No one wants to hear a doctor utter the dreaded word “infertility.” But couples can use the diagnosis as an opportunity to learn the skills they need to grow and gain real value on the other side—with or without getting pregnant and having a baby.
Beginning the journey to conceive a child is one of life’s most exciting milestones. Filled with dreams and optimism, it’s natural to fully expect each month to be “the month.”
And then seemingly out of nowhere, a barricade appears in your path, bringing your journey to a screeching halt. The very diagnosis of infertility brings with it a sense of grief and loss. Suddenly, something that was supposed to be between just you and your husband has been interrupted.
Yet as much as infertility is an obstacle blocking you from going where you want to go, this diagnosis can also signal a positive new beginning, bringing issues to the surface that are in need of healing.
Take A Breath
With so many medical treatment options for fertility available, you may be tempted to jump into something to “fix” the problem. Instead, stop and take a breath.
Listen to what your doctor has to say about your fertility treatment options, but don’t commit to anything right away. Take some space to come to terms with your diagnosis, and talk to your partner about your choices.
For a little while at least, give yourself time to just be. Let yourself cry or be angry. Write in a journal, take quiet walks, slam a tennis ball, talk to a trusted friend.
Understand Your Connection
No matter what has brought you to this point, it’s important to remember that you are not alone. Globally, infertility affects millions of women who, though different in many ways, share the pain of this connection. Perhaps this is because the ability to have a baby seems as if it should be a basic part of womanhood. Whether or not you originally planned on having children, infertility threatens to rob you of that choice.
As a result, you may find yourself feeling guilty or shameful. You may believe that this struggle sets you apart from other women, or even that infertility is some kind of punishment. But thoughts like, “There’s something wrong with me,” or “I must have done something wrong,” are destructive and can keep you from taking the steps you need to nurture yourself.
Break the Guilt/Blame Cycle
Imagine feeling guilty for something over which you have no control. Yet women struggling with infertility do this time and again.
One of my clients, Amy, recently shared her experience. “I felt so bad about myself, so isolated, like I was watching everyone else move forward in their lives,” she said. “I imagined I was disappointing everyone: my husband, my best friend, even our parents.”
Amy recognized a pattern of punishing herself by putting herself down. “I realized that this feeling started to snowball. Whether I was at home or work, I began blaming myself for everything, doubting myself in areas where I used to feel confident. I was telling myself, ‘I can’t have a baby, so I can’t do anything!’”
It’s critical that you take blame out of the fertility equation. You didn’t cause infertility to happen to you. Whatever life decisions you made, you made them based on the information you had and what seemed best at the time.
For Amy, the real change happened when she realized what she was doing, and began to accept that there was no one to blame. This allowed her to become more compassionate with herself and her struggle. She paced herself, and took better care of herself along the way. And whenever Amy finds herself slipping back into an old pattern of negativity, she uses a strategy that helps to get her back on track: “I just take a deep breath, and say, ‘Hey, I’m doing the best I can!’”