Infertility is hard on so many levels. Lack of control, the feeling of being let down by one’s body impacts self esteem and confidence. Physically, taking medication, dealing with medical interventions, and suffering miscarriages take a toll.
These stressors are compounded further when women don’t feel comfortable to vent. Often women put pressure on themselves to convey constant positivity in an effort to do everything they can to promote fertility. This forced positivity can create feelings of isolation within their relationships as women feel they need to either “act” happy or avoid social situations.Unwanted feelings of jealousy and guilt can creep into formerly supportive relationships. Even the compassion of others can be stressful to respond to over time.
Do you know how to help?
Infertility impacts partners greatly although they often minimize their own suffering in lieu of helping the partner. Feelings of powerlessness often emerge as a partner sees the other in distress but is ineffectual at solving the problem. This feeling can be compounded if the partner’s body is contributing to the medical diagnosis of infertility. There can be a deep sense of shame on either partners’s side that comes when their body becomes a source of disappointment. Often partners will use avoidance to cope with all this intensity. This avoidance however, can then create distance between partners and can lead to resentment.
Partners are often concerned with the financial aspect of infertility since it’s so expensive. The partner wants to invest in creating a family and help the other fulfill their dream of motherhood, but there is fear about the impact of financial stress. At the same time, the prospective mother is often entrenched mentally and biochemically in the desire for a baby and the pragmatics are often of less conscious concern. Sometimes partners don’t understand the other’s perspectives and become judgmental, misunderstood, and start to resent the other. A non-judgemental, experienced person can help translate and support both.
Are you so sad?
At the core is loss and grief. Loss manifests into feeling of not being in control and that can make people anxious, particularly for those who are typically high achievers. So, while one reaction to loss is sadness, of course, the reactions of frustration, being controlling with others, being hyper organized with the rest of your life, being hyper goal oriented, feeling a perpetual low level anger, feeling hyper critical of other people, are also grief reactions.
The loss associated with having a hard time getting pregnant, being infertile, choosing to not have a baby through medical interventions, and/or losing a baby is unique to the individual. What is universal, however, is the lack of validation that people give to the loss of being able to have an easy pregnancy and resulting baby. A person becomes a mother the moment they imagine giving love to a child. The attachment begins at that point biochemically and psychologically. When this bonding begins but gets cut short, without a full pregnancy it is a major mind-body-spirit loss. It’s made even more difficult for women who have to regroup and try again the next month.
Couples therapy is highly recommended. It’s a couples issue. Each partner is given support to process their losses and has the other as a witness. This listening to each other without defensiveness encourages a deeper understanding. Even if things are bad, if the relationship still has love and respect, it doesn’t take long for a couple to connect over their shared difficulties instead of being divisive.
When a person feels supported and allows themselves an opportunity to fully express their “negative” feelings without censorship or judgment, there is a natural release. The body exhales. In addition, psychotherapy also provides a place to learn skills in meditation, guided imagery and breath-work which directly impacts the way the nervous system responds to stress. Often illness gives some people, for the first time, the opportunity to slow down and learn about their natural response to stress, how to deal with their anxiety better by regulating their nervous system and their thought processes.
Infertility, while emotionally rigorous, also demands people to have to make very complex decisions with far reaching implications. Decisions about IVF, egg donation, freezing eggs, genetic testing, among others, can be overwhelming. Even people who are natural researchers can become psychologically fatigued at sifting through information and making so many major life decisions. For more information about this topic, please read the blog below: