Perhaps you’ve recently seen the commercial for the new iphone in which a woman tells her husband via the videoconferencing feature that she’s pregnant? I did, and I was surprised by the intensity of my own personal emotional reaction to it. I don’t think the commercial was even over before I ) felt overwhelmed with a profound sense of sadness and 2) found myself heading over to the freezer to dip into the emergency ice cream supplies.
The intensity of my reaction really took me off guard. Perhaps I flatter myself, but at this point in my life I consider myself rather hardened to these types of little reminders of my infertility. After all, it’s been over ten years since my entre into the infertility world, I now have children, and I think about and listen to other people’s experiences with infertility for a living. So if this advertisement got me upset, I can only imagine how someone who is currently in the thick of treatment, or who just got a negative pregnancy test, or had a miscarriage, would respond.
A quick google search of the words “iphone commercial infertility” confirmed this fear. Several women have posted on message boards, often with language I can’t repeat here, about having intense negative emotional responses to the commercial.
This started me thinking about how best to cope with little emotional “surprises” like the one I experienced with this commercial. When undergoing infertility treatment, we all know that there are certain situations that are most likely going to be upsetting—the often feared baby shower, for example, or the insensitive relative who can be counted on to say something upsetting. Usually we can emotionally prepare ourselves for such events, either by avoiding them if possible, or by somehow adjusting our expectations of ourselves and others. But what about those painful reminders that seem to come out of nowhere, seemingly unbidden, and catch us off guard?
To start with, I think we need to plan for the fact that these types of reminders will inevitably occur when struggling with infertility. The only real surprises are the timing and the content of the upsetting event. Thus, we need to be prepared to employ what I call “emergency coping strategies”, meaning the actions which can be relied on to calm us down quickly, if temporarily. Although I went running for ice cream in the above example, there are other, perhaps healthier strategies as well—talking to a friend, deep breathing, going for a walk, taking a relaxing bath, etc. It is always helpful to think about what things calm you down and make a mental list of them, so that you have them prepared in advance. When you are already upset, it can be very difficult to think of the best ways to cope. But if you have made a list in advance, you can quickly start implementing the appropriate and available strategies on your list when something upsetting occurs.
However, once we have dealt with the initial emotional crises, I also think that we need to learn to appreciate these painful moments, as they can give us insight as to how we really feel. For example, my response to the commercial, though unpleasant, was a signal to me that although in some ways I’ve moved on, I still have very deep feelings about my own experience with infertility that are important for me to understand. Understanding the specificities of your emotional reactions can tell you a lot about how you are really feeling. Talking to your partner, friend, family member, or a therapist may aid in this understanding. Not only will this provide some clarity, but it will also give you valuable information about yourself in order to make decisions about treatment and your future.