We all know how the conventional script goes: boy meets girl, they fall in love, get married, have children, and they live happily ever after. What happens when your life doesn’t match the above script? For many couples, infertility becomes a completely unexpected deviation from what seems like a normal and typical journey. Rarely is infertility predictable prior to marriage (known structural anomalies being the exception). Often, infertility strikes in the beginning of a marriage which typically corresponds to the childbearing years, and creates stress as well as the first major hardship for many couples to overcome.
Fertility difficulties impact 1 in 8 couples in the United States. Forty (40%) percent of infertility issues tend to be female factor, forty percent (40%) tend to be male factor, ten percent (10%) are combined, and ten percent (10%) are unexplained…so what does this all mean? It is equally likely that the issue with fertility comes from either partner. Typically, people assume that if there are fertility challenges, then it is automatically the woman’s “fault.” Regardless of who is having difficulty, women often carry the emotional burden of an infertility diagnosis as our culture teaches men to be strong rather than share their emotions. Culturally speaking and throughout history, women are assigned the label as infertile (even when they are not) as a way to protect the man’s ego and status.
What is a couple to do?
First, know that this is real and a bonafide medical concern. As a result, you are both entitled to have feelings about it. Share these feelings with one another as communication is key. Decide about what boundaries are important to set with family and friends. Figure out who can play the role of support people for each of you and then enlist their support. Continue to practice self-care in the form of pampering, exercise or other stress-reducing activities. Do things as a couple, such as travel (especially to places where children aren’t likely to be), frequent date nights, or try something new together. Make sure to laugh and have some fun, despite feeling like your life is being ruled by an ovulation cycle. Reach out for professional help or a support group with the disconnect starts to feel too hard to bridge.
- Keep lines of communication open
- Know that each member of a couple handles stress differently
- Make sure that “baby making” is not the only activity you can do together or talk about
- Intimacy can look different than sex. Make sure to have both.
- Seek out support from family, friends, groups, or professionals