This blog addresses various emotional aspects of experiencing infertility. It is written by a clinical psychologist who specializes in infertility counseling. Thank you for reading, and best of luck with your journey!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Resilience is the real fertility

So many times, I am asked by clients, "How will I get through and survive (insert tragedy/setback/loss here)? My answer to them, although perhaps not comforting, is always the same--that you will get through and survive the bad things that happen to you because. well, you really don't have any other choice.

Although that sounds a bit grim, I am constantly amazed by what human beings are capable of doing when they don't have the choice to do otherwise. It seems that if we have the option to escape something painful or difficult, we are usually sorely tempted to take it, even if it may not be the best thing for us in the long run. But it is when we don't have any choice in the matter, that is where the real bravery, strength and creativity become apparent. This is how I define resilience--the ability to keep functioning despite losses and challenges. I feel hopeful that our resilience as a species will be the thing that ultimately keeps the human race from destroying itself. For example, when we actually have no other option, we might finally be motivated to do something about global warming or whatever else threatens our survival.

In my work with clients struggling with infertility, I've seen that despite feeling otherwise, most people are more resilient than they may believe. When confronted with setbacks, disappointments, or losses, most people initially feel that they can’t function successfully. But as the situation evolves, they see that they are able to confront issues they never thought they could, or to give up habits that that never imagined they could. Witnessing these transformations is one of the great things about my work.

It is my belief that when it comes to creating your family, resilience is even more important than physical fertility. You can treat or work around infertility --but without resilience, you often can't make anything happen. Functioning ovaries, happy sperm, and a willing uterus are all nice to have, and make the process easier. But the ability to persevere and keep trying even when the situation is difficult is the one key ingredient necessary for success. When I think about my own situation this way, it makes me feel better. I can take comfort in the fact that although I had significant physical challenges, my resilience was intact, and helped me to take the numerous steps on the long and rocky road to having my own family.

One thing that makes people doubt their own resilience is that the process of being resilient usually isn't pretty. There are a lot of tears and bad feelings involved, along with struggles, mistakes, interpersonal conflicts, and the like. Like so much in life, it's a messy, non-linear road, and you may only realize where you have ended up once you are already there.

If during the course of your infertility journey, you come to a point where feel overwhelmed and like you can't go on, than then you should take comfort in the fact that these feelings are extremely common in this situation. It may sound like an odd thing to say, but if you still have treatment options, then even though the options may be difficult, you are still in a privileged situation. Even more difficult than going forward is the realization that you've come to the end of the road and that you have no more options with which to struggle. So if there is still a battle to fight, take heart. And remember that you are probably more resilient than you believe--and that your resilience will help you do what is necessary to create your own family.


  1. Thank you. I really needed this tonight.

  2. I really liked this - so much so that I linked you on my blog!

  3. So true, Lisa. It is hard to get back up "on the horse" after a failed procedure, I actually think we do need time to grieve. I think it is important to focus on even if it one little thing that gives us hope. When I got a negative result after my last IUI, it helped to know my fertility cookbook was on its way. Now I'm really focusing on putting on some weight again before I embark on the whole thing again.

  4. "....resilience is even more important than physical fertility."

    That line has really struck a chord with me. I never thought of it that way before. Thank you so much xo

  5. Hi Lisa! I am here from ICLW (#158) and I also recently started following you on Twitter (@FourofaKind2009). Though I am on the "other side" now after a 5 year journey through secondary infertility and loss, I can really appreciate what you shared in this post.

    I do think resilience was a huge factor in my ability to survive the roller coaster ride my husband and I were on trying to expand our family for so many years. I am glad that women dealing with infertility now will have you/your blog as a resource.

    I am also a Chicagoian, so fun to know you also live in the area. Small world!

  6. well said! there were so many times on our journey that I asked for resiliency. There was so much that I couldn't control, and with little assurance about an outcome, all I had to cling to was the faith that I could keep bouncing back...regardless of the loss or grief that we experienced.

    My perfect little baby is sleeping in my arms now. Brought to us in large part thanks to the resiliency that kept me going these past years, even when it seemed that all hope was lost.