Surviving infertility is different for everyone; these are my tips for coping with life after finding out we can’t have kids.
Infertility isn’t wasn’t just disappointing – it’s heartbreaking. My husband has azoospermia (no sperm), and we went through a few minor fertility treatments (intrauterine insemination (IUI), acupuncture for infertility, herbal tea for sperm health). Ultimately, we decided to let it be.
We accepted our diagnosis of infertility. Acceptance isn’t for everyone – many couples get pregnant after being diagnosed “infertile” – but it’s what we chose.
“The willingness to win OR lose moves us out of an adversarial relationship to life and into a powerful kind of openness,” writes Dr. Rachel Naomi Remen in Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal. “From such a position, we can make a greater commitment to life.”
That is one of my favorite life quotes, and Kitchen Table Wisdom is one of my favorite books. It’s about accepting both the bitter and the sweet parts of life. Dr Remen is an oncologist who never had children. She has lived with Crohn’s Disease for most her life, and when she was in her 20s had surgery to remove most of her intestines. Remen knows failure and heartache…and she teaches people how to bounce back to live full, passionate lives.
If your diagnosis of infertility is overwhelming, read Silent Sorority: A Barren Woman Gets Busy, Angry, Lost and Found. It’s written by Pamela Tsigdinos, who also runs an infertility blog called Silent Sorority. One of my favorite articles is The New “It” Girls – Give It Up for Non-Moms.
If you want to rebuild your life after being diagnosed infertile, you need to surround yourself with women who have experienced the same thing. Don’t go at it alone.
Tips for Living With Infertility – My Response to a Reader
Not being able to have biological babies is one of the saddest, most heartbreaking things for many women. The pain never really goes away. I’ve accepted our infertility and life without children, but I’ll always feel regret and sadness that we didn’t conceive a baby.
I don’t have any easy answers or solutions for surviving infertility, but I can share tips from women who know how you feel.
“My doctor told me I’ll never be able to have children,” writes Jessie on Do You Resent Your Pregnant Friends? “Just recently two of my friends have become pregnant, my partner’s 18 year old sister just had a baby, and most of my other friends already have children. Only my partner knows I can’t have a baby, as I’m not courageous enough to tell anyone else. A lot of his family expects me to get pregnant, which is really hard to cope with…I just wish I could become pregnant even just once.. I want to be a mother more than anything.. It’s so unfair how some people can have kids but others can’t.”
My tips for Jessie:
I’m so sorry to hear how difficult it is for you, not to be able to get pregnant. I know how hard it is – all my friends seem to have kids, and four of my coworkers are pregnant! Tomorrow is yet another baby shower at work, and it is hard. I don’t resent them, but I wish I wasn’t missing out on such an exciting, natural, important part of life.
I’m 42 years old. I always believed we’d have a baby. I really thought that even though my husband doesn’t have any sperm, a miracle would happen. I don’t want to try in vitro fertilization, and we’re not keen on adopting. But now I’m just beginning to accept that we will never have children…and it’s difficult.
What helps is planning our future. My husband and I both love to travel, so we’ve decided to go on big vacations every year. He’s planning to retire at age 55, and we think we might move to Hawaiior somewhere exotic! And I’m going to grad school in the fall, and love my Quips and Tips blogs. I work with Big Brothers as a Mentoring Coordinator, and I love my job. I love my husband very much, I love our house, and our dog.
I think the best “tip” for coping with an infertility diagnosis is to create a life that you love. You’ll always feel a bit sad that you can’t have kids, but at least you’ll have what you have.
You’re right that it’s not fair that most women can have kids, and some of us can’t. Life is unfair in so many ways – some women get cancer, others live in third world countries, others are refugees, others have to work in factories, others lose their children or families, others are abused…and some couples can’t have babies. Life is equally unfair to all of us, I believe. We all have bad, heartbreaking, or sad things we have to cope with.
It makes me feel better to know that I’m not alone in the unfairness of it all.
Men struggle with infertility, too…
“Men get depressed about infertility, too,” says J. on Overcoming Depression When You Can’t Conceive. “My wife and I are having a devil of a time getting pregnant, and we’re not getting any younger. Both of us were in our 30′s when we married. So, the clock is ticking. My depression comes and goes in waves. I’m grieving the loss of never being able to participate in the creation of life that birthing a newborn would allow. I’m grieving the loss passing on the family name…I am the only son of six children. I’m grieving the loss of many, many things that comes with bringing your own biological children into this world.”
4 Tips From Women Living With Infertility
Here are two tips for surviving life without children from Pamela (the author of Silent Sorority), and two from my Quips and Tips for Couples Coping With Infertility blog:
Realize you’re not alone – spend time with women who know how you feel
“If you’ve spent any extended amount of time in ‘trying to conceive’ limbo, you know that it’s not easy to move away from the overpowering biological urge to conceive a baby,” writes Pamela Tsigdinos in Silent Sorority. “It becomes all but a second job what with monitoring, doctor appointments, more monitoring and still more doctor appointments. As I moved forward in my 30s, I found myself working my way through a slow but progressive set of steps. I started at acknowledgement and ended in my early 40s with acceptance.”
To survive life without children, connect with infertile women who are emotionally, physically, and spiritually healthy. Learn — gain strength, courage, wisdom, and support from them.
Talk about your infertility diagnosis – it is nothing to be ashamed of
One of the reasons Tsigdinos called her book SILENT Sorority was because women don’t talk about their infertility. Jessie is not alone in her reluctance to tell her family that she can’t have a baby! But, the more you talk about it, the better you’ll feel. Trust me, it gets easier with time.
Reading books written by women who have coped with infertility will help. Here’s a full list of books to help women cope with not having babies on Amazon.
If you’d like to share what it’s like for you to live with infertility, go to your stories about chronic illness.
Stay away from pregnant women
“It might sound a bit cruel but my strategy is to stay away from pregnant friends and relatives (and there seem to be a lot of them) if I’m having a bad day. I’ve been trying to conceive for 2 years and have good days and bad days – some days I just know it’s not the right time to be around pregnant women or small children and I just arrange to be out of that situation. Other times I feel fine and make sure I show how happy I am for those people.” ~ Saralucy.
Be grateful for the love you have – your partner
“I know it’s gotta be tough being married and trying to conceive, but try being single and not even having a partner on the horizon! That said, we can ALL find reasons to feel sorry for ourselves. The trick is to let yourself feel the sadness without becoming bitter, I think.” ~ kbot.
For more thoughts on being surviving a diagnosis of infertility, read Why Infertility Isn’t the Worst Thing to Happen to You.
If you don’t want more tips for infertility, read about staying emotionally healthy when you have a chronic illness (which infertility is!)
What do you think – can you survive life without children?