As a psychotherapist and former infertility patient, I have had untold hours of contemplation about the question of when to move ahead in the infertility process. I was reminded of that recently as I discussed with a woman her fear that she was “giving up” if she decided against the medical treatment she was being offered and explored adoption. I have had this conversation frequently with women and couples contemplating their “next” medical option. When to continue a treatment, progress to a different stage of treatment or terminate treatment are difficult decisions.
Loss is a part of entering the world of infertility.
If you are reading this, you have likely already encountered loss. The loss may be from a new knowledge that you may not become pregnant without medical assistance. Loss may be from a miscarriage. It may be from having to consider medical options you never considered. You may realize you will not be able to have a successful pregnancy and birthing experience. Maybe it is from making the decision to be a family of two and not parent. Letting go of the illusion of control is a loss.
Resiliency is the ability to be flexible in our set of responses to our life situations. Women and couples who successfully navigate the unknown world of infertility are able to take in new information, have their responses and feelings about it, and make the best decision they can about what to do next. Getting beyond loss requires you allow yourself to feel grief while at the same time allowing yourself to consider new possibilities.
The medical treatments available to us today offer an extraordinary opportunity for us to create a family whether utilizing IUI, IVF, PGD or donor egg, sperm and embryo. Any of these may be viable options that you may not even have been aware of. Perhaps you never thought you would consider adoption. It is natural to have fear and apprehension about any of these options if they are unfamiliar to you.
Sometimes we get confused by our feelings and think that we should have all of our feelings “resolved” before we move along in our infertility process. Infertility is a process, not an event! This means that we grow and change as we live the experience of our infertility journey. It is in the living of this experience that we stretch and grow to expand our options. We may have ambivalence or moments of sadness, and that is a normal part of acceptance. It does not mean we should not be open to additional possibilities.
It may help you to gain clarity by asking yourself the following questions:
- What were my assumptions about the way I (we) were going to create a family?
- Am I having any judgments about myself in this process which may be keeping me from moving forward? (e.g. “I should not be so ‘down’, should just toughen up and tolerate my physical or emotional discomfort, etc .)
- Have I educated myself fully about my medical options?
- Am I getting the emotional support I need to feel centered and clear about my thoughts? (RESOLVE support groups or infertility support books like Alice Domar’s Conquering Infertility are extraordinarily helpful.)
- If I’m confused, what is contributing to that confusion? What can I do to resolve the confusion? If I’m afraid, can I articulate my fears out loud or in writing so that I can challenge them with information?
Having the courage to consider these things in an open and compassionate manner is the way to acceptance and resolution. Your path to parenthood or child-free living may not be what you initially envisioned but that does not mean you will not get to a happy ending. Loss does not mean your life will not be wonderful. It means letting go of what is not working in order to make room for something different.
Contributed by: Pamela Fawcett Pressman is a RESOLVE Professional Member and Licensed Professional Counselor with a private practice in Voorhees, NJ.