Have you ever seen a pregnant woman on the street or at the mall and felt like bursting into tears? Do you feel alone in your struggle with fertility issues, like even your partner doesn’t understand what you feel? Maybe you’re going through ups and downs with fertility treatments, from hope to worry to disappointment and then hope again. Or you may be trying to decide if you’ve had enough and it’s time to pursue a different path to parenthood.
You are not alone—any couple dealing with fertility issues or undergoing fertility treatment rides an emotional roller coaster, which may include anxiety, depression or feeling out of control. But that doesn’t make it hurt any less when some thoughtless person asks, “When are you two going to start your family?”
Loss, Disappointment, Denial, Anger, Shame
Feelings of depression, loss and grief are very common when people are trying to conceive, according to RESOLVE, the National Fertility Association. You may not even recognize that’s what you’re feeling, but your body may show it:
- Lack of energy (especially when you have an unsuccessful IVF cycle or when you will see a pregnant friend)
- Irritability (snapping at people or making mountains out of molehills)
- Trouble sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Extreme sadness
- Inability to concentrate
You may feel angry, like the world is letting you down. Most of us believe that, if we’re good people and do the right things, we’ll get what we want out of life. Not being able to get pregnant is a real smack in the face to the happy lives we feel we deserve.
Other people feel shame, as if they are inadequate men and women because they can’t conceive. Unfortunately it’s easy to translate a failed procedure into feeling like a failure as a couple. Experts at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) state that infertility often creates one of the most distressing crises a couple has ever gone through. In some families and some ethnic groups there is a great deal of pressure to have a family, which may increase feelings of shame and failure.
Coping With Infertility
It’s okay to feel your feelings. Don’t deny them or bury them. As a wise therapist once said, “Put on some sad music, have a good cry, then get up and move on.” Or punch a pillow and scream! But put a limit on how long you can do either of these, like 20 minutes. Wallowing in an emotion does not help you feel better.
Don’t expect your partner to react the same way you do to the situation. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that, since they don’t react the same way you do, they don’t care. Now is the time to communicate how you want to be helped. “Honey, I don’t want to talk about it, but I’d love a hug,” lets your partner know exactly what to do to make you feel better. And your partner will feel better with something concrete to do.
If you or your partner find your emotions are becoming too much to bear, seek help from a professional psychotherapist or counselor. Your fertility clinic may have a therapist or counselor affiliated with it or may be able to give you a referral. A good therapist can help you sort out feelings, strengthen your coping skills and develop new ones, and communicate with others more clearly. One of the greatest benefits of talking to a therapist is having an impartial, nonjudgmental listener who can guide you through painful emotions.
This may be especially helpful when you’re at a crossroads in fertility treatment, considering alternative treatments, or not in agreement as a couple on what treatment you want to pursue.