Are you following RRC’s Roadmap for Fertility? If so, you remember that May is the month for focusing on the two of you. No, not you and the future baby; we’re talking about you and your beloved partner.
Here is the normal trajectory for families:
Two people meet, they fall in love, and eventually they marry or make a commitment to spend the rest of their lives together.
When the time is right, they decide to start a family. They make love as often as they can, and especially at “all the right times”, always with that secret hope that a baby will be conceived. Within about three to 12-months, they get a positive pregnancy stick and, voila! A family is born…
Here’s the trajectory for families who struggle with infertility:
Two people meet, they fall in love, they eventually get married or make a commitment to spend the rest of their lives together.
When the time is right, the lovingly decide to start a family. They make love as often as they can, and especially at “all the right times”, always with that secret hope that a baby will be conceived. Within 12-months, they have grown tired and angry at all those negative pregnancy sticks. Or, they may have had the brief joy of a positive pregnancy, only to have it followed up by a devastating miscarriage, more negative pregnancy sticks and maybe even another miscarriage.
Now, that couple only has intercourse “at the right times.” What was once fun, is now a singular mission with a singular goal.
They finally consult a fertility specialist and are diagnosed with an infertility factor (or two infertility factors). They begin a series of fertility treatments that make an event that had already gone “pleasure-to-business” a “business-only” enterprise that includes testing, injections, more testing, insemination, embryo transfers, failed insemination and failed embryo transfers. In fact, your body feels more like a laboratory experiment than a vessel for love, passion and romance.
Talk about a romance killer! Wouldn’t you like to turn that all around?
Thus, as we approach the mid-point in the year, it’s time to re-evaluate your relationship with your partner. Are you still in love? Do you feel romantic towards one another? Are you still intimate? Can you enjoy sex?
The reality is that most couples often require two or more IVF cycles before a baby is born, and that can take a serious toll on your relationship. If that resonates with you, this might be a good time to take a break from fertility treatments and attune yourselves to one another again before beginning the next round.
Here are some suggestions for propping the doors of communication open, remaining vulnerable to one another and to keep your romantic relationship alive and well, even as you struggle through one of the hardest battles a couple ever has to fight.
Recognize that men and women handle infertility differently. Of course, there are always exceptions, but we’ve noticed that men and women handle infertility differently. The person with the actual infertility diagnosis can feel “broken,” the person without one can feel angry or resentful even when they know they shouldn’t – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Complex emotions can cause individuals and couples to shut down and that is the last thing you want to do when working to start a family. Make it a point to use “I feel…” statements regularly so you are each aware of what the other is feeling and try to remain as open and compassionate as possible towards the other persons emotions and viewpoints.
Consider seeing an infertility counselor. Infertility counselors are typically licensed psychologists or therapists, most of whom have battled infertility themselves. Infertility counselors receive highly-specific training and stay up-to-date on current fertility treatments. Couples who visit infertility counselors are provided with an abundant array of tools to help them cope individually and as a couple. You can emerge stronger and more in love than ever before.
Make dates a priority. Once couples have children, they strive to go on dates and not talk about the baby/children. In your case, you also need to make date nights a priority – making a conscious effort not to talk about infertility, test results, or anything else related to infertility or fertility. Do fun things, cheap things, free things, crazy things, fun things, things that make you laugh, things you could never do with kids in a million years – and believe us when we say to enjoy every single minute of these nights because life will never be the same after your sweet baby arrives on the scene.
Separate Intercourse from Sex. Yes, we encourage you to have sex that is NOT connected to ovulation (read, Having More Sex Increases Fertility, But Not for the Reasons You Think). However, our culture has gotten overly fixated on the idea of intercourse being the only kind of sex. When a woman is tired or emotional, the sexiest thing you can do is to rub her feet or give her a massage. If your male half of the equation is exhausted, other types of massage may be in order. Relive the dating days when you didn’t have casual sex, but were more than happy to explore other physical pleasures. Role-play, have passionate kissing sessions with a rule that you “can’t” stimulate any hot spots for 30-minutes or more. The point is, explore multiple aspects of intimacy, pleasure and sexuality, which will help to re-inspire the intercourse part of the puzzle.
Has your relationship suffered as the result of IVF treatments? Have you and your partner found a way to rekindle the romance, even amidst the un-romantic nature of fertility treatments? Share your comments and advice with the RRC community.