In late April, RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association will recognize National Infertility Awareness Week (April 24-30). It may seem unexpected to set aside a week to recognize such a sensitive, personal condition. Most people don’t realize that one in eight U.S. couples of childbearing age is affected by infertility, as reported by RESOLVE. At a local level we can estimate that approximately 12.5% of couples in Allegheny County are affected.
Our Family Hope Connection (FHC) infertility specialists and adoption experts know this reality — many infertile couples turn to us for help in building their families through adoption. I asked JoAnn White, FHC director, to share some thoughts on infertility with us.
Individuals and couples coping with infertility experience many feelings, including loss, denial, anger, jealousy, guilt, sadness, shame and lack of control. These feelings are not dissimilar to the universal stages of grief. Sexual tensions, financial restraints and fears of abandonment that the “fertile” partner will leave also strain intimate relationships.
The good news is that most couples challenged by infertility deepen their relationships, as they learn new ways to relate to one another. Here are some tips on strengthening your bond and developing your communication skills as individuals and partners:
1. Find ways to communicate and appreciate one another’s perspective. Men and women typically cope and process things differently, even when a couple shares an experience like infertility.
2. Try not to let infertility completely hijack your relationship or life. Enjoy the things you did as a couple and individuals before the diagnosis. Uncover ways to relax, such as light exercise, yoga or other calming activities. Remember your everyday remedies to lighten the mood, even share a laugh. And try to keep sex fun — it doesn’t have to become a chore.
3. Educate yourself about treatment possibilities, and keep an open dialogue with your healthcare providers. Make sure your doctors are sensitive to your unique situation and take time to explain all options. Also explore alternatives in building your family, including adoption and embryo adoption, as there are many paths to parenthood.
4. Seek outside support, whether informal or formal. Consider discussing with friends in similar situations, finding an online or local support group or talking with a trained mental health professional*, who can help you learn new ways to address concerns.
5. Decide with your partner in advance how much of your personal experience and process you want to share with family and friends, and be prepared to revisit this plan as your situation changes. Remember that in most cases family and friends have your best intentions at heart, even if they seem uneducated or insensitive.
6. Consult our Family Hope Connection staff. We prepare, educate and support individuals, couples and families while helping you decide what is the right process for you.
* Always consider seeking professional help if you’re feeling persistently overwhelmed, anxious or depressed.
JF&CS’s Family Hope Connection is a licensed adoption and foster care agency dedicated to placing children in permanent and loving homes. We know that adoption is a life-changing experience for all those involved, and our experienced staff can provide the compassionate support and expert guidance needed. Contact our Family Hope Connection at 412.422.8567 for more information. All calls are confidential. We welcome the chance to help build and strengthen your family.