Navigating the Emotional Journey
Infertility is becoming more and more of an issue in the lives of couples in North America. In fact, one out of every ten couples experiences difficulties conceiving a child. As fertility treatments such as IUI and IVF become better and better, your chances of conceiving a child do increase. However, infertility diagnosis and treatment remain accompanied by a variety of challenging emotions. Here are some tips on how to manage your emotions while navigating your way through infertility.
Shock is often the first emotion that occurs after a diagnosis of infertility. We are all aware of infertility and the need for various types of fertility drugs and treatments. Most of us know of someone who is battling with fertility issues. However, rarely do we expect to be the one with the fertility difficulty. Most of take conception for granted, and assume that pregnancy will happen when the time is right. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
It is important to let yourself experience the initial shock and grief that comes along with an infertility diagnosis. Though it can be very distressing it is important to talk with your partner about what you are feeling. Try to:
- devote some time to crying together
- write down your immediate thoughts and feelings
- let your partner share his emotions
Initial shock can be very disturbing, but usually only lasts for a short time period.
Along with shock, feelings of denial may also be quite strong when you are first made aware of your fertility issues. Denial often works as a coping mechanism, helping people to deal with difficult situations. Most of us grow up with the idea that if we work hard, we can achieve anything. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and it can be desperately hard to accept when it comes to fertility. But in order to move on with fertility treatments or future endeavors, it is important to move past the denial stage. Denial can lead to ineffectual treatment or even prevent treatment from ever happening. In order to deal with denial be sure to:
- Talk with Your Health Care Provider: Your reproductive endocrinologist can offer you a lot of information about your infertility. She can also offer you advice when it comes to choosing the right treatments for you.
- Do Your Own Research: Visit the library, join a support group, or find online information about infertility. This information can often help patients to overcome denial.
- Speak with a Counselor: Fertility counselors can help you to overcome the denial stage and learn to accept a diagnosis of infertility.
It is very likely that you will, at some point during your fertility treatments, experience a newfound sense of anger. Anger is a normal and healthy response to a diagnosis of infertility. For example, you may feel angry that you have been diagnosed with infertility, while your friends or family members have not. You may feel angry at the sight of a newborn child and mother, or at a young child’s birthday party. You may also feel angry with friends and family who just don’t seem to understand what you are going through. It is important to express your anger even if it may seem culturally taboo to do so. When expressing your anger:
- avoid physical or emotional confrontation
- try to clarify your feelings, either with words or on paper
- allow your partner to express his anger
- talk with a fertility counselor who has the expertise to help you work through your anger
Guilt and Blame
Guilt and blame are also common emotions after a diagnosis of fertility. Many men and women begin to blame themselves for their inability to help with conception. You may feel as if it is your fault that you cannot have a child, and this can lead to severe depression, isolation, and self-esteem problems. You may also experience lingering feelings of blame for your infertility. You may blame your partner for being unable to have a child, or you blame others around you, including friends or family members.
Feelings of guilt and blame are natural, but they can also be very destructive, especially when it comes to your relationship with your partner. Unspoken guilt and blame can make life very difficult, so it is important that you acknowledge these feelings to your partner. Counseling sessions can often help bring these emotions to light in a supportive environment.
Many men and women who are facing infertility feel utterly alone in their experiences. Infertility is a very personal time, and it can be hard to talk to others about your feelings surrounding the subject. You may feel that your friends and family simply don’t understand you, or that your partner doesn’t care about your feelings. You might also find it increasingly difficult to work up the motivation to go to work, socialize, or even get out of bed.
It is important to fight this sense of isolation in order to maintain a healthy and accurate view of the world. Fertility support groups are made up of men and women who also experience fertility difficulties. These groups can be great places to express your feelings and connect with others on a meaningful level.
Dealing with Infertility Emotions
It can be difficult to deal with the wide range of emotions that infertility can bring. Here are some suggestions to help you cope with the emotional journey.
View Conception as a Process
It can be difficult not to expect positive results right away once you begin fertility treatments. However, treatments can take a long time, and you and your partner may need to undergo a variety of different tests and treatment options. Try to view the treatment journey as a process. Remain positive but don't expect to see results right away. Instead, talk with your partner and fertility specialist about when you can expect to see results.
Set Boundaries with Your Family
Undoubtedly, your family and friends will want to be there to support you through this challenging time. However, it can sometimes be difficult to discuss all the emotions that you are feeling with others. You may need a little time on your own to work through all of the different feelings. Remind your family and friends that you appreciate their support, but ask them to respect your privacy. Suggest to them that you will seek them out when you need to talk.
Get Involved in Your Life
Fertility treatments have the potential to take over your life. Not only do they require time and money, but also intense emotional commitment. You may find yourself taking time off of work, avoiding social outings, or just forgetting to enjoy life while you and your parter take on this battle. But it is important not to lose sight of your everyday activities. Take the time to step away from your infertility battle everyday by reconnecting with friends, going on special outings, or pursuing an activity that interests you.