There are many hidden traumas associated with building a family. For one in eight couples coping with fertility challenges (both primary and secondary), the road to parenthood is both painful and uncertain.
Many women of child-bearing age who are coping with primary infertility describe a feeling of isolation. Efforts to conceive can be become increasingly stressful as months go by and conception does not naturally occur.
Among those women facing fertility challenges are those coping with secondary infertility. This applies to women who have previously conceived without apparent difficulty, but who are unable to conceive again.
Women coping with secondary infertility often feel left behind. Because they had previously conceived without difficulty, they understood this to be their norm. The emergent fertility struggle may blindside. They work to come to terms with this altered reality in the present, as well as plans for the future.
Referencing secondary infertility, reproductive psychologist Dr. Julie Bindeman explains:
“Because a woman has one child, she has friends in the same place. Friendships grow up between women and their children. When these friends get pregnant and she does not, there is a sense of isolation, of feeling left behind.”
In addition, women who are experiencing secondary infertility tend to have their pain and concern inadvertently minimized. They are reminded that they do have child/ren and therefore things will likely be “fine.” This stops more conversations than it starts. It strands women seeking comfort and support from their peer group.
Both primary and secondary infertility leave a scar in any circumstance. Women struggle to come to terms with what they all too often perceive to be something “wrong” with their bodies. (How I wish I could remove that burden of perception).
Women facing primary infertility, who had looked forward to motherhood, begin to feel that it is out of reach and that month by month is becoming more so. There is the hastening of months into years. There are expensive fertility treatments with no guarantee of success. This is profoundly devastating for many women who face down questions of identity. They feel stressed and often alone.
“I’ve tried to tell an intensely personal story about a common experience that has largely remained unspoken … I wanted to transmit what it feels like to be on the so-called ‘emotional roller-coaster,’ to deeply honor that complex experience in all its detail. Ways of loving, why we do or don’t want children, the mysteries of the body, the vagaries of science, the ethics of medicine. The material raised so many questions.”
Dr. Julie Bindeman advises that women consider seeking the help of a therapist if they feel that their feelings are affecting their actions, for example, if pregnancies amongst her friends cause her to stop socializing and isolate.
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