Spring, for many, means new life. However, for 15% of the population, springtime is a trigger for sadness, a reminder that its symbolic fertility does not apply for this subset of folks. One out of six or seven couples have the label infertile.
Although volumes have been written on the subject of interventions (both holistic and conventional) and causes for fertility challenges, not enough is written to cater to the emotional needs couples face when dealing with the potential of being childless. This article highlights some resources and coping tips for such couples.
As a perinatal psychotherapist who has personally dealt with fertility challenges, I can certainly relate to the stigma and heartache associated with infertility. In fact, that word infertility bothers me. Over ten years ago, I attended an “infertility class” at my HMO, huddled in a room with about 50 other sheepish and overwhelmed couples. The sign on the door, adjacent to the waiting room filled with glowing pregnant women, was emblazoned with the words “Infertility Class.”
I might as well have had the word “barren” stamped on my forehead. If that wasn’t enough, a grim nurse unceremoniously plopped a lab cup in front of each couple in attendance. Well, we knew what that was for. Good grief. Did it really come down to this? Well, yes, this, and a whole lot more, I would learn, including intrusive, painful procedures designed to clear the fallopian tubes, multiple trips to the lab with that cup, and lots of blood draws, in addition to a lot of waiting, hope, anxiety, disappointment, and a myriad of other emotions. Many endure other procedures and even longer waiting.
I realize my own story is unique. Each couple’s path to pregnancy looks different. I am also incredibly fortunate in that my own story has a miraculous, happy ending/beginning—in just weeks before my husband and I were about to explore the range of medical options to help us conceive, we became pregnant without intervention. We took a backpacking trip in the High Sierra and got our minds off of the medical stress awaiting us. By some sort of Divine intervention, I believe, we were gifted with the conception of our first born baby, Brendan.
I realize I am incredibly fortunate to be blessed with children. And not everyone’s story results in a healthy conception or live birth, but, I share my story to say “I get it. I understand your pain. I have been there. Have hope.” And I want to share with you some resources that are available to comfort you in this sometimes harrowing journey to parenthood that, at times, can feel hopeless.
My message to parents-in-the-making who are struggling with fertility challenges includes the following:
- Don’t give up hope. There is always a way to become a parent, even if not the route you originally had planned.
- Get in touch with your spiritual community, if that applies to you, for emotional support.
- Go to online support groups for people dealing with fertility challenges, miscarriage support, etc.
- Educate yourself on all forms of medical intervention, including holistic approaches.
- Give yourself permission to take a pass on baby showers and events with young children at this time.
- Realize that dealing with fertility challenges can be taxing financially, emotionally, and physically. Give yourself permission to take breaks from treatments and just rest and restore. Self-care matters too.
- You are not alone. As the age for childbearing is later in this era, more and more couples are challenged with the same issues.
- Be open to the possibilities of surrogacy, adoption, or fostering, if you have exhausted medical and emotional resources. Be willing to know when to stop with interventions and let life unfold as it will.
- Again, don’t give up hope.
Resources, websites, and helpful books for fertility challenges
- asrm.org—American Society for Reproductive Medicine
- resolve.org—Referrals, support, advocacy
- sart.org—Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology
- webmd.com—Information about any variety of medical terms and conditions
- infertilityeducation.org—Resources, down-loadable factsheets
- pcossupport.org—Referrals for websites that discuss Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome
- endometriosisassn.org—Endometriosis information, resources
- hannah.org—Christian support for fertility challenges
- MISSfoundation.org—Perinatal loss support groups
- fertilityplus.org—Information about trying to conceive
- miscarriagesupport.org—Miscarriage support groups
- infertilitymindbody.com—Holistic interventions
- Conquering Infertility by Alice Domar and Alice Kelly
- Resolving Infertility by Diane Aronson and Staff of Resolve
- Six Steps to Increase Fertility: An Integrated Medical and Mind/Body Program to Promote Conception by Robert Barbieri, Alice Domar, and Kevin Loughlin
- Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom by Christiane Northrup, MD
© Copyright 2011 by Andrea Schneider, LCSW. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.