The path to parenthood is a deeply personal one and it requires intense vulnerability for those who decide to embark on the journey. When a couple struggles to conceive, hearing the word “infertility” can be shocking, even traumatizing. The term itself is loaded with painful feelings, negative beliefs about oneself and intense fear about the future. Some of the negative beliefs I encounter when working with women and men challenged by infertility are:
- It’s my fault because…
- I’m a failure
- I’m not a real woman/man
- I will be all alone
- My partner will leave me
- I won’t have purpose to my life
- I will never be happy
Medical professionals are trained to treat the physical issues surrounding the diagnosis, offering referrals for psychotherapy when asked, but doctors may not always be aware of the emotional impact of being labeled defective, enduring frequent invasive tests and procedures, and the layered disappointment of hearing repeated negative results.
Friends and family also have difficulty navigating the emotional landscape of infertility, contributing to the loneliness and isolation couples experience. Well-meaning advice or suggestions can be frustrating or invalidating. Additionally, both partners experience their own individual reactions and it can be difficult to be there for one another. Unfortunately, this is a time when social support is crucial, a necessary element in alleviating traumatic stress.
Finally, even when couples finally conceive or adopt, these beliefs and fears can continue, making it difficult to feel relaxed or happy. I find it is important to treat the unique traumatic reactions individuals and couples experience throughout the process so they are able to integrate their thoughts and feelings in a healthy and balanced way moving forward.