Infertility: When to Say When?

Most couples facing infertility treatment never expected to have difficulty conceiving a baby. Month after month of trying leads to a trip to an infertility specialist and before you know it you are in the midst of infertility treatments. You begin with monitoring your basal body temperature then move into taking some medication and before you know it you are making difficult decisions about things like surgery and using donors. It can all come at you very quickly and make you feel out of control. Dealing with infertility on a daily basis can take an enormous toll on you physically, emotionally and financially.

Which treatments to try, for how many cycles and how much money to spend? All are very difficult questions. The answers are different for each couple. What may feel right for one person might feel very wrong for another. It is important to honor your individual circumstances. No one has walked in your shoes, and though loved ones and medical professionals may give you advise, you are the only one that can decide when the time is right to grieve your reproductive loss and move on to explore the other options that may be available for building your family.

Struggling through all that comes with infertility can leave even the most grounded person feeling that they have lost control over their life. It can help to take a step back and have a conversation with your partner about your goals, ethical beliefs, physical and emotional stamina and financial situation in order to put you in a proactive mode instead of feeling that you are always reacting. Some topics worthy of discussion include:

Ethical Beliefs – It may be that you are ok with IUI, but IVF doesn’t feel right, or perhaps you are comfortable with IVF and a donor egg, but surrogacy is pushing the envelope for you. Think ahead as to what could be coming down the road so you will be prepared when the next option is presented.

Financial Investment – As much as you may hate to put a price tag on a child the reality is that infertility can be a very expensive endeavor with no guarantee of a successful outcome. Most people have a limit on what they can spend. It is wise to set a budget early on with an agreement not to go over it without additional discussion. As much as you may dread it you should also discuss what your contingency plan is. It may be that if you are not able to have your own child that you might consider some form of adoption in the future which may have a significant financial cost as well.

Time investment – Life can feel like it is at a stand still when you are going through infertility treatment. Your whole schedule is planned around injections, blood draws, ovulation, etc. Things like vacations are difficult to plan, not knowing if you will or won’t be pregnant. Again, it can be helpful to set a time table for yourself knowing that you will reevaluate your feelings when you reach that point. It is also important for women who are getting older to realize that some of their other family building options such as adoption may be threatened if they wait to long.

These are difficult decisions to make as an individual; they become increasingly complicated when trying to make them as a couple. It is rare for a couple to always be in agreement. Infertility can take an emotional toll on even the strongest of relationships which is why it is important to talk through these issues early on and to continue to communicate throughout the process. If you are really having trouble coming to a consensus get some assistance. Some couples find it helpful to work through these decisions in counseling with a therapist specifically trained in reproductive health issues (you can locate qualified Infertility Counselors at  www.ASRM/MPHG.org)

In the end only you will know when “enough is enough” and you are ready to move on. Trust in your judgment and expect that you may second guess your decisions in the future. “If we had just tried one more cycle…? If you do decide to walk away from infertility treatment be prepared to mourn the loss of the dream you had for yourself. Acknowledging the loss will allow you to grieve so that you can move on and explore other options such as adoption, fostering or deciding to live child free.

Erin Clark is a therapist who specializes in working with women and couples struggling with issues related to infertility, pregnancy loss and adoption. If you found this article helpful you can reach Erin through from our Contact Page

Supporting a Loved One Struggling with Infertility Can Be Confusing

How Do I Support Her Through Infertility?

Supporting a loved one struggling with infertility can be difficult. How do I help? What do I say? When your spouse, friend or daughter is struggling through the ups and downs of infertility it is hard to know how to help.

For the woman who is struggling with infertility the emotional toll, to say nothing of the physical toll, can be immense. Every month brings the opportunity for new hope and despair. It is difficult to accept the fact that there is nothing you can do to fix the problem or to stop the hurt, but there are things that you can do to help:

Offer to lighten the load: Trying to juggle work and home responsibilities in the midst of infertility can often feel overwhelming. Be specific with your intent. Instead of saying, “Let me know if there is anything you need.” Offer to bring over a meal for her on a day that you know will be particularly trying, such as after an IVF treatment.

Ask her about her treatment: Most women are consumed with thoughts about their infertility and would appreciate the opportunity to talk about what they are going through. If she is not in the mood to talk she will likely let you know, but she will be glad to know that you will be there when she is ready to talk.

Keep asking: Unfortunately for many women the infertility struggle can be a long one lasting many months and sometimes even several years. As time wears on the emotional strain deepens. Try to avoid questions like, “Are you pregnant yet?” which can make her feel like a failure if the answer is no, and opt for something more supportive like “How are you holding up? It is helpful to know that you have people that will be there to support you regardless of how long it takes.

Don’t minimize her feelings: A platitude such as, “Well, at least now you know that you can get pregnant.” or “There’s always next month.” doesn’t erase the fact that she is hurting now. What may seem like a small set-back to you could feel huge to her. Don’t assume you know how she feels, even if you have struggled with infertility yourself. Each person’s reproductive story is unique.

Run interference: For a woman trying to have a baby it seems that everywhere she goes there are babies and everyone she knows is pregnant. Handling situations like family gatherings and holidays where it is likely that the focus is going to be on children can be especially painful. Try to anticipate people or places that might be difficult for her. Help her to steer clear of those things or give her an outlet if she needs to escape.

Be present: Sometimes empathy is the only tool in your arsenal. Being a shoulder to cry on or crying with her will help her through her grief and let her know that you care.

You may not always do or say the right thing to your special someone who is struggling with infertility, but what really matters is that you let her know that you love her unconditionally and will be there to support her whenever and however she needs.

Erin Clark is a therapist who specializes in working with women and couples struggling with issues related to infertility, pregnancy loss and adoption. If you found this article helpful you can reach Erin through from our Contact Page