Emotional care

Fertility challenges can be tough. If you’re going through relationship problems, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, anger or other issues, then you’ll need special tools to handle it. Your best options are to talk to a therapist, find a support group, or ask your doctor about getting emotional support. In the meanwhile, here are some little reminders as you go through this challenging time:

You’re not alone.

When you’re having trouble getting pregnant, you can feel alone and isolated. But fertility issues are more common than you may think. Many wonderful, supportive communities of “TTC” (trying to conceive) women and men exist now, online and in person.

Your body still deserves love.

If you’re experiencing fertility challenges or undergoing treatment, it can be harder to maintain a positive relationship with your body. Food for thought: what sorts of activities might make your body feel good?

It’s not your fault.

Try not to shame or blame yourself for fertility challenges. They aren’t anyone’s fault, and they don’t make you less of a man, woman or person. Even if you have friends getting pregnant, there’s no such thing as being “behind” in life. In fact, facing this journey shows a lot of strength and courage.

Relationship stress happens.

If you’re in a relationship, fertility stress can put a lot of weight on it. It can make your sex life feel pressured, and one or both partners may struggle with guilt, shame, resentment, impatience and insecurity. Don’t be afraid to see a counsellor so that you both can get some extra support.

It helps to have tools.

First, there’s nothing wrong with allowing yourself to feel afraid, worried or negative. Those feelings are natural and even healthy — this is something you care about a lot! But if you find yourself completely overwhelmed with painful or stressful thoughts, it can help to brainstorm and practice some small, concrete ways to cope.

It’s okay to laugh.

For some people, poking fun at something that scares or worries them can help them face it more easily. If there’s a silly (or darkly funny!) side your experiences, it’s okay to explore that — and it could even help you release some of that stress.

The rest of your life matters too.

When you’re going through a hard time, it can be tempting to crawl into a social hole – disappearing from friends, dropping your activities or exercise, and hiding out inside. But instead of soothing your stress and isolation, disappearing can actually intensify it. Food for thought: what kinds of activities or social outings might feel healthy for you — without feeling overwhelming?

Your struggle can be meaningful.

Whether you’re religious, spiritual or neither, it’s surprising how some tough experiences can teach us lessons, help us discover strengths we didn’t know we had, or cause us to notice meanings and purposes that we didn’t see before. Food for thought: what are some ways for you to process your feelings and experiences?

It’s okay if pregnant friends are painful to see.

If you’re trying to get pregnant and have friends or family members who are already expecting, it may bring up feelings of jealousy, resentment, extra anxiety or pressure, or simply just sadness: especially if they aren’t sensitive to your fertility challenges. That’s okay, and it doesn’t make you a bad person. For some people, support groups can be helpful.

Anger and hostility are normal.

Many people feel anger, resentment or hostility about their fertility challenges. However, these feelings can eat you up inside – and you’re going through enough already. Anger is often a “secondary” emotion: a safe way of expressing more vulnerable feelings like insecurity, rejection or shame. A counsellor or therapist can help you explore these emotions safely, and give you strategies for coping with them.

Waiting isn’t easy.

If you’re waiting for test results or just waiting to get pregnant, the suspense can feel overwhelming and all-consuming. But it’s no fun feeling anxious and obsessive all the time. Food for thought: what are some healthy distractions or coping strategies you could try during waiting periods?

You deserve a treat.

You’re undergoing something hard, and that means you’re due for a little extra love and gentleness. Food for thought: what are your favourite things to eat? Favourite local places to go? Favourite movies or books?

Mood swings happen.

When undergoing hormonal treatments (or just feeling stressed!), you may find yourself feeling fine one minute and upset the next. If you can, try to put a little distance between yourself and these waves of emotion: remind yourself that they’re temporary and that you’ll feel better soon.

You’re allowed some sexual downtime.

Having sex, feeling sexually attractive, being turned on, and experiencing sexual pleasure should be good things. But fertility challenges and stress can make it harder to experience your sexuality as awesome and fun. It’s okay to sometimes forego sex if you don’t feel up to it, and it’s okay to have sexual experiences that don’t involve trying to get pregnant.

Your grief is valid.

If you’re having a hard time conceiving, you can feel a sense of loss. Sometimes it’s the loss of the carefree adventure you had expected, the loss of a fertility option you were hoping for, the loss caused by a miscarriage, or the loss caused by infertility. If you’re struggling with a sense of loss, you should consider joining a support group or talking to a therapist. You aren’t alone. Seriously.

These reminders are inspired by the work and research of Tara Cousineau, PhD.