AdultsCouplesGriefLauren GrossbachParentsPregnancy Loss

Infertility (Part 2): Emotional Toll and Life Changes

Image of an array of different emotions one can experience when going through infertility. It can be helpful to speak with a therapist; look for one in Scotch Plains or Branchburg today!

In part 1 of this series, we explored what infertility can look like, as well as financial burdens and physical changes. The effects of dealing with infertility only start there. In this part, we’ll discuss how infertility affects your emotions, relationships, and daily functioning.

The Emotional Toll

Infertility is often referred to as a “rollercoaster” of emotions. But what emotions are included on this rollercoaster ride? The ups and downs, in no particular order, include:

  • Embarrassment. “Everyone keeps asking when we’re going to get pregnant. I don’t even know what to say.”
  • Hope. “Maybe this will work and the struggle will be over.”
  • Disappointment. “I really thought this was going to work, but it didn’t.”
  • Depression and isolation. “This is painful and scary. I feel so alone. I’ve lost my motivation.”Tray of eggs with different emotions, showing what it could be like to experience a whirlwind of emotions while dealing with infertility treatments. A grief therapist in Scotch Plains or Branchburg, NJ can help you process complicated feelings while or after going through infertility.
  • Envy. “She’s already pregnant with her third, and I can’t even have one”
  • Guilt. “Did I do something to deserve this? What am I doing wrong?”
  • Helplessness. “I’m trying so hard for something I have no control over.”
  • Longing. “That mother and daughter are so cute together. I wish I knew what that felt like.”
  • Confusion. “Why does it happen easily for others but not for me?”
  • Anger. “I’ve sacrificed so much and gotten nothing in return.”
  • Grief. “This is not how I pictured my life.”
  • Low self-esteem. “What’s wrong with me/my partner? Do people feel pity for me/us?”
  • Uncertainty. “Maybe I’m not worthy of being a parent because getting there is so difficult.”
  • And finally, building yourself back up to try again. “If I want to have children (and I really do!) then I can’t give up.”

In fact, a study from 1993 showed that women dealing with infertility experienced the same amount of anxiety and depression as women going through cancer, cardiac rehabilitation, hypertension, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

Handling Reactions

Another heavy part of dealing with infertility is the reactions of others. When you tell someone you’re struggling with infertility, the responses are:

  • Unsolicited advice. “Have you tried acupuncture?” “Maybe you’re just not timing it right.” 
  • Comparisons. “My husband just LOOKED at me and I was pregnant!” “What worked for me was…” 
  • Toxic positivity. “It’ll happen.” “Stay positive.”
  • Attempts to find meaning. “It’s just not your time yet.” “God has a reason for everything.”
  • Focused on fixing the sadness. “Go on vacation! Do something fun!”
  • Stories about others. “My cousin’s friend’s wife did IVF and now she has twins!”

If you’re wondering what to say to someone who is living through infertility, check out Part 3 of this blog series.

Relationship Changes

I read once that grief changes your address book. The same is true for infertility. Infertility causes you to reevaluate all the relationships in your inner circle. If you’re going through infertility with a partner, you might experience:

Image of two characters holding hands through change. Image shows two individuals supporting each other through what may be a challenging time. Infertility can be a challenging time and it may be helpful to speak with a therapist. Look for a therapist near you today!

  • Changes in your sex life, intimacy, as well as communication.
  • Increased arguments related to options for treatment, finances, as well as next steps.
  • Frustration from working on this project together, even though you have no control over the outcome.
  • Stress from being each other’s “rock” during this difficult time.
  • The need to reevaluate your relationship, your timeline, your future, and the family you might be able to have.

If you’re going through fertility treatments solo, please know that you’re not alone. There are more and more individuals making the choice to become parents without a partner. Fertility treatment is isolating and difficult. You might feel alone riding this crazy rollercoaster. Perhaps you feel forgotten because you’re in the minority of people who are single parents by choice. For these folks, getting support from a community is so important. I will talk more about that in Part 3 of this series.

As with anything difficult in life, infertility impacts other relationships, too. To balance out the sadness of infertility, we often need to lean on friendships. You may have to educate your friends on the process. Some have no idea what you’re going through. Some of your friends may already be parents, which is painful for you to witness. Despite your friend’s attempts to be sensitive to your situation, you may need to distance yourself from some friendships for self preservation. And that’s okay.

Parental Figures

Some of the most awkward interactions around infertility can happen with your parents, in-laws, or other parental figures in your life. You may not feel comfortable talking about fertility with parental figures at all, and that’s okay! Some families have an expectation that biological generations will continue. Whether your parents/in-laws are waiting for their first grandchild or tenth grandchild, you may feel pressure to continue the family line. Despite this, remember that fertility is a journey for you (and your partner, if applicable) and no one else. You are allowed to share (or not share) anything about your body, struggles, or future plans.

If you do talk to parental figures about your infertility struggles, be sure you’re getting the support you need from them. This may also include having to educate them. If they’re willing to learn, try to be patient with them as they figure out what you need.

Work Life Changes

If you (and your partner, if applicable) are dealing with infertility AND working full time, kudos to you. Infertility feels like a full time job in and of itself. That’s because it requires flexibility in your schedule. Your life becomes focused on timing for appointments, medications, as well as procedures. Appointments are often early in the morning, 6am-10am. Infertility doesn’t care that your boss scheduled an important meeting for 8am; if you want to try for a child, you have to be at your appointment.

Wooden blocks spelling out the words "work" and "life" balancing on opposite sides of a scale, depicting a work-life balance. It can be difficult to manage the balance and flexibility when also navigating infertility and treatments. Seek a therapist to help with these challenges in Scotch Plains or Branchburg, New Jersey.

This demand for flexibility can cause strain on your job or your relationship with your boss. You  might not want to disclose that you’re going through infertility treatments. But you worry that your boss is going to ask why you’re taking off every other morning for doctor’s appointments. Will your coworkers notice that you’ve been calling out recently? In addition, if you’re taking medication or hormones during infertility, your job performance can be affected. This is because common side effects include tiredness, cramping, and trouble sleeping.

Now that you’ve had a glimpse into living with infertility, let’s talk about how to support someone you love. Check out part 3 of this blog.

Begin Therapy with a Couples Therapist in Somerset or Union County New Jersey Today!

The emotional toll of infertility is challenging. Dealing with familial changes of infertility and your new work-life balance is hard and isolating. The good news is you don’t have to do it alone. Our couples therapists are on your team. We are available to help you begin healing from the trauma you’ve experienced at one of our NJ-based counseling offices located in Scotch Plains or Branchburg. Or if you prefer, we can meet with you for online therapy in New Jersey. To get started, follow the steps below.

  1. Connect with us at Brave Minds Psychological Services.
  2. Meet with one of our couples therapists for a free consultation.
  3. Start healing.

Other Services Offered at Brave Minds Psychological Services

Other services offered at Brave Minds include counseling for postpartum concerns, couples therapy, and parent counseling. In addition to services for parents and couples, we offer services for adults with trauma and anxiety. We are proud to serve the areas of Westfield, New Providence, Fanwood, and Cranford. However, we also provide online therapy to anyone seeking services in New Jersey.

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