How do couples survive infertility intact?
Cheers, dear readers,
Today’s post is going to happily mark several milestones. The first is the one year anniversary of our Slow Swimmers & Fried Eggs blog! I cannot believe a year has gone by! What a body of work we have created here alongside Conceive Gynaecology & Fertility Hospital and the Shrivastav family! It has been an amazing journey working with Dr. Pankaj Shrivastav, Dr. Nishi Singh and Dr. Daamini Shrivastav in supporting their patients. I am in awe of the care, concern and monumental efforts they take in being innovators in their field – including having the courage to take infertility head on by having Eric and I share our journey here. I am honored that you believe in our ability to positively reach your patients in a loving, sensitive and beneficial way. Thank you for giving us the platform to speak from the heart about this difficult issue of being diagnosed with infertility – a taboo subject that is often stigmatized. One of my missions is to use my creative writing skills and passion to help others overcome challenges through vehicles like this blog. I could not have done this without you.
I have another milestone to celebrate! This past July 4th marked the twelfth anniversary of the day that Eric and I met! Wow, where did the time go! I hold that day so close to my heart and cherish the memory of our first day together and the magic that we both felt that day. I also am so grateful that we are still together, still in love, treasuring our relationship and what we have built together, including not-so-easy achievements such as authoring this blog. There are some days that it is difficult to write about these painful experiences that Eric and I endured and survived through. Actually that challenge is going to be the subject of this post:
How do couples survive infertility intact?
For many couples having a child is an integral part of their vision for their lives. When that vision is challenged by infertility, the damage to a couples’ marriage can be irreparable. A Danish study shows infertile couples who fail at treatment divorce three times as often as those who don’t! Researchers found that more than one-quarter of woman who were unable to conceive in a previous relationship were either divorced or living alone in the years following – as much as 12 years later. This fact helps illustrate that not having a child after fertility treatment may adversely affect the duration of a relationship for couples with fertility issues. It is not to be taken lightly the amount of stress that couples are under when faced with fertility problems. The effects can last for years to come, sometimes ultimately resulting in the end of the relationship.
Research has found that couples can often survive the early stages of treatment. However, there can be a lot of losses along the way, including miscarriage and stillborn births in addition to the loss of their dreams and expectations of having children. Often unresolved grief if it’s not worked through can be very disruptive to a couple. The relationship can be a reminder of the childlessness and the losses. And so ending the relationship might be perceived as less painful than staying in it with a person that their life dreams have been shattered. Sad, but often true.
In contrast, there is other research that supports the outcome that infertility problems can sometimes bring couples closer together through a perception of joint hardship. Being that Eric and I are 12 years in to our union and feel as close and loving as ever, I can attest that this is how it worked for us. But not all couples survive infertility intact by any means.
What tips can I offer for having your relationship not only survive infertility, but thrive through it? Here’s what I can share from my own experience:
1) Be kind and gentle with yourself, so that you can better be there for your partner in a loving and supportive way. Pamper yourself, get a massage, exercise, spend quality time with those you love. It’s important to work hard at taking care of yourself both emotionally and physically during this time.
2) In times of great stress and anger, do your best not to blame your partner, even if the infertility issue resides with them. Infertility is a disease – not a slight against you and your future that your partner had no control over. Try to remember that.
3) Communicate, communicate, communicate. Sometimes the best way THROUGH something is to talk through it. Get your feelings, thoughts, struggles out on the table, so that you can sift through them productively. Definitely speak about your hardships with your partner, and do your best to share with them, and allow them to share with you. It will help bring you closer together if you help support one another.
4) Don’t forget to do the activities together that you found fun and relationship building BEFORE you were diagnosed with infertility. We can get so wrapped up in the medical side of trying to conceive that taking time off from that goal can seem like “taking your eye off of the ball.” But you really MUST take happy time out for yourselves and do your best to remember why you are trying to conceive in the first place: Because you love each other.
5) Keep the romance and affection alive in your relationship. With all of the doctor’s appointments, needles and little plastic cups, it can be easy to forget about romance and having sex for the joy of it. Try to take time out to be romantic with each other, and be intimate for the sake of it, not with JUST the end goal of creating a baby in mind.
6) Hugs and holding hands. Need I say more? The simple gestures of loving affection can go a long way to help bond you with your partner in times of stress. Don’t forget the little things that make life fantastic and worth living.
7) Seek outside help when needed, such as a therapist, support group or marriage counselor. Let’s face it: this is not an easy road you are on, and sometimes you need help. Don’t be afraid or ashamed to ask for it.
Finally, I think it is important for not only the infertile couple but also the medical staff that work with these couples to remain aware of the increased probability for divorce if treatment fails, so that proper intervention can be initiated. If fertility hospitals can make a solid effort to de-stigmatize not only infertility, but also counseling for their patients, that would go a long way to honoring this process. Here at Conceive Hospital, they are doing exactly that. Hats off to you!
Please join me next week to hear more about my personal journey down the infertility path. I look forward to speaking with you. And I wish you the best on your journey.