Infertility has a way of creeping up on you. First you have an inkling something is wrong, when month after month you don’t get pregnant. You start reading about basal body temperature and cervical mucus; you buy the first of many ovulation predictor kits. You try not to worry, but you do.
Next, you get on the medical treadmill: first your gynecologist, then a reproductive endocrinologist (infertility doctor). You keep putting one foot in front of the other; you keep trying cycle after cycle tweaking the meds or adding in new techniques.
I’m Pregnant: ‘Hooray’ or ‘Oy Vey’
For some, all this trying and tweaking works and they get pregnant. Some lucky few put all the infertility worry behind them and go on to have a blissful 9 months of pregnancy. But for many others the scars of infertility continue. Their pregnancy is filled more with worry than bliss.
I just wish I could enjoy this pregnancy, but I am so afraid that something is going to happen. I can’t let myself believe that I’m actually going to be able to have a healthy baby.
For some this fear goes away once the baby is born, but others continue to live with the residual scars of infertility. The fear that something will happen to this baby they fought so hard to have. The knowledge that they will have to try just that hard or harder to have another interferes with the joy and thankfulness they feel with having this one perfect child. The worry if they used donor egg or sperm that others will find out, or that this child will not be equal in the eyes of their family, or the dread when people ask who he looks like.
Shifting Focus to Adoption
All the shots and doctors and tests and infertility procedures do not work for everyone. At some point many shift their focus from trying to get pregnant to trying to adopt– moving from the medical escalator to the adoption treadmill.
They continue to put one foot in front of the other; researching adoption options, selecting an adoption agency or an adoption attorney and spreading the word that they want to adopt to all their friends and family. Then comes the meet and greet: meeting expectant women hoping to be selected, or deciding on a country and getting in line for the wait, or taking foster care adoption education courses hoping for the right match.
For many, all this moving forward one step at a time results in adoption. Finally! They expect to settle into parenting bliss after all the work they put into getting this child. For some, this is exactly what happens; but for others, the scars of infertility keep rearing their ugly head.
They know they will have to work equally hard if they want another child. They know they must save money in order to afford another adoption. They still struggle with the desire to be pregnant, the desire for their body to work right, the desire to have a child that shares their genes– a child that looks like them. For some this grief will show up in post adoption depression, while for others it will more subtle and resurface when a friend announces a pregnancy or during a visit with thier child’s birth mother.
Infertility- The Gift that Keeps on Giving
Infertility has a way of continuing to raise its ugly head just when you should be living your dream. You finally have your child—you should be ecstatic, but infertility and the grief associated with it may continue to plague your thoughts for the future and rob your enjoyment of the present. This can be especially true for those that have moved to non-genetic parenting through donor sperm, donor egg, donor embryo, or adoption.
The Infertility Escalator
One of the problems with infertility is that the process is like a treadmill– actually more like an escalator. Once you get on there is little time for reflection before taking the next step. Often the only pause is when you are trying to find the money to pay for the next step, but this is not the same thing as deciding on whether you want to take the next step or grieving the loss of the options that are closed to you.
We talk about “resolving” infertility grief as if it’s a one-step process that is done and checked off the list. Grief seldom works that way.
Resolution looks different for every person, but what it universally requires is recognition and time. You have to acknowledge what you have lost in order to make peace with it, and you have to give yourself time to mourn what you’ve lost before you can embrace the future. It helps to do this before taking the next step, but you can work on this grief at any time. These blogs may help:
- How Long Will You Hold On To the Pain of Infertility
- Will I Always be Sad I Didn’t Give Birth to My Adopted Child?
- Getting Over Infertility
I also can’t recommend this interview on the Creating a Family radio show with Carole Lieber-Wilkins, a licensed marriage and family therapist specializing in the field of reproductive medicine, adoption and family building options since 1986. She specializes in helping people transition from fertility treatment to donor conception or adoption. She is also a mom through both adoption and egg donation. Although the title is Coping with Infertility Grief After Adopting, it is equally relevant to anyone struggling with the grief of infertility.
Do you feel the pain of infertility and all the losses it involves even after living your happily ever after?
First published in 2015. Tweaked a little and republished in 2016. Image credit: slimmer_jimmer