Support for Coping with Infertility
I was recently interviewed by Dr. Carolyn Clansy Miller for Blog Talk Radio on how to cope with infertility. Infertility is an important topic as many people aren’t aware of the extent the pain of infertility can bring. Coping with infertility can be a daily struggle as the dream of having a family is threatened. I thought I’d share some points we discussed in the interview. Hopefully this can help you find the kind of infertility support you need.
What are some of the unique emotional challenges faced by those struggling with infertility?
Ulitmately, infertility is a loss, just as a death might be experienced. It’s extremely painful and devastating and includes common grief responses such as anger, depression, and blame. You might feel angry and have thoughts such as, “why does it seem so easy for everyone else?”
Whether there is a miscarriage or not, infertility is experienced the same as we would experience a death. When you’re a young child you imagine what your future will be like. You assume that one day perhaps, you’ll have a job, a house to live in, and a family of your own. Maybe you don’t think about it too much, or maybe you have more specifics in mind, regardless, you at least imagine yourself having children as part of that family.
When you experience infertility, you lose that fantasy in many ways. What you have always “known” is gone. This is true even if you’re experiencing secondary infertility. Perhaps you always imagined having a sibling for your child.
To make matters more complicated however, shame is also part of the emotional equation. Whether you feel shame because you can’t “provide” for your partner, or because of decisions you have made, or because you feel different, shame can complicate the grief response you feel.
For those that haven’t experienced miscarriage, the pain can feel greater because others don’t understand your loss without the loss of something tangible. It can make your experience feel even more isolating.
Impact of Infertility
Infertility impacts many key areas of your life, which further adds to the emotional strain. It impacts your relationship with your spouse in many ways. You’re both experiencing the emotional stress and thus are both more likely to feel irritable, depressed, or angry. You might even feel resentful, pressured, or just be at a different point in the process than your partner. You may also approach the situation differently. Some people tackle infertility full on, researching everything they can and implementing strategies while others would rather not address it at all. Others simply have the opposite approach as their spouse, which can create arguments.
Infertility impacts your relationships with your family and friends. You may suddenly find that the support you thought was there isn’t. You may feel that those who care about you, don’t seem to understand what you’re going through. It may seem like you’re out there on your own dealing with this.
You may want to avoid baby showers, events with kids, or even talking about how wonderful everyone else’s children are. Facebook can become a trigger. It takes time, but this will pass, just like most aspects of the grief process, as long as you work through your emotions and allow yourself to feel what you’re feeling.
Depending on the decisions you make, infertility certainly has financial implications, which can pose an additional strain.
Is There a Tendency to Blame?
When you go through infertility, it’s normal to blame. There is a similar process in grief. You might blame yourself, “if only I had started sooner, made different choices”, etc. You might blame your doctors, “why didn’t they refer me to a specialist sooner, why have we wasted so much time?” You might even blame your partner. Of course, none of these are healthy to hold onto, but they are common experiences in the process. What’s important is allow yourself to feel what you feel and move from one emotional stage to the next.
What Thing Do Well-Meaning Friends or Family Do that Exasperate the Issue?
The biggest thing that friends and family can do that feels unsupportive is to not acknowledge the pain you’re going through. Here are a few others:
– Not acknowledging what you’re going through and either avoiding the topic or acting like it’s just a simple question.
– Go on and on about how cute their grandkids or children are without checking in with you first.
– Inadvertently blame you. “Well if you worked on your stress level, perhaps it would work for you. You just need to relax.”
– Give random stories of one or two people they know about or read about for whom it worked when they least expected it.
Friends and family often mean well, but just don’t know what to do or say. They may be uncomfortable talking with you or be afraid of causing you distress. Everyone is different and we all have different needs for emotional support. The best thing to do is let people know what you need. “You know I’m going through…. what would be helpful for me is…..”, “Please continue to include me in….”, “It’s hard for me to attend baby showers right now.”
If you are a friend or family member of someone struggling with infertility, acknowledge what they are going through and ask how you can help. “I know this is a really difficult time for you and I’d like be of support to you in every way I can, I’m just not sure how. What would feel supportive to you?”
What are Signs You Need Infertility Counseling?
If you feel stuck in any of the emotional stages, that’s a sign you could benefit from greater infertility support. Exploring what you’re feeling with a professional can help you cope with infertility and move through the many emotions you might experience. You might get stuck in anger. Anger is a normal emotional response to infertility. When it goes on for a long period of time without you moving forward, it can indicate that you’re stuck there.
You could get stuck in sadness or depression. You might find yourself not feeling motivated, having less energy or having strong emotional reactions unsuspectedly. You may not necessarily feel sad to be stuck in this stage. Rather, you might just notice feeling more irritable and stressed.
If you find yourself struggling with feelings of shame or inadequacy, infertility counseling can be important to help you redirect attention to your situation in a helpful way.
Infertility counseling can help you navigate the many decisions you may be faced with as you move through infertility whether on your own or as a couple. You both might want to talk with an objective third party to help you reach a middle ground or decide on your next steps.
Infertility Support Groups
I highly recommend joining a support group to help support you through infertility. There are many different options available depending on your preferences. Infertility treatment centers and adoption agencies often have support groups available to members going through their process. Some churches offer infertility support groups. There are also “secret” facebook groups or infertility boards available. Some therapists also offer infertility support groups.
The benefit is that everyone in the group understands what you’re going through, they’ve been there and know the pain, frustration and ups and downs.
If you are experiencing infertility, it’s important to know which options are available to you. Here are a few to consider:
1. Remaining childless.
4. Egg or Sperm Donation
5. Embryo Donation
Contact Us for Infertility Counseling
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