You and your partner are ready to start or grow your family but, rather unexpectedly, you’re not getting or staying pregnant. It’s often not so easy to figure out why this is and what to do about it. For most couples, these are existential questions that don’t have easy answers. And they can create a lot of stress and emotional challenges that most of us are unprepared to deal with.
The stress you’re experiencing in your life generally, and specifically as a result of your unfulfilled dream of parenthood, can itself be a factor contributing to your fertility challenges. So, understanding and dealing with the emotional aspects of this journey is paramount to helping you navigate this process.
Don’t delay getting information
When you start wondering whether or not you will be able to have a baby naturally, you probably start reading more about the biology of reproduction, you talk to your gynecologist, or even ask for a referral to a specialist, typically a reproductive endocrinologist. Maybe you’ve even asked your Chinese medicine practitioner for advice. It’s a good idea to start investigating as soon as you have doubts about your fertility so that you can identify biological problems early which could get in the way of your conceiving a child. Some of them can be remedied or circumvented once uncovered.
Unfortunately, though, it’s often not really clear—in spite of high tech diagnostics—what the problem really is that’s preventing you and your partner from becoming parents. There are myriad ways in which your genetics, hormones, general health and, yes, even your emotional state may interfere with conception, implantation and gestation.
Choppy waters ahead
The earlier you recognize that this may be a long and emotionally challenging journey the sooner you can develop coping strategies and enlist the kind of psychological support you’ll need. Assisted reproductive techniques, such as IVF, may or may not work for you, and you will need to keep an open mind and possibly consider other options to create the family you and your partner long for.
While the sophistication of reproductive interventions and their acceptance by the public have grown considerably over the past years, it’s possible that you, your partner, or your families, friends, co-workers, or even some of your doctors will have reservations or be unsupportive as you’re considering your options or dealing with their outcome. It can be challenging to see other women, your sister, cousin, best friend, or just acquaintances or strangers, fall pregnant while you’re trying hard but not succeeding.
Not your usual emotional challenge
Realize that this is something that’s cutting to the core. It’s natural for humans to want to raise children. You will need all the support you can get. So, where should you start looking? Of course, you and your partner need to have an open and ongoing dialogue so you can be on the same page as much as possible. Joining a support group with other women who are struggling with infertility may turn out to be your best resource since most people who never experienced these particular challenges have a harder time putting themselves in your shoes. It is also important that every member of your health care team is on your side, honest with you, professional and compassionate.
Depending on the cause of your infertility, remedying or circumventing the obstacles can lead to successful outcomes fairly quickly. You may only need one IUI or IVF, maybe not even. It’s common for women with hormonal imbalances to conceive on their own once these are addressed with appropriate botanical prescriptions and acupuncture. But it’s also not uncommon that your journey will be a long one. You may end up undergoing numerous IVF cycles, even using donor gametes or embryos, and still not have a baby. Dealing with these ups and downs, the medical treatments and surgical interventions, and the repeat disappointments, can drain the life force of even the most optimistic and energetic woman or man.
To deal with this over the long haul, maybe even several years, you will also need tools to cope and manage your emotions. In fact, you will need a whole toolbox full of coping strategies, so don’t skimp and get creative. Excellent self-care is the cornerstone of building and nurturing the required resilience and hopefulness. This includes mind-body practices to purposefully relax and harness your thoughts. There’s a whole smorgasbord of effective mind-body techniques available, and you will be able to find one or several that have meaning and work for you. They range from meditation, mindfulness, and prayer to yoga, tai chi, and time in nature. The sky is the limit.
It is also important to develop skills in recognizing and reformulating mental-emotional barriers that impede your ability to cope with the whirlwind of emotions you’re likely to encounter on your fertility journey. It’s often a time for examining long-held beliefs and deciding whether or not it’s time to cast them out if they no longer serve you. Sometimes, it’s more productive to do this work with a therapist experienced in counseling women and their partners who encounter fertility challenges.
You’re not alone, good resources are out there
If you are just getting started and not sure where to look for the information you need, you may find useful material and even support groups in your area through Resolve, a decades-old organization dedicated to helping couples who face infertility. For more than fifteen years, I have been treating women, and sometimes their partners, as a Chinese herbalist, acupuncturist and naturopathic practitioner, promoting fertility naturally. Over these years I have developed a network of trusted specialists in New York and can make recommendations, if you need a referral.
Creating a family requires all hands on deck, and that includes the emotional and psychological support you may need to navigate your personal journey across the sometimes turbulent seas if all doesn’t go as planned, or at least not right away. I wish you smooth sailing!
© 2020 Christiane Siebert