I use various techniques when counseling women and couples during infertility. I begin by gathering information about the history and current status of infertility and treatment. I also gather personal and family history, and talk about the marriage and sex life of the couple. I try to match my breathing with the client’s breathing, and this gives me information about the current stress she is experiencing.
Since most women are quite stressed during infertility, I teach breathing patterns which are more calming and relaxing. I often suggest new ways of thinking about infertility and exercises to practice at home. Depending on the particular needs of the client, I use various techniques, and these may include yoga, meditation, music evoked imagery, and relaxation exercises.
Emotions may fluctuate frequently during infertility treatment. For example, in the beginning of a treatment cycle, the woman may be feeling hopeful and positive. If the cycle does not result in a positive pregnancy test, she may feel very sad, depressed, hopeless, and angry.
Men and women may not be feeling the same emotions at the same time, and this can be hard for them to be sensitive and understanding. It is not unusual for a woman to become anxious, depressed, and feeling very stressed during infertility. Being around pregnant people and going to baby showers is often quite painful.
You feel you have no control over whether you get pregnant, and this leaves you feeling helpless and powerless. You also feel you have no control over your body. You want to be pregnant now and your body isn’t cooperating. You have probably been able to achieve most things you have wanted in your life, such as completing your education or finding the right job. By setting realistic goals, you can usually work hard to achieve them. It’s frustrating that success in pregnancy and parenting has nothing to do with hard work. There are plenty of women who do not even want to be mothers, and they get pregnant easily or accidentally. This seems so unfair.
This feeling of having no control over if or when you become pregnant is very upsetting and frustrating. That’s why I have devoted an entire chapter in my book to help you let go of what you cannot control and make wise choices about what you can control during infertility. You will learn how to change your attitudes and beliefs about control and how to take exquisite care of yourself as you prepare for a healthy pregnancy.
Most relationships are affected during infertility. Because of the unique relationships with spouse, friends, family and coworkers, they may be managed a bit differently. Even well-meaning friends and family ask inappropriate questions, make insensitive comments, and say things that upset you and hurt your feelings. You start not answering their phone calls and think of excuses to avoid seeing them. You start isolating yourself and staying home more so you don’t have to see pregnant women and babies. One woman I counseled said:
It’s difficult to be a part of daily conversation where everyone is discussing having another baby, confiding whether they want a boy or a girl, how many they want altogether, and how they will decorate the new nursery room. To this day, no one seems to particularly care about my feelings. I find myself making some kind of snide remark or walking away altogether. My family seems to think I’ve always got a problem, but what they don’t seem to ever understand is that I just wanted another baby like each of them. You would think this would be such a simple concept.
This passage is taken from my book and it perfectly illustrates the frustration of so many women going through therapy for infertility. I’ve included lots of personal stories like this one and included these quotes because in my infertility counseling work, I’ve observed the power that real life stories have to ease the pain and reassure you that you’re not alone.
It is important that the couple learns how to stay intimate and connected during this time, and this includes paying careful attention to their sex life. Men approach problems with fertility differently than women. They often don’t understand why you want to avoid socializing with family and friends. For example, your husband might be enjoying talking with the men about sports and work at a party that’s agonizing for you because the women are talking about pregnancy and babies. You just want him to understand why social situations have become painful for you, and you really want his understanding and support when you are not in a social mood.
My book discusses how your husband can show up and make you feel like he’s a 100 percent partner in your journey to get pregnant. Be sure to hand it to him. These are simple, small gestures that will make him, as well as you, feel you are equal partners in co-creating your family.
Couples prefer to have a child using their own eggs and sperm, but this is not possible for everyone. There are many physical and medical reasons why a woman may not have the option of using her own eggs to conceive and why a man may not have the option of using his own sperm to conceive. They may want to avoid transmitting a serious genetic disease. In addition, many single men and women want to be parents. Many same-sex couples want to be parents. In order for this to happen, they may need to use donor eggs, donor sperm, donor embryos, or a surrogate uterus. And this often triggers feelings of sadness and grief. The grief is over the loss of a dream you had of having a child with your own eggs and sperm. One of the most effective things you can do to manage your emotions around this grief is to hear how other couples have come to terms with getting fertility help from donors.
Kim, for example, has an elevated follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) level and has been unable to get pregnant. She and her husband are planning to attempt a pregnancy with anonymously donated eggs. Here’s how she feels about using donor eggs:
I’m okay with it now. Initially, I was very sad and angry. I am only 33, and I felt like I was doing everything right. I felt like God was punishing me. After a while I accepted it. I did acupuncture, yoga, and special diets. All that stuff made me feel better, but it didn’t change my FSH level. Then I decided to get proactive, took control, and felt better mentally. I am willing to do whatever I have to do. I want a baby. I want to be a mom. However I get pregnant, I know I’m going to love our baby.