Managing the Emotional Stress of Infertility Through Communication
Cheers, dear readers,
I have mentioned here before what an emotional roller coaster it can be dealing with infertility and the subsequent treatment. I know first hand, and also from talking to others about their struggles. While undergoing fertility treatment, many couples tend to live in month-to-month cycles of big hopes and massive disappointments that revolve around ovulation calendars, thermometers and menstruation. This can be especially upsetting when our loved ones tell us often times how easy it was for them to get pregnant – they never had to stress about looking at a calendar or timing intercourse for ovulation ever – it just seemingly magically happened. This all adds to the stress we can often feel.
We ask ourselves questions like:
What have I done to deserve this?
How can I go to another baby shower when I feel this way?
What will I do if one more person asks me if I am still trying to get pregnant?
Has my body betrayed me?
Do I have any power or control over anything that is happening right now?
How will I cope with this depressing situation?
And the worse one in my opinion:
What have I done to cause my infertility?
It’s not unusual to revisit negative behaviors, thoughts and feelings from your past and wonder if they are in some way connected to your infertility. You may feel there is something wrong with you and your body, and if you caused this disease. You may feel guilty because you spent many years trying to get an education or build a successful career rather than build a family. I struggled with all of these thoughts too. The negative emotions and sadness can be overwhelming, and as I mentioned in the last post, can lead to depression if you are not keeping a watchful eye on your emotions. Also all of the worry and anxiety about whether you will become pregnant this month or not factors in as well, and can even negatively impact our fertility. Sometimes the emotions around trying to conceive can be more challenging than the infertility treatments themselves!
As couples navigate a tight and often grueling schedule of tests and treatments, they place their lives on hold – postponing vacations, putting off career moves or other major life decisions such as moving or buying a house. Others find that the sorrow, anger and frustration that can come with prolonged fertility problems invade every area of life, eroding self-confidence and straining friendships. Literally just the other day, someone in my life was telling me about how her friend that struggled with infertility was displaying signs of anger, not showing up at baby showers and was starting to not be pleasant to be around. That was tough to hear because I was that person! I feel compassion and empathy for her infertile friend – not the inclination to point the finger and say “stop making life unpleasant for me and get back to being the happy, agreeable you that I was comfortable with already!”
Whether others offer sympathy or compassion during your struggles or not, it is absolutely imperative that you show compassion, kindness and acceptance to YOURSELF and your partner. Realize and accept that you and your partner will have some ups with a very large dose of downs as you deal with your fertility problems.
One of the most important things that you and your partner can do to stay close is openly talking to each other. Be clear and direct about how you’re feeling, and encourage your partner to do the same. Don’t try to guess how your partner feels, and also don’t assume your partner magically knows how you are feeling! You and your partner may not feel the same way about trying to conceive, and you may have very different ways of coping. One of you might feel guilty and sad while the other feels angry and agitated. The emotional impact of infertility issues is far-reaching and complex. Allow each other the space to process emotions in your own ways, respecting individual differences in how you cope while lending an empathetic ear whenever needed. Listen with an open mind and look for ways to manage this difficult time together.
It might be helpful to set some limits as well. Focusing only on your efforts to have children together may add to your stress and overshadow everything else you enjoy together as a couple. For example, try setting a time limit for conversations about infertility. And if certain social gatherings trigger too many painful emotions – say, dinner with a newly pregnant friend or a family gathering with a lot of young kids – you might want to take a pass.
At some point, you may have to examine your commitment to becoming parents and consider joining a support group if you decide to go ahead with or continue treatment. Communication is important here too as one of you might want to explore every fertility option available while the other prefers to go on trying to conceive naturally. You or your partner might even want to stop fertility treatments entirely but be too afraid to raise the subject. If you or your partner is feeling anxious, depressed, or overwhelmed by the situation and decision process, a mental health professional or counselor can help. Connecting with others in your situation is incredibly helpful and rewarding. Remember that you can always speak with Eric and I whenever you need to. We are here to support you on your journey.
Please join us next week to hear more about our personal journey down the infertility path. I look forward to speaking with you. And I wish you the best on your journey.