Infertility affects so many women of all ages, and is heartbreaking in every situation. According to the CDC, 1 in 5 women between ages 15 to 49 in the US who haven’t conceived before are infertile––which is defined as being unable to get pregnant after one year of trying.
Wanting to have a baby and being unable to can cause enormous amounts of stress, especially if it has been going on for years. It can cause anxiety and depression, and wear on your relationships––especially the relationship with your spouse or significant other.
However, equipped with the right tools, you can learn to cope with your stress and nurture your relationship with your husband when infertility strikes. Here are 5 strategies you can use to do so:
1. Prioritize Your Relationship
Often the first warning sign that infertility is causing you stress is the state of your relationship with your husband. You may not even realize that you have developed feelings of animosity or resentment towards him, but over time these feelings can build as your frustration grows over not being able to conceive.
Perhaps you secretly blame him and think he may be the cause, or you blame yourself and therefore withdraw from him in shame. He may similarly be frustrated and inadvertently be blaming you or himself. Either way, there is growing tension in your relationship, and both partners are being significantly affected.
When you allow the dream of a child to become a priority and that dream doesn’t come true, your marriage will suffer. But if you can honor and love your husband whether or not a child is in the picture, you will be so much better set up for if and when that child comes.
Have conversations with your husband, and be honest about how you truly feel. Allow him to share his feelings as well. Keep an open dialogue about what’s going on, and work through your emotions together. If it’s still hard to work things out, consider going to see a marriage therapist together.
2. Notice and Validate Your Feelings
Since infertility is often a long-term issue, you may not realize the feelings that have been building up slowly over time. You just notice you are often irritable or on edge, or perhaps crying frequently for seemingly no reason.
The first step to healing is always recognizing and validating your feelings. As long as you don’t come to terms with your emotions, they will continue to wreak havoc on your relationships and well-being. One of the best ways of doing this is by journaling.
Write down what you feel throughout the day, and what triggers those emotions. For example, do you feel a sense of sadness or jealousy when you see other moms with their kids? Or do you feel anxious when your husband initiates sex?
Notice what triggers your strong emotions, and figure out what you can do in those moments to help you feel better. Maybe you give yourself affirmations, or listen to inspirational or podcasts that comfort you. Or maybe you call a friend to talk through your feelings.
The most important thing is to recognize the feelings are there, instead of ignoring them.
3. Build Social Support
We all need community and support from others, no matter what we are going through. Infertility can be a long and painful road, so having people around you who can encourage you and fight with you through it makes the pain more tolerable. These can be special focused groups for individuals struggling with infertility, a local church, or groups of people who share a common interest such as a sport, hobby, or arts and crafts.
Usually people find the most relief in knowing people who are going through or have gone through the same thing as them. Being understood in our pain is incredibly healing. Find those people and the people who will cheer you on in both your disappointments and victories.
Whatever you do, do not isolate yourself. You cannot get through this alone.
4. Practice Mindfulness
Similar to noticing and validating your feelings, practicing mindfulness (awareness) can be a gateway to reduced stress and better relationships. Instead of judging your feelings (or your husband), allow them to be what they are. Be present in your life, and recognize that you are exactly where you are supposed to be, even though it doesn’t feel like it.
You may question why God is allowing you to go through this. Pay attention to what is good in your life right now and focus on practicing gratitude. By being mindful and paying attention to what you do have, you will see a shift in your disposition towards more joy and less discontent.
Focus on the good things that you are experiencing every day and enjoy them.
5. Enjoy Intimacy and Sex
When you’ve been trying to conceive with no luck for a long time, it can suck the joy out of intimacy and sex. Partners can begin to dread being intimate instead of looking forward to it because it only seems to lead to disappointment.
But the point of sex is not only to conceive––it’s for pleasure! When it becomes warped and pressured to be only an act of utility, we are missing out on the joy that sex brings to marriage.
Sex is the beautiful act of two becoming one, the intermingling of two separate souls. It is a wonderful and enjoyable experience all by itself, whether or not it results in a baby. If you can reframe it with your husband this way and take the pressure off, you can rekindle the passion you once had.
Get creative and surprise your husband with new lingerie, or book a hotel for a night. Think about what you can do to make your sex life fun again! It will have a big benefit on your overall relationship.
Don’t Give Up Hope
Although infertility is an incredibly painful experience, it doesn’t have to ruin your life. Becoming a mother is one of life’s greatest blessings, and you very well may experience it one day.
Avoid comparing yourself to others. Instead, practice acceptance and honor your own personal journey trusting that God has a perfect and individualized plan for your life. In the meantime, enjoy the freedom that comes with not having kids. Cherish your marriage, and enjoy quality time with your husband.