Infertility is a reality that many couples face, but it’s not something easy to come to terms with. Receiving the news that you and your partner cannot have children in the way you imagined is devastating. Although there are alternative options for creating a family, losing the hope to conceive (on your own or otherwise) is a very hard pill to swallow. Unfortunately, advice like: “Don't worry! You can just adopt” or “Maybe you can find a surrogate?” or “Everything happens for a reason, this wasn't meant to be” - is commonly offered, but rarely appreciated.
In recognition of Canadian Infertility Awareness Week, let's talk about the raw emotions, alternate options, and feelings of loss that can come with learning that having children is not possible.
The Initial Blow
Receiving news of infertility can be an emotional rollercoaster. It's normal to feel a range of emotions; from sadness and anger, to confusion and despair. It's important to remember that you are not alone.
Be kind to yourself & your partner in this difficult time. Be aware of your emotions, and watch out for the feelings of guilt, blame, inadequacy and jealousy. These are normal feelings, but cannot be left to fester and grow for extended periods of time. If you feel like your emotions are taking away from the quality of the life you want, do not be ashamed to reach out for additional support.
Sadly, Infertility is more common than you might think, affecting approximately one in six couples in Canada. Many couples have gone through similar experiences and have come out on the other side with a happy family, and many have not. The “commonness” of infertility is in no way used to diminish your own situation or experience- that is uniquely yours. However, you may be surprised by the power and support that can be gained through hearing & sharing with individuals going through similar hardships.
A little more information on the two most commonly discussed alternate options:
If you are unable to conceive naturally, hope is not lost, especially with how far science and medicine have come. One option is adoption. Adoption is a beautiful way to build a family, and provide a loving home for a child in need. There are many different types of adoption, including domestic and international, open and closed, and foster care adoption. It's important to do your research and find the right type of adoption that makes the most sense for you and your position.
Another option is surrogacy. Surrogacy is when another woman carries a pregnancy for you and your partner. There are two types of surrogacy: traditional and gestational. In traditional surrogacy, the surrogate's own eggs are used, while in gestational surrogacy, the surrogate carries an embryo created using the intended parents' or donors' eggs and sperm. Surrogacy can be a complex and expensive process, but it can also provide many families with a beautiful experience.
If neither of these options seem feasible for you and your family, that is okay too. It’s okay to feel like the alternate options are not ‘enough’.
Moving Forward with Loss
When faced with infertility, it's important to take time to process your emotions and consider your options. Talk to your partner, a trusted friend or family member, or a professional counsellor to help you navigate this difficult time. Consider joining a support group for couples going through infertility, where you can connect with others who understand what you're going through.
Remember that loss is a large part of infertility:
Loss of the vision you saw for your life and future
Loss of the hope of a child
Loss of a sense of purpose
Loss of a sense of being ‘normal’
Loss of control
With loss comes feelings of longing, confusion, anger, resentment, sadness, loneliness, and ultimately, grief.
Infertility can be a difficult reality to face, but it's important to remember that there is still hope. Take comfort (even if it feels far from enough) in knowing that you are not alone, and more than one path can lead you to your final goals. Take time to process your emotions, consider your options, and find what feels right for you and your partner.
Also, acknowledge the fact that infertility sucks (to keep things blunt) - there’s no magic solution to make things better, to make you feel more complete, or to stop desperately hoping your situation turns out differently. However, healing will come with time; what may feel totally unbearable now, will become more bearable as each week passes.