If you’ve just been diagnosed with infertility, you may be in shock. Or perhaps, you’ve suspected all along that you would have difficulty conceiving. Either way, I hope you’ll let me share ten tips for surviving infertility I’ve come up after struggling with infertility for the past two years.
1. Do your homework
I didn’t realize how little I knew about fertility until I was faced with infertility. You may know the basics of the birds-and-bees, but do you really understand the finer points of reproduction? Do you know what fertility treatments actually involve? There are so many fabulous resources. I suggest you start by seeking out a few credible, trustworthy resources and learn as much as you can. Some of my favorites are:
- Resolve: The National Infertility Association (website)
- Taking Charge of Your Infertility by Toni Weschler (book)
- The Infertility Companion: Hope & Help for Couples Facing Infertility by Sandra L. Glahn (book)
- National Library of Medicine: Infertility (website)
2. Seek out community
Infertility is more common that we think, but it can still be difficult to find others in your life who are willing to openly discuss it. You must be intentional about getting to know other people who have experienced it. If you don’t know of anyone in your “real life,” the internet is full of wonderful infertility communities. Do a Google search for “Infertility blogs” or “infertility forums” and you’ll find many wonderful sites. Or, check out some of the blogs of the wonderful women (and a few men!) who leave comments on my site.
3. Be patient with yourself
As cliche as it sounds, infertility is a journey. We don’t know how our infertility will be resolved, and we don’t know how long it will take. For some people, a few pills fix everything; others face years of IVF, surrogacy, or adoption. It’s easier said than done, but try be patient with the process and patient with yourself.
4. Try not to let it define you
Remember, you are going through the experience of infertility. You may be currently infertile in the sense that you cannot bear children, but the situation may only be temporary. And even if you never give birth, you are not an infertile being. You still have the ability to be fruitful in other areas of your life: your career, your marriage, your relationships, your faith, or your creative pursuits.
5. Improve your health
If you’re struggling with infertility, you’re likely spending lots of money and time trying to conceive. Make sure that investment isn’t going to waste and get yourself into the best physical shape you can. This doesn’t mean you need to start going to the gym every day if you haven’t been going at all. You don’t have to go vegan and eat only raw veggies. But take some common-sense steps to improve your health (which may also help you improve your emotions). Some simple ideas are limiting your caffeine and alcohol intake, making sure you get enough sleep, and eating nutritious food.
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6. Don’t deprive yourself
Be careful not to deny yourself pleasure or enjoyment in the name of improving your health. Have a piece of dark chocolate after a healthy dinner. Take a small sip of your husband’s glass of red wine and savor it. Have a piece of pizza and follow it with a salad and an apple. Infertility it hard enough on its own; don’t make it worse by cutting out the things you enjoy.
7. Don’t let others tell you how to feel
One of the most frustrating things about infertility is that people will often tell you how to feel. “Don’t worry about it. It’ll happen if it’s supposed to.” Or, “Don’t be too upset about your miscarriage. It was so early and it happens to a lot of people.” As well-intentioned as those comments may be, they hurt and they’re not helpful. It’s not necessary to respond rudely to those kinds of comments, but don’t take them to heart. Your experience is valid and your feelings are valid. Don’t let anyone tell you how or how long you should grieve.
8. Cultivate other interests.
Infertility has the potential to be all-consuming, so try to develop some outside interests. Your hobbies can provide a healthy distraction and keep you from becoming too focused on your struggles. Read books, take up painting, watch an entire TV series on Netflix, learn a foreign language- just do something!
9. Nurture your relationship with your significant other
Infertility will either bring you closer together or put significant strain on your relationship. Do everything you can do nurture your relationship. Recognize that each of you may process the experience and express your emotions differently. Be intentional about spending time together and doing the things you enjoyed before you started trying to conceive.
10. Get professional help if you’re struggling
None of this is easy. Each of these ten commandments can be intensely difficult and it’s not good to do it alone. Don’t be afraid to find help from a therapist, counselor, or clergy member. Find someone else to talk to if they tell you “Just relax.” Ask your doctor or friends for referrals, and ask about sliding scale fees if finances are an issue.