The pressure to raise a family can be enormous, and the thought of not being able to have children can make many people feel something is wrong with them. Jan Silverman, a Fertility counselor and consultant has ten tips for couples experiencing infertility.
1. Avoid denial.
It’s important to admit (if only to yourself at the least) that the situation you’re in isn’t perfect. Stop being in denial – this is an important starting place. Individuals experiencing infertility exist in a world of, ‘I’m okay, I’m okay,’ but the truth is that it really hurts. Admit it. Give yourself the gift of your tears and shed them if you need to.
2. Don’t let love get in the way.
Never stop communicating with your partner in an effort to ‘protect’ them. Let your partner in as well. ‘Love’ can sometimes get in the way of healing – you’re so busy trying not to let your partner know what you’re really feeling in fear that they might get upset and then you end up internalizing your pain. Your partner is your partner for a reason. This goes for men and women.
3. Be intimate every day.
Keep intimacy active, alive and well. So often, when dealing with infertility, couples just, ‘don’t feel like it’ because sex and intimacy becomes associated with failure. The key here is not to confuse intimacy with sex – you may not always feel like having sex, but you must always try to practice intimacy. Think of a way to have a sexual encounter with your partner each day.
4. Be in control the information that you share.
You are in control of all of the information that you share. Infertility is largely associated with feelings of a lack of control. People are going to say things that hurt and ask rude questions, but you can control that. Be prepared to answer questions like, ‘have you tried seeing a doctor?’ or, ‘don’t you want to have a baby?’ There are only so many questions people are going to ask and you can rehearse with your partner some comfortable responses ahead of time so that you feel more in control.
5. Don’t make it all about the baby.
Many couples experiencing infertility feel like they are losing their peer group as more and more people are talking about babies and families. Be prepared and go into social settings with a couple of topics that you can start a conversation with – sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Talk about something that will divert people’s attention to something that isn’t always about kids – even if it gives you just a moment of peace.
6. Have a signal.
Have a signal with your partner that you can use in uncomfortable situations where you feel cornered. For instance, if your mother-in-law is confronting you, use this signal (i.e. scratch your head) and your partner can intervene to help ease the tension.
7. Appreciate the little things.
Try to think of one thing every day that made your day work. We get so caught up in what doesn’t work that we need to practice stopping and remembering the good in our days. Try to end your night with your partner with, ‘What was good about today?’ It can be something as simple as really enjoying your morning coffee – focus on what you do have more than on what you don’t.
8. Bring joy back into your life.
We often forget during times of infertility that we can still have sex for pleasure, instead of just ‘baby-making.’ We forget that we are entitled to have fun and that we can still seek things for pleasure. Individuals experiencing infertility often punish themselves and they forget to bring joy into their lives and lose focus on the things that are just nice things to do together.
9. Don’t do anything that will bring you more pain.
Don’t do things for other people if it’s at the expense of your own well-being. You don’t have to do anything that hurts you more than you already are. If you find that someplace you are already at is really difficult and uncomfortable, such as a baby shower, leave. Never do something that hurts you more then you are already hurting.
10. Educate others.
The more we educate others, the better off we will be. When people exist with misconceptions about infertility, it only makes confronting it even worse as times goes on. Be mindful that a lot of people do not know a lot about infertility and you can use each appropriate opportunity to educate them so that they have a better understanding of what you and your partner are going through and are more likely not to ask hurtful questions.
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