Nicole is devastated. After 15 months of trying to conceive, and having had an early miscarriage a few months ago, her period has arrived once again. Her husband Jason just shrugs as he briefly lifts his head from the TV screen and says “Don’t Worry! We will Just Try Again”.
Nicole feels like she wants to shake him. He just doesn’t get it! She wants to yell at him, “Why aren’t you upset? Don’t you want a baby, too?” Underneath the anger, a feeling of intense loneliness and inadequacy takes hold of her. It is bad enough that she has to deal with the fact that this life-long dream of hers is not becoming reality the way she had hoped and planned. Now she also feels completely disconnected from Jason. She had to admit that it was helpful that he had been calm and tried to be her rock when she had the miscarriage, but it still felt like he simply did not understand what the loss and the ongoing failure meant to her.
What Nicole forgets is that Jason might be dealing with this challenge differently. As women, we have learned to express our vulnerable emotions more than most men. We have also learned that being a mother is an essential part of life. We often plan our entire life, including marriage and motherhood. Being able to conceive fulfills—for a lot of women—several heartfelt desires; the desire for the companionship children and grandchildren bring, the desire to feel a new life growing inside, to give birth and nurture this fragile human being, and last but not least, the sense of purpose that can be derived from parenting and raising the next generation. The idea of fertility is often tightly linked to our self-identity as women. Therefore, trying to conceive unsuccessfully often cause anxiety, fear and grief.
Most men have not received the same messages about the importance of parenthood. Yet, for men, showing vulnerability and allowing the fear of failure can be more scary than we usually imagine. Men can also be terrified that their sperm won’t measure up and that they won’t be able to reproduce and give their partner what she most desires. Their female partners however, only perceive denial, indifference or stoicism. Trying and having difficulties conceiving takes a toll on a marriage or partnership.
The challenges around conceiving create different stresses for a couple. Sex can become a means to an end rather than a spontaneous expression of the need for closeness and love. The couple might disagree on when to get help and how much money to invest in often costly treatments. Fears and insecurities are triggered for both partners. More than ever, what the couple needs most during this stressful period is time to connect with each other, beyond fertility. How can they still enjoy life and each other totally unrelated to trying to conceive?
As modern day humans, we are so used to being able to control everything and obtain reliable results. We plan what job we want to do and make the choice to attend a certain school or learn a particular profession. We might plan to get married or buy a house and so on. Getting pregnant defies those expectations that we can plan everything in life. When the stork does not deliver as planned, it can feel like we are completely out of control in regards to making our dreams come true and it can appear completely unfair that other couples seem to be getting pregnant so much more easily.
However, even faced with fertility struggles, the question remains, “What choices can we make together as a couple?” Some examples are:
- The choice to make time alone with each other and time with friends and family to experience carefree fun and laughter.
- The choice to be loving and gentle with yourself and with each other, as you navigate this challenging period in your life. Even though it feels that way right now, infertility is not forever. You will find a way to meet your needs and create what you want.
- The choice to find natural mood boosters like sunlight, exercise, yoga and enough sleep.
- The choice to treat your mind and body well, for example by getting massages or giving each other massages, or by using relaxation techniques, meditation or hypnosis. The last three will come in handy when you are giving birth or raising your kids or in any professional or private situation where you are challenged.
- The choice to see a relationship coach or therapist for couples sessions. As was the case with Nicole and Jason, fertility struggles often affect the relationship between the partners tremendously. A professional can help you to reconnect.
- The choice to focus on everything you are grateful for that is part of a fulfilling life, for example by keeping a gratitude journal.
- The choice not to ruminate and buy into depressing thoughts and limiting beliefs. I know! That is easier said than done. And that’s where one more choice comes in:
- The choice to do the inner work and change limiting beliefs and fears into supportive beliefs. That increases your ability to move through this trying time more smoothly. You can make the choice to see a life coach or therapist on your own. Friends, family and your partner should not be your only support.
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