One of the many challenges that come with receiving a diagnosis of infertility is that by the time you actually receive an official diagnosis, you have already gone through months, or possibly years of trying to have a baby. By then, you already understand the disappointment that comes from wanting to have a baby, and not being able to realize your dream, despite all your best efforts. It is the ongoing, and seemingly never ending, cycle of hope and disappointment, along with a variety of other difficult emotions, that contribute to the stress of infertility.
This cycle, which is described by many as the emotional rollercoaster of infertility, greatly contributes to the fact that many individuals experiencing infertility describe it as the most stressful period of their lives. If that is the case for you, your usual “toolbox of coping skills,” as described by Dr. Alice Domar, may not be adequate for coping with the stress and strain of infertility. The first step for coping differently is identifying if that is the case for you, and then set about finding different, more effective ways of coping. After recognizing and identifying the possibility that you could benefit from learning different ways to cope, you need to then identify how you are coping now.
Coping can be defined as an individual’s efforts to manage the internal and external demands of a stressor. All methods of coping can be categorized as maladaptive (ineffective), or adaptive (effective). If most of your and/or your partner’s coping strategies fall under the maladaptive category, you will definitely benefit from learning new ways of coping.
Examples of maladaptive ways of coping are: denial, disengagement, avoidance, blaming (self and/or others), obsessing, and over-worrying. There are more examples of maladaptive coping, but these listed are commonly used. Examples of adaptive coping strategies are: acceptance, gathering information, not gathering too much information, improving decision-making or problem-solving skills, communicating effectively about wants and needs, knowing limitations, and setting healthy boundaries with others.
If you want to learn more about effective coping strategies, there are resources available to you. To learn more about these resources, you can visit my website, www.complementarycaregroup.com, or contact me at 913-515-7338.
–The above was authored by guest contributor Kerry Christifano, M.A., LPC. Kerry is the Executive Director of Counseling and Mind/Body Infertility Services for Complementary Care Group for Infertility, located in Kansas City, MO. She has been helping individuals and couples with infertility-related psychological and emotional issues utilizing mind/body approaches since 2005. In addition, she makes herself available to Reproductive Resource Center (RRC) patients as they face infertility issues.
*image courtesy of alan cleaver / creative commons