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Dealing With Infertility

An Emotional Rollercoaster

“When you’re young life seems so simple: meet someone; fall in love; get married; start a family. Then the dreaded word “infertility” hits you like a tonne of bricks and it feels like your life is over.”

Maria – ANU Fertility Egg Donor

Laurie Green – ANU Fertility Surrogate Intended Parents

The Anger Caused by Infertility

In cases of infertility, cases of anger can often be outward focussed. Perhaps you lash out at a doctor for his cold-hearted manner. Perhaps a well-meaning, but ignorant family member suggests you go on an Alaskan cruise to clear you year.

Irregardless of the trigger, you’re dealing with the anger stage.

Anger may appear rational, and you may feel guilty for your reaction afterward, but this is perfect normal phase of the grieving process. At this point it’s important to contact a counselor to deal with these issues so that they don’t escalate.

If this does not occur, frustration, mistrust and embarrassment can ensue, which can further aggravate the next reaction, isolation.

Tera & Tanisha – ANU Fertility Egg Donors

The Isolation of Infertility

Breaking the Chains

Because sexuality is equated with fertility, it can often make you and your partner feel alone. You might be too embarrassed to talk about how you feel leaving you vulnerable and insecure.

Isolation may also lead you to the indirect acceptance of advice, often inappropriate, or the use of alternative, scientifically unproven, non- medical options. isolation reaction also prevents the seeking of the support so badly needed by the couple.

Fertility education and contact with infertility support groups may be helpful to begin healing.

The Guilt of Infertility

An Elusive Emotion

“Why do I feel guilty, I know I did nothing wrong?” It’s a question you may ask despite not being about the shed the feeling of guilde. Human emotions are complex machines and there isn’t one clear answer on why we feel the things we feel.

But guilt is common. Perhaps you’re partner is responsible for the infertility problems and you feel bad for them knowing they feel like they failed you.

Perhaps your you’ve framed your infertility into a cause/effect relationship i.e. failure of religious observance; premarital sex; abortion; unkind wishes and so on. Guilt is difficult to discuss and difficult to share.

Obviously, in reality there is no relationship between an individual’s worthiness and fertility!

The Grief of Infertility

A Final Rite

If your cannot have children, inevitably you’ll feel the grief cascade into the depths of your soul. It is like a death in the family and it’s important to recognize it as such.

Which is why it is important to have a strong support system and to refer to a counselor if the symptoms of grief become unbearable.

It is exceedingly difficult to understand how you can grieve over a child who never existed. However, the grief is just as real and painful, possibly more so, than had a real loss occurred.

Real losses have various related rites that help overcome grief, whereas with infertility no such rites exist.

It should be recognised that the grief you express is real, and no attempt should be made to prevent you from expressing it.

A Resolution to Infertility

Finding Peace After the Storm

Once some time passages and you’ve experience some (or all of these emotions) things will begin to settle down. Typically a state of resolution and acceptance happens and you’ll learn to cope with your fertility status and any medical procedures that are necessary to increase your fertility.

When considering psychological reactions arising from infertility, it should be remembered that:
Reactions differ among members of the couple and in different degrees and combinations. This can affect your communication with your partner and it should be monitored.

Your sex life may be affect as a result of bad communication which can further aggravate and affected relationship and a vicious circle sets in.

Medical treatment, frequent tests and visits to the doctor can add more stress in your relationship. It is important to work on keeping the relationship healthy so that when major decisions have to be made regarding treatment, you’ll be capable of making informed choices.

Choosing a Different Route

If all medical avenues have been exhausted you may eventually decided to choose a different direction entirely such as adoption or surrogacy. Only make this decision when you feel health enough. You never want to make an impulsive decision, something you may regret down the road. You’re not alone.

At the end of the people there are people who care about you and want to help you build a family, thankfully, infertility isn’t a last resort. It could be the beginning of a whole new adventure you never anticipated.

Ten Commandments for Dealing with Infertility
Helen Adrienne L.C.S.W.

These Ten Commandments are core coping advice for infertility couples.
1. Infertility is demanding. Keep your love for each other, not the technology, central to the quest for a baby!

2. Infertility can be all-consuming. Create an infertility-free zone! Fill it with joy!

3. The infertility struggle is all about waiting: waiting for your period, waiting for test results, waiting to heal physically or emotionally, waiting for a gamete donor or surrogate, waiting for the hCG surge for an insemination, waiting for fertilization in a petri dish, and the big one, the two week wait to find out if you are pregnant. Develop patience with and for each other and the process!

4. Cavemen needed to think negatively in order to survive. That DNA has come through the generations into us. Infertility intensifies the difficulty in seeing the positive. Team up and look for the blessing in the mess so you’re not trapped in negativity!

5. We tend to be most comfortable with sameness even though life is always changing. Some changes flow as part of a natural order. Infertility is not one of them. This unwelcome change comes out of the blue and feels violent. You can knee-jerk react to the ongoing changes inherent in infertility or you can learn to respond to the frustration and disappointments. Both of you need to take on this challenge as your response-ability!

6. It’s common to see our partner’s liabilities clearly while remaining sketchy about our own. It’s easy for stress to lead to the blame game. Even if one of you is the infertile one, remember that you’re in this together!

7. Every menstrual period represents another “death.” If you accept the reality, build awareness and seek ways to adapt, you get to grow as a couple. Transform grief and loss into empowerment!

8. Communication is key to a good relationship. Words can be the least effective means, especially if having the last word is your goal. Develop listening as an art form. Allow non-verbal behavior such as hugs to matter. Morph communication into commune-ication!

9. And then there’s sex. Medical treatment is intrusive. Your private parts are exposed to the glare of fluorescent lights. Sex on demand or ejaculating into a cup are requirements. With in vitro fertilization sex is unnecessary. These things can trump your heart’s involvement in your sexual connection. Find a way to accept lapses in desire and performance!

10. Under duress, disconnects in your style of being a couple will exaggerate. With so much at stake you can learn another way. Don’t be afraid to get help and gain from the pain!

Adapted from this article by Helen Adrienne L.C.S.W.

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