I wrote the other day about my own struggles with infertility, and I wanted to share a little more about what has helped me cope with it. Here are five of the resources and types of interactions that have made a difference for me.
1. When I was trying to have a baby, I relied heavily on The Unofficial Guide to Overcoming Infertility.
I casually mentioned this guide by Joan Liebmann-Smith, Ph.D. in my previous post. The truth is I relied on this book heavily before my husband and I conceived our son. The majority of the book details causes of infertility and the types of treatments that are available. The extensive medical information helped me know what to expect at appointments and how to interpret results as we went along.
In addition to the medical information there were some key insights in the guide that helped me frame what I was dealing with and how to proceed:
- The book addresses the reality that both men & women can have infertility problems. It goes on to recommend that both partners be screened for possibile fertility concerns. (This is common practice in reproductive medicine, but I learned it first from the guide.)
- As the title of the guide mentions overcoming infertility, the author addresses this by suggesting there is more than one way to “overcome” infertility: overcoming could mean having a child, adopting a child, making the choice not to have children.
- The author also warns of the strain that infertility can cause for a couple. Practical advice we found helpful was to talk with your partner about your goals and decide together how far you will go with treatment, when or whether to go the adoption route, and when you will walk away. Talking about these things was essential for preserving our marriage.
2. I realize that I am not the only one dealing with this when I get to talk with others with infertility concerns.
Many people find strength to face difficulties by talking with other people who are going through something similar. This was an essential aspect of my coping with infertility.
Nobody understood how painful a baby shower was for me as well as other women facing infertility. Others who had been in treatment longer than me could give me first-hand insight into what to expect. It was a great relief to know that we were not the only couple having trouble keeping the love in scheduled love-making.
I have found these relationships pretty naturally, but if you don’t know anyone else facing infertility you could look for a support group. You could check with your doctor, a local hospital, or a nearby counseling center to see if they know of support groups in your area.
You can also find information and support online:
- Hannah’s Prayer Ministries provides Christian-based support and encouragement to married women around the world who are struggling with the pain of fertility challenges, including primary and secondary infertility, pregnancy loss, early infant death, and adoption loss. Our outreach extends to those who become mothers of living children through pregnancy, adoption, and/or foster care.
- Hannah’s Prayer Community Forums is the message/bulletin board branch of Hannah’s Prayer Ministries. To join, you will need to register and agree to their statement of faith. Administrator’s approval is required and could take 1-2 days.
- Resolve: The National Infertility Association, is a non-profit organization with the only established, nationwide network mandated to promote reproductive health and to ensure equal access to all family building options for men and women experiencing infertility or other reproductive disorders.
3. I draw strength from talking about my infertility struggles with caring friends and family who are not dealing with infertility challenges.
While nobody understands in the same way as someone else going through infertility, there are lot of caring people out there. Being appropriately open with people about my struggles has provided me with broad-based support. This can be risky which is why I usually start with sharing just the basics.
The types of people I talk with most about it:
- wait for me to broach the subject of children,
- let me talk as much (or as little) as I want to about my infertility,
- listen with love,
- accept me and my emotions (even my anger!) and do not judge me,
- pray for &/or with me,
- follow up with me after I share with them.
The types of people that make me uncomfortable:
- don’t know me very well, but pry into why our family isn’t bigger,
- make predictions and promises about my condition,
- despite lack of experience, have a lot of unsolicited advice,
- ignore my verbal &/or nonverbal cues that I don’t want to talk about it.
Specific things not to say are listed in How to Encourage Your Infertile or Bereaved Friends, the last article listed under The Issues on the Hannah’s Prayer website.
For general insight into caring for others in difficult times, you can read Don’t Sing Songs to a Heavy Heart: How to Relate to Those Who Are Suffering and/or Christian Caregiving: A Way of Life. Both books are by Dr. Kenneth C. Haugk, the founder of Stephen Ministries St. Louis.
4. I feel confident about my medical care when I have doctors who really listen.
Throughout my saga with infertility one of my biggest concerns has been my overall health. My particular infertility condition is a complex syndrome with additional implications for my health. Even when we were actively seeking pregnancy I didn’t want to ignore my overall health and just get a baby at any cost. Then and now I am most confident about the care I am getting when I feel like the doctor really listens to my concerns and goals for treatment.
Finding a doctor like that can be easier said than done. I wish I had better recommendations for a sure-fire way to find a great doctor. Many people are limited by geography or insurance issues. Still, if you have a choice, don’t be afraid to get a second opinion or to find a doctor that is a better match for you.
Word of mouth is a great way to find a good doctor, which goes back to #2 above. Perhaps some of the links in that section could help you connect with people in your area who can make good recommendations.
5. Even when I’m mad at God, I need the support of my faith communities.
It was a big turning point for me before we had our son when I finally asked to be added to the church prayer list for my infertility concerns. I had told one or two people in the church, but most people had no idea. When I asked for prayer it became public. I was nervous at first, but my church family at the time held my prayer need with utmost respect.
When I am struggling in my faith I am particularly glad for corporate worship and liturgy in particular. Even if I can’t pray, the community of faith carries me through their prayers. Churches who do liturgical worship are accused sometimes of “just going through the motions.” I have to tell you though, when infertility plunged me to my lowest point, those “motions” were all I had. Reciting liturgy that I have memorized, that I know by heart allowed me to pray when I would not have otherwise been able to pray.
One thing that helped me also was when my congregation and other supportive faith communities became aware of the pain of infertility. Due to awareness about infertility, my church family prayed for couples who cannot have children on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Before I had my son, fellow members of an online discussion group for Pastor’s Wives made a point to show sensitivity when sharing about baby news.These are the things that have helped me. What has made a difference for you in facing infertility? What other resources do you know of that can help raise awareness about infertility?