It’s pretty clear that the emotional and psychological effects of miscarriage and secondary infertility are still lingering in my life. My youngest – my fourth baby – is now eight months old, yet I continue to have some of the same old thoughts/feelings come up. They may not be debilitating the way they once were, but they certainly aren’t positive or uplifting, so I am eager and motivated to change them, if I can.
Strangely, I don’t feel like my body has failed me, which seems like the natural line of thinking. Instead, I feel almost as if something were done to me, or something kept from me. Like somehow the women who can pop baby after baby out, closely together in age (which is my unfulfilled desire), have been blessed, while I have not. It’s almost laughable that I would feel this way considering the four beautiful kids that I’m getting to raise.
I also find it unusual that I’d feel anything but joy because I actually love the spacing of my kids. The fact that I have two who are so much older and able to be companions to me as well as constant sources of help with the younger two, is actually really wonderful. That being said, it’s hard for me when almost every time we leave the house, someone makes a comment about their ages or hints/suggests that our situation is unusual. I want to scream, “I couldn’t help it!!”
Related post: Secondary Infertility
So, I have been researching the psychological effects of infertility lately and can identify with many of the findings. Harvard has a publication on the psychological impact of infertility on men and women, which I found interesting.
“One study of 200 couples…found that half of the women and 15% of the men said that infertility was the most upsetting experience of their lives.”
I wouldn’t say this is entirely accurate for me. While, yes, we struggled for over three years to conceive a sibling for our third child, and before that I went through two miscarriages, I was still definitely more affected by other things. Having children with asthma (and emergency room visits), a scary hospitalization for my husband, and months of panic attacks for me…all of these were much worse on me emotionally and mentally than baby-making issues. I’m thinking, in this case, that primary infertility must be much worse than secondary. Had we not been able to conceive even one, I don’t know how I’d have gone on. I feel utterly called to be a mother. It is a very strong force in my life. (Funny note: my husband has called me a bunny many times over the years because of my interest in reproducing, lol)
“Another study…concluded that women with infertility felt as anxious or depressed as those diagnosed with cancer, hypertension, or recovering from a heart attack.”
This is a sad one, isn’t it? And I have certainly felt the physical effects over it the years. From fatigue and lethargy to depression and anxiety, I’ve been affected by the inability to have babies when I want them.
The article also discussed types of therapies that may be useful in psychological recovery. One such therapy is called cognitive behavioral therapy, “which identifies and tries to change unhealthy patterns of thought or behavior.”
This sounds like something that might work for me as I seem to be unintentionally re-thinking the same thoughts on a regular basis. Thoughts like, “I can’t have babies easily,” “I’m disappointing to Stephen” (it would kill him if he knew I thought this way because I’ve never been a disappointment to him in our 19 years together even though this thought comes to my mind frequently) and “Other women get to have the babies they want, when they want them. They are lucky.” These thoughts are not healthy or good for me yet I don’t know how to change them.
The Harvard article points out that “patients may feel forever changed by the experience of infertility.”
At this point I sure do. I still think of us as just having a few children, and I’m assuming that’s because it was such an emotional and psychological strain on me. How can I think of myself as infertile when I’ve had four children? It doesn’t make sense. People respond to our family size as if we have lots of kids (simply because of the average American family size) but I struggle with this. It feels almost like an eating disorder; the way a person sees their reflection and thinks they’re fat when in reality they are skinny? That’s me with kids. I see one or two, not four. Am I forever changed? What will happen if/when we have our fifth and final baby?
So, I am now going to begin researching cognitive behavioral therapy and see what I find and if it can help me to have a healthier view of myself and my fertility.