I regularly work with clients facing infertility as a part of my career, and I have personally known many couples who have experienced its effects; however, it’s still astonishing for me to think of how difficult a journey infertility can be. I think about the “roller coaster” of excitement and discouragement and the waves of hope and despair that happen month after month, year after year. I think of the countless appointments with gynecologists, specialists, primary care doctors, and fertility awareness professionals that can both stir a sense of optimism and become overwhelming and taxing. I think of the often-staggering number of medications, supplements, lifestyle changes, and treatments to discern, try, and at times, discontinue. I think also of the many uncomfortable – if not intrusive – reminders of the emotional pain of it all, including pregnancy announcements, family gatherings, social media posts, the presence of children at Sunday mass, baby showers, and the comments that rub the wrong way. I think of the moments of deafening silence from loved ones or isolation that can crush. Perhaps you are new to this and just beginning to realize you experience infertility; or perhaps you’ve been working to grow your family for years and feel you are at the “end of the road”. Regardless of your situation, I am sorry that you have to live with this agony.
As a mental health counselor who has the privilege of accompanying individuals and couples through both the happiest and darkest moments of their fertility journeys, I have learned much about the toll that infertility can take on men and women’s emotional lives. Also, as a man who has personally experienced nearly five years of primary infertility with his wife, I know what that emotional pain can feel like; it is crushing, isolating, and indescribable. I see you when you feel weak and hopeless. I am so sorry for your loss of the child(ren) you thought you would have by now. I cannot blame you for feeling spent, battle-weary, and tired after such a physically and emotionally draining journey. I hope that you know that you are not alone and that your emotions are very understandable given this excruciating cross.
Persevering and resilient are words that I would certainly use to describe you and all couples struggling with infertility. After all, look at all that you have been through and you are still here. My clients often do not believe they possess strength because they feel weak and defeated; they are mistaken. They, and you, are very strong in that you continue to get by day by day, week by week, and this is despite all the deep emotional, physical, and spiritual anguish of daily life. Not only that, but you also continue to work at your job or at home, complete routine tasks, invest in relationships, and volunteer, let alone your continued efforts to grow your family through fertility treatment or adoption.
It takes a resilient person with an inner ability to cope to persevere through such adversity. You are strong – even when you do not feel it – because you continue to live. Grace and resilience have gotten you here, and I am grateful for that; but do not believe that you have to suffer alone. Pray for the grace to continue on and reach out to caring, supportive, and sensitive loved ones and professionals for helpful assistance as you continue on. I pray that God, your resilience, and good social support will continue to help you persevere no matter what happens going forward.
Persevere in trying to grow your family as long as you are able to and comfortable doing so. Only you and your spouse can decide when to continue trying to conceive or adopt and when you need to stop (temporarily or permanently) for your mental wellness. Regardless of your decisions or the outcome, persevere in faith, knowing that God has not abandoned you, even when it feels like it. Persevere in finding peace, joy, and meaning in your life. Persevere in living. You deserve to live a meaning and joy-filled life no matter where your fertility journey takes you.
May God continue to reveal His plan for your marriage; may He console you in your suffering and show you His abundant mercy and love in good times and in challenging ones. May He help you discover the purpose for your suffering, make sense of your experience, and ultimately find peace as you persevere in living. Amen.
Edward Luersman, MA, LPC lives in Columbus Ohio with his wife Kate and is a Licensed Professional Counselor with Spirit of Peace Clinical Counseling. As a Catholic and counselor, his clinical focus includes support for individuals and couples with infertility and miscarriage and the many other forms of grief and loss.