Don’t Let Infertility Struggles Define You
Infertility may be the most painful thing you experience in this life. Not only is it heart-wrenching, but it can last a long time, double-digit months or even years.
Infertility is a ruthless foe. And when you are in battle against it, that battle can feel all-consuming. You may forget that there is life outside of your desire to have a child.
Being a parent feels so important. Maybe it feels like the most important thing in the world.
But when it doesn’t come easily, there’s a danger of infertility becoming not just an enemy to battle against, but an all-consuming monster that steals your joy and devastates your life journey.
If you feel like your infertility struggles are beginning to define you, take some tips from our patients, who have been down this road before you.
Infertility doesn’t make you “less” of a woman.
So many women who are experiencing infertility feel that an inability to get pregnant somehow makes them less of a woman, or less of a wife, partner or daughter. They worry about disappointing their husbands. They feel their body has failed them. That perhaps they are defective in some way.
If this is you, please hear the next words: you are more than what your body can do. Your body may not be doing what you want it to, but that does not make you less of anything. Don’t let shame tell you differently. You are valuable. You are important. You are loved. You are whole. Remember that. Every day.
Say “no” to the blame game.
Thirty-five to forty percent of infertility cases are labeled as either “male factor” or “female factor” with the rest of the cases being either “combined” or “unknown.” When the finger is pointed squarely at one or the other partner, blame can set in. For women, self-blame is the most insidious of all. You may find yourself bombarded with messages that perhaps it’s your own anxiety or “uptightness” that is to blame. That you need to just “relax and let it happen.” As fertility experts we can tell you no and no. While stress can play a role, psychological factors are secondary to biological ones (lots of anxious, Type-A women have no trouble getting pregnant). Just as some people develop cancer or multiple sclerosis or autoimmune disorders, some women struggle with infertility. It’s not their fault. It just is.
Don’t let the technical spoil the moment.
What’s less sexy than no sex at all? Scheduled sex. Analyzed sex. Medicalized sex. Yes, infertility treatment can be a mood killer, but you tolerate it because, when it comes to conception, timing is everything. But sex isn’t just about making babies. It’s about intimacy. Connection. Love. And even if a baby doesn’t come this month or next or the month after, that doesn’t mean your lovemaking was a “fail” or “wasted.” Sexual intimacy is important in its own right. Let yourself feel loved. Cherished. Surrender to it. To each other. You’re on this journey together. Be there for each other, in each other’s arms. And even when it’s not “time” make sure you’re still there, holding hands, kissing, just being together, just having fun.
It’s okay not to be happy for others, or to be happy for them a little later.
People who have not experienced infertility don’t have a clue what you are going through. And even if they know you are struggling with infertility, they may not know what that means. You probably didn’t know what it meant until you went through it yourself. That said, several years of other people’s ultrasound pictures, baby shower invitations and birth announcements can eat away at you inside. Of course you don’t want to be left out of other people’s happiness, especially when they are people you love, but you may need a little time to process it. Give yourself that time. Give yourself the space to grieve. Like Rule #4 says in “Life Rules for My Beautiful Daughter” (author unknown): “It’s okay to cry when you’re hurt. It’s also okay to smash (some) things; but, wash your face, clean your mess, and get up off the floor when you’re done. You don’t belong down there.”
It gets better.
These three words may be hard to hear when you are in the thick of infertility, but they are so true. Whether your journey ends with a perfect son or daughter or not, whether you carried that baby in your body or not, whether it has your genome or your partner’s genome or not, there are so many ways to be a parent. Low tech or high tech infertility treatment may lead to pregnancy, or you may choose to create a family through fostering, adoption, embryo adoption, surrogacy or other means. Maybe you simply decide that your future will be child-free. However the story ends, it will be okay. And if it doesn’t turn out the way you imagined, it’s okay to grieve the loss of the family you always envisioned for yourself. Most infertile couples who want to become parents eventually do. Your journey may be long, and bumpy and sometimes hard. But one day it will be behind you. Your fertility is just one aspect of your life. It doesn’t define you.