For those of you reading and connecting with this blog - first note - You Are Not Alone - I see you and feel with you.
Infertility and pregnancy struggles can be a long and lonely journey for many. The stigma associated with infertility can also make the grief and loss that much harder, and the wide range of emotions can make it hard to process. Coupled with the fact that not many talk about it, the secrecy, shame and isolation that goes with infertility struggles can affect your mental health.
My infertility struggles followed the same path as many. The hope, excitement and dreams of starting a family, and the slow drip of anxiety, frustration and grief as each month of disappointment builds to a deep despair. Then the same patterns of emotions build and end after miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies.
No one talks much either about how infertility struggles can wreak havoc on your relationship. Sex isn’t intimate anymore - it is a chore or a science experiment that is led by temperature check, ovulation sticks and positions that may help with fertility. You and your partner both share in the loss and disappointment but grieve differently, which can also contribute to feelings of disconnection and isolation.
Many couples whom I have talked to don’t discuss the concept of infertility before marriage or long-term commitment. Many of us talk about each other’s desire to have children, but not many of us go further in discussing views on infertility treatments and/or adoption, so when the time comes to make these decisions, couples have different views that can affect decision making and, in the end, the relationship.
Two of the strongest emotions I felt during my infertility journey were jealousy and envy. Sitting around at dinner parties and listening to my friends share their pregnancy news and wanting to feel and share in their joy was such an uncomfortable feeling that I began to isolate myself during that time period. Jealousy and envy would turn to guilt at not feeling more happiness for them, as well as anger at them for not being more mindful of my feelings and experiences.
Also, the doctors appointments, the poking, prodding, testing, consultations, the infertility shots, the diet changes, the acupuncture, herbal supplements, the soreness, the irritability, and finally the financial costs of trying to get pregnant can take a toll on couples, families and individuals. Ultimately you worry whether your mental health becomes a contributing factor to your long- standing struggle with getting pregnant - the mind-body connection, and you begin to beat yourself up for feeling negative emotions.
Erin Swinson, LMHC
Mental Health Therapist