What a journey it is; going through infertility treatment. It is almost cliché to say it is a roller coaster ride of emotions, but infertility does have a rhythm that makes this particular life crisis unique. The main highs and lows are predictable, dictated by the menstrual cycle. The first half brings hope. The second without success of pregnancy brings despair. There is a buildup of hope. “Is the breast sensitivity I’m feeling a sign of being premenstrual or pregnant?” “Am I bloated because I’m premenstrual or because I’m pregnant“? Our hope says it is pregnancy. Our fear says it is menstrual cramps. Finally, the period arrives and you are plunged into the despair. This cyclical ride of emotions becomes the center of your life. That takes its toll on your emotional, mental, and social wellbeing. Perhaps most importantly, it can take its toll on your primary relationship that you rely on for support.
Consider couples therapy with an infertility sensitive therapist. Difficult as it may be to expand your horizons at this intense time, doing so is important. Putting all your eggs in the one basket of fertility success is risky. Take trips. Take classes. Move on to that job that is more interesting; expanding opportunities for reward and pleasure within the parameters that your life has room for. Just as important, is putting a time limit on the treatments. This does not mean that you cannot decide at the end of that time limit to continue again, but it is an agreement with yourself and your partner that you will take that time to take stock and reassess your options and desires. Each month is in fact closer to becoming a parent, whether by birth or adoption. Adoption may involve a process of grief for not experiencing pregnancy or of having your own genetically related child, but if chosen, you will become a parent.
Joan Collins, LCSW
The overwhelming feelings of sadness, anger and hopelessness that are part and parcel of infertility are triggered by many social encounters. Baby showers can be one of the most painful of these encounters, broadcasting in full color all those visions that are associated with the fantasy of having a baby: the adorable little onesies, the receiving blankets, the miniature hats . They are powerful visceral reminders of what you desperately want,and despite all efforts, do not have. Avoiding a shower by politely bowing out and just sending a gift is often a wise and acceptable option. There are occasions, though, that you may need or want to attend, as not being there could bring unwanted attention. Only you know if the price of staying away is more painful than attending. The shower of your sister or of your best friend may be one of those.
In addition, beneath the jealously and anger there are heartfelt wishes for a happy healthy baby. You may not be in touch with that now, but later when you are out of the darkest part of this, you will probably be glad that you rose to the occasion. There are times to protect yourself by avoidance and times to step up, but only with a plan to get through it. The key is being selective about when to attend and then prepare. It is when we are caught off guard that the grief, always waiting, can be unleashed in a way that can last for days or longer.
- Plan ahead on when to leave and let the host know. That way you are leaving when you choose, rather than leaving because something happens that is painful for you. You can always leave earlier, or stay longer, if you wish.
- Offer to help during the event: write down the gifts and names during the gift opening, help the host serve food, offer to take pictures. This keeps you busy, helps you to feel useful and keeps you out of your head. It also makes it less likely that you will be cornered by someone who may talk about her child’s birth or ask you if you have children or plan to.
- If helping isn’t your cup of tea, choose who to sit next to. Perhaps there are some guests that you know do not have children, whom you know and trust not to bring up your situation, or with whom you have something in common. Sit next to them.
- Prepare brief responses to painful baby questions, ones that don’t invite further questions. “When are you going to get pregnant? Any plans?” “Thinking about it. How’s your job going?” Change the subject.
- Finally, have something planned following the shower that is something you love to do.
Joan Collins, LCSW