Coping With Grief and Loss While Trying to Conceive
If you’re in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex and decide to start trying for baby you probably expect to get pregnant without a hitch. At first you don’t even consider you might face a barrier or a myriad of barriers trying to conceive (TTC). But sadly, for some couples the process of falling pregnant does not happen quickly. One month of TTC turns into two, and then three, and with each month that goes by and each menstrual cycle signalling a pregnancy has not taken place there is a wave of grief and loss.
These waves have a cumulative effect and can wreak havoc on the emotional state of the individual members of the couple and the relationship as whole.
At the start of a new cycle, hope rises anew. “It might work this time”, you think. You make little promises to yourself at the beginning of each month. One month you allow yourself to feel hopeful and positive, the next you decide to not allow yourself to feel too hopeful should your dream not come true this time. As a woman you become more aware of the signs that you are ovulating, tracking your cycle in a number of different ways; apps, ovulation kits, temperature, and yes even by examining the stuff in your knickers (yes, I’m going to say it, discharge! This may sound gross but when your TTC you’ll do anything). As a man you become sensitive to the changes your partner is going through and although she might not be able to tell, you feel every inch of her pain with her.
When you first start TTC, sex with your partner feels exciting. You feel closer than ever before with the anticipation that you could be creating a baby together. As the months go by and you fail to fall pregnant again and again sex becomes a means to end, it loses all romance, excitement and fun and becomes a chore, something you have to do. Of course, you try many different techniques in a hope that it will increase your chances of falling pregnant; sex every day, sex every second day, sex on the day you think you’re due to ovulate, sex for four days in a row around the day you’re due to ovulate, sex only in the morning, sex only at night, lying on your back with your legs in the air after sex, on and on and on it goes. It’s exhausting and heartbreaking but you keep trying.
With each month and each period that comes you feel like failure and a new wave of sadness, grief, frustration and anger washes over you. And even though you can’t fall pregnant everyone around you seem to be popping out babies out. So, you try harder, surely the harder you work at this the more likely it is that it will happen right? You try harder to be healthier, exercise more (or less), lower your stress (which feels impossible), eat better and again on and on and on it goes.
But nothing seems to work. You try everything and still can’t have the one thing you want most in the world, to fall pregnant. You experience a whirlpool of emotions, sometimes all at the same time or a lot of different emotions in one day:
Sadness – “I want to be pregnant more than anything I’ve ever wanted before, and it might be a dream that never comes true.”
Frustration – “Not my period again!”
Anger – “It’s not fair! Why can everyone else have babies and I can't?”
Fear – “What if I never fall pregnant? Will my wife/husband leave me if we can’t have kids?”
Confusion – “Why is this happening to me?”
Guilt – “Have I done something wrong to deserve this?”
Overwhelm – “What should I do?”
And so out of control – “Nothing is working.”
Going through this journey can be extremely difficult and painful and can put an enormous amount of strain on your relationships. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help yourself and good support available. Here are a few ways you can cope better with the journey of infertility:
1. Share your thoughts and feelings. Find a way to express your emotions and talk about your experience. Talk with your partner, find a friend or two who you think will understand, speak with your family, write in a journal, cry, scream, let it out. Expressing will help you to move through your emotions with more ease.
2. Seek good quality information. I know you’ve been on google trawling through articles that probable isn’t from a reputable source. Forums can sometimes be a support but as each infertility journey is so unique it’s difficult to filter helpful from not so helpful stories. There are many helpful books on infertility so check your local library. Listed below are a few books I recommend.
3. Seek professional medical advice. Speak to your GP, find a good fertility specialist and enlist the support of a Psychologist who is experienced in working with individuals and couples on their infertility journey. Alternative therapies such as massage, acupuncture and naturopathy can also be helpful.
Jaffe, J. Ourieff Diamond, M., & Diamond, D.J. (2005). Unsung lullabies: Understanding and coping with infertility. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.
Mackney. R., & Bray. R. (2015). Get a life: His & hers survival guide to IVF. Great Britain: Orion.
Wenzel, A. (2014). Coping with infertility, miscarriage, and neonatal loss: Finding perspective & creating Meaning. Washington, DC: APA Life Tools.
If you are interested in experiencing some time with a Psychologist then I’d love to chat. I’ve been supporting individuals and couples at all stages of their infertility journey in my professional practice for many years and, I’m here to give you the guidance you need to make it through with good mental health, no matter what the outcome. You can find all my contact details here to get in touch.