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SALT LAKE CITY — For most couples, parenting after infertility brings solace and a relationship that is long awaited. But for some, the undercurrent of feelings related to infertility continues to read its ugly head.
Although most “resolve” their infertility (fertility treatments, child-free living, adoption, third-party reproduction) and their lives move forward, many women continue to feel a resurgence of sadness even after parenting.
Many women who obtain the long-awaited, dreamed of pregnancy (through fertility treatment or otherwise) are surprised to find a level of anxiety persists. Women report thinking, “If I could only get pregnant, everything would be better.” But once a woman reaches this milestone, the fears shift. She may be focused on losing the pregnancy, having complications during delivery, or parenting multiple children.
When do we catch a break?
Infertility isn’t just a medical condition that once resolved has no bearing on us psychologically. Infertility often has lasting emotional impacts, even if fertility treatment is successful.
Infertility isn't just a medical condition that once resolved has no bearing on us psychologically. Infertility often has lasting emotional impacts, even if fertility treatment is successful.
Couples experience a loss of control, perhaps the first time in their lives in which “working hard for something” doesn’t guarantee the desired outcome. Couples often feel deep grief about not being able to build their family the way they’ve always imagined. Women may feel strongly about experiencing pregnancy, and this isn’t a reality for many.
Because infertility stirs up deep-rooted emotions of loss, grief and lack of control, it tends to have ripple effects long afterward.
Anniversaries, pregnancies of friends and reminders that your adopted child doesn’t share a biological likeness to you can often remind women of the feelings they experienced with infertility. Many women who build their families through adoption or third-party reproduction experience a sort of “double-whammy,” feeling a resurgence of sadness about infertility, followed by guilty feelings for not “appreciating” their child.
But emotions are reflexive. We can feel sad that our family didn’t come together the way we always thought it would. But having this feeling doesn’t take away from the fierce devotion and love any parent feels for their child.
Most women who have gone on to resolve their infertility in some way report that it impacts them less and less over time. This happens particularly if these women have processed the grief and loss they’ve experienced.
Just as the loss of a family member is always with us on some level or another, infertility colors our experience. Although we move forward from it, it’s also always a part of us, defining how we managed a difficult disappointment, conflict and a change in friendships.
Allowing ourselves to experience some resurgence of these feelings without denying them or pushing them away is a healthy solution. Acknowledging that infertility has impacted one on a deep level allows one the space and acceptance to make peace with it.
Whitney Barrell, LCSW holds a master's degree in social work from the University of Utah. She works as a therapist for individuals and couples experiencing infertility. Find out more at www.whitneybarrellcounseling.com.