Quick Survival Guide for Those Struggling with Infertility
Couples struggling with infertility know what a rollercoaster the journey can be. There are so many unforeseeable twists and turns that leave you consistently wondering “What in the world just happened!” We spend countless hours scouring the internet looking for the “cheat code” on how to get through their infertility journey unscathed. Fortunately, you will eventually get through it, but I am not sold on the “unscathed” part. Here are some ways to make this journey a bit more bearable for both you and your partner.
Helpful tips for when you are struggling with infertility
An infertility diagnosis can cause emotional trauma. Beginning therapy right away can be a great way to help navigate feelings of depression, anxiety, grief, guilt, anger, stress, and any other emotion you may experience because of infertility. These feelings are extremely difficult to cope with if you do not have the necessary tools and resources. Therapy can be a place for you to talk through your decision to start or stop treatment, ways to bring up an issue to your partner, or how attending a baby shower may have sent you spiraling for a week. Therapy moves at your pace as you decide what issues to address. Many people seek individual therapy, and perhaps couples therapy, due to the strain infertility places on your relationship.
As a mental health clinician, I am a huge proponent of seeking therapeutic services. The irony of that is I did not seek a therapist until the middle of my infertility journey, and it showed. I was depressed, anxious, angry, lashing out and not coping well at all. My husband forced me to go to therapy because, quite frankly, I was driving him insane (in the midst of his own processing of our journey). I did not want to talk to anyone. A large part of me felt ashamed – that if I shared it with a therapist, it would somehow have made it more real than it was. I now know it was illogical, but I was not thinking clearly at that time. I also thought, How could someone who never went through infertility struggles help me? How could they possibly know what this feels like? The reality is that they did not need to know what it feels like or experience my struggles because they are trained to provide these expert services.
What does this mean?
Essentially, the purpose of therapy is to provide an impartial or unbiased perspective to what you share, help you process your feelings, and restructure thinking patterns that do not serve you well. Finding a therapist and developing trust may take some time, but hang in there. You can even search for someone who specializes in infertility. The results, if you are willing to explore them, can be life changing!
Be on the same page with your partner
As much as infertility can affect an individual, it can have an even greater impact on romantic relationships. Researchers have found that infertile couples experience higher levels of discontentment in their relationships and with themselves. Couples dealing with infertility may struggle with:
- Fear your partner may leave you
- Wanting your partner to leave you
- Lack of emotional support and feelings of “who has it worse”
- Deciding to start or end treatment, or skip treatment and pursue adoption
- Financial Strain
- Who to tell about your infertility struggles
Infertility truly infiltrates every crevice of your relationship and life. It is essential for you and your partner to keep communication open so you can discuss issues and get on the same page about how to move forward. And although women are likely to experience a greater amount of strife during the infertility journey, men have a hard time coping as well. However, they may be less vocal about their sadness, frustration, anxiety, depression, and anger, which may come off as “not caring.” We know this not to be true, so we should leave room for both partners to feel seen and understood.
Relationships are hard. Infertility further complicates them. If you are newly married like we were, and had no idea what life had in store, you may want to consider a therapist to help you two navigate the rugged terrain. Or you can reach out to someone you both trust to provide counsel. Either way, love on one another, listen to one another, and try your best to move in unison. Remember, it’s “until death do us part” NOT “until fertility tore us apart.”
If you are not up for therapy to address your infertility just yet, consider journaling. It is another effective way to deal with any overwhelming emotion you may be experiencing. Writing out your thoughts can help you with manage your feelings by helping you to prioritize concerns, fears, and issues. It can also help you track symptoms so that you can identify triggers, negative self-talk and behaviors and develop better ways to manage them. But perhaps just as important, it should also be a place for you to celebrate your wins as well.
I like to think of journaling as an unbiased safe space where I can get any and everything off of my mind. The good, bad, ugly and everything in between. It’s the place that housed all my “pros and cons” lists, rants about failed treatments, and the overwhelming joy I felt when I found out we were expecting. Check out my Instagram page for infertility journal prompts and write to me to tell me how it’s working for you!
The Trusted Few
Infertility can be incredibly isolating and lonely, so identifying and turning to your Trusted Few is invaluable and can offer much reprieve from the overwhelming demands of dealing with infertility. Choosing trusted people with your partner can be helpful.
The characteristics of good support people are key. Read all about how to choose these pertinent people in this article.
Taking regular breaks from the hustle and bustle of everyday life is important. Having time to unplug and unwind is crucial, especially while dealing with infertility. Also, taking time away from the things that trigger you is key to optimizing your mental health. Don’t feel guilty if you need to take a few mental health days off from work, delete your social media for a few weeks, stop treatment for a few months, or decline an invitation to baby shower. This is a good time to remember (or learn!) that self-preservation is paramount. It is okay to step away!
Fertility Treatment Survival Kit
If you decide to start treatment to conceive having a few key items already on deck will make your life easier and much more comfortable. In no particular order, Here are a few key things that I found to be helpful while going through infertility treatment:
- Ice packs
- Numbing cream (for all those butt shots!)
- Massager for knots after progesterone shots
- Heating pad
- Cozy socks
- Spandex and loose-fitting clothing
- A calendar or planner to keep track of shots, medication times, appointments, etc.
- Healthy foods
- Your favorite snack
- Activities (Adult coloring book, crossword puzzles, a good book, etc.)