Infertility

Back when we were in our first round of treatments, Josh came home from work one day with a book about breadmaking.  He gave it to me, along with a pizza stone, and hinted that maybe I needed a hobby; a distraction from obsessing about each cycle.  A friend of his suggested the book.  The couple had done fertility treatments and ultimately built their family through adoption.  They knew how stressful it could be.  They thought this might help.

I threw the book.

But days later, I opened the book and started working my way through the lessons because I hated the idea of wasting book and pizza stone money.

Here’s the thing: it didn’t help.  Nothing could distract me from what my mind wanted to focus on.  But we did end up with some delicious loaves of bread, and I still use the book to this day.

I don’t know if I believe in hobbies as distractions, but I do believe in hobbies as a way to feel control when you’re in situations outside of your control.  A stitch is a stitch.  If you pull the string in this movement, it will make a stitch.  That is within your control.  Transfer an embryo to your uterus and hope that it sticks?  That’s out of your control.

So that’s what I got out of it.  I liked having a place in life where I could follow the directions and the end result was pretty much what I expected to happen.

Katherine A left a comment on the leveling up post last week that reminded me of that time between bouts at the clinic: when the twins were here but we weren’t ready to add a sibling.  All of the energy I poured into building my family was still there — that level of energy doesn’t just dissipate once the moment is over.  But it had nowhere to go.  There was nothing to research, nothing to measure, nothing to chart, nothing to jot into a spreadsheet.  No daily appointments, no daily medications.  I didn’t have a single timer set.

On one hand, it was such a relief to be done for a bit.  On the other hand, I felt so lost without a goal to focus on.

Katherine A writes:

I needed a hobby other than trying to get pregnant. It sounded so strange to reduce so much stress, sadness, money, etc to that point, but my life had really become so focused on ‘leveling up’ in that particular pursuit that I’d mostly neglected all the other parts of life I usually would have been working on. It seemed odd to let go – even in a temporary, small way – of something I’d put so much effort into and just enjoy where I was.

Yes, that is exactly it.

I forgot until that comment that I ultimately purchased a culinary school textbook and worked my way through the lessons.  I knew how to cook, but I didn’t know how to cook.  So I cooked, with the twins strapped to my chest in a double carrier.  For months I worked on making up my own recipes — my crazy-ass chocolate chip cookies are courtesy of this time period — and I kept a blog about working my way through the textbook.

By the time the textbook was done (skipping over several chapters on things that made me feel squicky), I felt more settled.  I felt like I could find ways to make myself feel happy or occupied.  I felt full again, focused again, even though I was — for all intents and purposes — lacking a clear focus in comparison to family building.

I don’t think it’s important to start a hobby as a distraction.  I think it’s important to start a hobby as a way to feel in control.  To take small steps towards a goal where the steps mean something.  Where X leads to Y which leads to Z.  To remind yourself that not everything in life is a roller coaster like infertility.

What will you teach yourself this year?

14 comments

1 apluseffort { 02.09.16 at 9:10 am }

Love this. I distinctly remember my second tweet (and my first, but that’s not relevant here): “DH suggested I find a hobby. I suspect tweeting about infertility wasn’t what he had in mind.”
But hey – tweeting led to blogging and here I am still doing it almost 6 years later 🙂

2 Lori Lavender Luz { 02.09.16 at 11:06 am }

Yay for apluseffort’s husband. And Josh.

I was having an unsolvable problem this morning. Instead of dealing with it, I unloaded the dishwasher. Why? ” I liked having a place in life where I could follow the directions and the end result was pretty much what I expected to happen.”

That’s a little different, but I did notice this morning that I was drawn to a more predictable cause and effect in the face of chaos and a sense of disempowerment.

Mmmm….Mel’s chocolate chip cookies….

3 Prairie { 02.09.16 at 12:26 pm }

Funny, I was just thinking about my blogroll & Instagram feed and wondering what it will look like in 2 years. It won’t be filled with infertility and breastfeeding and postpartum body acceptance. I will have moved on to other things.

For me, a photo-a-day thing has been incredibly helpful in a time when control and sanity and identity were pretty big issues. It’s a new hobby that I’m totally doing for myself.

4 Catwoman73 { 02.09.16 at 2:58 pm }

Since hubby and I gave up trying for our second, I have started taking ballet, gotten more serious about yoga, done a lot more running, become a really good cook, and started living a more frugal and minimalist lifestyle. These things still consume me, and I’m certainly not looking to add to the list this year. But it’s not about distraction or even about feeling in control anymore (though I think it used to be!). These days, all my hobbies are a way of embracing the freedom I now have. With only one child, life is so much simpler than it otherwise would have been, had we had the ever-elusive #2. And that is something worth embracing and celebrating!

5 words.pics { 02.09.16 at 5:16 pm }

Biggest: to learn how to do YouTube and then participate there. I’ve wanted to do this for awhile.

Otherwise, I want to get better at ukulele. I’m at that point where I can play a song, and you would recognize it. But the true skills of playing an instrument: no. So now to get better.

6 Sharon { 02.09.16 at 6:37 pm }

I took up hobbies when we were unsuccessfully TTC: I took piano lessons, read more, hiked more. focused more on healthier eating and exercise, and volunteered with my dogs’ rescue organization. Like you, none of those things distracted me from my infertility. (Well, except playing the piano: that actually did provide a distraction for brief periods.)

Oh, and now that I am a mother of twins who also works full-time outside the home, I have time for nearly none of those hobbies (only reading has survived). 🙂

7 Jessica { 02.09.16 at 7:08 pm }

I took up guitar while I was undergoing IUI treatments. It was a way to keep me away from Dr. Google when I had a few spare minutes on my hands – instead I would learn a new song. Now that that chapter in my life is over, it’s left me with a gift which will be with me for the rest of my life.

8 Jamie { 02.10.16 at 2:55 am }

Good post, and good reminder of where I am in life at the moment. When one part of your life is not within your control, it may be helpful to appropriately focus that energy towards something else. It is helpful when that hobby gives you pleasure, joy or release, along with that opportunity for control.

While bread making may not be your favorite hobby, I’m glad to hear you found it helpful. I think that is the tricky thing about IF is the loss of control and if you cannot find a healthy outlet, it will manifest itself in some way.

9 Cristy { 02.10.16 at 2:01 pm }

I completely agree. Though I knew how to knit, my knitting projects increased exponentially during infertility. Not because it was a distraction, but because it was something I could control. I could control the projects I chose, the modifications I made and how quickly I would go through each one. I could problem solve difficult areas because I could actually see what was happening and make changes are needed.

I couldn’t do that with infertility.

I get the need for distractions and breaks. There were so many days I simply needed to check out. But hobbies aren’t distractions for me. The pain was still there, still running through my brain. The only point of hobbies for me is finding joy in spite of the pain.

10 Raven { 02.10.16 at 2:55 pm }

I can so relate to this. I play the violin – I go through spurts where I play every single day, and then sometimes I don’t play for a week. I find, in those times where I play daily, it’s because nothing else seems like it’s within my control and I desperately need to hang onto something tangible, something I can control. If I don’t pull my bow across the strings, no sound will come from my violin. If I do pull my bow across the strings, sounds will come out. Period….no surprises, no disappointments.

Like you, this year I am going to learn how to cook. Real cooking – the kind that will make my chef of a mother in law proud.

11 Elizabeth { 02.11.16 at 2:26 pm }

Knitting.

12 Beth { 02.12.16 at 8:14 am }

Running. I became an obsessive (if slow) runner when going through treatments and again when we were in the wait for #2 through adoption. I stopped running the day we found out we were matched with birth mom of #2. It wasn’t intentional, I was simply too busy getting ready for a sudden baby and then taking care of a baby and a toddler. It’s now been 19 months… I miss it some days but I don’t need it in the same way I used to.

13 Anat { 02.13.16 at 7:31 pm }

Mmmm… Mel’s chocolate chip cookies…

14 Jess { 02.14.16 at 8:41 pm }

We like structure in our lives and maintaining a hobby gives us a regular pastime to engage in. I have doodling.

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