What to expect when you aren’t expecting: surviving infertility
For many married couples, parenthood is a shared life goal. Chances are, you and your spouse have discussed having children openly before getting married. It can be a decisive factor in choosing to spend your life together.
But for the 20 percent of married couples experiencing infertility, the dream of parenthood can turn into a nightmare… and learning how to survive infertility in a marriage can be even more difficult.
Infertility poses a set of unique challenges for every couple. However, there are a set of common problems that every couple should expect when battling infertility.
The problem: Sex is no longer satisfying.
You might be having more sex than ever, but it’s a proven fact that your libido is likely to decrease during your treatments.
A 2010 Stanford study proved that 40 percent of infertile women and 25 percent of infertile men suffered from sexual dysfunction once they began regular fertility treatments. Causes of low sex drive during this turbulent time range between the physical—like the violent hormonal changes a woman goes through—to the mental—like feeling depressed or inadequate.
Further, sex can feel robotic. It is no longer about pleasure and spontaneity, but reproduction and meticulous planning. Couples begin seeing sex as a chore, not an expression of love.
The solution: Make it meaningful.
If your sex has lost emotional meaning, then you need to work to make it meaningful again. Thankfully, ‘working’ at this problem involves sensuous massages, extended cuddles and candlelit dinners.
Find time in your regimented lovemaking schedule to make a night of it. Romance each other. Try incorporating new positions or role playing to make the sex memorable. Given your physical and mental exhaustion this may sound like a tall order. But, it is an investment with long-lasting dividends. Having fulfilling sex during this stressful time will improve your well-being in the long run.
That said, women can experience pronounced physiological changes while undergoing fertility treatments. If your wife isn’t feeling up to sex, don’t pressure her. Instead, focus on intimacy without an orgasm. A late-night cuddle and kissing will produce oxytocin and help keep your intimacy alive.
The problem: This is all my fault!
Placing blame on yourself or your spouse is never healthy, especially when you are dealing with infertility.
Early in your journey, the doctor will likely locate the physical blocks to your reproduction. These blocks could stem from either spouse. Perhaps he has a low sperm count or she suffers from endometriosis. Maybe the timing is off. The possibilities are vast.
When we face overwhelming difficulties, it is natural to want an explanation. You may find yourself asking, “Why did this happen? Why us?” Your partner becomes a scapegoat. Placing blame on your spouse is an easy way to answer those looming questions, but that does not make it right.
The solution: Form a united front.
Infertility is an ‘us’ problem, and not a ‘yours’ or ‘mine’ problem. If you have been diagnosed with a reproductive disorder, avoid feeling like this is your fault. Your infertility is, on some level, out of your control. You and your spouse need to let go of what you cannot change and focus on what you can.
Infertility is a test in teamwork. You need to stick together, even at your most depressed and frustrated.
The problem: We can’t afford this.
Infertility treatments are emotionally taxing, and they can be financial fiascos.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine found the average cost of one In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) cycle to be about $12,400. Couples will often need more than one cycle before they are successful, if they are successful at all. Additionally, IVF and other fertility options are not always covered under your provinces or state’s insurance laws.
Only 15 states have provisions requiring some form of infertility insurance coverage. In Canada, each province differs in tis support of infertility treatments, but often couples are pinned with treatment costs.
To put it plainly—infertility is wildly expensive. It is a huge commitment for middle and lower-class couples, and it adds another layer of stress to an already traumatic experience.
The solution: Know your limits.
How much can you reasonably spend on this process? You and your partner may have different levels of commitment in this area, but you need to find a compromise, preferable one that doesn’t land you in serious debt.
If you cannot reasonably afford more than a few treatments, then parenthood may need to be put on hold until you are in a better position to provide for your family. Try looking for grants, insurance plans and forms of financial assistance that can help you along.
If you are successful in your treatments, you will be in a better position to adequately provide for your child. If you are unsuccessful, then years of your medical debts become a lingering, and sometimes painful, reminder of your infertility, making it difficult to find closure.