How our Infertility Affects us as Parents

We had a beautiful fall day this week and my husband, daughter, and I went for a walk in the woods. We came across a huge oak tree that was down over a river. It was the perfect bridge and my Stanford Gymnast husband and adventurous daughter jumped at the chance to explore every inch of each limb. As she climbed midway over the river I felt my anxiety climb with her as she took each additional step. I called to my husband "keep an eye out" and heard my daughter quietly say "mom's being protective again."

I flashed back to when I was in the midst of my infertility and had multiple miscarriages. I also thought about the support group I lead for people who had gotten pregnant after infertility but could not shake feelings of anxiety and fear that something would go wrong during their pregnancy. You sacrifice so much to get to be a parent battling infertility that you want everything to go right. Group members needed that additional peer and professional support to help psychologically manage their pregnancy. It was a common theme and members were shocked that they were not alone in these fears.

My personal and professional experience as a clinical social worker has offered me many lessons. My contact with people who built their families through infertility treatment and adoption taught me the feelings associated with infertility do not completely vanish with successful family building.

The anxiety associated with the difficulty of conceiving a child is buried deep. In the midst of infertility treatment we are so worried about getting pregnant that we don't think about what parenting will be like after the baby comes. When you have a child those past feelings can emerge at times as you remember how difficult it was to get there and you relive past failures. The key is to remember that those memories and feelings are in the past and keep them there. You don't want those feelings to negatively impact your ability to develop a healthy relationship with your child as time passes and the boundaries of independence evolve and change with time. I had gone halfway out on that log. But I turned around and chose to stand on the river bank, watch her sense of adventure, curiosity, and the fun she was having exploring with her dad. They teased me about being afraid to come out with them. They both know I have a fear of heights. But in spite of that I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and trekked the Himalayan mountains of Nepal. My anxiety does not stop me from allowing me to do the things that are important to me. So when my 10 year old daughter asks "when can I walk to school with just my friends and no adults?" and my initial thought is "when you're 25" I tell her "let's wait and see how it goes these first weeks and talk about it."

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