TFC offers tips for coping with infertility as a couple
No one wants to face infertility. The diagnosis can be life altering; the battle can drain you, emotionally and physically. When the diagnosis affects your spouse, how do you help her AND keep your sanity? Brace yourself.
From birth, we program women to bear and rear children. You get a truck for your birthday — she gets a doll to nurture, feed, burp and dress. Society puts the responsibility of pregnancy and child rearing squarely on the shoulders of women. From the time a young woman first gets her period, it is a constant reminder of her future role as a mother. She will spend the next 10 years waiting for her monthly period to show up like clockwork, reassured that everything is working fine. When the time finally comes to try for pregnancy, that same period, in a sense, breaks its promise. A period becomes an emotionally devastating event every month. Add to this the affect of roller coaster hormones, and a difficult situation can seem insurmountable.
So how do you help your spouse cope with infertility and somehow deal with the emotions and sadness you too may be feeling?
Open up to communication
Communication means taking the time to discuss thoughts, feelings and frustrations. You need to offer truth and honesty. She needs to hear that you, too, have feelings about “your” infertility. Your spouse needs to understand that you are there for the entire process, and she wants to be reminded that each negative pregnancy test also crushes you.
Men deal with infertility by compartmentalizing and, in some cases, denying it. Women, on the other hand, cope by talking things out. Your spouse won’t understand your emotional detachment, and may assume you are disinterested in her or the process.
Tip: Actively engaging in regular communication will help her realize you are working toward a common goal.
Dial up the romance and recreation
To escape the constant reminders of infertility, you can go to the office, or immerse yourself in friends or hobbies. It’s possible for you to stop thinking about conceiving a child, even for a little while.
Your spouse can’t. Her inability to conceive will constantly weigh on her mind. Unlike men, babies, talk of babies and pregnancy surround women. Your spouse has nowhere to escape.
To help her cope with the constant connection to infertility, try removing yourselves from your regular environment. Look for events, preferably ones that aren’t “family friendly,” that you can do together, as a distraction from the conception process.
The stress of therapy, timed intercourse and lack of control can lead to intimacy loss, and marriages can suffer under the stress of treatment. Maintain your emotional connection.
Tip: Find fun, relaxing activities together to keep your relationship strong, strengthen your bond and give your minds a break. Google an ‘events calendar’ for the city you live in.
Arm yourself with information
Your spouse will look to you when making important therapy decisions, so take some time to learn the basics. Understanding infertility will empower you both to make confident decisions. The TFC office provides many helpful resources: classes, seminars, treatment literature and this website (see Fertility Support Resources for more information).
Take control of planning and finances
Financial issues can dog pile on the concern and worry brought on by infertility treatments. Understanding your insurance plan is hard enough, but add financial plans, deductibles and the need to dip into savings, and your stress level skyrockets.
Arrange to sit down with your spouse and make a plan. Understand exactly what your insurance will pay for and what it won’t. The TFC business office team will help you understand your particular insurance plan.
Some insurance issues to consider:
- Will your insurance change during your treatment period?
- Are you going through treatment during benefits enrollment or renewal?
- Are you changing companies?
Assess your financial situation and decide exactly how much you are willing to invest in infertility treatments. Determine what you can invest, and make a contract with your spouse to stick to the bottom line.
A financial plan will help you and your spouse enter into the quest for a baby with three key advantages:
- You won’t have many, if any, surprises about what your insurance will or will not cover.
- You will have a bottom line figure of what you are both willing to invest.
- You regain some of the control that infertility takes away from a couple
Tip: Most couples are comfortable with basic financial planning, but you may consider seeking the advice of a financial planner.
Togetherness and a unified front
Social stressors can be difficult to handle. How many times have well meaning relatives or friends thoughtlessly asked: “When are you going to start a family?” Although you and your spouse may understand that these comments are genuine, they are still hurtful. Deciding on a unified response as a couple will give you both a way to cope with this situation. Candidly let people know you are experiencing infertility. When your close circle of friends and family know about your situation, they will be more sensitive.
Need some help managing you Fertility Treatment? Check out our section on Managing Fertility Treatment