Some common issues in working with infertility include but are not limited to the following:
- Isolation – everyone around you seems to be pregnant or has a baby. When you are struggling with infertility, it seems that all you notice are pregnant women and babies. Everyone seems to be able to become pregnant so easily – why not me? My siblings were all able to have children and being an aunt was wonderful, but watching family members become parents when I could not was less than easy.
- Resentment – why does it seem so easy for other people to become parents? What did I do to deserve this? Going to one more baby shower and trying to be happy can be overwhelming. At the point that I was trying to have a baby I was working with many children in foster care. The fact that there were so many people who couldn’t take care of the children they had made me question if I was able to continue to do this work while struggling with infertility. Knowing that so many children were neglected and/or abused certainly led to increased resentment over my perceived unfairness of life.
- Impact on relationships – this can be huge. Infertility can wreck havoc with relationships and can lead to strain in relationships. For women, they might believe that the man has no idea what they are going through. For the man, it might seem that nothing else is important except the infertility work. At a time when two people should be very close, it often leads to distance and fear of talking about what is going on. Infertility often takes the spontaneity out of sex. Instead of having sex because it is fun, it often feels like work. Are you both on the same page with when enough is enough? Are you both ready to move on to another way of becoming parents or choosing to remain childless? It can take a long time for two individuals to be in the same place with stopping infertility treatments. Communication is so very vital yet is often the thing that breaks down quickly. In my situation, I was quicker to move on to the process of adoption.
- Physical issues – hormone therapy, injections, sonograms, appointments with the physician, it can be all consuming and take up huge chunks of time. Hormone therapy can wreck havoc on emotions and can challenge even the most rational of us. I remember thinking that if I had to suffer through one more sonogram with a full bladder I was going to scream! Yet, we keep going because giving up is not an option.
- Roller coaster emotions – one minute you are up and sure that the process is going to work and then you get your period and you are back down into a deep emotional pit. Every single month, you have to get up the emotional and physical energy to try again. After a miscarriage it is extremely hard to muster up the courage to try one more time. There were times when as much as I wanted to try to become pregnant, I was terrified that I would.
- Financial – infertility treatments can be very expensive. Each month that passes means more and more cost. How long do you keep sinking money into a process that has no guarantee of a positive outcome? What are you sacrificing to keep working toward a pregnancy? At what point do you think about putting your resources into another process?
- Grief and Loss – any infertility process if often fraught with grief and loss. Letting go of a dream of a biological child is a process that takes time. It is often one slow step at a time. You can’t completely move on to a new process until you have allowed yourself to grieve the loss of the dreams that you had. There is life after infertility but it is often impossible to see this when you are in the midst of grief and loss.
These issues are only a few of many. Without emotional support during the process, it is my belief that isolation and fear are increased. Talking with others who are experiencing or have experienced the same process can help. Often, however, it is simply too painful to talk. It is my belief that the process of infertility needs to include education and counseling. So many times we go into a process with only some of the information we need. There should be increased resources and an ability to sit and talk with someone about the emotional impact of the process. Getting that all dreaded phone call from the physician with the news that the process did not work would be softened by an offer to speak with a counselor and to talk about what this news means. With this increased support, it is likely that the process could be less isolating and less emotionally challenging.
The road to parenthood can be challenging but it need not be made more difficult due to lack of education or support. Coming together to talk about common experiences and to be able to share fears can make a significant difference in how one manages the ups and down of infertility work. This in turn can lead to a reduction in stress which may have a positive impact on the physical side of infertility. It is my hope that the upcoming workshop will lead to an ongoing series of workshops and an increased support system for anyone struggling with infertility.
Read More about Infertility: About Parenthood for Me and their Annual Fundraising Gala, Are You Ready to Consider Adoption, Dealing with Infertility, Struggling through Infertility, Infertility and Adoption, Pregnancy After Adoption