Monday, July 31, 2017

Three Responses to Infertility

Infertility is not something that we talk about publicly ... we don't bring it up at a work gathering or talk about it at parties.  It is often a lonely, scary, emotionally horrific journey that is only understood by those who have experienced it.

Over the years I have gotten to know many women, personally and professionally, who have shared part of their infertility journey with me.   As a mother of twelve who has never been pregnant, there are often people who broach the subject with me.  I have noticed in talking with these women or couples that there are three basic ways in which people respond.  I recognize that breaking anything as complex as human emotion and behavior down into three categories will miss something but in generalities here is what I have found.

1)  Determination.  Probably the most popular response is determination.   With the medical options available to infertile couples, jumping into a mode of "I am going to make this happen... I can do this..." and the journey begins.  This response often comes from women who have always been able to get things done and to make things happen at work, at home, and as a volunteer at a church or other organization.   So this is their default -- get things done, make things happen -- and becomes their approach to infertility as well.   The dangers of this response is that the more unlikely conceiving becomes, the more angry and frustrated the couple becomes.   If taken to it's extreme, this response leads to a desire for more and more control in every part of life because the infertility battle is being lost and the woman feels she has less and less control.  The relationship is damaged, finances become an issue, and I have even seen situations where women have had mental health breakdowns because they have not been able to achieve what they have determined is the MOST important and suddenly the ONLY important goal.

2)  Depression.  This response can weave in and out of bouts of determination, or for some people is the immediate and only reaction they have to news of infertility.   Life starts to lack joy and seeing other people with children brings immediate tears.  Women going through this depression spend less and less time with other people and more time home or even in bed.  The couple begins to see how it is taking a toll on the marriage as the husband is attempting to be positive and helpful and his efforts are thwarted. Again, taking this to an extreme and the relationship is fractured... sometimes beyond repair.

3)  Relinquishment.   If any couple battling infertility is going to move on and live a life filled with joy and purpose, there is a point in time when they have to "let it go."   Whether you are a person of faith and this means completely putting it in God's hands and not taking it back, or you simply recognize the power of accepting life as it is, moving on is necessary.   This ability to relinquish the idea of giving birth leads to other options and a whole world of possibility.

I think most couples who have gone through the infertility journey will tell you that the above responses are mixed up, not in order, and can all be cycled through in a single day.   It is incredibly complex and there is no "by the book" answer.

But here is the bright side:  I know many people who have gone through the infertility struggle and have come through to the other side better people.  They have learned compassion and grace, they have taken on incredible adventures in life, and they have found a way to make sense of it all.  Those people would tell you that their lives may even be better, richer, and more joyous than a lot of others who have been able to have as many children by worth as they ever wanted to.

In small print (pretend because I'm not sure how to do that in Blogger)  (and you may have known this was coming), the novel that I just wrote addresses infertility.  It is called "Little Did She Know" and you can download it at our website   In fact, you can download it and read the prologue and first four chapters for free -- just download it and apply the coupon INTRO and you will have a zero balance.   I'd love to hear your response about the way that the characters deal with their infertility!

1 comment:

Katrina Stonoff said...

Hmmmm. I didn't realize infertility was a theme in your novel. That certainly moves it up on my TBR stack.

I got stuck in #2 after my first miscarriage (the first one I knew about it anyway), a second-trimester loss. It didn't help when my boss said, "It's been a week. When are you going to get over it???" It took a long time and writing a novel about pregnancy loss before I moved on to #3, but I'm still not really over it. I still carry all those babies in my heart.

I got some very positive feedback about that novel, but in the end I was unable to find an agent or publisher for it. There was a lot of interest, but the universal response was always eventually, "It's just too sad to sell." I've thought about trying again though -- people are talking more about infertility now than they were even ten years ago.

Though as you say, it's still a taboo subject. People like you and me, who insist on talking about it, are often looked at askance. That's OK. I'm much more interested in being genuine and in helping other women who've been dealt that card than I am in being polite.