One of the most common emotions that couples experience while undergoing infertility testing, diagnosis and treatment is a loss of control and a feeling of helplessness. Most of us have been raised to believe that as long as you work hard and you follow certain steps, you will achieve the goal that you want. Especially high achieving couples can have a very hard time coming to terms with infertility and the loss of control that follows. You can do everything that you read about; follow strict diets, strict exercise plans, take all of the medications at the exact time you’re supposed to, and you still might not get pregnant. You are being poked and prodded by doctors and their staff. People are seeing and invading parts of your body that you believe should have remained private. And through it all, you feel completely helpless and powerless. It’s an extremely frustrating feeling and it can easily take over your life.
So, what can you do while undergoing infertility testing, diagnosis, and treatment in order to not feel so helpless and so out of control? How do you continue to live life, even thrive, while undergoing this extremely personal journey? Here are five things that you and your partner can do to start to regain a sense of control over your life.
1. Be mindful of how you measure success and self-worth
One of the first things that tend to bring back a feeling of control is finding new ways to measure your success. Instead of measuring success by whether the fertility treatments work, or how quickly you can push through this process, instead focus your energies on something else that you can actually control. It can be anything from couponing to running 5Ks, to meeting your productivity goals at work. Find other aspects of your life that you have control over and focus on those. Life will become a lot more manageable and you will feel more empowered by focusing your measure of success and self-worth on something else. You will start to feel more positive about your life, less anxious, and in turn, the fertility treatments will feel more manageable.
2. Communicate with your partner about your feelings
Talk to your partner about how you feel. Express your feelings of helplessness and how out of control you feel. If something doesn’t go as expected in your infertility treatments then process that with each other. You are going through this process because you want to have children with each other so it’s only fair to lean on each other during these times of stress. There are a few things you should keep in mind when having these conversations. Make sure that you both are feeling relaxed (this is not a conversation that you should have 5 minutes before he has to leave for work), make sure you are both sober, and make sure that you are both ready for this conversation. It’s always best to ask “hey, when this week do you have time to talk about how this infertility thing is affecting us?” is a better approach than just starting to talk about your feelings anytime, anywhere. Part of regaining control of your life is controlling when you have these conversations.
3. Schedule date nights or trips
Continue to make time for each other as a couple and continue to nurture your relationship. It is so easy to become overwhelmed by the infertility process and allow it to take over your entire life. Focusing on each other by going out on dates or trips to nurture your relationship will help you feel more positive about each other. Your dates don’t have to be anything huge. A simple walk around the neighborhood or a drink at the local bar is enough to rekindle the flame. The key during these dates is to make an agreement that you will talk about things other than your infertility.
4. Continue intimacy
It’s easy to fall into a trap during infertility treatments where you only have sex during ovulation time and sex can quickly turn into a chore. Maintaining physical intimacy, be it holding hands, kissing, hugging, cuddling, or sex is vital to your emotional well being and happiness. It will be easier for you to support each other and feel close to each other if you maintain a healthy sex life. Continue to explore each other’s bodies, try out new positions, new locations, and keep things spicy. Infertility will be a part of your journey as a couple but your life as a couple will continue long after the infertility part of your journey is completed so make sure to nurture it.
5. Don’t let infertility define you
It’s easy to say “I’m infertile” or to let infertility define who you are. Society expects us to be able to have children “naturally” and when we cannot, it is easy to let that become a major part of our identity. But you are so much more than your infertility. Remind yourself, and your partner, of who you are. You might be a professional, or a strong member of your community, a healer, or a goofball. Whatever you are, remember that you are someone who is going through infertility treatments and don’t simply reduce yourself to the diagnosis. You are so much more than the diagnosis and you have so much more to give.
I hope that these little tips will bring you and your partner some relief as you undergo your infertility journey. If you need more help and support, please feel free to reach out to me.