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The struggle to have a child can be a long and arduous process. For anyone who has visited an infertility office knows the pain of wanting what seems to come so easily and naturally to everyone else. Having to endure endless treatment protocols takes a very private matter into the public realm. Making love with one’s partner in an environment of one’s own choosing is no longer an option for the infertile. Instead these patients are subjected to probes, questions, examinations and invasive procedures by medical professionals wearing white coats in sterile medical environments.  There is no champagne, soft music, or flickering candlelight. It is no wonder these patients voice sentiments of inadequacy and feel out of control around the issue of having children.


The shame of the failure seems to grow exponentially the longer one is in treatment. It is not unusual for despair to set in over time.  Nevertheless, most patients remain steadfast in their efforts to have a child. Nothing gets in the way and their determination will often take on a life of its own. Unfortunately, when the treatment process intensifies a patient’s world narrows causing one to become single-minded in the pursuit of their fertility.  Many patients have the tendency to put their lives on hold while pursing treatment. Although this is understandable, it does not ultimately serve those trying to grow a family.  In fact just the opposite may be true.

Each patient must find their own way of navigating the rough fertility waters. Some will have a fast and smooth ride while others will find the process more grueling.  Some will reach resolution quickly and some will take more time. Whatever the path, no matter how long it takes, it behooves one to travel down this road in the healthiest way possible. One must not give up on the rest of their life but make adaptations so the rest of one’s life can accommodate the treatment plan.  Coping and managing one’s reaction to their infertility is critical during this emotionally challenging time. Every patient must hone his or her own tools for dealing with this very personal struggle with the understanding there is no one ‘right’ path.  People are different and what works for one may not work for another. However, there are some guidelines and suggestions one might find helpful in staying sane under less than ideal life circumstances.

THEY’RE HERE, THERE, AND EVERYWHERE…THE PREGNANT WOMEN...Everywhere you turn there is another woman with child…. the grocery store, your place of work, restaurants and so on.  Many patients in the midst of treatment report not being able to stand the sight of pregnant women and will avoid them like the plague.  Their success becomes a painful reminder of one’s failure.  You yearn to be part of this exclusive club but are repeatedly denied membership. This is not to suggest you embrace every pregnant woman but consider the possibility that this could be you in time.  Acknowledge your sadness about what you don’t have and want so very much. At the same time appreciate that the fertile world cannot really understand your pain. Their remarks and suggestions are more often than not meant to help not hurt.  Although some of the comments might feel insensitive or, perhaps even, mean spirited you do not have to give others the power to make you feel bad.  Infertility is hard enough so why add to your burden…. It’s just not healthy. 

BABY SHOWERS NAMINGS, BAPTISMS AND THE LIKE...Most everyone enjoys a party but when it comes to a baby celebration and an infertile invitee nothing is further from the truth. Baby celebrations are an infertility patient’s worse nightmare.  Yet to avoid all such events might involve paying an emotional price you cannot really afford. When faced with the baby celebration dilemma, the biggest consideration must be the consequences of going or not going and not whether you want to go. If you can tolerate the consequences of refusing the invitation then by all mean decline. Send a gift, your well wishes and regrets… In other words, take the polite way out.

    However, when the consequences are grand and the stakes are high it behooves you to go despite the fact you would rather not. A shower honoring your husband’s sister might be one of those situations where the emotional cost of not going will be too risky.  Not only will his entire family be in attendance but so will yours as the hosts were gracious enough to invite your mom, grandma and even your two sisters. In this situation, for you to decline the invitation might have dire consequences putting unnecessary strain on family relationships. Feelings are hurt and people you care about are insulted. This is a consequence you may want to avoid. In situations like these, my suggestion is to go. Go with dignity and go with grace. You can leave a bit early if you find it truly intolerable or escape to the powder room and shed a few tears. No one will think the worst of.  Granted you will probably not have a great time but you would have taken care of yourself because the aftermath of not attending would be too much. Sometimes the healthier option is to put up a front and grin and bear the experience.

DEALING WITH FAMILY, FRIENDS, AND ACQUAINTANCES…Well meaning or not, the inquiries of others are difficult for the infertile to handle. Many teeter between protecting their privacy and wanting others to be empathetic and supportive. At the same time patients may not be able to articulate what they want or need at any given moment.  Moods and needs ebb and flow as the infertile work their way through the treatment maze. But what is true is that the responsibility of how others respond to your infertility is to a great extent under your control. You are the keeper of your information and have the right to make decisions about who knows what. You are not obligated to respond to every question with the facts of your fertility plight. You can determine how much and what information you want to share and what information belongs just to you.

Don’t be shy about asking for what you want while understanding you may not get it. It is perfectly acceptable to say you would rather not be asked questions about your struggle. Another tactic is to state that when you have something to say you will be happy to talk but in the mean time you are asking them to respect your feelings that this is hard for you and that you would rather not discuss your infertility. Most will hear and respect your wishes although there will be those that will not. Sometimes these questions come from concern and

love, sometimes from those that are just curious and on rare occasions the motivation to know might not be so innocent. In such cases the problem is theirs and not yours. Asking for what you want and need is the healthy response to the unsolicited inquiries of others.


It is no surprise that men and women deal with life’s issues very differently. Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus is more than a cliché. When is comes to fertility struggles these differences surface and have the potential to damage relationships. Generally, men want to fix the problem but when their efforts fail it is not unusual for them to retreat.  Men are more obtuse and tend to lick their wounds silently, stoically trying to support their partners.

    Women are seen as more obviously distressed by their struggle and have a more difficult time hiding their pain. A husband’s effort to make his wife feel better and solve the problem is often experienced as a betrayal. Men are accused of not caring or not ‘really’ wanting a child. However, this is not usually the case. Seeing a loved one in pain and feeling helpless to make it better is a tremendous burden for men to carry. They might withdraw, not because they do not care but because they care too much and can’t seem to do anything to make it better. This dynamic serves to alienate husbands and wives pulling them apart in their quest to build a family. Respecting differences in coping styles is paramount in preserving the marital bond between husband and wife while struggling to have a child. This is the healthy way….


There is no denying that infertility is unfair and a cruel twist of fate. What does one do to muster up the emotional fortitude to trudge forward? . The infertile tend to be master sabotages—punishing oneself at every opportunity. Sometimes blame is cast on a past abortion, the use of a poorly designed birth control device, or perhaps, on a mother that was duped into taking DES. At other times, the blame is more personal where individuals reprimand themselves for being selfish, by postponing parenthood, pursuing a career, or for not meeting the ‘right’ partner soon enough.

    The worst offenders for making a difficult situation more difficult are the infertile patients. They are their own worst enemy heaping blame and responsibility on themselves in terms of what they did and did not do and what they should and should not have done. This does not bring the goal of a child any closer or make it easier. What can help is your sense of self…your dignity and self-view and the peace you make with your plight. This means a return of self-respect, esteem, and the rebuilding of one’s confidence. It is your responsibility to look within and muster up the courage to do what is necessary. Examinee the obstacles and tackle them with integrity, determination, and confidence. Your job is to hold you head high while pursing treatment no matter what the circumstances. 

    Respecting your own limits and asking others to do the same will make your life easier and the infertility experience more manageable. It is this sense of self that will serve you not only in the treatment stage of this process but as parents….this will be the legacy to your child.