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Welcome!

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!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Regrets and infertility

One of the most difficult issues that individuals struggling with infertility face is that of regret. Whether it is about treatment decisions, or decisions about when or with whom to start trying to have a family, regret can be very difficult to tolerate.

I think I have always been particularly sensitive to feelings of regret because even as a young child, I was very aware of my maternal grandfather's own regrets about his life. He always regretted not pursuing higher education when he had the chance, and expressed bitterness about his choices. In my own life, I have used these memories as a constant warning. I frequently find myself thinking about how I might view my decisions in the future. Although I feel that this has helped me make some good choices, it has hardly made my life regret-free.

I have come to the conclusion that despite our best efforts, it simply isn't possible to avoid having regrets entirely. The cliche that hindsight is always 20/20 is oft-repeated because it is true. But in addition, I think that no matter how much research we might do, and no matter how much we weigh the pros and cons of things, we sometimes only learn things the hard and painful way. There is little more instructive than a profoundly painful experience; we usually learn the complicated nuances of that situation very thoroughly and quickly.

Of course, infertility treatment usually presents all sorts of complicated situations and decisions. The best course of action is often not obvious. So we must make decisions using the knowledge, abilities, and emotions we have at the time. When they turn out to be decisions we later regret, it is usually because we learned so much dealing with the aftermath of those decisions. We are now functioning with a whole new level of knowledge and expertise. With our new vantage point, we now see the better option. So in a way, without making choices that we later regret, we may be unable to develop the knowledge and judgment we will need to ultimately succeed. Feelings of regret are, in actuality, the "cost of doing business".

For me, I have struggled with regrets that I did not pursue IVF right away when I first learned I had infertility problems. My RE at the time told me that I was subfertile, not infertile (history has proven it otherwise), and thus I continued trying on my own, and then tried less aggressive treatments to no avail, for almost 2 years. Little did I know that each month, my FSH was rising and my ovarian reserve was declining at a rapid pace. However, at the time, I didn't really know to even ask about those problems. Once I figured out what was going on, however, I was able to change my attitudes about treatment, and eventually achieved success. Now, of course, in my work with my clients, this is an issue I investigate right away--because I learned about it the hard way, it is almost a reflexive response.

Thus, I think problems with regret arise only when the regretful feelings cause a person to become unable to move forward in their lives. Perhaps they now have a crisis in confidence, and feel unable to trust their decisions. Or as my grandfather did,perhaps they blame themselves for circumstances that were out of their control. In truth, my grandfather could not have pursued college when he was young because my grandmother became seriously and chronically ill, and he needed to make as much money as he could to pay her medical bills.

If you find yourself struggling with feelings of regret about decisions in your infertility treatment or family-building choices, it is important to keep in mind that regret is unavoidable. However, being stuck or paralyzed due to these feelings is something we can change. Forgiving yourself for not knowing then what you know now is an important part of this process.

7 comments:

  1. I try and live on the premise of 'better to regret the things you have done, rather than the things you haven't done'.
    Although there's mild regret we have left all this till I'm now 34, I don't see there's any way we could have done this sooner (apart from deadening a yearning to see the world and emigrate)

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  2. I have no regrets as I learnt to realise if I was to do IVF any earlier then I have done...it would not have worked anyways I feel as I had too much pressure from my business, life etc and now going through our first IVF cycle just started yesterday..I feel so good that the timing is right no more business and the timing is perfect as I can be more flexible with my scheduling for IVF..the only regret is that I wish I took the pill during my 20's as maybe signs/severity of my endometriosis may have been reduced however I didnt know I had endometriosis until we started TTC and nothing happened after 2 years...so I will educate if I have a baby girl to take the pill just in case...sometimes medicines are there for a purpose and even though I wanted to try everything natural my body has not allowed me so now medical intervention is necessary and I am OK with it!

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  3. My dad always says that regret is the needle that prods us to better action in the future. I always think of him when I feel regretful, and it keeps me moving forward.

    I love your blog, and I left you an award at http://marriage20.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/thanks-and-welcome/. Your writing has been a gift to me on my journey. Thank you!

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  4. This post really spoke to me. I have been thinking a lot about regrets and my infertility journey. And for me its all about not having control. There are so many 'what ifs' in the process that there are bound to be regrets and we absolutely can not control the results of timed cycles, hormones or IVF's. I have learnt to move past that.

    Excellent blog!!

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  5. Thanks for sharing this post. From the planning of conception, one must consult fertility expert from the beginning.

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