So you’ve been trying to have a baby for about a year and your gynecologist says it’s time to go see a fertility doctor. Though that might not seem like an excessively long time without hitting conception success, it is the infertility alarm bell that signals that your future may include a staff of medical professionals helping out with your baby making efforts.
This brings up a myriad of emotional issues that can lead to fights, misunderstandings, loneliness, and confusion. Even the strongest marriages can be tested by the rigors of infertility and the adjustment disorder that comes with it.
I had no desire to see a therapist. In my opinion, therapists were for weak people who couldn’t work their own problems out. The truth is, therapists are for strong people who have the courage to admit that they don’t have the tools to deal with some complexity that has come up in their life and is affecting their mental health and in many cases quality of life.
Infertility Patients Experience The Five Stages of Grief
For infertility patients, the grief that accompanies repeated losses is often compared to the grief of a death in the family or cancer treatment. This may seem like an exaggeration to someone who has never gone through infertility for an extended period of time, but if you truly think about it, it makes perfect sense.
During a cycle, a couple has a vision of hope. As the process goes along, they will begin climbing a mountain of faith, knowing that statistically, even in the best cases, their odds of success are no better than the flip of a coin.
If they’re lucky, they’ll have success early in their infertility pursuits. If not the stress, pressure, sadness and isolation will begin to grow.
Why We Chose to See a Therapist
Lisa and I saw a therapist once we hit a point where we could no longer communicate civilly about infertility. It had become all consuming for Lisa and made me feel incredibly inadequate as a man. Our vision of having a baby never included anything remotely like what we were experiencing.
The best thing we ever did was find a therapist. It was certainly a trial and error experience, as we went to several support groups hosted by therapists who had no infertility knowledge or experience. They had the standard basic knowledge of psychology or psychiatry, but didn’t understand the nuances of the process, much less the alphabet soup of acronyms that a veteran infertility patient is going to be using reflexively in conversation.
Questions to Ask a Prospective Therapist
- Did you go through infertility?
This without a doubt is the most important question to ask because the therapist will have more tact with the way he or she asks questions and how she approaches normal conversations.
Also, the infertility therapist is not likely to have a wall full of pictures of her kids hung all over, and won’t likely be telling you stories about her kid’s latest accomplishments, or the funny thing he said in kindergarten the day before.
The infertility therapist will be willing to schedule your appointment at a time when the lobby is not filled with children, or will know enough to get you out of an uncomfortable situation if she spots one.
Knowing the infertility medical language is imperative.
One of the first infertility therapists we met hosted a support group at the fertility clinic we were going to. Besides being concerned the doctor was lurking in the background, ready to sabotage us if we said anything negative about his practice, we grew tired very quickly of explaining the acronyms to her.
For example, there is far more emotionally invested, time and money wise, into an IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization - the granddaddy of the fertility treatments in terms of costs, physical invasiveness and emotional commitment) than IUI (Intrauterine Insemination, a less costly treatment that doesn’t come with as much emotional baggage because of how relatively easy it is compared to an IVF.)
- Do you also do family counseling?
This is important because it will tell you if the office is likely to be filled with a bunch of kids that could tear your heart up if you’re in a rough place after a failed cycle. If they do, simply ask to be scheduled at a time within safe distance from the family appointments.
Questions to Ask Yourself
- Can you be open minded enough to go into the meeting without any preconceived notions about what you are going to say?
Although there are times when it will feel like marriage counseling, the overall objective is to help you communicate your feelings in a constructive way.
- Are you going to go by yourself, or as a couple?
For us couples therapy was a huge benefit, as it helped us to worked out our differences and come together as a team in our infertility.
- Are you expecting the therapist to give you the magic pill to help you get pregnant?
This was a tough one for my wife, Lisa, since she had laser focus on one thing: getting pregnant. Our therapist helped her see that kind of focus can be mentally exhausting. Instead, we learned to have “infertility free” moments where we were just thankful for the life we had, not the one we wanted so desperately.
- Where can I find an infertility therapist?
Resolve has a professional directory, or you can search for the term, infertility therapist, and many location specific options will come up.
My final words of advice on this issue: don’t wait until things hit critical mass before you seek help. Our therapist explained that infertility produces an adjustment disorder as we grapple with the sudden reality of making a baby that is so contrary to what our vision was before infertility.
A little counseling can go a long way to maintaining your sanity during what can be a long arduous journey.