How to cope with infertility
Many couples who are on their way to start a family will experience fertility problems at some point. This is one of the most difficult things to deal with as a couple. If you are going through a period of infertility, you will most likely experience a variety of concerns and stress.
When trying to cope with infertility it can be very useful to understand the natural process of grief which we will walk you through in this blog post. Furthermore, we have gathered some pointers to help you understand how to cope with infertility the best way possible.
The natural process of grief
Having fertility challenges can stir up powerful emotions and couples are often surprised to learn that this range of emotions is very similar to the process of grief.
The process of grief has five stages. However, not everyone goes through all of them or experience them in a linear order.
- Shock, denial and isolation
- Anger or rage
- Sadness and depression
Shock, denial and isolation
People often think, “this isn’t happening” or “…this can’t be happening”. You may feel shocked or numb. This is a normal and temporary reaction to rationalize some of the overwhelming emotions, associated with infertility.
The ability to grieve the losses of infertility is challenged due to the potential chronic nature of the experience. This is even more difficult because it is a loss that is invisible to others and therefore difficult to comprehend. As a consequence, couples often end up experiencing isolation.
Anger or rage
As the masking effects of denial and isolation begin to wear off, reality re-emerges, and you are faced with the pain, of dealing with your loss. Often the pain will be expressed through anger or rage. This anger is irrational and often directed towards friends, family, your partner or even on your community. In addition, you might also feel guilty which will make you feel even angrier but can also make you feel helpless and vulnerable.
When you feel helpless you will often try to regain control through a series of hypothetical statements, such as, “if only” or “what if”. Guilt often accompanies bargaining and you start to believe that there was something you could have done differently. You may try to make a secret deal with God or a higher power.
Sadness and depression
At this stage, your guilt may begin to turn into sadness and depression. However, you will also begin to understand the loss and its effect on your life. This is the hardest stage of the grieving process but also very important. The key to coping with it is to acknowledge that you are going through a tough time.
Others around you may try to help you get “out” of this “depression”. However, it is important to know that this is not clinical depression, but rather a natural response to a loss that needs be experienced in order to heal. At this stage, you should not try to ignore your emotions. If you allow yourself to experience these powerful feelings, you might be able to move beyond them.
Acceptance of infertility
The experience of “depression” is what leads to the stage of acceptance. You accept the reality of the losses of infertility and you are able to move on. You might consider treatments that were unaccepted to you previously and you begin to explore alternative ways of starting a family. Although you still feel sad, you are able to start moving forward with your life.
Understanding these five stages of grief can help you realize that you and your partner’s grief is “normal”, and help you navigate the varying symptoms of the grieving process.
Finally, when you become familiar with the stages of grief, you recognize when you are emotionally ready to undergo fertility treatment or explore other alternative ways of starting a family. It is important to let go of the past and to peacefully accept your new reality, before embarking on the new parenthood journey.
Points to consider when going through infertility
You are a team
It is very common to feel guilty and many couples are tempted to blame each other. Remember that no one is to blame for infertility. It will be of no use to give you or your partner a hard time, as this will only make you feel frustrated and upset. Instead, you and your partner should stay as a team and support each other. This way, you can deal with the new reality in the best way possible, keeping the lines of communication open.
Try to look at you and your partner as a treatment team, who have the responsibility of being well informed on all aspects of infertility. The power of knowledge and educating yourself helps with the sense of powerlessness and this can further help you to feel in control of your situation.
It is important to talk about your experiences and find support in others who understand what you are going through. You can find support in many ways; your doctor, other couples, local support groups, Facebook Groups or different national organizations.
Find ways to manage stress caused by infertility
Going through fertility treatments can be a stressful time filled with uncertainty. Therefore, it is important to find ways to deal with it. Planning ahead can help you cope emotionally and financially, as well as setting limits and sticking to them.
Furthermore, learning mind-body techniques, such as meditation, breathing or yoga can be a great way of mastering stress. Exercising, eating healthy and planning fun activities can also help to manage stress as well as balance you and your partner’s life.
Learn more about how to cope with infertility in this comforting TED Talk about infertility.