Infertility: Navigating the Emotional Journey
By the author of A Couple's Handbook for When You Want to Have a Baby (More Than Anything Else)
Depression is a natural emotion to experience when grieving. Many couples fear they will never be happy again. Also, if this is the first loss that has been experienced, the feeling of depression can be very scary. Often-times the ability to talk about disappointments and feelings of loss help alleviate the depression. Couples frequently expect themselves to “snap back to normal” more quickly than is realistic. It is unrealistic to assume you will feel happy the day after a negative pregnancy test or miscarriage. By reminding yourself this cycle was filled with hopes and dreams, you can validate the presence of depression. If the depression persists for a long period of time, leading to physical illness or feelings of hopelessness, it is important for you to talk with a counselor. Occasionally, it might be suggested you take a break from treatments and consider medications to assist in decreasing the depression.
Resolution occurs at different points for different couples. Many times the availability of treatments makes it difficult to stop before you’ve done everything you can do. It is important for you to always have a positive reason for pursuing treatment in addition to pregnancy. Some couples discover early in the fertility pursuit that it is time to stop, while others find it important to pursue all possible technologies. There is no right or wrong time to stop. Each of you must talk about your hopes and expectations and ultimately reach a decision together.
Once a decision to stop occurs, work through the grief that is experienced. After processing the grief of infertility, resolution does occur. You may feel that you will never be the same again. Many times it is easier to focus on the negative effects of infertility and lose sight of the positive aspects that have been learned. Broadening your definition of success is significant in your ability to embrace the positive aspects of the infertility experience. For many couples infertility causes positive change in the relationship. Often you are forced to learn new communication skills in order to survive the fertility pursuit. Infertility is typically the first life crisis a couple has endured together, so you learn more about ways to work as a team when facing difficulties. This skill will serve you in the years to come. Not only do you learn new coping skills as a couple, but individual styles of coping are also gained with infertility. We don’t come equipped with instructions for “Grief 101.” Often we learn how to deal with disappointments by enduring them. The infertility experience certainly helps add new tools to your “grief resolution toolbox.”
Finally, the pursuit of fertility does increase our appreciation for aspects of life that previously were outside of our awareness. Couples who have experienced infertility rarely take life for granted. Parenting experiences often hold special joys that otherwise might have been overlooked. Infertility definitely causes individuals to appreciate the moment because of an increased awareness that the future cannot always be controlled.
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