Modern medicine has made huge strides in helping couples who are having difficulties conceiving a child. However, there can come a time when it becomes clear that techniques such as in vitro fertilization just aren’t going to work. At this point, many couples experience grief, in just the same way that they would if they had lost a close family member. Often this grief ends in acceptance and a decision to adopt a child, but it can be a difficult and confusing journey. If you are in this position, it is important to understand what you can expect to go through – these are known as the five stages of grief.
Your first natural reaction will probably be denial. How can it be possible that you can’t have biological children? Many people are unable to deal with this feeling of loss, and continue to try to have a child. While this is understandable, if you continue to try to do this, it can cause you significant harm and create stress in your relationship. It is important for you to accept the truth, otherwise the distress and anxiety will become unbearable.
Once you accept the reality of the situation, you may start to feel anger – the second stage of grief. Is it the doctors that are to blame? Why should other couples be able to have children? In fact, this anger may be directed at your partner if they are infertile, and there is even the risk that your relationship will fail because of this. Your anger can also be directed inwards, leading to guilt and self-destructive behavior.
If you manage to get past this stage, you may start to bargain. This may manifest itself as renewed attempts to have a child, including retrying infertility treatments that have failed in the past, changing your diet and lifestyle, and even turning to prayer. You may even look into newborn adoptions, in the belief that somehow you will become pregnant if you try this. Doing this is a mistake – you and your partner need to be committed to adoption for its own sake, rather than thinking that it will somehow cure your infertility.
Once you finally realize that you cannot bargain for your fertility, you may be overcome by a profound sense of sadness – the fourth stage. You will probably feel the classical emotional signs of grief, but there may also be severe physical effects. You may feel that you have no energy, experience aches and pains, or lack the motivation to do anything to change your situation. However, it is important for you to understand that once you reach this stage, you are starting to deal with your grief in a healthy way.
The final stage is acceptance. This is when you still feel the loss, but are finally able to deal with your emotions and start to move on. Your infertility will still be challenging, but it will start to feel like something that has happened in the past. At this point, you may want to look at adoption as a way of building a fulfilling life and expressing your love – rather than a way of solving your infertility problems.