> Keeping it Together Through
by Rona Michelson,
DSW Marriage & Family
Every couple takes for granted that they
will be able someday to have children. For some the
problem of infertility is a slow growing realization.
For others it comes as a shock after some months of
attempting a pregnancy and then going for testing. In
either case, the emotions associated with it run deep.
On the one hand, there is the question of whether there
will ever be a child who will look back at you with
his mother’s or father’s eyes, one that
will have her grandmother’s chin and her uncle’s
devilish smile. On the other hand, there is the feeling
of being in some way inadequate. One looks at teenagers
blithely muddling through pregnancies that are unplanned
and undesired and wonders “What is wrong with
me?” “Why don’t I deserve a child
of my own?”
For most couples, both husband and wife have these
feelings at times. When they are both struggling with
these feelings, they can become disheartened, they can
wonder what life would have been like with another mate,
and they can wonder if it’s a cosmic comment on
the rightness of their match.
Even more worrisome, however, is if one of them is
going through these feelings and the other is at the
same time optimistic or just unconcerned.
Couples who want to successfully survive infertility
need to tune into each other, discuss things openly,
be ready to listen to each other even when their thoughts
are running in different directions.
Here are the major stumbling blocks to successful coping:
1. Not paying attention to your spouse
Even though he/she isn’t feeling the way you
are about the problem or the treatments, his/her feelings
are legitimate. You need to listen, understand, and
not try to talk him/her out of his/her feelings. They
are real. The more you try to shut them down, the stronger
they will get, the more he/she will focus on them. Talking
about how one feels often helps one to clarify things
and all the spouse needs to do is listen.
You and your spouse need to decide who to tell and
how much to tell. If one of you is uncomfortable with
others knowing or with a specific person knowing about
the problem, you need to respect his/her sensitivities.
Sometimes siblings, parents, and friends can be warm,
helpful, and supportive. Some will keep your confidences
and only be there to support you. Others will discuss
your private business with others and if that would
upset you or your spouse, then you need to decide who
should be told and how much. Once an agreement is made,
keep to it. Don’t expect that you can tell someone
not to tell your spouse and it will remain hidden. Secrets
from spouses are a very bad idea. Going through infertility
is very stressful, keeping secrets from your spouse
may be the death of a marriage.
3. Feeling unappreciated
Infertility can be a blow to one’s self-esteem.
That seems to magnify other negative feelings. Here’s
a secret: more than 99% of all people feel unappreciated.
No one can ever value you as much as you think you should
be valued. If you are working, your spouse can never
understand just how difficult and complicated your work
situation is, and if you are at home, your spouse can
never appreciate how much work just maintaining a home
can take. When feeling unappreciated begins to become
a recurring theme in interactions with a spouse, you
are headed on a negative course. Why? Your spouse, chances
are, also feels unappreciated. How can he/she worship
you when you are not ready to worship him/her? You need
to level the field, understand that real self esteem
comes not from what others recognize in you, but what
you recognize in yourself. I call it “becoming
your own mother.” That entails looking at what
you do and being able to say to yourself, “I put
in a lot of effort” “I worked hard.”
“I accomplished a lot today.” If you can
care for yourself emotionally in that way, you will
not have to drain your spouse for that kind of reassurance.
4. Focusing on infertility
The relationship that you and your spouse share should
be the most important relationship in your life. This
should hold whether or not you have children. The marital
relationship is the primary relationship that provides
security and love in a family. The focus of attention
needs to remain on that relationship. Yes, you are working
hard to achieve parenthood, but you are still a couple
and you still need that relationship to nurture both
of you. Sex should remain fun. It shouldn’t hold
within it the disappointment of infertility. It should
be something that you enjoy and that brings you close.
Walks, candlelit dinners, flowers, and warm embraces
help build the relationship. Laughing together helps
you maintain a happy life. Any future child will feel
the security a good marriage provides. It is a priceless
If you use your infertility as a springboard for personal
growth and for increasing your understanding and affection
as a couple, you will be using the time you are waiting
to very good advantage. You will be a stronger, healthier
couple and you will be building the nest that someday
will hold your own little fledgling safely and securely.
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