To say that infertility is not just a medical diagnosis but an emotional experience as well, feels like an understatement. You need a support system when you are dealing with infertility.
If you were given a dollar for all the times you have compared (or heard someone else compare) infertility to an ‘emotional roller coaster,’ you could pay for one full IVF cycle out of pocket. It has highs at the beginning of a treatment cycle when there’s promise and hope. Then, there are profound lows when you get a negative beta (not to mention your period).
When the basic assumption that you can have a family whenever you want has been shattered, it can be devastating. Especially when you don’t have the insurance coverage or the finances to give you access to the treatment you need. Making matters even more heartbreaking, while some couples have difficulty getting pregnant, others conceive but experience pregnancy loss.
Anyone who has gone through the infertility journey knows the wide range of emotions you feel. You can’t even articulate some of them as they can be so visceral. You may feel anger towards those who get pregnant easily, or at those who don’t understand what you are going through, or just plain ol’ jealousy of those who never have to deal with hormone injections or progesterone suppositories. You may feel incredible sadness or left behind as your friends or even cycle buddies start to have children. There may be resentment, blame, or lack of communication between you and your partner as you deal with things differently. Your religion and/or faith that may have provided comfort may now even be challenged. All of this can be an enormous emotional strain.
If you’re experiencing signs of depression, such as problems sleeping, eating, or concentrating, see a mental health professional. Even if you’re NOT experiencing these signs but just feel like you need help or a neutral sounding board, there’s no harm in seeing a therapist.
In general, infertility can feel very lonely and isolating, but, if you seek support and fight the good fight, it doesn’t have to. In addition to seeing a counselor, you can get support from online chat rooms or message boards, through peer led or professionally led support groups or, if you are a spiritual person, you can also speak to your rabbi, priest, or minister for emotional support.
It’s also essential to note that support from your partner, family, and friends is as critical. In terms of your spouse or partner, the hardest part of the infertility experience for one may not be the same for another. You may also feel differently about how you want to take the next steps in terms of treatment. This is why checking in often can help. Ask your partner how you can support him or her, and tell them what kind of emotional support you need as you work together on tackling this issue.
With respect to your family and friends, they may not know what to or not say, so you shouldn’t feel shy or awkward letting them know what they can do to help. If a family member is pregnant, tell them you’d prefer to be emailed with the news (as opposed to an uncomfortable phone call). If you want them to check in with you every week, let them know. If you want them to NEVER ask you what’s the latest on your cycle, be clear in expressing that. Decide what would be helpful and communicate that to them while making sure they know it’s nothing personal. Feeling understood, and having others validate your feelings alone can make a huge difference and sometimes, the instruction on how to accomplish that comes from you.
Learning techniques from all of these sources of support, whether it’s handling family and friends, coping with loss, others’ pregnancies, etc., can be invaluable. Ask others in the community how they have dealt with various aspects. Ask your therapist ways to deal with the pain. Ask your partner to have “infertility free nights” when you focus on something way more fun. Seek that support and insight to help get you through it.
And finally, don’t ever forget to be gentle with yourself. Infertility is considered a life crisis, and everything your feeling is valid. It’s cliché to say, but it doesn’t make it any less true: YOU ARE NOT ALONE so make sure to connect with others who understand and can help.