You’re out running a routine errand when you see one pregnant woman walking with a toddler in a stroller and a pre-schooler walking alongside. You turn the corner and there’s a pregnant woman sitting at a sidewalk café talking with her friend who is holding her own baby. You meet your friend for lunch who tells you that your mutual friend just found out she’s expecting, after just starting to try. Your mother calls to let you know that your cousin will be delivering soon so there will be a baby shower to attend.
How could this be fair, you think? You’ve been trying to conceive for what seems to be a lifetime and still no baby. Everywhere you turn it seems everyone is either expecting a baby or has one, or two, or three!
You’ve tried to have other things to focus on in your life but the baby thing seems to be what keeps cropping up. Your relationship has become much about baby making, and each month brings anticipation and hope, then loss and let down. People tell you to relax, take a vacation, don’t try to focus on it. But, no matter how much you convince yourself you’re relaxing and not thinking about it, your most fertile time is still in the back of your mind and your lovemaking becomes baby making again.
Infertility is a crisis and a trauma. It hits on physical, psychological and relational levels. With it come powerful emotions and self-evaluations. One may feel loss of control over their lives, poor self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy, loss, sadness, depression, and resignation. Eventually infertility can affect how one views the world, themselves and their relationships. Marriages become stressed. Envy plagues friendships. Guilt leads to isolation.
Someone dealing with infertility may find themselves avoiding certain social situations or friendships to defend against feelings of envy and loss when others are pregnant or have babies. A couple may find themselves ill fitting in their circle of friends while others begin families and the focus becomes child-centered activities. Support groups can be helpful, or add to the sense of hopelessness as more news of infertility abounds.
Recognizing the all-encompassing experience of infertility can help those suffering feel a little more grounded. Our culture has rituals for loss of a loved one and the need to grieve is recognized, accepted, and allowed. There are no rituals for the loss of a longed for child. Others will often give platitudes in response to any talk of difficulty conceiving. This can end up feeling emptier and more isolating than keeping the crisis to yourself.
Confiding in those who are close to you, educating them about the kind of support you need from them in a very specific manner, and reaching out to these support people can be very helpful. Additionally, spouses must stay open with each other through the experience of infertility. Don’t fear revealing the intense emotions, it will bring you closer rather than drive you apart.
You can navigate this time of crisis when you recognize the depths of the impact, keep talking about what you’re feeling with trusted others and be loving with yourself.
Sona DeLurgio, Psy.D., LMFT is a Training and Supervising psychoanalyst, instructor, and member of ICP. She has been practicing since 1993 providing treatment for individuals, couples, teens and families. She specializes in eating disorder treatment, early childhood trauma, relationships, infertility, and adoption. She is interested in and blogs about whole person and whole life wellness. Her website is www.DrSonaDeLurgio.com and her blog can be accessed directly at www.sonadelurgio.wordpress.com