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, September 5, 2012

Time management and infertility treatment: the "half-a&$" principle

Infertility treatment is a very expensive endeavor.  It costs a great deal of money, a great deal of emotional energy, and a great deal of time.  The time requirements involved in a treatment cycle can be one of the most difficult aspects of managing infertility treatment.  Add in the requirements of a job or home life, and it can create a pressure-cooker situation.

To make matters worse, it seems that those of us with overachieving tendencies have a particularly difficult time trying to apply our coping skills (such as perfectionism) to both our life situations and infertility treatment at the same time, causing added stress, anxiety, and guilt.  During a treatment cycle, you have relatively little control about when your presence at the infertility clinic will be required, so you cannot really plan around it.  Thus, conflicts are sure to arise.

In addition, we all have finite amounts of physical, mental, and emotional energy.  Because infertility treatment requires so much of our energy, it leaves us with less energy left over for work, relationships, and even the laundry.

In my practice I have seen many clients struggle with this problem, and of course I myself struggled with it too during my own treatments. These experiences have led me to draw the following conclusion:

 For most people in most situations, infertility treatment is the most important thing you are doing right now.

 Okay, so you might be saving puppies from a burning building, or be governing a country on the brink of international disaster, in which case, my remarks do not apply to you. But otherwise, you are probably embroiled in one of the most important periods of your life right now. The act of having children, or not having children, drastically affects the future course of your life. Thus, in my opinion, it should take precedence over the other aspects of your life, like your job, your social relationships, and your housework. It's not that these things aren't important, because of course they are. It's just that if you have to make a decision about which thing to cancel or to give, as my Grandma used to say, "a lick and a promise", it shouldn't be your anything related to your infertility treatment.

 The main reason I feel that infertility treatment should be given first priority is to prevent the possibility of profound and long-standing regret later in life. If for some reason treatment fails, you don't want to be in the position of looking back at your efforts and blaming yourself if you didn't do everything you possibly could do to achieve a positive outcome. In order to ensure the possibility of having future closure, you may need to make your absolute best efforts now. In order to make the time and emotional energy for the effort that treatment involves, you usually need to cut back on doing other things, such as work or social obligations. This can be difficult, especially if you are a high achiever, used to coming as near to perfection as is humanly possible. To help in these situations, I have delineated what I term as the "half-a$& principle":

 Only do what is absolutely necessary. Then, only if you have time and energy to spare, go back and do some of the optional stuff--but if you start getting tired or stressed out, you MUST STOP.

 For many individuals, this is a real paradigm shift. Not completing a task, and letting things go, feels almost like an anathema. However, by doing only what is absolutely necessary, you will have saved considerable time and energy you will need for your infertility treatment. Many clients, who have been rather initially resistant to this idea, have nonetheless tried it and have discovered that in most situations, things go just fine. After that, they have come to embrace the half- a$& principle. I suppose if you apply this principle forever, problems will eventually crop up. But I feel safe in recommending it is most situations because infertility treatment usually only lasts for a finite time period. When the dust settles, you will be able to catch up on all of the little details left by the wayside. If you are in the midst of a treatment cycle and feeling overwhelmed, try to see if you can use the half- a$& principle to prioritize your to-do list, in order to ensure you have the time and energy to comfortably move forward.