How to cope with infertility
Finding out that you and your partner have a fertility problem whilst trying to conceive can be very stressful. Infertility may be one of the most difficult things to deal with for a couple and despite how prepared or unprepared you may be, the diagnosis of infertility can cause a variety of concerns and prompt a lot of questions.
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 support you along the way.
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 in a prescribed 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. It 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. It is made more difficult because it is a loss that is invisible to others and therefore difficult to comprehend. The consequence of this is that 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. You might also feel guilty which will make you feel even more angry 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. You start to believe that there was something you and your partner could have done differently. You may try to make a secret deal with God or a higher power.
Sadness and depression
Your guilt starts to turn into sadness and depression. You 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,” but it is important to know that this is not a clinical depression, but rather a natural response to a loss that needs be experienced in order to heal. Do not try to ignore your emotions. Allowing yourself to experience these powerful feelings can help you to move beyond them.
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 moreover, 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 partners grief is “normal”, and furthermore, that it can help you navigate the varying symptoms of the grieving process.
Finally, it can help you to recognize when you are emotionally ready to undergo fertility treatments 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 though infertility
You are a team
It is very common to feel guilty and many couples are tempted to blame each other. It is important to 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. It is vital that you and your partner stay as a team and support each other, in order to 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.
Talking about the experience and finding support in others who understand what you are going through, is decisive in getting through infertility. You can find support in many different 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 and 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 mediation, 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 helping balance you and your partner’s life.
Learn more about how to cope with infertility in this must watch TED Talk about infertility.