10 Ways for Couples to Cope with Infertility
It can be devastating to learn that the odds are stacked against you when it comes to having children. Being infertile can put real strain on a marriage or relationship, so much so that it can drive a wedge between the two people in that relationship. You do not have to let infertility dominate your life. Here are ten ways that couples can cope with infertility:
1. Acknowledge that this is actually a real problem.
Many people, especially those who do not already have children, will simply try to act as if this is not that big of a deal. They will feel that they do not have the right to feel grief, because they have not actually lost anything. This is simply not true. It is completely normal to feel sad, stressed and even overwhelmed at this discovery. Do not try to sweep your emotions under the rug, instead, face them so you can deal with them.
2. Don’t ascribe yourself blame.
Infertility is a combination of a huge range of factors. Some individuals will blame themselves for waiting too long or will ascribe some sort of blame to a lifestyle choice or problem with their health that they should have fixed long ago. There are bound to be a multitude of negative thoughts that come with infertility. This negative pattern of thinking will only worsen the negative emotions you are already feeling. Your infertility is not your fault. Even if making other decisions in the past could have changed the current situation, there is no way to go back and make those decisions again. It is important to focus on the future, not the past.
3. Continue working as a team.
Instead of letting infertility drive a wedge between you and your partner, work together to move forward. Keep in mind that you might not be feeling the same feelings at the same time. You also may not respond to the reality of infertility the same way. While having different emotional and cognitive experiences than your partner can be distressing, acknowledge that these differences are okay to have. Try to understand what the other person is feeling and share their burden just as they are sharing yours.
4. Get educated.
A diagnosis of infertility is not the end. Your doctor might have already presented you with a few options. It is now your turn to take the time to research what can be done about infertility. It is important to learn as much as you can about that issue and if there is a way to solve it. This is the only way that you will be able to make informed choices about how to proceed.
5. Give yourself a limit.
Some couples only want to have a baby by natural means. Others are willing to do whatever it takes to have their own child, even if it means going through round after round of fertility treatments. Before you do anything, you need to decide how far you are willing to go to have that baby. You, your partner and your doctor need to discuss what is safe and what is reasonable for the pair of you to have a baby, and when it might be a good time to stop trying. Remember that your limit can be fluid too. If you set a limit and change your mind about that limit, that’s okay. Communicate with your partner and your medical team about your concerns and your desires.
6. Decide before you start how much you can pay.
Most fertility treatments are going to be very expensive, but many couples find the cost worth it. However, the expensive price tag is something to consider. Instead of letting the costs snowball, have a discussion with your doctor about how much the treatments would likely cost, how likely they are to work, and then talk to your partner about how you can pay for those treatments.
7. Seek support from a specialist.
Your doctor is a good resource for general information, but if you are not seeing a fertility specialist, it might be time to find a doctor who studied fertility for years and could potentially provide you with a number of solutions that your primary care physician might not be aware of or might not have the resources for. On top of working with a fertility specialist, it might be worth your time to seek out other people who are struggling or have struggled with the same thing that you are struggling with. You might even consider finding a therapist that has helped others cope with infertility.
8. Don’t feel bad about removing yourself from baby-centric activities.
If a neighbor is having a baby shower and you know that it will only depress you to attend, or if all of your siblings or friends had babies in the last year and they constantly want you to babysit, do not feel bad about exempting yourself from these activities. It is okay to place some distance between yourself and activities that don’t bring your pleasure or happiness.
9. Be both optimistic and realistic.
A healthy mix of optimism and realism is the best way to cope with infertility. It is important to be hopeful, but is also important to be pragmatic. Having unrealistic hope can lead you to dragging yourself through treatment after treatment, year after year, putting undue stress on your relationship and body. It will also increase your disappointment. Be optimistic, but realistic about your situation.
10. Take care of yourself.
It’s important to continue living your life and to take care of yourself, even if infertility is taking a hold of your life. You can’t let infertility control you or your relationship. If you make your entire life about infertility, you are only going to find yourself wallowing deeper and deeper into it. Find activities that you love doing and do those things. Maintain your relationships with friends and family members and resist the urge to isolate. Taking care of yourself will also decrease stress and thusly decrease the stress hormone, cortisol, which makes getting pregnant more difficult.
Your journey through infertility may be long or short-lived, but no matter how long it lasts the stress and disappointment experienced is very real. As hard as it is, try to stay present and don’t get too far ahead of yourself for you and your partner’s sake. If you find you aren’t coping well, consider talking with a counselor or seeking the camaraderie found in support groups.