‘Just relax’ – anyone currently going through infertility will hear this time and time again, yet for many ‘just’ relaxing is the last thing that you are capable of doing. Many don’t understand, when you are going through infertility, the biggest emotion that many of us feel is grief – grief for this baby that we are unable to have, grief for the future you planned to have, grief for the loss of relationships around you – you see infertility affects every aspect of your life.
One of my friends recently posted this (courtesy of http://haileykempzislis.com/):
“But while the causes of infertility are overwhelmingly physiological, the resulting heartache — often exacerbated by the physical and emotional rigours of infertility treatment — may exact a huge psychological toll. One study of 200 couples seen consecutively at a fertility clinic, for example, found that half of the women and 15% of the men said that infertility was the most upsetting experience of their lives. Another study of 488 American women who filled out a standard psychological questionnaire before undergoing a stress reduction program concluded that women with infertility felt as anxious or depressed as those diagnosed with cancer, hypertension, or recovering from a heart attack.” (The Psychological Impact of Infertility and Its Treatment, Harvard Mental Health Letter, May 2009)
I can relate to this – going through 4 years of infertility was probably one of the worst periods of my life – it was definitely a time where many of the relationships in my life were strained including family, friends, colleagues, strangers at bus stops, women in cafes – it’s hard when everyone around you seems to have all you want. Trying to fall pregnant when you are coping with grief, stress, heartache, resentment and anger isn’t easy. People don’t understand (and in some cases can’t understand), what you are going through. You are dealing with constant loss of a life that never materialises. In many ways it is similar (not the same) to families who suffer miscarriages or loss of a physical baby, yet for those there is something physical that people can see and related to and understand – not falling pregnant is something many can’t understand the emotions around as there’s nothing physically lost.
We were lucky and did manage to fall pregnant after going through IVF and ended up not with one but two babies. And even more blessed when we fell pregnant 13 months later with our third son naturally. Falling pregnant after such a struggle brings it’s own challenges. Specifically, anxiety about every single cramp or feeling in your body, hoping that you get to the birth and your babies are born alive and well. We were so worried with our twins that they would come early, we had bought everything we needed (or thought we needed) by 30 weeks, just in case. I stopped work early so I could become a human incubator to these little people. I was obsessed about doing everything perfectly – having all the right things, reading the best books, birthing, breastfeeding, cloth nappies, parenting, NCT classes, yoga classes – everything. We set ourselves very high standards of parenting as we had wanted it for such a long time.
The reality, as it is for many parents, was no where near the expectation and it was a real struggle to come to terms with that. I do feel that part of my PND was related to this – the perfect image of parenting and the harsh reality of many aspects of raising our babies in the way we wanted to and admitting that I really needed help and couldn’t physically or mentally manage on my own, especially when number 3 arrived. Many parents feel guilt for not being perfect or at times wishing back for their old life, I felt it really acutely at times and struggled to vocalise or admit to having these feelings – which are perfectly normal feelings to have. Even in times of PND, I was never ungrateful for our children. I’ve always felt blessed by them. However, I feel at times having gone through all of that heartache and spending all those hours fantasising about being a parent, the expectations and reality of parenting were even more extreme than they would be for the majority.
We have now gone through this and are definitely out the other side. We have three amazing boys who are loved to bits by us and all those around us. Peter and Victor are about to approach their 6th birthday, Vincent has just turned 4, we are exceptionally blessed by them. Looking back almost 10 years, it’s been a long journey but we’re so grateful for all we have. Many others haven’t been so lucky and that’s a big hole in someone’s life to heal and get over that grief.
Much love and health, Tricia xxx