Wanting a baby and not being able to have a baby can be a very painful experience for both men and women. Going through fertility tests and treatment is a long and stressful process which can affect people’s emotional wellbeing and even their sense of identity. Here are some thoughts on three of the hardest things about infertility and what might help in coping with them.
1. Lack of control
Fertility is one thing in life over which we have little or no control. You want to get pregnant, you do everything you are supposed to do but after months and years of trying it is still not happening. Effort does not guarantee outcome. There are many different types of fertility treatment available and it’s tempting to keep going, trying anything and everything in the hope that one day it will work and you will have that dreamed for baby….but maybe it won’t…and the best doctors in the world can’t make it happen.
What can I do? Focus on the choices that you do have. You can choose how you will respond to a very challenging situation. Will you choose to put your entire focus on this issue for a while, and put other things on hold? Will you choose to focus on the present and try and live life to the full? Will you allow yourself to consider what opportunities might await you in a childfree future?
2. Social isolation
Your friends are getting pregnant. Your sisters and cousins are getting pregnant. Your colleagues are getting pregnant. Only you seem to be left behind. Infertility can lead to feelings of isolation and strong emotional pain when others around you seem to be able to conceive so easily and it feels so unfair that you can’t. You may feel resentful and jealous and find it heartbreaking to be around pregnant women and babies which may make it hard to spend time with your family and friends. Your partner may be a good source of support but may not be feeling exactly the same way that you are and the whole situation may be putting a strain on your relationship leading you to feel more alone.
What can I do? Find someone safe to talk to. Infertility is more common that you might think. If you are able to find one friend who is going through it too this can really help in feeling less alone. There are support groups such as SIS and online forums where you can talk to others who are going through similar experiences. You might consider having counselling (on your own or with your partner) so that you can share all of your mixed up emotions with someone outside your network of friends.
3. Living in Limbo
It can feel like you’re in a constant state of waiting and planning anything is hard, especially for women - from planning your summer holiday (because you don’t know if you will be pregnant or not) to planning your next career move (because you don’t know when you might or might not be going on maternity leave). It can feel as though your life is on hold and the future is uncertain. You are constantly going through a cycle of hope and disappointment. You may be coping with the grief of losing a baby through miscarriage alongside the hope of getting pregnant again. There is a lot to hold in tension and it’s hard to find a balanced place.
What can I do? This time is really tough and it’s important to be kind to yourself and to keep doing things you enjoy. Try planning things to look forward to in the near future such as a meal out with your partner next week or a weekend away next month. Don’t let the possibility of pregnancy stop you from planning something you really want to do – you may look back and regret not doing it. See if you can find ways to enjoy life today and tomorrow rather than thinking ahead to the future all the time.
Whilst I have shared some thoughts on ways of coping with these difficulties, there are no easy answers and this is simply a very hard situation to face. Trust that you will get through this difficult phase of your life. When you have reached “the other side” - whether that means finally having a child or finding another meaningful path in life - you may be able to look back and see that something good came out of this experience.
Gill Wier runs a course on Coping with Infertility. See our Courses page for dates of the next course.