“I feel so alone.” I hear this all the time—and it is understandable. Infertility is such a deeply personal experience. Often, though you are carrying immense stress and worry in your heart, these stresses go unseen and these worries go unspoken. It can be the last thing you want to talk about, but sometimes it just feels better to know you are not in it alone. Here’s how…
- Sync up with your partner
Ask questions. Listen. Take the emotional barometer reading of how your partner is doing—really. Recognize that you each may have a different style of processing the up’s and down’s of infertility. Even if you are coping differently, remember that you are on the same team. Did I mention, “listen”?
- Tell people what you want
Friends and family may immediately go into problem-solving mode when you tell them about your family-building challenges. Though well-meaning, you may just want an ear to listen. Give yourself permission to tell them if you want empathy or answers.
- 50 Shades
Sex on a schedule=no fun. Time to get creative. Find ways within the restrictions of infertility treatment timelines to get close. There are many more ways to feel close to your partner than just sex. I suggest cuddling while watching re-runs of your favorite TV show, holding hands while walking down the street, and experimenting sexually without an agenda.
Couples can lose track of that je ne sais quoi that made them feel like, well, them. Make date night (or date “20 minutes”) a priority. Write him a love note. Take her to that dive you used to love. Bust out your wedding video. Remember you are in this together and tap into what makes you feel connected.
- A little help from your friends
When you want to talk about it, call your friend. When you don’t want to talk about it, go out with your friend and don’t talk about it. Whatever mood you are in, your friends don’t care. They just want to BE with you. You may find a laugh, a bit of strength, or a cry you didn’t even know you needed.
- Community Calls
Sorry for the soapbox here, but this is important. The social stigma that still exists–in which infertility is only talked about in hushed tones–is outdated and unhelpful. It is each person’s choice if she wants to talk about her struggles, or not. Either choice is valid. The point is that you should have that choice. If you are someone who wants to share about your family-building challenges, be bold. Break barriers and share your experience with your community members. You will help yourself and you never know who you will be inspiring to do the same.
- Ode to the Blog
People can find great support through online communities, blogs and Facebook groups with stories like theirs. Take the good from these cyber communities–tips, tricks, and validation that you are not the only one.
- Not before my coffee
How is it that the topic of frozen embryos comes up over Fro Yo? Or the question of “what now?” comes up as you are turning off the lights for the night? It can be helpful to set very clear limits with your family or friends as to when you want to talk infertility, and when you don’t. For example, some couples don’t allow infertility talk in the bedroom. Others set certain times of day that are off-limits (I wouldn’t recommend serious talks of any kind, really, before your morning coffee). Just make sure to designate times when are you are well-caffeinated and in the mood to get to these important discussions.
- And this is me!
There are therapists who have specialized training in working with the pregnancy-related challenges. It just helps to see a therapist who understands what you are going through. If you find yourself feeling stuck or if you just need a little extra support, it might be time to call a trained therapist.
- All of this said…
There are some times when it is best to be alone. To stay home. To skip the baby shower. To bow out of your nephew’s birthday party. Check in with yourself when the best choice to take care of yourself is to be by yourself. And enjoy your own company!
Michele L. Weiss, LMFT
3166 N. Lincoln Avenue, Suite 202 Chicago, IL 60657