Coping with Infertility: 5 Steps to Acceptance
Infertility and the Grief and Loss Process
Dealing with infertility — and all the complicated emotions that come with it — can seem impossible when you first learn of your reproductive challenges. It’s understandable. You’ve been trying to get pregnant for so long, and you’ve finally begun to realize that that may never become a reality. Before you can accept this, you have to feel it. Grieving infertility is not simple, nor is it a linear process for everyone.
However, when coping with infertility, there are typically five stages of grief and loss that a couple may experience. Experiencing these emotions is a normal and healthy way of transitioning from infertility to adoption — and potentially conquering infertility in ways you hadn’t originally imagined.
Individuals deal with the stages of infertility grief and loss in different ways. Some will experience all five stages, while others will experience only a couple of them. Also, the stages of grief and loss can be experienced in any order, and even when an individual reaches the acceptance stage, he or she can always revert back to other stages of denial, anger or sadness. Again, this is completely normal.
The most important thing is that you acknowledge these feelings and learn how to cope with infertility before attempting to start the adoption process (or any other family-building method). While no one can tell you exactly how to overcome infertility, you don’t have to face this process alone; there are many resources for infertility support you can turn to. And, of course, when you are ready, you can always reach an adoption specialist to discuss your options for moving forward.
Keep in mind that infertility struggles are an extremely personal process for everyone, so dealing with infertility for you may look very different than someone else you know coping with infertility. In general, though, prospective adoptive couples may experience the following stages of grief and loss when moving from infertility to adoption:
Stage 1: Denial
The denial stage is the state of shock you go into when you first realize that you are struggling with infertility. At this point, you and your spouse cannot fathom the idea of not having a child biologically. As a result, you may not allow yourselves to process your feelings of loss, and you may continue to pursue the same methods of family-building believing, in spite of what medical professionals may say, that it will eventually work. An individual in the denial phase simply does not want to believe that this could be happening to their family. Dealing with infertility grief is not even on this person’s radar, because they won’t accept that they’re struggling with it.
Stage 2: Anger
Throughout the grief and loss process, individuals are often angry because of their infertility struggles. Not knowing how to deal with infertility can be maddening, and infertility anger can manifest itself in many ways — including fear, jealousy, envy, guilt, resentment or shame. Sometimes an individual’s infertility emotions can be misdirected at their own body or even their spouse. It’s normal to have these feelings, but it’s important that you remember to express them in healthy ways. Lashing out at your partner or punishing yourself will not help anyone on the road to overcoming infertility.
Stage 3: Bargaining
Some individuals grieving infertility do anything they possibly can think of in an attempt to “cure” their infertility. This may include attempting infertility treatments multiple times, eating certain foods, changing their lifestyles, praying over and over again, and even beginning the adoption process because they believe it will help them get pregnant. It’s understandable. Sometimes we feel that if we could just do one more thing, surely what we want will come to us. However, it’s very important that a couple not pursue adoption unless they plan on fully devoting themselves to the process.
Stage 4: Sadness
Couples living with infertility often struggle with intense feelings of sadness and even depression. Many couples feel not just emotional pain but also physical pain during the sadness stage. They may have low energy and physical complaints. This might seem alarming, but these feelings are actually an important step in coping with infertility grief — they signal that the couple is moving in a healthy way past the loss. However, it’s important to keep an eye on this. If you begin to feel you are experiencing feelings of depression, please seek help from a medical provider immediately.
If you are experiencing serious feelings of depression or thoughts of self-harm, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately at 1-800-273-8255.
Stage 5: Acceptance
Whether you are actively dealing with male infertility, female infertility or unexplained infertility, reaching a place of acceptance may seem impossible. But when a couple acknowledges their feelings and moves through the stages of grief and loss, accepting infertility is possible. However long it takes, it is possible to eventually move from the feelings of denial, anger and sadness associated with infertility to hope and excitement for the future.
However, surviving infertility and reaching a place of acceptance isn’t about simply “getting over” infertility. You will likely always have some complicated feelings about this time in your life. But, once you reach the acceptance stage, these feelings will no longer consume you. You will begin to see alternative family-building options like surrogacy and adoption not as a solution to your infertility, but as a solution to become parents — just as having a child biologically is a solution to become parents.
When you can look to adoption with true excitement and realize that you are not “settling” for this option, you will know that your infertility coping process is truly complete.
While American Adoptions can help educate couples about adoption and reduce some of their uncertainty about the adoption process, couples must reach the acceptance stage before pursuing adoption. If you are still struggling with infertility and working to overcome it, it is not fair to a child to begin the adoption process. Consult a local infertility or grief and loss specialist about surviving infertility to help you work through these complicated feelings and get excited about growing your family through adoption.
An adoption specialist can answer any questions you have about moving from infertility to adoption and can even recommend counselors in your area. Contact an adoption specialist today at 1-800-ADOPTION or request free adoption information online.
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