02 May Surviving Infertility: The Challenges Of Struggling To Have Children
When people fall in love and begin planning their family, the idea that having children could prove an insurmountable hurdle doesn’t enter their minds. Unfortunately, having a family is not always as easily accomplished as it seems to many couples.
Families come in many different shapes and sizes today. Not being able to bear children, however, is a painful struggle that marks everyone in a similar way. That’s why Sunday, May 1st was created as a day to acknowledge that pain, known as National Infertility Survival Day. The day was consciously chosen to fall on the Sunday before Mother’s Day, as a way of bringing to the forefront how celebrations of parenthood magnify the pain felt by those coping with infertility. The day was launched by author Beverly Barna, who wrote “Infertility Sucks! Keeping It All Together When Sperm and Egg Remain Stubbornly Apart.”
In this post, we offer ways of helping those dealing with this challenge. In 2018, a study by the Pew Research Center said that two-thirds of Americans either know of someone who is struggling with infertility or have gone through it themselves. That is a staggeringly high number
If you know someone who wants to have a child but cannot, there are many ways you can help. Here are some ideas for acknowledging their pain that let them know you’re there for them, in any way you can be. We’ve also included a few strategies for coping with infertility, for those readers dealing with it themselves.
1. If you’re a parent, be sensitive to their childless status.
When people have babies, it’s the most natural thing in the world to show pictures and talk constantly about how beautiful they are, their developmental milestones, and other aspects of babyhood. But your friend’s pain may be exacerbated by all your stories. Of course, you can and should talk about being a parent; just remember that for your childless friend or family member, every photograph and every story is an acute reminder of what they don’t have.
2. Allow them to express their sadness.
Sometimes the most helpful thing you can offer a friend in distress is an ear to listen and a shoulder to cry on. Let them know you are there for them, to support and comfort them without judgment. Resist the urge to counsel them unless they specifically ask your opinion on something. For example, let’s say your friend is considering in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments – don’t talk about the potential costs, the side effects of the injections, or anything else related to this option. No doubt your friend is weighing all those factors, and more. If they raise any of these issues and specifically ask your thoughts, by all means, talk frankly to them about any concerns you may have. What matters most is that your friend or family member knows you’re in their corner all the way.
3.Resist the urge to ask what’s happening.
Let’s say you know a friend has been hoping to get pregnant, but it hasn’t happened for a long time. You can see it is affecting her, but asking questions, like whether it is a sperm motility issue or something else, is not your role. She will open up when she is ready, so until then, let the matter rest.
If you’re dealing with infertility, consider these coping strategies.
1. Talk to your partner or a friend.
Experts agree that coping with infertility issues alone, without talking to someone about what you’re going through, isn’t healthy. Keeping silent increases the sense of isolation that can be overwhelming when experiencing such a profound problem. You don’t owe anyone an ongoing update on your fertility status and what options you’re considering to become pregnant. But a good friend is a vital source of comfort and love, and no doubt wants to help in any way they can. And a true friend respects your privacy, so you won’t have concerns about them talking to anyone else about what you’re going through.
2. Consider professional help as well.
Couples need to keep talking even though it may be painful. Getting counseling together provides a safe environment in which you can express all your feelings, even hurtful ones. For example: if your spouse is having difficulty with sperm motility, you may feel a mix of relief and resentment. Feelings around fertility are complicated, and talking with the benefit of a professional therapist helps you navigate this difficult terrain in as productive a manner as possible.
3. Shift your focus for a while.
If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a year, for example, and it hasn’t happened, consider setting the matter aside for a while. Take the pressure off by refocusing your priorities to work, your home, and each other. If you’ve been scheduling sex to take advantage of peak fertility days, drop the effort for a few months. As long as you know what is at the root of the problem and that there are solutions available to you, (including IVF or adoption) you can take a little time to relax and regroup. Then you’ll come back to things mentally refreshed and better equipped to decide how you want to proceed.
Not being able to have children is a major stress test for many couples. The key is avoiding blaming each other for physical issues that couldn’t be predicted or other circumstances that have arisen. Blaming yourself or each other is not a healthy coping strategy.
No doubt there is a path to parenthood that is just waiting for you to find it, and once you do, the pain and uncertainty of infertility will be a thing of the past.