“There is a unique pain that comes from preparing a place in your heart for a child that never comes” David Platt
The 28th October to 3rd November 2019 is Fertility Week. 1 in 6 couples in the UK are affected by infertility and the Fertility Network are using this week to raise awareness to a wider audience.
Infertility can have a huge impact on mental health and today I’d like to take a look at the grief that can be experienced by couples having difficulty conceiving and those that are infertile.
Not everyone has a deep longing to become a parent but for those who do they will probably have nurtured hopes, dreams and expectations of having children for a long time. When infertility strikes, a normal and natural reaction is to grieve for this loss. These couples are grieving for those little girls and boys that will never be, children who might have looked like them, children they won’t get to take to parties, children who aren’t there to hug and love. They may feel a failure or ashamed that their reproductive systems don’t function well enough. Some women, understandably, can feel cheated by their inability to conceive and have a child grow within them.
Yet, for these couples the emotional pain is mostly a hidden grief. It is intangible and not easy for them to define to others, who often don’t recognise it as a loss or as an experience which can cause grief. Some might ask what exactly has been lost? No-one has died. Those who are affected by infertility might hear comments such as “At least you have your health” or “It could be something far worse” or maybe “It just wasn’t meant to be”. Their pain is discounted and so, for many, they ‘put a brave face on it’ and try to hide their heartbreak while feeling isolated in their grief. The kindest and most compassionate thing you could do for a friend or family member in this situation is to sit and be with them, allow them to talk about it if they want to and acknowledge their pain.
Some couples opt to go down the IVF route in an attempt to conceive a child. Statistics show that the success rate for those under 35 is 40% and for those over 42 just 4% succeed. One woman who spent years trying for a child this way says, “Some days were filled with deep, achy sadness, and other days full of intractable rage”. For her, every time her period came, she felt a sense of grief. It became a culmination of many monthly losses. She found it very distressing to be around pregnant friends or those who had children.
I recently worked with a client who had undergone IVF which gave her a longed for child. The process had been difficult physically, financially hard and had put pressure on her relationship with her husband. After many long hours of deliberation, she had made the decision not to try to have another baby. But this baby was alive in her mind, she had named him and had imagined how he looked, had spent many hours dreaming about the things they would do together. Through our work together using the Grief Recovery Method she was able to say goodbye to her hopes, dreams and her precious boy.
If you are struggling with feelings of grief and need some help, give me a call and we can have a chat about how I might help you.