Struggling To Conceive Can Make You Feel Like You’re In Limbo
In our NYC therapy practice with both individuals and couples, we see a lot of patients feeling frustrated or overwhelmed with struggling to conceive. Maybe you’ve been struggling to conceive for three or six months, or maybe it’s been over a year or two. You’re frequently buying ovulation kits and talking with your OB and Reproductive Specialist. Or you and your partner are considering different medical interventions such as donors and surrogates.
When we talk to individuals and couples about struggling to conceive, we find they often feel like they are in limbo, dealing with anxiety, pain and uncertainty by themselves. While there is a bit of control in the process of conception, it can also feel quickly out of control or get ahead of you and your partner. You might be questioning yourself, your partner and really, everything. You can also feel powerless, anxious or flustered at friends who easily got pregnant or had kids. Above all, struggling to conceive is an emotional process.
In this period of limbo, in which you’re just waiting, it helps to unpack this emotional struggle with others rather than in isolation. Therapy can be the place to lay out your experience with someone whose purpose is to talk with you about the process. In therapy, individuals, couples and families can talk, feel and let someone else in on the experience rather than just enduring the struggle silently.
Will I Be Able To Conceive?: Struggling To Conceive Can Raise A Lot Of Questions And Worries
Whether an individual, opposite-sex or same-sex couple, we see a lot of patients in our therapy practice dealing with uncertainty when struggling to conceive. One of the big concerns is frequently age. For example, maybe in your 20’s, you felt you wanted to wait until you were ready and with the right committed partner. Even in your early 30’s, your career and education might still take the front seat. But, somewhere in your mid-30’s, the desire to conceive might start to creep or even, rush in. In your late 30’s or early 40’s, it can feel like now or never if you’re going to have children. Even if you already had kids and want more, you may be met with a stigma that you are too old or should have tried sooner. Conception can also be intimidating if you’re single and decide, “Okay, I’m ready to do this on my own.”
Another, sometimes related, fear can occur around medical help that may or may not be needed, but is on the table. Say, you were told by your doctor in your early 30’s that you needed to freeze your eggs, but you didn’t and now, you’re 38. This might make the idea of struggling to conceive seem scary. Someone told you on the outset that you might not be able to conceive and now, you can’t stop thinking you waited too long.
Wrestling with this sense of the unknown can inspire want, need and at times, ambivalence. This is often when the questions and anxiety start creeping in. You might think: “What if I can’t have kids?” “I just met my partner at 34, and now we have to immediately go from commitment to kids?” “We want to have a baby but we have to start trying now because I might not be fertile,” or “We need to save up to do implantation or find a surrogate, but we are feeling baby feels now. How do we talk about our finances, while still making this experience sexy, fun and loving rather than stressful or medically-led?”
In our NYC therapy practice, we help individuals and couples confront these questions, anxieties and challenges by first letting you name what you find scary. We don’t judge, but let you have space to unpack your feelings, wants and needs without rushing you. Then, we work together to figure out what the best plan might be for you, given your needs around struggling to conceive.
Struggling To Conceive After A Previous Miscarriage Or Miscarriages Can Also Bring Up Trauma
Struggling to conceive can also be a complicated process, particularly if you have past trauma related to a previous miscarriage or miscarriages. Maybe you and your partner tried to conceive before but then, you pushed pause on the process because you had a miscarriage. Or maybe in a previous marriage, you miscarried and you said to your current partner, “I want to wait until we’re ready” or “I don’t know if I can do this again, but I do want a child.” Previous miscarriages, even in pregnancies that weren’t wanted, can raise questions like: Can I conceive? Will I be able to carry a baby?
In our therapy practice, we know exploring these past experiences is key. Fear, hopelessness, anxiety and trauma can all come up around struggling to conceive after a miscarriage or miscarriages. We talk with patients about how to hold this loss, while still creating energy and hope for a new life and another try at conception. We also support patients by unpacking what it would be like to talk to your partner about your feelings about your past miscarriage(s) and how this trauma affects struggling to conceive now, as well as how to mention this to your OB or midwife.
Queer or Same-Sex Couples Have The Added Pressure Of Needing To Talk About Medical Interventions Right Away
While much of the concerns, stress, anxieties and questions around struggling to conceive are the same with same-sex and queer couples as opposite-sex couples, queer and same-sex couples have the added pressure of having to talk about options for medical interventions right away. How will you conceive? Who will carry the baby or who will be your donor and/or surrogate? Therapy can open up a space to let these questions breathe, allowing you, either individually or with your partner, to slow down and look at the thoughts, feelings, finances, expectations, family politics and policies involved, as well as the care you need.
These questions can open up a lot and couples sometimes come into the process of struggling to conceive with assumptions about how conception will work in their family–even a same-sex family, given their personal and familial histories. It’s important for same-sex and queer couples, like opposite-sex couples, to ask: What do we want our family to look like? Therapy can also take into account that both individuals and couples can get stuck around this and provide a space where we can unpack these thoughts about starting a family and how you feel about medical interventions, as well as assumptions about parenting logistics or the roles of caregivers. We also talk about interactions with medical providers that may or may not bring up things for one or both partners.
Struggling To Conceive Can Be A Secretive Process: Therapy Can Be A Place To Share Your Experience
Struggling to conceive can be such a secret process. It’s not often talked about with friends and maybe not even shared with your close family. It can be easy to hide how tough the process can be. Connecting with a therapist can be a way of having someone walk with you through the process rather than you and your partner struggling to conceive in isolation.
As therapists, we aren’t a part of your family or team of doctors. As third parties, we can listen, connect and be curious about your experience of struggling to conceive. We might ask questions like: What is it like each time you get your period? What is it like to be presented with alternative ways of conception? What is it like for you to ask your partner to get a sperm count and you don’t want to tell your girlfriend or mom about it? What is it like to struggle to conceive after multiple miscarriages? What is it like to walk into the OB office together as a same-sex couple? Are they caring to your couple and family, as well as your gender identity? Are there ways that you are included or feel left out? What do you need for this process to feel the way you imagined conception would be? Do they take the making love out of making the baby?
In our therapy practice, we provide a place where you can talk about struggling to conceive outside of a doctor’s office or your home. We hold both the process and your thoughts, feelings and wants around it, as well as join in by discussing what it is like to wait to conceive, to deal with doctors and what this potential pregnancy means to you.
In Therapy, We Ask What Would A Pregnancy Or A Baby Mean To You, Your Relationship And Your Family?
When you struggle and don’t conceive–or even, struggle and do, a lot can come up. Often stuff you never knew or realized you were holding on to. Unpacking what the pregnancy might mean to you, your partner and your family can help you know more about yourself, which can be valuable going forward and can often explain so much of the pain of waiting to conceive.
In our therapy practice, we talk to individuals and couples who are struggling to conceive about what having a baby would mean to their family and why they want a baby. A new life can mean so many different things. Sometimes the desire to conceive comes from a couple’s need to have a child and expand their family as an expression of love. Other times, partners feel they need something new and the next logical step is starting a family. And at other times, having kids is a response to tradition and pressure from extended family with Mom and Dad frequently asking when grandkids are coming. There can also be social pressure to have a child that comes from outside of the family. It is, for instance, what you do next in your 30’s or 40’s as a representation that you are now an adult or even, a means to obtain more status in your work culture.
We find asking what a baby would mean is a helpful question that individuals or couples sometimes haven’t asked themselves. In some cases, the individual or couple hasn’t slowed down to ask: Do I want this? Why do I want this? How would I like to conceive and when? By asking this question in the therapy room, we are giving individuals and couples the chance to ask, “What do I really want?” rather than get pulled along by various social and familial pressures.
Struggling To Conceive Is Emotional: Therapy Can Help
By talking about the experience in therapy, we are noting that struggling to conceive is more than just the act–it’s emotional. Struggling to conceive is a transitional process that could possibly–if you and/or your partner conceive–bring about a lot of changes. And in our NYC therapy practice, we are curious about what you may need around it.
Maybe you’ve really enjoyed and fought hard to create your own autonomy at work, in your relationships and with family. Bringing a baby into the mix, if you do conceive, might mean that you have to give up this autonomy for a little while. Your life will need to adjust. Even while struggling to conceive, questions can come up about how to negotiate this. How will you care for yourself, your needs and the needs of your relationship, as well as a baby? What do you need now while you try to have a kid?
Similarly, it can also be emotional thinking about family, with whom you have to set a lot of limits, coming back into your life because there will be a baby. Questioning how you will navigate bringing them in or even, getting ready to start trying can seem overwhelming.
In our therapy practice, we help by not only naming the anxieties of this transitional process, but finding ways for you to navigate these concerns, whether individually or with your partner, in order to not let the fear, emotion or anxiety lead. It’s important to let someone else–like a therapist–take care of you, while you get ready to think about taking care of someone else.