> Does anyone know if there is a group or website, or even a book you
> have read, which might help my DH understand why IF is such a big issue
> for most women? My DH thinks I'm just oversensitive about everything,
> and is battling to understand why I am sad a lot of the time . . .
I don't know if this (below) is the kind of thing you are looking for
but it's a letter that was posted here years ago that helpos explain IF
to friends and family. Feel free to use it if you'd like. IME, guys
just don't "get it" and don't go through the emotional upheaval that we
PS/Sorry for the weird formatting)
To help sensitise your family to what you are going through, below is a
guide that you can fill in, photocopy, and give your family members.
"About (fill in your name here)'s Infertility," the guide is designed
help open the topic for discussion. Write your name in the appropriate
spaces to make the guide more personal. You may also rewrite the
pages in your own handwriting to express yourself in your own way.
About __________'s Infertility
________________ knows that you love her and want her to be happy, to
"old self" again. But lately, she seems isolated, depressed and
with the idea of having a baby.
You probably have difficulty understanding why getting pregnant has
virtually every aspect of her daily life. _____________ hopes that by
reading this letter, written by psychologists with both personal and
professional experience with infertility, you will better understand
pain she is feeling. This letter also will tell you how you can help
SOME FACTS ABOUT INFERTILITY
It may surprise you to know that one out of six women who wants to have
baby cannot conceive. There are many possible reasons for this dismal
statistic: blocked fallopian tubes, ovarian failure, hormonal
toxic exposure, husband's low sperm count, to name just a few.
after a woman turns 35, it becomes difficult to have a baby primarily
because many of the eggs she has left are defective.
All these barriers to pregnancy are physical or physiological, not
psychological. Tubes don't become blocked because a woman is "trying
hard" to get pregnant. Antibodies that kill sperm will not disappear if
woman simply relaxes. And a man cannot make his sperm swim faster by
developing a more optimistic outlook.
When someone we care about has a problem, it is natural to try to help.
there's nothing specific that we can do, we try to give helpful advice.
Often, we draw on our personal experiences or on anecdotes involving
people we know. Perhaps you recall a friend who had trouble getting
until she and her husband went to a tropical island. So you suggest
____________ and her husband take a vacation, too.
________________ appreciates your advice, but she cannot use it because
the physical nature of her problem. Not only can't she use your advice,
sound of it upsets her greatly. Indeed, she's probably inundated with
sort of advice at every turn. Imagine how frustrating it must be for
hear about other couples who "magically" become pregnant during a
simply by making love. To _______________, who is undergoing
treatment, making love and conceiving a child have very little to do
one another, now. You can't imagine how hard she's been trying to have
baby and how crushed she feels every month she learns that she's failed
again. Your well-meaning advice is an attempt to transform an extremely
complicated predicament into a simplistic little problem. By
problem in this manner, you've diminished the validity of her emotions,
making her feel psychologically undervalued. Naturally, she will feel
and upset with you under these circumstances.
The truth is: There's practically nothing concrete you can do to help
______________. The best help you can provide is to be understanding
supportive. It's easier to be supportive if you can appreciate how
unable to have a baby can be such a devastating blow.
WHY NOT HAVING A BABY IS SO UPSETTING
Women are reared with the expectation that they will have a baby
They've thought about themselves in a motherhood role ever since they
with dolls. A woman may not even consider herself part of the adult
unless she is a parent. When ______________ thinks she cannot have a
she feels like "defective merchandise." Not having a baby is literally
matter of life and death. In the Bible, Rachel was barren. She said to
"Give me children or I die ..." (Genesis 30:1). Commenting on this,
sages said, "One who is childless is considered dead." So powerful are
feelings connected with barrenness that the person feels dead or wants
Worse, _________________ is not even certain that she will never have a
baby. One of the cruellest things you can do to a person is give them
and then not come through. Modern medicine has created this
sword. It offers hope where there previously was none -- but at the
WHAT MODERN MEDICINE HAS TO OFFER THE INFERTILE WOMAN.
In the past decade, reproductive medicine has made major breakthroughs
enable women, who in the past were unable to have children, to now
The use of drugs such as Pergonal can increase the number and size of
that a woman produces thereby increasing her chances of fertilization.
vitro fertilization (IVF) techniques extract a woman's eggs and mix
with sperm in a "test tube" and allow them to fertilize in a
embryo can then be transferred back to the woman's uterus. There are
other options, as well.
Despite the hope these technologies offer, they are a hard row to hoe.
high-tech procedures are offered only at a few places, which may force
______________ to travel great distances. Even if the treatment is
locally, the patient must endure repeated doctor's visits, take daily
injections, shuffle work and social schedules to accommodate various
procedures, and lay out considerable sums of money -- money that may or
not be reimbursed by insurance. All of this is preceded by a battery of
diagnostic tests that can be both embarrassing and extremely painful.
Infertility is a highly personal medical condition, one that
may feel uncomfortable discussing with her employer. So, she is faced
coming up with excuses whenever her treatment interferes with her job.
Meanwhile, she is devoting considerable time and energy to managing a
mountain of claims forms and other paperwork required by insurers.
After every medical attempt at making her pregnant, _______________
play a waiting game that is peppered with spurts of optimism and
It is an emotional roller coaster. She doesn't know if her swollen
are a sign of pregnancy or a side effect of the fertility drugs. If she
a spot of blood on her underwear, she doesn't know if an embryo is
implant or her period is about to begin. If she is not pregnant after
procedure, she may feel as though her baby died. How can a person
a life that existed only in her mind?
While trying to cope with this emotional turmoil, she gets invited to a
shower or Christening, learns that a friend or colleague is pregnant,
reads about a one-day-old infant found abandoned in a Dumpster. Can you
to imagine her envy, her rage over the inequities in life? Given that
infertility permeates practically every facet of her existence, is it
wonder why she is obsessed with her quest?
Every month, _________________ wonders whether this will finally be her
month. If is isn't, she wonders if she can she muster the energy to try
again. Will she be able to afford another procedure? How much longer
her husband continue to be supportive? Will she be forced to give up
So when you speak with ______________, try to empathize with the
her mind and on her heart. She knows you care about her, and she may
talk with you about her ordeal. But she knows that there is nothing you
say or do to make her pregnant. And she fears that you will offer a
suggestion that will trigger even more despair.
WHAT CAN YOU DO FOR ____________?
You can give her support, and don't criticize her for any steps she may
taking -- such as not attending a nephew's birthday -- to protect
from emotional trauma. You can say something like this:
I care about you. After reading this letter, I have a better idea about
hard this must be for you. I wish I could help. I'm here to listen to
and cry with you, if you feel like crying. I'm here to cheer you on
feel as though there is no hope. You can talk to me. I care.
The most important thing to remember is that ______________ is
and very worried. Listen to what she has to say, but do not judge. Do
belittle her feelings. Don't try to pretend that everything will be OK.
Don't sell her on fatalism with statements like, "What will be will
that were truly the case, what's the point of using medical technology
try to accomplish what nature cannot?
Your willingness to listen can be of great help. Infertile women feel
off from other people. Your ability to listen and support her will help
handle the stress she's experiencing. Her infertility is one of the
difficult situations she will ever have to deal with.
Just as an ordinary room can be an obstacle course to a blind person,
the everyday world be full of hazards for an infertile woman -- hazards
which do not exist for women with children.
She goes to her sister-in-law's house for Christmas. Her cousin is
breast-feeding. The men are watching the football game while the women
about the problems with their kids. She feels left out, to say the
Christmas is an example of the many holidays that are particularly
for her. They mark the passage of time. She remembers what came to mind
Christmas -- that the next year, she would have a new son or daughter
show off to her family.
Each holiday presents its own unique burden to the infertile woman.
Valentine's day reminds her of her romance, love, marriage -- and the
she may never be able to create. Mother's Day and Father's Day? Their
difficulties are obvious.
Mundane activities like a walk down the street or going to the shopping
are packed with land mines. Seeing women pushing baby carriages and
strollers strikes a raw nerve. While watching TV, ___________ is
by commercials for diapers, baby food, and early pregnancy tests.
At a party, someone asks how long she's been married and whether she
kids. She feels like running out of the room, but she can't. If she
about being infertile, she's likely to get well-intentioned advice --
the thing she doesn't need: "Just relax. Don't worry. It will happen
or "You're lucky. I've had it with my kids. I wish I had your freedom."
These are the kinds of comments that make her want to crawl under the
nearest sofa and die.
Escape into work and career can be impossible. Watching her dream
a monthly basis, she can have difficulty investing energy in advancing
career. All around, her co-workers are getting pregnant. Going to a
shower is painful -- but so is distancing herself from social occasions
celebrated by her colleagues.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Because she is infertile, life is extremely stressful for
__________________. She's doing her best to cope. Please be
Sometimes she will be depressed. Sometimes she will be angry. Sometimes
will be physically and emotionally exhausted. She's not going to be
same old _______________" she used to be. She won't want to do many of
things she used to do.
She has no idea when, or if, her problem will be solved. She's engaged
emotionally and financially taxing venture with a low probability of
success. Overall, only about 11 percent of those people using special
fertility treatments succeed in having a baby. The odds are even lower
women over 40. The longer she perseveres, however, the greater her
of pregnancy become.
Maybe someday she will be successful. Maybe someday she will give up
turn to adoption, or come to terms with living a childless life. At
though, she has no idea what will happen. It's all she can do to keep
from one day to the next. She does not know why this is her lot. Nobody
does. All she knows is the horrible anguish that she lives with every
Please care about her. Please be sensitive to her situation. Give her
support, she needs it and wants it.