Seeking Emotional Support
A couple weeks ago, I spent about 1 1/2 hours with a group of women who have created an infertility support group. And, I loved every moment of it. I was reminded how valuable it is to sit and talk about infertility with people who KNOW infertility first hand. Even though I am at a different point on my path to “resolving my infertility” (whatever that means) than most of these women, I was reminded how good it feels to share, learn, and grow with other women.
I came away excited…thrilled…energized.
For the past several weeks, I have been writing an article to be published in LDS Living Magazine in their May/June issue. Can you guess the topic? INFERTILITY! I submitted it last Friday and I am excited about how it all came together. In 1800 words, I managed to share words of encouragement, ideas for finding support and strength in the gospel, ways to make baby showers “friendly”, ideas to survive Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and suggestions for those who are wanting to support friends and family members dealing with infertility. It was a pure miracle that I could say all of that in only 1800 words. To be honest, it was a real challenge for me. I really can’t wait for you to read it!
I am excited…thrilled…energized.
This week, I want to spend some time focusing on and talking about the value of finding support as you deal with infertility. And, I hope it gets you excited…thrilled…energized…to reach out and find some additional support among friends and family. Make sure you visit all week long and, if you have something to share…please do it. We love, love, love comments!!
Today, I am going to share my friend Monica Ashton with you. She is a therapist from The Healing Group here in Salt Lake City, UT. Check out her bio below to see how amazing she is. I am impressed by her efforts to reach out to those who have cause to grieve. She is a wonderful source of strength! And, just so you know…she leads an amazing infertility support group through The Healing Group. Click here for more information.
Seeking Emotional Support
By Monica Ashton MSW, LCSW
One in ten couples will have to deal with infertility during their lifetime, according to the CDC. This astounding statistic is heartbreaking, but demonstrates that you are not alone in your journey. Receiving the diagnosis of infertility is overwhelming experience. It can cause an emotional rollercoaster and strain even the strongest relationships. It can make even the most optimistic and upbeat person struggle. A few normal emotional responses to an infertility diagnosis are…
Marlo Shalesky described depression as a normal part of infertility in her book, Empty Womb, Aching Heart (Bethany House Publishers 2001) when she commented from her own experience, “Part of the reason is that every month you are reminded that once again, you have failed to become pregnant.”
Research has shown that those who reach out for support are better able to handle their negative emotions and experience less hopelessness. It’s important to remember that you do not have to go through your journey of family building alone. There is a lot of support and help available if you reach out. It may be hard to step out of the comfort zone of privacy, but most find the rewards of forming connections with others to be an enriching experience and enhances their life.
You should surround yourself with as much support as you can. Do not lean on one person to be your entire support system. Most often this is not a healthy approach and can lead to additional strain and possible resentment in the relationship. Try several different support options and see what combination works best for you.
Support from your spouse
Receiving and giving support to your spouse is critical. It’s important that you each look at this journey of infertility as one that you will go through together. It should not be viewed as “his or her issue”. It is important to discover what each person needs and wants from the other. You should sit down as a couple and discuss this and not waste your time guessing the needs of the other person. Now is not the time to expect your spouse to read your mind and intuitively “know” what you need. Men and women typically respond to stressors and grief in different ways and they often need different types of support.
Support from your family and friends
Receiving support from your family will look different for each person. This will depend on the nature and dynamics of your family of origin. What is important, is expressing to your family members what specifically you need and want from them. Those needs can range from privacy to the opposite, asking your family for increased involvement. It depends on your unique situation. They key is communicating to them what your needs are. This can be done in person, or a letter or email. Often friends and family are at a loss for what to say and do. Help them out by letting them know what you do and don’t appreciate. This can help save a lot of tension and strain in both family and friend relationships.
Support from others experiencing infertility (Support Groups)
The comment I hear most often from women attending a support group for the first time is, “why didn’t I do this sooner?” There is nothing quite like the support, love and understanding from those that have walked in your shoes. Having the opportunity to freely discuss your feelings, fears, ups and downs can be an enormous weight off of your shoulders. Sometimes life long friendships can develop from those you meet. There are many different types of support groups from online, telephone, couples, women only, open invitation and closed (same people every time). Look into support groups in your area and online. Try it out and see if it works for you. If you don’t like one group, don’t give up and try another.
Professional Support (Counseling)
Counseling is unfortunately sometimes viewed as only beneficial for those with major mental illness. That simply isn’t true. Counseling is available on all different levels of emotional need and support. There are many benefits to counseling such as, support during the infertility treatment process, guidance in relationships, increased self awareness and understanding, learning new coping skills, mind-body connection training, stress reduction, communication skills etc. Seeing a counselor does not mean that you are broken, on the contrary most clients that enter counseling are better able to handle their stresses after only a few sessions. Unfortunately many couples come in to counseling after years of strain on their relationship, if only they could have avoided all that pain by seeing a counselor a few years prior for a few sessions. Most infertility counseling is short-term, brief and only as needed by the individual or couple. If you are interested in counseling there are many options available and there are many licensed counselors that specialize in infertility counseling.
Remember, it is important to reach out to others and allow them to support you through this difficult journey of infertility. Take a risk and make that important connection. It is our connection to others that can carry us through our most difficult times in life.
“We must understand that there can be no life without risk—and when your spirit is strong, everything else is secondary, even the risks.”
(A Holocaust Survivor and author)
Monica Ashton is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW) in Salt Lake City, UT who specializes in Infertility Counseling, Grief and Loss, and Reproductive Mental Health. She works with individuals, couples, and groups and offers phone sessions for anyone living outside of Salt Lake City. Monica is currently hosting a monthly infertility support group for women at The Healing Group. You can contact Monica Ashton at 801-461-9060 ext 4 or email@example.com