I was talking with a woman who has struggled with infertility. She has experienced a few miscarriages following infertility treatment. She told me one of the things that struck her most is how people assumed that she should be okay with the miscarriage. They thought it was easier to experience loss since there was a higher percent likelihood following her fertility treatments compared to if she would have conceived the old fashion way.
In her mind it was just as hard if not harder. Not only are you faced with the loss of a child, but you are reminded each time that to have a child you must go through a tremendous amount. Each loss is not only about losing a baby, but it is also about losing hope.
Let’s remember that loss is loss regardless of how we experience it. Respect those who are grieving and don’t make assumptions about how hard loss might be.
It is easy when you are deep into infertility treatments to want to find something or someone to blame. In the early stages of an infertility diagnosis doctors often will run tests to see if the issues are coming from the female, male or both to determine a treatment plan. In this process you find things to “blame” for your troubles. You might blame yourself, your body, or each other.
Blame is a natural part of the grief process. When you learn of an infertility diagnosis you may grieve the loss of the possibility of conceiving naturally. You also face grief each month when you find out that your attempts at becoming pregnant have been unsuccessful. It is especially hard if you invest (emotionally, physically and financially) into a fertility treatment that fails. Even harder yet if you have reason to be hopeful after a positive pregnancy test and you lose the baby.
The important thing as you move through these processes is remember that you and your partner are a team. Each of you may process what is happening differently and it is important to acknowledge that the other person’s way of coping maybe different. Some need comfort and others may need distance. Some may need to talk it out and others may want to just keep plugging forward.
Be empathetic to the others needs, without denying what you need. It is beneficial to have a conversation about how you are coping and what you need so that the other person does not have to guess the best way to support you. It complicates things when you don’t know what the other person needs and they don’t know what you need.
Don’t fall into the trap of the “The Blame Game”.
People assume that when you find out you have a positive pregnancy test, you will feel better about things. This is not always true. In fact, most women I know who have a positive pregnancy test are nervous up until the date the baby would be viable outside the human body. It is hard after so much time hoping to allow yourself to crossover and just simply enjoy being pregnant.
Research indicates that women treated for infertility had less serious psychiatric issues leading to mental hospitalization than women who did not before and after treatments. However, after treatments the risk of hospitalization increased among infertile women due to adjustment disorders. Women who delivered a baby following infertility treatments had fewer hospital stays than women who did not deliver a child (http://humrep.oxfordjournals.org/content/25/8/2018.short).
Women with infertility issues have a higher risk of depression. The women who experience depression as a result of their infertility are less likely to seek fertility treatment or emotional support.
As I was reading through research articles on infertility, my searches would continually bring up articles about the emotional process of recovering from breast cancer. At first I did not see the similarity. I realized first that infertility is also a disease. Infertility also takes away your sense of womanhood (similarly to that of a mastectomy). Although the damage maybe repaired (via breast augmentation or having a baby), the emotional process of coping with your ideal self or whole self is not met. Just because you were given a child or new breasts, doesn’t mean that you automatically feel whole and like yourself again.
As you move past your fertility issues, whether it is because you decided to stop fertility treatments or because you had a baby, it will become increasingly more difficult to seek help.
I am pointing this all out in my blog to encourage all of you to get professional help in processing what you are going through if it starts to feel overwhelming, you begin feeling unusually sad, or you just need some additional support. It is normal following infertility treatments to have some emotions about your experience.