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, March 7, 2013

The light at the end of the tunnel: aging out of expectations of fertility

When I was in the throes of infertility treatment, I remember often reading and hearing that infertility was just a life phase, and that over time, it would resolve itself one way or the other. Life would go back to normal. Of course, this was intended to give me hope, and strength, but instead of finding it comforting, it just made me want to throw up.  I could already see then, as I can confirm now, that there was no way I was ever going to be the same person after going through all of that pain and disappointment.

In that way, it seems that infertility never ends--even when the struggle is over, our perspectives and relationships have changed.  However, I can say that one of the silver linings of getting older is that now no one is expecting me to be able to have babies anymore!  As I approach my mid-forties, I no longer am asked whether or not I am going to have children, or have more children.  People just assume that it's all done with, and because of my age, I am not very likely to become pregnant--and here is the important part--JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER WOMAN MY AGE.  Yes, I've found myself back in the "normal" group again.  It took a decade or two for everyone else to catch up with me, but now we are all in the same boat.

I can't tell you what a sweet relief I have found this to be.  It almost takes the sting out of my encroaching wrinkles and grey hairs--almost.  Now that the book is closed and the dust is settled, it occurs to me that most women my age had their children quite some time ago, and that they haven't defined themselves by their ability, or inability, to get pregnant for quite some time.  They have left all that behind and have moved on to other aspects of their lives.  Perhaps that's one of the problems with infertility--it can imprison us in the "reproductive phase" of our lives for extended periods of time, but without the easy ability to complete the phase successfully.

Thus, although the emotional changes infertility causes never fully leave us (nor, in my opinion, should they) it does seem that society's expectation that we go forth and multiply does, thankfully, come to an end.  As for me, I notice the difference in myself when I am social situations with people I don't know very well.  For years, every time I met someone new, I had been unconsciously bracing myself for the questions about babies and pregnancy, whether they actually arose or not.  Now I can observe myself feeling much calmer and lighter in these situations, knowing that the questions just aren't going to come up.  Although that's not a complete end to the "infertility" phase of my life, it certainly feels much better, and it isn't as much of a constant presence in my mind.