In a recent Coach, Connect, and Support session at HCA, Caroline Stafford, one of our remarkable students, courageously shared her 10-year struggle with infertility.
Her story not only delves into the challenges of infertility and how it can impact various aspects of our wellbeing, but also acts as a valuable source of inspiration, hope and encouragement for other women who may be going through a similar journey.
"Owning our story is the bravest thing we'll ever do."Brene Brown
So what happens when trying for a child, just doesn’t happen?
Embarking on the journey to parenthood is often a complex narrative of dreams, expectations, and unforeseen challenges. For Caroline and her husband, it became a decade-long battle against infertility, a struggle that unfolded as a series of hopeful moments intertwined with heartbreaks.
What started as a diagnosis of ‘Unexplained Infertility’ from the Doctors, (which wasn’t really a diagnosis at all!), led to years spent riding a rollercoaster of hope and heartbreak whilst undergoing IVF treatment in both the UK and Athens.
During that period, Caroline’s physical, mental and emotional wellbeing took a real hit. The physical toll of daily injections, bloating and pain meant her go-to mind boosting tool of running was out of the question and ultimately led her to feel completely disconnected from her body, to the point where she no longer recognised herself. Add to that feelings of shame, failure, loneliness and an inability to work due to the demands of IVF treatment and its associated time commitments.
"“I am usually always good at keeping my chin up and pretending everything is okay. But no matter how hard you try to get on with it, it can’t not swallow you up. You can’t not quietly count the number of pregnant people that you walk past in the street.”
Seeking support from others going through the excruciating ‘2-week wait’ IVF cycles, Caroline joined and met friends on online forums. Knowing first-hand how isolating it can be, she wanted to give something to those that were going through the same pain.
It was at that point she took up baking and biscuits became her life raft.
Stamping biscuits with messages of love, hope and encouragement, strangely anchored Caroline back to herself and helped to make a tiny bit of sense of what herself and those she had met on online forums were going through.
"If I could make others feel better, it made me feel better.”
In 2019, during a break from IVF, Caroline found out that she was pregnant naturally, the first time conceiving without IVF after so many years of trying. Her baking was still going strong, so much so she was now serving and sending biscuits from her very own bakery, The Kitsch Hen, in her hometown of Rutland.
However, on Christmas morning, Caroline and her husband endured a heartbreaking loss - it was at that point that they decided enough was enough and together made the decision to gently let go of what life should be and instead began celebrating life for what it truly is.
Caroline admits that pregnancy announcements, questions about adoption and that fear of loneliness in old age are things that still remain difficult, but what has perhaps has become easier is finding pockets of joy, even in the smallest of moments. In her own words:
"There are always, always silver linings! We have to choose joy and keep on choosing it!"
Caroline shares some of the other key things that she has learnt during her challenging journey:
We are so much more resilient that we think we are
We should be thankful for our struggles as without them we wouldn’t know our strengths
Health is a priceless gift - and means so much more than nutrition
Kindness is everything
We don’t have to do it all on our own - asking for help is okay, I wish I had a health coach back then to ask
We get to choose our purpose
Over the last four years, she has embarked on a transformative journey of discovering silver linings, finding meaning, joy, and purpose in a life without children, and ultimately pursuing her dream of assisting others on a similar path.
Aware of the profound impact that a Health Coach could have had during those trying times in terms of providing support, taking control and offering a reminder that life is an ongoing forward motion, Caroline made the decision to become a Health Coach and has spent the last 18 months dedicating herself to training with Health Coaches Academy (alongside baking copious amounts of delicious biscuits at The Kitsch Hen!)
She is on a mission to guide individuals in rebuilding their relationship with themselves, fostering self-compassion, and helping them discover their unique sense of purpose, and we can’t wait to follow her journey!
You too can follow Caroline on Instagram at: @thekitschhen
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