How Does Infertility Prepare us to be Parents?
Posted on June 19, 2017
If you asked someone who went through infertility to describe their experience, I am guessing many would say it was the worst time of their life. That was true for me. That period of time when you are trying to build your family and are uncertain about your ability to succeed, tests us in so many ways. The swirling of emotions like fear, anxiety, uncertainty, sadness, and loss of control, can immobilize the best of us. For those lucky enough to succeed, the feelings of gratitude, awe, and happiness, can also bring us to our knees, for different reasons.
By definition, infertility is a crisis, and we are forever changed by emerging from a crisis. It is my belief that the skills you build as you face the challenges of infertility, can make you a better parent. Something not often discussed, is the impact this experience has on us, if and when we do become parents. I wanted to highlight some areas and skills we use to cope with infertility, which also make us stronger parents:
- Motivation - Infertility forces us to examine why we want to become parents, and what being a parent means to us. Going through infertility treatment is not done lightly. The desire to be a parent is a guiding light, which gets us through failed attempts at pregnancy, and the many hoops we have to jump through to adopt a child. When a child arrives, these sacrifices strengthen your resolve to be the best parent you can be. Becoming a parent is not something you can ever take for granted.
2. Communication - There are so many tough decisions which must be made during your infertility journey. If you have a partner, it requires lots of ongoing communication as you face challenges along the way. It can strengthen your teamwork, enhance your intimacy, and improve your ability to share your feelings. It can also do the opposite. Couples and individuals facing infertility must be able to effectively communicate with healthcare professionals and agency staff every step of the way. They must also communicate what they need and set boundaries with family and friends. These skills are needed daily as parents.
3. Flexibility-The course of your infertility treatment can suddenly be altered by your lab work, a test result, or the choices made by a birthmother choosing the best adoptive family for her child. Flexibility is not an option - it is a requirement in these circumstances. The same is true for parenting. Unexpected things can happen all the time to alter the most carefully laid plans you have made. Your ability to adapt is stronger, having survived the family building hurdles you previously encountered.
4. Crisis Management- Infertility is the definition of a crisis. If you have
successfully negotiated that roller coaster, other crises you face will feel less overwhelming.
Without even realizing it, you have developed potent management skills. Those tantrums or
emergency room trips in the middle of the night will test you, but you will be better equipped
to handle whatever is inevitably thrown in your direction.
5. Patience -The process of building your family involves a lot of waiting. You wait for test
results, your cycle, and wait for a sperm or egg donor, or a biological parent to choose you to
adopt their child. You wait to see if your pregnancy is going to result in a healthy baby. It all
requires an enormous amount of patience. Patience is a necessity as a parent. There will
be days as a parent where everything will feel out of your control and patience may be
your only survival skill.
6. Expert Expectations - One of hardest things about infertility is having to listen to the advice of so-called experts about what you should do to get pregnant. Friends and family frequently offer advice and opinions whether you want it or not. Sometimes you have to set limits and boundaries when this occurs. This problem can arise when you become a parent and everyone has specific ideas about the right way to handle every situation. It gets easier to stop this unwanted advice, when you have set limits in the past.
You do a lot of negotiating with yourself as you travel down the family building road. You tell yourself the things you will never do as a parent if you are lucky enough to become one. You may set unrealistic expectations on yourself promising if you do become a parent you will be the best parent in the world. Give yourself a break. Surprisingly there will be moments of imperfection coming from both you and your child. That is the most realistic expectation you can have. Learn from these moments and laugh when you can. Your path to becoming a parent may be a long and winding road. When you get there do what you can to love every minute and remind yourself of the skills that you have that got you there.
Iris Waichler, MSW, LCSW has been a licensed clinical social worker for over 40 years. Ms. Waichler authored “Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster: A Guide to Educate and Inspire” which won 4 major book awards including best book of the year from Mom’s Choice and NAPPA. Her new book, “Role Reversal How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Aging Parents is an Indie Best Book and Indie Excellence Book Finalist for best book of the year. Her website is