Few things can feel quite as overwhelming as wanting a baby and being unable to have one — especially if you live in a culture that places high importance on raising a family. During the years that my husband and I were struggling to conceive, it often felt like everyone around us was getting pregnant quickly and easily. It was especially hard when friends had 2 or 3 children in the time that we were still waiting for our first. Infertility can lead to feelings of isolation, frustration, and even despair.
Here are a few of the things that I found helpful during my period of waiting for a child:
Allow yourself to grieve
For many women (and men), parenthood is a lifelong dream, and it can be painful and difficult when that dream isn’t coming to pass. Recognize that what you are going through is arduous, and allow yourself some time to grieve. Don’t beat yourself up when you have hard days. Remember that optimism and a hopeful attitude are important but that it’s also important to be honest with yourself and others about what you’re going through.
Remember that your spouse might cope differently
For many couples experiencing infertility, the woman might be hit harder emotionally than the man. If it seems like your husband doesn’t care as much, don’t forget that he might be handling his grief in his own way. It was often a little frustrating for me to feel like my husband was calmly accepting a circumstance that was so difficult for me, but I came to appreciate that he had a different — and usually much less emotional — way of looking at things.
Whether it’s an in-person support group, an online forum, or just a few close friends finding others who are experiencing similar difficulties is invaluable. It’s easy to feel like you’re the only one in the world dealing with the challenge of infertility, especially when most people you know seem to get pregnant so easily. Connecting with others who are also struggling to conceive will help you to feel less alone — and may help you find new things to try.
Do your research
When it became clear that I would most likely not be able to get pregnant on my own, I threw myself into research. I read books, scoured websites, and learned how to chart my menstrual cycles and pinpoint my problems. Because of this, I was able to get fertility help from my doctor much faster, without having to wait for months of testing. (If you’re interested in learning more about fertility and charting your cycles, a great place to start is the book "Taking Charge of Your Fertility" by Toni Weschler.)
After a certain point, attending yet another celebration for a friend’s upcoming addition can be too much. In those situations, it’s okay to gracefully bow out of attending — send a gift and a card instead.
Try to remember that even insensitive comments are usually meant well
It’s impossible to wade through the mires of any infertility experience — whether you’re vocal about what you’re going through or not — without receiving plenty of insensitive comments telling you to “Just relax and it will happen!” or “Be grateful that you can sleep through the night!” Remember that most of the time even the most insensitive comments are meant well, and that people often just don’t know what to say to bring real comfort. Try to laugh about the comments and advice you get — some can be pretty funny!
Find other things on which to focus
Although, at times, it can feel like infertility is taking over your life — particularly if you’re running to the doctor every few days for testing or treatment — it’s important to make sure you are focusing on more than just getting pregnant. Try to see this moment in your life as a perfect time to pursue a new hobby; tackle a project you’ve been wanting to try, or focus on a career on which you might not be able to expend as much energy once a baby does come along. You’ll still have plenty of days where the challenge of infertility feels completely overwhelming, but you’ll also be able to direct your attention and energy to more positive sources.
Remember to be grateful for what you do have
Sometimes, this can feel like the hardest advice of all. In the time that I was waiting for a baby, there were many moments where it felt like nothing else in my life could possibly make up for not being a parent. Still, don’t underestimate the power of gratitude — choosing to dwell on the things for which you’re grateful, rather than the things you’re missing, can be exactly what you need to give you the energy to continue coping with your infertility. And, as impossible as it seems right now, someday you probably will be grateful for the time alone with your husband, the chance to focus on your job or hobbies, and those uninterrupted nights of sleep that you’d give up so happily right now!
Seek out a purpose for your life
When you’re unable to achieve one of your greatest dreams, it can seem like you aren’t doing much more than marking time between doctor’s appointments or adoption visits. Don’t forget to seek out a purpose for your life, right now, independent of your hopes as a future parent. While it can feel as though nothing else you do is worthwhile, remember that whether you are ultimately able to fulfill your dream of parenthood or not, you can still do so much for the world.