Fertility challenges can be very difficult for couples to face. It’s a rollercoaster ride that you can’t get off of until you bring your baby home (or redefine the definition of your family with your partner).
It’s a cycle that often starts with renewed hope at the beginning of a monthly cycle, stress around the time of ovulation, and disappointment when your period arrives yet again.
Add to that all the tests and different kinds of treatments that may last a few days or a few years, and there’s no wonder couples going through infertility treatments just don’t feel like themselves.
As a couple, and individually, you’ll experience a range of emotions including:
The most important thing is to be a team throughout the treatment process and not to try to blame one another for the problem. And while your partner may not be sharing the same experiences, know that he/she is affected in his/her own way and may not be expressing it the same as you.
If you’re partner is the one taking the medications, having to give herself shots several times a day, and having to undergo uncomfortable doctor visits, it’s going to be taking both a physical and mental toll on her.
On the other hand, even if your partner isn’t the one being pumped full of medication, he’s trying to deal with his own emotions, including the fact that it probably hurts him to see you going through all of the physical treatments. He may handle it differently and not say much to try to show strength for YOU.
Remember, your ultimate goal is to have a family… and it’s important to stay connected throughout the fertility journey, even when you feel like you’re all alone and nobody else in the world understands. You will be on this road together with both the ups and downs, which often seem to be far more frequent!
In this section, we provide helpful tips, tools, and stories to help you navigate this time.
Here are a few tips that might help you through this time together:
1. Accept that your fertility challenge is REAL.
People will tell you that “all you need to is relax” or “take a vacation” or “when God is ready for you to have your baby, you will”. More than likely, they’ve never faced a fertility challenge and are trying to help. For a time, you may simply need to distance yourself from these well meaning friends and family members.
Let the emotions come and go. Ask they come, acknowledge them. It’s natural to feel sad, stressed, overwhelmed, lonely, and even to have a sense of loss.
2. Don’t blame yourself (or your partner)
It’s natural to try and find a “reason” for your infertility… to blame yourself (or your partner). You might be thinking you waited too long or you made poor choices in life before or that you’re being ‘punished’ for some reason.
Try to let these feelings go. You can’t rent a time machine and go back in time to change things, so look forward to what you can do now.
3. Lean on your partner
There are times this may be easier than others, but it’s important to remember that you’re in this together. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to experience the same emotions at the same time, but it does mean that you should check in with one another regularly and allow time and space for the other person to handle it in his/her own way.
Learn how to help each other the way that they need the support.
But don’t shut each other out. Be sure to talk about what you’re thinking and feeling regularly. Try not to dominate every moment with the topic, however. Easier said than done when you’re in the middle of it all!
4. Educate yourself
Take charge of your fertility. Read as much as you can (from REPUTABLE places). Also, make sure the information you’re reading is current. Advances in fertility happen so quickly that information that’s 2 years old is often outdated by light years.
Ask your doctor any questions that you have. Most importantly, find a doctor that will take the time to explain things to you and answer questions thoroughly.
5. Create a plan
This can be tough due to financial constraints, emotions, and physical stress, but work with your partner and your doctor to set a game plan going in. It’s important to take into account medical history, results from preliminary tests, etc. to create a realistic plan. So be sure to lean on your doctor here.
What protocols are you willing to try?
How many attempts before moving on to the next? (i.e. 3 IUI before moving on to IVF)
What options are ultimately acceptable to you? (i.e. donor eggs, surrogate, adoption, or other)
Set limits on how long you’re going to try for (i.e. your insurance covers X treatments, you’ll try for 12 months only, etc.)
NOTE: You may not stick with the plan 100% due to how you respond to various treatments and recommendations by your doctor, but having some sort of plan going in makes it easier to make changes and lets you feel like you still have some control over your own treatment.
6. Decide on how much you are willing to invest
Let’s face it… fertility treatments aren’t cheap. By going into it with a budget, you’ll feel less stressed and anxious about the financial side of things.
First things first, find out what your insurance covers, if anything, with regard to fertility treatments. Ask your doctor’s office if they participate in any kind of prepaid programs. Also, find out if you can get an IVF rider added on to your insurance.
7. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others
Fertility is not something that everybody understands, so reach out to support groups with people are going through the same thing you are. Just keep in mind that everyone has their unique struggle so take any well-meaning advice with a grain of salt!
Or talk to professionals that are trained to deal with fertility issues. Not only can this help you personally cope with the process, but it will help you and your partner stay connected throughout the journey.
8. Excuse yourself from “baby” events
It may seem like everyone you know is having a baby shower or birthday party while you’re trying to get pregnant. It’s often best to decline invitations to events. Simply send a small gift along with a sincere apology for not being able to attend.
TIP: Amazon has just about everything you could ever want to send to someone and you don’t have to walk through the aisles at the stores looking at all the baby stuff and toys! They’ll even gift wrap it for you and send a note along with it!
Spend your time focusing on things that bring you joy. Explore new things in your community. Take day trips on the weekends. Start a new hobby or find time to focus on one you’ve let go over the years.
Take a trip to the beach or go for a hike. Curl up with a good book… Anything that brings you peace and joy between all the schedule visits and appointments!
9. Look for the silver lining, but don’t live in a fairy tale
We all go into our first treatment with the optimism that we’re going to come out of with a bouncing baby in 9 months. It’s the optimism that gets you started and keeps you going when things get tough.
But be sure to hold on to a healthy dose of reality along the way. Lean on your doctor to provide you with the facts and statistics based on your specific diagnosis, situation, and treatment plan.