The Emotional Pain of Infertilityby Anne Windermere Patient Advocate
It was probably one of the most difficult times in my life. I had experienced a miscarriage. And people gave me the usual platitudes that it was probably for the best and that if the baby survived that there most likely would have been something wrong. I took this in stride. But the one reaction which I couldn't quite deal with was when someone muttered, "Oh well you can just have another one" as though babies were interchangeable or that they were as easily gotten as picking up milk and bread from the store. This platitude was especially hurtful as time went on as my husband and I found that we were having trouble conceiving again. After a year of trying I wondered if I would ever become pregnant again.
I think it is one of those things that if you have not gone through this experience, it is difficult to imagine the pain of it. There is a grieving which remains invisible for the most part. Friends and family don't always understand the emotional rollercoaster you are riding during this entire process yet you are expected to go on as usual with your normal everyday routines. I am writing this article for the people who are going through this to let you know that you are not alone. I am also writing this for the people who are friends and family of those who suffer from infertility so that you can have a greater empathy for what your friend or family member may be going through.
Here are some of the things that a woman who suffers from infertility may feel at any given time:
A feeling as though you are less of a woman: It was found during our testing that the issue of infertility was mine. I felt as though my body had betrayed me and that I was broken. I wondered why I could not do what so many women seemed to do so effortlessly. My self esteem took a nose dive.
Anger and resentment: I have a distinct memory of walking through the city during my work lunch hour and seeing pregnant women everywhere. I began to loathe the sight of them and found myself staring at my feet so I wouldn't have to see them anymore. When you are experiencing infertility it seems everyone is pregnant or has babies. I grew enraged at news stories of mothers who had children they didn't want and who abandoned babies. I felt the world was a very unfair place.
You feel isolated: During the years of my infertility my best friend became pregnant with her first child. Of course I was invited to the baby shower. I had to cry before I got there so she wouldn't know. I put on a happy face for her but when we were alone I confided that this shower was hard for me because of my struggle with infertility. Surprisingly my friend was less than compassionate. She told me that if the situation were reversed that she would put aside her personal issues and be there for me on this special day. I wished that I had not said anything. I felt selfish and alone in my pain.
You feel like you have no control: During the time of infertility you may have to take fertility drugs which play havoc with your emotions. You are constantly under pressure to check when you are ovulating and to plan your sex according to schedule. You may have frequent appointments with your doctor. You find that what seemingly comes so easy to other women, you have to work at. And then for all these measures you find that you get your period yet again month after month. You begin to feel as though you have no control over anything. It is easy to feel both helpless and hopeless after awhile.
Anxiety: You begin to feel like Charlie Brown when Lucy holds the football. Will she pick it up just as he kicks it, sending him sprawling to the ground? The days and weeks are not measured in ordinary time anymore. Everything revolves around your cycle. You count the days and even the hours that your period is late. Will this be the month that I get pregnant or will I be tricked once again to remaining hopeful even after the first drop of blood appears? The endless cycle of hoping, waiting, and disappointment can make even the most patient among us a nervous wreck.
Grief: It may be difficult for some to understand but there is definite loss when you are coping with infertility. There is always that voice in the back of your mind which tells you that you may never be able to get pregnant and/or have a baby despite your best efforts. You are grieving for a future that may never come. You ache for a child to hold and to love. It is so hard to imagine that the life you had planned may never come to be.
Acceptance and Resolution: Somewhere during this journey through infertility a decision is made to either keep trying and for so long, to employ different methods, to stop trying and/or to adopt. For some people the journey ends with a baby through childbirth or adoption and for yet others the decision is made to focus on other areas of life which do not involve having children. No matter what the outcome, this time of infertility is a very emotionally difficult and turbulent time.
Emotional support is essential to get through this trying time. If you are going through infertility it is very helpful to seek the assistance of a counselor or therapist. There are also many support groups available to talk to other couples who are traveling a similar path. If you have gone through or are going through infertility we would like to hear your story. You just may help someone else along the way.
Infertility Support Groups: