Trying for a baby can take up a large part of your life: the initial stage when natural conception doesn’t happen; the tests for a medical diagnosis (and maybe there isn’t one); possibly drug treatment or surgical options; then IVF (perhaps lots of IVF rounds); and for a few the option of donor conception treatment. A few people may keep going, for 10 years or more. Most people will reach an outcome in much less time, especially if you can’t afford private fertility treatment. However long this takes, you need to find a way of coping with the uncertainty and anxieties, and strains on relationships throughout this time and beyond.
Fertility counselling for couples in Surrey and Sussex
Women and men generally respond differently to infertility. Women can be more distressed and anxious while men tend to be solution focussed and try to make the best of things. It is useful to understand this and empathise with how your partner is coping. Cloudtalk Counselling allows couples to express how each of then feels and what they need from each other.
Problems having a baby – friends and family don’t always help
Emotionally you can go through the spectrum from hope and optimism to despair, with every emotion and social concern in between. Family, friends and work take up a lot of the counselling conversation: how parents react to you; how many brothers and sisters are pregnant or have young children; the constant question – ‘And when is it your turn?’ Who do you tell at work and how do you deal with all the time off for appointments? Some people don’t tell anyone what they are going through, as it seems easier. Often people try to protect their parents from their own distress, or they don’t have the supportive relationship that makes for a helpful conversation.
So what can help? What can you do to help yourself and others?
|Dr Shannon Sutherland, obstetrician-gynaecologist, Ohio says in Not pregnant, by Cathie Quiller that you mustn’t allow this situation to define who you are. Infertility is a medical issue just like any other, not a reflection of you as a women (or a man).
Try not to let it take over your life, still do fun things and keep up friendships if you can. You can grow from this situation
Coping with anxious feelings around fertility treatment
- Whatever your feelings and thoughts, they are common and normal under the circumstances. They won’t always be there. Feeling bad or guilty about how you are feeling adds another level of anxiety. Try to accept your feelings for the moment and talk them through in counselling or with others.
- The whole process of infertility is one of loss, and you are entitled to go through a grieving process. The difficulty is that this is mixed with the hope of forthcoming treatment, so often you will be trying to ‘put away’ the distress. Feeling upset and fearful will not prevent conception; don’t worry that you ‘must feel positive’.
- Fertility treatment, and the time it takes, can affect all aspects of your life, and it feels like life is on hold; there is a ‘stuckness’. Try this visualisation: imagine you have a large balloon blown up, in front of your face. Then imagine you are letting the air out until it is about a quarter of the size. Then imagine drawing a quadrant (four squares) in front of you and put the balloon into one quarter. The other three squares represent other aspects of your life, so acknowledge your work, friends and family, holidays, social life and fitness. Difficult as it is, don’t let go of these things, independently of your fertility treatment.
- Relationships with family and friends are affected; it can seem as if everyone you know is pregnant. Feeling jealousy and anger is natural; I personally feel that avoiding seeing these people for a little while – if that’s what you want and are able to do – is ok. Perhaps you can explain what you are going through, maybe by email, and hopefully they will understand.
Coping strategies for anxiety:
- Learn about the ‘normal’ responses to infertility (see above)
- Give yourself permission to cry and be angry
- Give your spouse/partner permission to feel and cope differently than you
- Tell your spouse/partner how you want to be helped
- Try some therapeutic treatments, such as yoga, acupuncture or mindfulness
A structure of good habits can help you through grief (from Grief Works, 2017, Julia Samuel)
- Exercise first thing
- Do some work or chores
- Take time to reflect on your loss and how you are feeling
- Do soothing, calming things – cooking nice food, listening to music, having a massage
- Have regular times for sleep
Sources of help
It will help if you can be aware of the emotions raised for you, your partner and others close to you. There are a number of ways of doing this: all fertility clinics have specialist fertility counsellors available, who have knowledge about fertility and treatment, who will empathise, and be non-judgemental. Becoming aware of and untangling emotions helps you to cope with them. Gaining acceptance of the uncertainty helps. Talking through decisions you may need to take.
There are fertility forums where you can talk to others going through a similar experience. Keep to the well moderated ones such as Fertility Network; avoid using the internet indiscriminately as some information may not be accurate, and people who are extreme in their views. There are also fertility chatrooms for men, often a preferred outlet for them.
Partners, friends and family members can also be helpful, but bear in mind they have their own distress and emotions about your situation (for instance, potential grandparents; pregnant friends who feel guilty) and may not listen and empathise.
|As Julia Samuel says in Grief Works, 2017, this is discomfort – we need to be able to sit with the pain of grief, which is the toughest thing we can go through.
But remember, we are working towards the light at the end of the tunnel, whatever that may bring you.