In a previous blog I wrote about the fact that infertility is a form of bereavement that we tend to ignore. In a nutshell I think this is partly because we associate bereavement more with the loss of someone who physically existed. Someone or something that is tangible: infertility is the loss of dreams and aspirations for the future so is less tangible. With the exception of infertility that results in miscarriage: that is very tangible and as a result the need to grieve is widely accepted by society as a whole.
Infertility grieving should start before all hope is gone
However, we should not only accept that infertility is a form of bereavement we should start grieving earlier than we often do. Although it seems counter-intuitive there are good reasons to grieve whilst still trying to conceive, after all infertility damages many different aspects of our lives. We don’t only need to grieve for the children we’ve not had, we also need to grieve for all of the parent-related experiences that we will never experience. Grieve for the shattered dreams and aspirations we had surrounding raising a family.
Then there’s the damage it does to so many intangible aspects of our character. Infertility kills our sparkle. We’re no longer the people we were before infertility reared its ugly head. Infertility, and the devastation that it causes to so many areas of our lives, eats away at our soul and leaves us an empty shell. Things that we used to enjoy and acted as the glue in our relationships, like sex, suffer. A bit of “afternoon delight”, or a “quickie” because we’re both feeling horny, become sex to a time table determined by charting basal temperature and the “quality” of vaginal fluid. Month after month hopes are dashed again yet instead of getting easier, as we get used to it, it gets hard as hope begins to slip away.
Relationships can suffer if infertility is not talked about openly
It can be so hard to remain close as a couple when the intimate times that bind us together have become a “chore”. When sex becomes something you HAVE to do because the eggs are ready and waiting it really rather loses its appeal. Men can start to feel that they are only wanted because of their sperm and women can feel unloved when the concern that it “didn’t happen this month” is there on the first day of their period yet has dwindled by day three. The best way to stay strong under these circumstances is to talk about the situation yet talking about it can make it even more real, more painful, more hopeless. Not the frame of mind needed for the next month of positivity required to maximise your changes of “YEAH THIS MONTH!”
Yet it’s so hard to grieve about infertility whilst there is still hope
I think this is mainly because there is a fear that once the door to grief is open there will be no way of closing it again. The bits that we do feel are very short lived because the main focus is still hope and faith that we will make that baby. We get hints of the pain that grieving will cause when we have to deal with yet another pregnancy announcement. Yet, for me this was contained and almost separate from me personally. Yes I felt pain, sorrow and perhaps even some jealousy: however, it was almost as if that little bit of grieving was happening to someone else because there were also the feelings of happiness that someone I loved was pregnant and wouldn’t have to go through what I was experiencing. Plus there was always the hope that one day it would be me making that announcement which again took the edge of the grief.
Even the little bits of grieving that we do are short lived
I know that I’ve mentioned this before so sorry for repeating myself: however, I think the only time we really allow ourselves to grieve before we’ve stopped hoping is when our period arrives. Yet I’m not sure how much control we have over this grief. Are we grieving by choice or is this actually an in-built survival mechanism that we have no control over? Does giving ourselves the chance to grieve a little bit during our period act as a pressure-release valve that helps us to keep on going? We grieve for a few days every month because the devastation of knowing it’s “not this month” doesn’t happen just once or twice it happens repeatedly for years. Perhaps if we didn’t have those few days of acknowledging our pain and negative emotions the pressure would build up to something that we could no longer survive. Yet is only for a few days because once your period has stopped you’ve got to get yourself into a positive relaxed frame of mind because there’s not long until ovulation and you’ve got to be positive in order to maximise your chances of “finally THIS MONTH”.