One of the main reasons that family and friends have trouble helping their loved ones who are struggling with infertility is that they know so little about the emotional aspects of it. From the shocking diagnosis and demanding treatment to the disruptive day-to-day experiences, this emotional assault can leave couples depressed, angry and guilt-ridden. Unfortunately, family and friends can sometimes add to this pain by well-intended but uninformed comments and actions. Infertility counselors believe that if family and friends could understand the magnitude of this loss, they would have new insight into infertility patients’ motivation and behavior and be able to respond more appropriately to their needs. Below are just some of the different types of loss that a couple dealing with infertility may encounter:
Loss of Self-Esteem
Parenthood is so much a part of life that it is not just anticipated, it is expected. The inability to reach such a life goal comes as quite a shock, especially to those who are accustomed to achieving success in their lives. It can injure their self-image and make them feel inadequate even though infertility is nothing to be ashamed of. As their self-esteem is diminished, men and women often say they feel “incomplete” or “unworthy.”
Loss of Control
Infertility patients in treatment have lost control over much of their lifestyle, as doctors’ appointments, temperature charts, medication schedules and medical procedures overwhelm their normal routine. As the patient’s priorities shift, other people and regular activities take a back seat to the all-consuming job of trying to achieve pregnancy. This can be especially difficult for individuals with high-pressure careers as they try to balance their work and their life.
Loss of Someone or Something of Symbolic Value
Couples struggling with infertility may feel that they have lost a child, whether they have never conceived or they have conceived but could not carry the baby to term. The sense of loss is punctuated because there is no funeral, no sense of finality. And without a clearly defined loss for family and friends to see, it is difficult for them to truly empathize.
Those who are in the process of understanding and dealing with their infertility may experience many types of loss. It is important to understand that these losses are natural; although, it may be helpful to talk about these emotions with a counselor. For those who are simply friends or relatives of a couple dealing with infertility, learn more about how to discuss these emotions in our earlier blog, “Helping Loved Ones With Infertility.”