October 28th, 2015
Managing our feelings around infertility, at any time, is a difficult endeavor.
After all, struggling with infertility leaves us feeling overwhelmed, resentful and out of control.
It is particularly difficult to manage private emotions on holidays, at birthday parties or baby showers, when we are surrounded by family and friends who have an incessant need to ask, “So…when are you going to start a family?” or “Are you guys trying yet?” or “Come on, make me a grandmother already!”
Unfortunately, these sentiments, although intended with the greatest of love, can hurt a couple struggling with infertility so deeply to the core, that they are left winded and unable to respond.
So how do couples with infertility cope when they are surrounded by family? How can they manage their own feelings of envy when others announce pregnancies or other good news?
Tips to Manage Feelings when Struggling with Infertility:
Tip #1 – Couples can role-play with their partner or best friend on how best to answer questions. There is nothing more anxiety provoking than being caught off guard. Keep answers simple and direct without divulging any information that you or your partner would like kept private.
Tip #2 – Plan your social calendar wisely. It’s ok to say ‘no’ to some invitations. Figure out exactly how much family-togetherness and how many inappropriate questions you can handle. And then decide which functions are most important to attend.
Tip #3 – Until you have been able to master the skills to deal with your emotional triggers, it is all right at certain times to avoid these triggers altogether. I propose this solution to my clients strictly as a temporary solution, as avoiding dealing with your feelings serves no purpose other than to prolong the hurt.
For example, when my husband and I were going through our own journey of infertility, we suffered many losses and much fear of the unknown. For whatever reason, whenever I found myself at a shopping mall, I would get extremely anxious and upset. It did not seem rational to me and it made me question if there was something wrong with me. It took me a lot of time to realize that seeing all the children, all the babies in their strollers, and all the other pregnant women in such a confined area, was what was pushing me over the top. At this time, I temporarily avoided these large crowded places until I was better able to get my feelings under wraps and not break down. Slowly, I was able to reintegrate myself into these crowds and expose myself to these uneasy feelings.
Tip #4 – Always remember that feelings are feelings. And they are not right or wrong. Give yourself permission to feel sad or deprived, anxious or depressed. Infertility is emotionally difficult, and you are entitled to your feelings. Do not ever let anyone tell you not to feel a certain way. There is nothing more dismissive than being told, “Get over it,” or “Don’t worry…it’ll happen when it happens…” Allow yourself permission to take care of yourself.
Tip #5 – Surround yourself with people who make you feel comfortable, allow you to really be yourself, and those who would understand if you suddenly start to cry or leave the room to catch your breath. It’s all right to be sad and envious and happy all at the same time. It is also all right to walk away for a moment and have a cry if you need it.
Coping with infertility is an exceptionally daunting task. If you are lucky, you will have friends and family members who get it. Everyone means well as they try to support us during this difficult time, and do not intentionally try to hurt us further. But the truth is, unless you have experienced it on some level yourself, it is almost impossible to comprehend the levels of distress we experience.
So if you need to walk away, then do it. If you need to cry a little, so be it. If you need to skip an event, then go for it. Do what you need to do, and take care of yourself.
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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