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, April 10, 2013

Infertility, pregnancy, and self-esteem

I was picking up my daughter at a class the other day, when I overheard one of the other mothers talking to the school director.  "Did my daughter tell you our news?" she asked excitedly.  It turned out that this woman was unexpectedly pregnant, after undergoing infertility treatment to conceive her children.  Her face was all aglow, and she went on and on about how she was finally normal, finally experiencing a miracle.  To her credit, the school director told her, "Well, I think all your children are miracles," but that really didn't even slow her down.

I left feeling uneasy, and frankly, a little irritated by what I had overheard.  I was also irritated at myself--shouldn't I be as happy for this woman as she was for herself?  After all, she was experiencing the holy grail of infertility treatment--the spontaneous pregnancy.  As I further considered my reaction, I realized that what was really bothering me was this woman's assertion that now, and only now that she had achieved a pregnancy without treatment, that she was normal.  That now, she could feel good about herself.

The more I work in the field of infertliity, the more I am able to see how much we, as a society, tie the concept of fertility in with our sense of self-esteem.  If a woman can be pregnant and successfully deliver a baby, she's normal and good; if she can't, she's something else--at best someone to feel sorry for, and at worst someone who God/the universe is trying to tell that she doesn't really deserve to be a mother anyway.

The pain that this societal assumption causes is immense.  Further galling, anyone who thinks rationally for any amount of time about this assumption will realize it is patently and ridiculously untrue.  Of course we all know supremely fertile women who are failing miserably at parenting; and we all know (and might well be) supremely infertile women who will make amazing parents once their infertility crisis is resolved.

I guess this is why I felt so annoyed with the woman at my daughter's class-a feeling of "et tu, Brute?"  After all, she is one of us--and yet she still bought into the fertility=normal/good equation hook, line, and sinker.

After a long and protracted battle with infertility and my body in my quest to have children, I have come to realize that I can't let my infertility define how I feel about myself.  It was all beyond my control anyhow, and even if it wasn't, I can't feel worse about myself because of it.  In the same light, I can't feel like I'm a better, normal/good person because today my lungs are functioning well.  That's out of my control too.  Instead, I must judge myself on how I respond to my circumstances, and how I treat others in my life. 

I hope if you are struggling with infertility, you try to do the same; remember that fertility, or infertility is not the measure of a person.  Our efforts, our choices, and our treatment of others are much more valid criteria for self-assessment.


  1. That school director is awesome. :)

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  2. So nice to read your post! Your blog has been really helpful to me.
    I find myself wishing for a spontaneous pregnancy all the time and to not have to go through so many invasive, difficult, expensive procedures and choices to have children (which unfortunately are not working after many tries). Spontaneous pregnancy would certainly be easier, more convenient, faster and so much less heartbreaking than what I am going through and will probably continue to go through, but thank you *so much* for pointing it out that it would not make me a "better" person if I did not struggle with infertility. I quickly confuse those things and my self-esteem gets all wrapped up in infertility. Really appreciate your post. And the school director too!

  3. Sometimes I'm better at that than others. And then I get down on myself because I feel like, as a therapist, I should know better. But I've got so many mixed feelings because I had unexplained IF with my ex, and my boyfriend has 2 kids and I have so many mixed feelings about when we are able to try because I don't know if I'll be IF with him or not and I don't know what that says about me, if I was "normal" all along, but infertility is "normal" too, in the sense from one of my SW classes of "normal=common" and I do tend to think of myself of less of a woman from being IF and so I wonder to what extent that will chance once my boyfriend and I can try. And, yeah, I'm mixed up. :-p

  4. It's like finding out that someone on "your team" is a fraud all of a sudden.

    While I am sometimes am jealous of fertile people's ignorance surrounding all things infertility related, I also hope that I never do forget where this journey has taken me, and the lessons I've learned along the way.

    Thanks for the post.

  5. Thanks for Best guidelines i am very impressed with this blog i visit again and again for more and better information.

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  6. You are absolutely right dear! I just love your post! Your content is really very informative. I also want a baby but i have miscarriage two times. Please keep posting. Thanks

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  7. Is it true that chlamydia sometimes can cause infertility or etopic pregnancy? Will i be fine?

    I ask this question becuase my dr told me that chlamydia sometimes can cause infertility but he said that i will be fine. I only had it for 6 months and it was 3 years ago. So it shouldn't be a problem right?I will still be able to get pregnant right? Is what my doctor saying is true? I am not trying to get pregnant but i am so curious just for future reference.

  8. I wish it was an "abnormal" feeling I dealt with rather than a constant feeling of failure. :(

  9. Amazing post as usual. Even though I try and sometimes succeed at not falling into that trap, I know there is a little part of me that thinks that I am less than others/faulted/not blessed/unworthy due to my infertility. It is sad but it is true.

  10. I love your blog. It makes me feel more "normal" to read blogs of others who have infertility perspectives. The perspective of the world seems to be motherhood is the most natural and normal thing there is. In the face of this, how can we not battle feeling "abnormal" in some vital way? I envy those who can consistently differentiate between what their bodies do and their value. I feel that my body has let me down, and I struggle to love myself despite what feels like failure. It's all so complicated. Thanks for your take on things :)

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    is a apositive point to release this pregnancy .

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