Welcome!

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!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tales from the other side: setting realistic expectations of life after infertility

When I was struggling with infertility, having a child was almost like finding the "holy grail".  I was convinced that if I could just start my family, all of my problems would be solved.  I must add that most of this expectation was held unconsciously; regardless, boy was it ever wrong!  I am fortunate to be the mother of three (at this moment) reasonably healthy children, but I can't say I have ever approached the nirvana of a relatively problem-free existence.

I know from my clinical experience in working with individuals and couples struggling with infertilty that I am not alone in this belief.  Perhaps it's one of those working fictions that we need to keep us going during difficult times.  If we really recognized that difficult times don't really end, but just lead to difficult-in-a-different way times, we might just curl up in a ball and call it a day.  However, the usefulness of this fiction often dissipates after the infertility struggle is, at least overtly, over.  Often, I see people struggle with the expectation that once their child or children arrive, they should be over-the-moon happy all of the time.  When they don't always feel this way, they worry that they are not grateful enough, or that after they have endured, they are somehow not "doing it right".  Of course, it is their expectation that is inaccurate...most likely, their feelings are completely normal and expectable give their current situation,

In order to create a more realistic picture of life after infertilty, I will describe some of the more common experiences I have witnessed in the lives of others as well as my own life.

1.  Pregnancy after infertility is often filled with anxiety.

Instead of shouting with joy from the rooftops, many newly pregnant infertility patients are riddled with anxiety and fear.  This is usually quite the opposite of what they expected.  They live anxiously from beta to beta and ultrasound to ultrasound.  Every early pregnancy symptom is examined and reexamined.  As the pregnancy progresses, the anxiety dissipates somewhat, but it never totally goes away.

2.  Childbirth and breastfeeding can be difficult and can add to the already negative feelings you may have about your body.

For many infertile women, childbirth and breastfeeding seem like an opportunity to finally be and feel "normal".  That's great if everything works out the way you hoped.  Unfortunately, many women with infertilty are at at higher risk for difficult childbirth and breastfeeding troubles.  For some women, having an unexpected c section or milk production issues can feel like another body "failure", adding to their still painful feelings about their infertility.

3.  Your child isn't going to be perfect, and you aren't going to be the perfect parent, no matter how hard you try.

Of course, this is true of any child and any parent.  However, many parents who have a history of infertility have lingering, unconscious expectations that because they have been so committed to building their family, they need to be perfect parents.  When they fail at the impossible, they can be too hard on themselves.  Sometimes, they may unconsciously  blame themselves or their infertility for whatever difficulties their child might be having, even though chances are, it's completely unrelated.

These are just a few experiences I have noted, and I would love to hear about the experiences and observations of others, so please leave a comment!

Also, even though the parenting experience isn't a perfect one as we may have envisioned, it can be very rewarding--perhaps more so if we free ourselves of unrealistic expectations.

Thanks so much for reading, and as always, I look forward to your comments and questions!




18 comments:

  1. I have often thought of this in my own life. Knowing that often the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence (a life with children), but in reality it is filled with probably more struggles, as now you have someone else to worry about! :) We should probably be more concerned with living in our own patch of grass, rather than worrying about that patch over there that looks better than ours! There's always something to be working on! :) Thanks for your blog! It's always a help!

    ~Jessica

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  2. Yup and yup. After 3 years of infertility and interventions I was ready to have the most non-clinical birth I could. I labored at home for 55 hours, had to transfer to the hospital, then labored for another 17 hours to end up with a c-section. I thought breastfeeding would be my ticket to a normal body that functions properly...nope. We had trouble in the beginning, but after 11 weeks of triple feeding (pumping, feeding pumped milk, and trying/failing at a latch) we did it! We're now exclusively breastfeeding at 4 months, and I consider it a huge victory. I've got a lot to work through to heal but I think I'm on a good path. I know I'm going to mess up as a parent, but I think my son is pretty darn close to perfect. ;)

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  3. I completely agree with you guys. It has been a tough time but i think just believe in God, everything is possible and we will surely succeed. Infertility and dream of baby can actually be made possible via IVF.

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  7. Please don't stop writing your blog... I discovered it in a time of need earlier this year and would love to see additional entries. It has been so helpful!

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  9. I think that every future mom should go to pregnancy counseling. It sure helps prepare a woman to become a mom. The counseling will also help the woman through the pregnancy and to help her know what to do through all the stages.
    http://www.hopespromise.com/i-am-pregnant/

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  10. Yes these are some misconceptions before and after pregnancy which should be clear out and practical approach must be taken by asking doctors.

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  13. Iam so sorry of your long break. I very much enjoyed the topics you touch, and wish you wouldn't close your blog. Hope to read from you soon!

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