I believe that many of our assumptions in life actually play out as we expect, but we rarely talk about those because they go unnoticed. The assumptions that fail are the ones that capture our attention.
As a little girl, I can remember imagining myself as a mother one day. I rocked my baby dolls, changed their diapers, fed them, and tucked them into bed. No one told me then that, for some women, having children is difficult and sometimes not possible. In my 20’s, the concept of infertility was a distant and mild fear. My focus then was on my desire to find the guy I trusted and desired to spend my life with. I assumed children would naturally follow.
For me, along with many other women, the failed assumption of children caught me by surprise. After three unsuccessful years of trying to have children, much longing, and many tears later, my husband and I found ourselves sitting across from our fertility doctor for the first time. The unexpected road of infertility is like an emotional roller coaster, with twists and turns, ups and downs. This blog is a personal reflection on a few pitfalls I discovered along the way and how I managed the emotional roller coaster.
Infertility brings a barrage of emotions and thoughts that can easily lead one down the road of isolation. Managing multiple doctor appointments, painful procedures, medication side effects, and unhelpful comments from well meaning friends and family adds to the emotional toll of infertility. These dynamics lend themselves to an experience of being misunderstood, resulting in feelings of loneliness. The temptation is to withdraw or show a fake side to others.
Despite the temptation to isolate, the truth is you need companions along this journey who can grieve with you, talk through difficult decisions, reflect truth to you when your mind wants to believe lies, and to hold hope when you’ve lost all strength to hope. Lean into trustworthy people in your life. Be tender with your partner. Connect with others who have struggled with infertility. Care for yourself by staying relationally connected to others.
For me, as I began to share my story with friends and family, I was surprised to discover that I was not alone in my experience of infertility. By being vulnerable and sharing with others, I found encouragement and comfort from unexpected people. It was especially helpful to connect with a friend who had been through three rounds of IVF treatments. She asked helpful questions that many others didn’t even know to ask, she was a great resource, and encouraged me in such a sweet way.
“There must be something wrong with me.” “Look at them, they are handling this so much better than me.” The temptation to compare and judge oneself in light of another is a pitfall for all sorts of life circumstances. Facing infertility is no different. This way of thinking leads to grief, shame, depression, and anxiety. As my husband and I navigated the shock of our fertility issues, I had friends get pregnant, I went to baby showers, our fertility doctor was pregnant, and I often imagined my friends handling it with greater poise than I was! These experiences stung my longing heart, some more than others. I felt sad and happy at the same time.
The truth is that comparison brings nothing helpful and is a misguided way of looking at things. No two people are the same, and no two situations are the same. Each road and experience is unique and can never objectively be compared to another. If you catch yourself wandering down the path of comparison, be kind and remind yourself that your story and experience is uniquely yours.
Disappointment and the uncomfortable reminder of not being in control can bring weary and hurting people to a standstill.
If you are struggling with infertility, please give me a call. I would be honored to journey with you as you navigate this challenging road. The truth is, this is a really difficult road to be on, and your grief, disappointment, fear, anger, and every other emotion need a safe place to be expressed.
Written by therapist Amie Bilson
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