By Jennifer “Jay” Palumbo
If you’ve been diagnosed with a fertility issue or you’ve gone through IVF cycle after IVF cycle, it’s understandable that it would make anyone feel frustrated and down in the dumps.
Especially around the holidays, you see tons of pictures on Facebook of kids with Santa, you get holiday cards from your friends with children, gather with your family (and your pregnant cousins) and sweet old Aunt Agnes who asks for the hundredth time why you don’t have kids yet. It’s enough to make you have “Resting Grinch Face” straight up until the New Year.
Many describe infertility as a rollercoaster ride. If you feel the ride is beginning to truly get to you, it may be time to consider seeking the help of a therapist or counselor. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “The practice of infertility counseling delivered by mental health and medical professionals has become more sophisticated and widespread over the past decade.” Having a trained professional who is objective can help you and your partner work through some complicated emotions, learn how to better communicate and support one another and offer some coping strategies may make a huge difference in surviving not just the holidays, but fertility treatment and the many pitfalls it can hold.
Reasons to seek counseling
“Some people cope by compartmentalizing,” Tracy Ross, LCSW shares. “They deal with fertility issues in a methodical, step by step, less emotional way. Others are flooded with emotions constantly, every set back or challenge feels crushing. If you and your husband or wife fall on different ends of the continuum it can leave you feeling misunderstood or alone.” Having a therapist to navigate these differences, provide tools and resources to better assist you in understanding one another, or simply verbalizing your own emotional state, can be invaluable.
Another reason counseling can help is when some form of third-party reproduction has come up as a suggested path to parenthood. This can include donor eggs, donor sperm or surrogacy. For many, this is a very big decision and it’s possible both partners may not be on the same page about it. Having someone who can impartially guide the discussion in a constructive way can benefit your decision-making process.
If you’ve recently experienced a miscarriage or multiple pregnancy losses, this can be an exceptional strain on you and your partner. Everyone deals with loss differently, plus, the person who physically lost the pregnancy is also managing the hormonal and physical changes that go along with a miscarriage. A counselor can help you unpack the range of emotions you’re experiencing, how to verbalize what you’re feeling, how to best support each other and how to express to others how they can best support you as a couple.
Signs of depression
If you feel like your relationship is still strong but you’re having difficulty coping and/or your behavior is not like your usual self, therapy for yourself may be needed. Even if you feel like you simply need more support or advice on ways to get through treatment, these are all good reasons to seek the help of a professional. Some behaviors and symptoms to particularly look for are:
- Not sleeping or sleeping too much
- Trouble concentrating
- Loss of appetite
- Having difficulty managing your moods
- Becoming anti-social or noticing that your relationships with friends or family are difficult to maintain
- Loss of interest in daily activities
- Reckless behavior
- Loss of energy
- Having suicidal thoughts
These could be signs of a clinical depression. Seeking a therapist or reaching out to a healthcare provider is vital. With effective treatment that include therapy, in some cases, medication and/or lifestyle changes, it can provide tools needed to treat your depression.
Finding a therapist
If you’re currently undergoing fertility treatment, many clinics have a mental health expert on staff. Ask your RE or medical team for more information.
If your clinic doesn’t have anyone in-house, Resolve: the National Infertility Association, which has a directory of experts you can look up or, you could ask someone in your infertility community if there is someone they recommend.
You can also look at the FertilityAnswers site as they have a list of experts in the fertility space!
While the holidays can be particularly triggering and you may feel a bit like Ebenezer Scrooge, you can ask for help and receive it (just like George Bailey). You have your medical team at the clinic, a therapist, your partner, the infertility community, friends and family who you can call on to aid you in finding ways to manage and deal with the hormonal hell that is infertility. That way, no matter what “Christmas Future” may hold, you’ll have the skills and tools you need to handle it all.
And I also recommend as much candy canes and chocolate as possible.
Jennifer “Jay” Palumbo is the Chief Executive Officer at Wonder Woman Writer, LLC, Freelance Writer & avid Women’s Health Advocate. Her blog, “The 2 Week Wait” was awarded the Hope Award for Best Blog from Resolve: The National Infertility Association and was also named the “Best IVF Blog” by Egg Donation Friends. Her articles have been featured in Time magazine, Huffington Post, and ScaryMommy. As an infertility subject matter expert, she has been interviewed on news outlets such as CNN, NPR, FOX, NBC and BBC America, and was featured in the documentary, “Vegas Baby.”