Relationship Changes as New Parents

Many couples feel a loss of connection once baby arrives, often taking them by surprise. Research has consistently shown that relationship satisfaction decreases after the birth of a child, and may continue to dip for a few months or even a few years. There are many contributing factors, especially for couples who have been together longer and are used to their dynamic being a certain way. 

Things to look out for:

  • Extreme focus on the child-mother dynamic / excluding partners.

  • Getting caught up in that ‘you don’t know what it’s like for me all day’ cycle of disconnection. 

  • The working partner staying late at work to actively avoid the at-home partner.

  • Either partner being rigid / critical / overly controlling. 

  • Not allowing the working partner to build confidence in infant caretaking. 

  • Seeing everything as a competition and keeping score. 

Things to consider:

  • Impact of sleep deprivation on both partners. 

  • The all day away from home / missing the baby developmental experience versus being home all day with baby. 

  • Identify shifts for the stay at home partner versus the partner at work. 

  • The partner at home may have a higher level of worry for the baby versus the partner at work. 

  • Putting the relationship with your partner on hold for longer than the first few months.

How to reconnect:

  • Accept this shift in the relationship as temporary. 

  • Use direct communication to ask for what you need.

  • Discuss how to negotiate this relationship change in a positive way, ideally before the baby arrives. 

  • Discuss role changes and be flexible with household responsibilities shifts. 

  • Consciously try to imagine what it’s like for the other person all day.

  • Take time to understand differences in parenting styles.

  • Spend time together connecting as a couple every day, even if brief.

  • Find ways to maintain intimacy.

Change is inevitable when you have a new baby. Above everything, remember you have the same shared goal: to be parents together and have this little family. 

Navigating the Beta Test / (2WW)

Waiting to find out if you are pregnant is stressful, especially after IVF or FET. To keep the beta test result wait from completely taking over your life, make a plan of action in advance. While there is no way to not think about becoming pregnant, it is helpful to find comforting distractions and reduce obsessive thoughts. Most beta test days are typically 10-12 days post-transfer, then there is a secondary wait for the actual beta result, which can seem unbearable.

Use mindfulness to help let go of what you can’t control. You can’t control the outcome, but you can control your response. Find a mantra that helps, such as ‘so far, so good’ or ‘my body is ready to be pregnant’ to ground and center yourself.

Try to control obsessive thoughts re pregnancy symptoms, and resist the urge to take a pregnancy test before your beta hcg test. It’s truly too early to tell.

Stay busy: connect with friends; spend time with your partner not focused on pregnancy; practice calming rituals; do creative projects; deep breathe; get outside into nature; clean your house; or distract with reading fiction or watching relaxing media.

If you find yourself obsessing too much in unhealthy ways, give yourself up to 10 mins/day to structure formal worry time to express or write down all of your worries and then let go and move on with your day.

Sitting in uncertainty is challenging; waiting to find out if you are pregnant after a long infertility journey even more so. Make sure to continue to live your life and be hopeful, open and curious to what may happen next.

Impact of Infertility on Couples

One in eight couples experience difficulties trying to conceive. Infertility is a major life stressor and treatment cycles can be intensely stressful on partner relationships. Many couples feel like their lives are on hold and struggle with communication challenges and relationship dissatisfaction during fertility challenges. Additionally, one member (or both) may experience anxiety or depression. Other influences on relationship strength include:

  • Impact of unsuccessful cycles and the passage of time

  • Feeling left behind or not fitting in with peer group

  • Financial stressors of fertility treatment

  • Different coping styles for handling stress (emotional release vs problem solver)

  • Reduced intimacy and emotional connection

  • Secrecy - not sharing struggles openly with family or friends

  • Intrusive questions by friends and family (and society in general).

How to approach the stress of infertility as a team?

  • Remember you have the same shared goal: to become parents together

  • Be open with one another and express vulnerable feelings

  • Ask directly for what you need from your partner

  • Discuss treatment options, including your physical and financial limits around trying

  • Understand the impact of infertility on intimacy

  • Continue to live your lives - find ways to connect and enjoy one another.


If conflict has increased to a high level, it can be helpful to meet with a therapist for communication help and overall relationship support during the added stressor of infertility treatment cycles.


The Challenges of Donor Anonymity

Our modern world makes it inevitable that donor anonymity is simply not possible. More donor-conceived children (and sometimes their parents) are turning toward direct to consumer genetic DNA testing to find a possible genetic link to 1) the donor, or 2) a family member of the donor, or 3) a full or half bio-sibling. This can create confusing boundaries and ethical considerations on potential contact and what to do with this information. The ability to quickly find donors on Facebook using donor agency profile information adds to this modern reality. Egg and sperm donation is a mostly unregulated industry. These modern ways of making genetic connection and lack of true anonymity will ultimately change that.

Have you ever had to keep a secret? Or made a decision in young adulthood that with time and reflection, was understood differently? It’s helpful to consider that privacy expectations of intended parents or donors may change over time. When that happens, it can be challenging to look for ways to reach out and promote connection or rescind contact. This is where direct to consumer genetic testing has stepped in for better or worse — to fill this void.

Finding genetic connection can be an important part of becoming secure in one’s identity. It also can be an important part of making sense of a younger decision to become a donor and help build families. Let’s start reframing this path to parenthood as a family story with connectors from the onset. Note the difference in hearing ‘this is how we had help in becoming our family and there are others who were also helped that we can connect with’ versus one day being sat down and told about donor origins with no additional information. Time will stand still at that moment. A family story with openness and information offers fluidity and integration over time.

On Mindfulness

Mindfulness is about slowing down, giving ourselves space to notice our thoughts and emotions without focusing on them. This allows us to pause so the thoughts and feelings do not completely take over and create feelings of overwhelm. Mindfulness is not relaxation. It is not a formal meditation practice. Mindfulness encourages us to truly pay attention to the present moment.

The modern world keeps us wired and constantly in our heads. We have thousands of thoughts each day, many of which are repeated thoughts we previously focused on. How can we slow down and be present? It’s not easy, especially for those with anxiety who are thinking about thinking about thinking.

Set an intention to be more present in 2019. Start slow. Use the breath as an anchor. Aim to really notice what’s going on around you and within you. Note your thoughts and feelings and learn to let go. 

Take a few deep breaths. Notice how your body feels. Notice sounds in the room. Notice where your thoughts keep landing.

I notice…

I am thinking ...

I am feeling...

I let go of ...

I see…

I sense…

We can’t always control the events in our lives, but with mindfulness we can help control how we consciously respond.  

Infertility During the Holidays

This time of year can be especially painful for couples experiencing infertility. Many couples feel isolated at family holiday gatherings and wonder how they belong if they haven’t yet become parents. Some notice an intense focus of being the sibling without kids or feel a heavy heart from the loss of not providing a grandchild for their parents. Some worry about other family members feeling sorry for them or fear that others are secretly talking about their infertility situation. The year-end also represents the passage of time, and can heighten feelings of loss around not having a family. It’s also the darkest time of the year when people generally feel depressed or have low energy, on top of general holiday stress for the most ‘wonderful’ time of the year.

Here are some ideas on how to navigate this complex time of year.

Plan together ahead of time how to respond to unwanted questions about family building or unsolicited advice from others. Some couples create a code word or phrase to help each other exit uncomfortable situations.

Be selective about which holiday parties to attend and try to focus on adult get-togethers without young children present.

Give yourself permission to step outside or even leave an event if you feel overwhelmed.

Create rituals for you and your partner as a family of two.  

Spend time treating yourself or doing activities that you enjoy.

Exercise or at least get outside for a walk daily to have a release.

Make space for your feelings.

Turn to your partner and friends who can hold what you are going through for support.

Should You Freeze Your Eggs?

Are you considering freezing your eggs? The decision to freeze one’s eggs for the possible preservation of future fertility is subjective and full of complexity. Professional reproductive/medical organizations (ASRM and ACOG) have promoted oocyte cryopreservation for medical reasons (e.g. prior to chemotherapy treatment) for decades. However, fertility specialists and private egg banking companies have increasingly been promoting fertility preservation for elective reasons, such as delaying childbearing, making this option readily available to all women. 

The egg freezing process involves: 1) stimulation of the ovaries through hormone self-injections and monitoring follicle growth via ultrasound, 2) the egg retrieval procedure, which is quick and performed under sedation, and 3) the egg freezing procedure done through vitrification and subsequent storage of the frozen eggs. Remember, this is just the egg freezing process. You will later need to undergo the rest of the IVF process (using sperm from your partner or a donor to create embryos, and transferring embryos into the uterus) in order to become pregnant using frozen eggs. 

In making the decision, it is helpful to explore the numerous psychological, emotional, spiritual, financial and medical considerations involved in this process. Also look at success rates based on your age and fertility, as well as possible risks involved. Have an understanding that the procedure is invasive, that egg retrieval / freezing and storage costs are expensive yet separate from later IVF fertilization and transfer expenses, and there is no guarantee of future success. Take time to imagine how you would feel building your family this way, or what it may be like to be an older parent.

You should also consider the research: ACOG/ASRM studies have shown that the age of the oocyte (egg) at retrieval correlates with success rates, with viable studies ’supporting the use of these technologies in well-selected patients aged 35 years and younger,’ while ASRM/SART state that ‘even in younger women (under 38), the chance that one frozen egg will yield a baby in the future is around 2-12%.

There are many pros/cons to consider in making an informed decision. It can be helpful to meet with a reproductive mental health professional to explore feelings and navigate expectations and possible outcomes so you may make the best decision for yourself.

For more information and resources, check out:

Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing & the Women Who Tried It
by Sarah Elizabeth Richards

 

The New Sibling Adjustment

Here are some ideas to help with the second child / big brother or big sister transition.

When you share the baby news with your current child during pregnancy, it can be helpful to frame it as adding to your family. Let your child know how much you and your partner wanted a family, and you were so happy to have him or her. Now you and your partner are excited again to add to your family. Express some of the complex feelings s/he may be experiencing: I imagine you may feel happy, sad, excited, angry, etc. Name whatever emotions s/he seem to be sharing.

  • Talk with your child about the logistics of what will happen when you are in the hospital: who s/he will stay with; when s/he will come visit you and meet the new baby, etc.

  • Make sure to have some solo time with your older child in the hospital when the baby is in someone else’s arms or sleeping in the newborn crib. Have him or her sit or lie with you and check in together.

  • When you get home, you won’t be able to do everything s/he wants you to do during your birth recovery, but you can do slow paced things each day with your older child like reading books or cuddling.

  • Once you are more mobile, have special outings with just your older child. When you are out remind them that only s/he can eat pizza or go on the big slide, etc., not the baby.

  • Tell him how much you love him or her and how grateful you are that s/he will always be your first baby, and how special it is that now s/he is a big sister or brother.

  • Use positive reinforcement for each time s/he does something helpful and kind with the new baby.

  • Expect some regression or acting behaviors. It's natural and this behavior is a young child's way of processing such a big family transition.

Books for kids:

Daniel Tiger: The Baby is Here
by Angela C. Santomero and Jason Fruchter

I am a Big Sister or I am a Big Brother
by Caroline Jayne Church

Books for parents:

Siblings without Rivalry
by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish

Understanding Postpartum Anxiety 

Postpartum anxiety is confusing - it can be hard to distinguish from regular new mom worry. What we look for is severity - has worry completely taken over? Are you unable to relax and enjoy your baby? Are you unable to rest at all? Are you having trouble turning off your brain? Are you worrying about everything? Is it difficult to focus on one thing?  Do you have nervous energy? Do you have a relentless to-do list? Are you ‘present’ but really in your head the whole time? Are you having sleep difficulties due to excessive thoughts? Is your appetite non-existent? Did you quickly lose your pregnancy weight? Do you have perfectionist traits? Are you focused on trying to do everything 'right' (when there is no right way to care for a new baby)? Are family members constantly telling you to just relax or calm down but you can’t?

Postpartum anxiety is experienced by approximately 10 percent of new moms. It can be related to having a history of anxiety before or during pregnancy, or from birth trauma or a newborn health concern. It can be impacted by higher levels of cortisol (the stress hormone), which are present during pregnancy and early postpartum. Postpartum anxiety can be challenging to identify – it often gets grouped under the more commonly known postpartum depression, but is its own maternal mental health concern. It is a common concern in SF - I see more moms with postpartum anxiety in my practice than postpartum depression. One of the biggest regrets I hear from moms with postpartum anxiety is they feel they wasted their maternity leave worrying and constantly doing, rather than just slowing down and being with their baby and enjoying this special time. 

It is not always easy to tell others that you are having scary thoughts or excessive amounts of worry. Please know there is much strength in being open with others about feeling this way. If any of this describes your experience, please reach out for support to help manage these thoughts and stabilize your mood.

I’m glad to see that postpartum anxiety has received more media coverage in the past year. Below are links to some helpful articles.

Postpartum Anxiety Is a Thing—Here’s What to Watch Out For
https://greatist.com/live/postpartum-anxiety-symptoms-and-treatments

This is What It's Like to Have Postpartum Anxiety
https://www.scarymommy.com/postpartum-anxiety-exhaustion/

Postpartum Anxiety Affects 1 in 10 Moms
https://www.vogue.com/article/postpartum-anxiety-vogue-april-2018

The Lonely Terror of Postpartum Anxiety
https://www.thecut.com/2017/08/the-lonely-terror-of-postpartum-anxiety.html

Decision-Making for Third-Party Family Building

There are many things to consider before moving forward with third-party assisted conception. One of the most essential tasks is understanding that having a child with donor assistance is more than just a solution to infertility. It’s considering the future child’s experience and needs,  as well as your own. Here are some questions to start exploring this path:

  • What are your assumptions about alternative family building? 
  • How would you or your partner feel about the absence of a direct biological link to your child? 
  • Have you processed feelings of grief around this genetic loss?
  • Would both you and your partner feel comfortable having a third-party involved in your family story? 
  • What is important to you in choosing an egg or sperm or embryo donor?
  • With genetic/ancestry testing and social media, do you believe anonymous donation truly exists?
  • How will you talk about your family story and share your child’s origins with your child? 
  • How do you feel about the possibility of bio siblings?
  • What will you share with friends or family about your child’s conception?
  • How will you respond to your child’s direct questions about the donor’s background or wanting to meet the donor or bio siblings? 

There are many ways to become a parent, and there is much to consider before choosing this path to parenthood. It can be helpful to meet with a mental health professional to explore these and other considerations. Find someone with whom you feel comfortable exploring thoughts and feelings around this decision.

 

Books for Parents of Toddlers

Do you have a threenager? I'm often asked for book recommendations for parenting toddlers.  As a parent of a toddler myself, here are my favorites:

How Toddlers Thrive: What Parents Can Do Today for Children Ages 2-5 to Plant the Seeds of Lifelong Success by Tovah P Klein 

How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Listen by Adele Faber 

What Great Parents Do: 75 Simple Strategies for Raising Kids Who Thrive by Erica Reischer 

The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind by Daniel J. Siegel

Becoming the Parent You Want to Be: A Sourcebook of Strategies for the First Five Years by Laura Davis and Janis Keyser

Nurtureshock: New Thinking about Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman

Infertility Between Friends

While friendships naturally evolve over time, infertility can really test a friendship. Learning that a friend has become pregnant, while you have not, is unbelievably hard. You are happy to hear about the pregnancy, but the news is painful and naturally may bring up feelings of envy and frustration. You become angry from yet another reminder of your own challenges to conceive. Having these feelings in response to your close friend’s news creates feelings of guilt, so you end up feeling even worse.

How can you handle this situation? It’s important to be honest with your friend. Let her know that you are having a difficult time due to your current infertility experience. You are thrilled for her and would like to be there for her, but it’s simply too much at this time. 

Take some time to consider your history together and determine your needs in this relationship. Also look at your personal limitations on what you can offer your friend during her pregnancy.

•    Has she been supportive during your infertility experience? 
•    How have the two of you handled past friendship concerns? 
•    Are you comfortable offering support and remaining close during her pregnancy?
•    What are your boundaries around her sharing pregnancy details and baby shower planning? 
•    Do you want her to continue to check in with you around your fertility treatments? 
•    Have you considered her experience of being the one who became pregnant? What if it was you?
•    What changes would be needed to keep the friendship intact?

Infertility is a stressful time and requires support from friends who can hold what you’re going through. Remember you’re not always going to feel this way. Identify what works for you and express those needs to your friend. Many women have navigated fertility friendship bumps with grace. Some may decide to let the friendship dissolve, while others are able to reconnect when they are ready. Give yourself time to reflect on the support you need and find resolution that makes sense to you.  

Where Did I Come From?

At some point every child will ask a parent the big question, ‘Where did I come from?’ This standard inquiry becomes more complex when the child asking was conceived through third-party reproduction. Many parents experience anticipatory anxiety over these conversations; however, it is natural for donor conceived kids (like all kids) to be curious about their origins.

Research has shown that disclosure strengthens the parent-child bond, and how and when you tell your child has great impact on their identity development. It is essential to be open with your child, explore feelings and support their search for answers. Sharing from an early age allows children to progressively learn more about their family story, become comfortable with their origins, and develop a strong identity.

How can you prepare?
Begin thinking about how your family came to be during pregnancy. Consider what connected you to the particular donor(s) to help build your family. Your gratitude for their help. How you felt when you found out you were pregnant. How you felt seeing your child at birth. What it means to be a family. Start talking to your child during infancy so that when your child is old enough to understand basic concepts a bit more, you will feel more confident in sharing your family story. The more comfortable you are with talking about your family story, the more comfortable your child will feel too.

Limits around Trying to Conceive

How do you know when you are ready to stop trying?

The decision to stop fertility treatments and live childfree involves much self-reflection. Some things to consider:

  • Emotional, physical, and financial limits of fertility treatment.
  • Cost to the relationship with yourself and your partner.
  • Readiness to stop keeping life on hold.
  • Finding meaning in the experience of all of that you’ve gone through with pregnancy losses and fertility treatment.
  • How to cultivate letting go of the idealized family and refocus on being a family of two.
  • Existential concerns on finding purpose and connection and an openness to living life on a different path.
  • Finding new ways of looking at personal meaning around femininity and what it means to be a woman.
  • Recreating relationships – finding a new way to fit in with family and friends.
  • Acceptance of the decision and integrating it into a new identity.

All of this self-inquiry essentially encompasses grief work. There is much grief work to do. As you can imagine, the decision to stop trying is subjective - every woman or couple has to decide when they've had enough and reached their limits around trying to build a family. Through infertility research, we know that over time, the pain of infertility lessens but it doesn't completely go away. It is in integrating infertility into your identity, while no longer letting it completely take over, that the healing begins.

Lonesome Motherhood

How do you find your mom tribe?

The loneliness of parenting an infant takes many new moms by surprise. You may wonder where you fit in now - your main group of friends may have older children, or be childless. It can be hard to connect and feel you are contributing socially with these friends  – you may worry you don’t have much to say since you don’t do much on maternity leave outside of caretaking an infant. There will be days when you don’t talk to any adults all day. This is where many women really feel like they lost their previous identity – the isolation and reduction in social interaction can really impact mood.

Parenting a newborn can feel isolating. As soon as your partner leaves for work, you’re looking at a full day with a blank slate with a baby. Then comes the complex anxiety feelings around staying in or attempting to go out. The challenges of getting out of the house with a baby plus all the baby gear seem insurmountable, so of course, staying home seems most appealing.

It’s essential that new moms find the strength within oneself to do the opposite action and find some source of connection. Joining mommy and me or breastfeeding support groups can help reduce isolation. It’s ok to be late to these meetings. It’s ok to be a mess. It’s ok to cry there. It’s also ok if you don’t particularly like or connect with any of the moms; the social exposure for you and your baby is key. Some moms find wonderful support online through mothers’ groups and parenthood apps. This is a great way to feel understood by others, ask questions, and, most of all, laugh from reading and posting funny things about a mother’s day that others totally get.

Choose whatever path feels right to help you connect to others going through motherhood at your child’s stage. It can be so rewarding. I still remember the anxiety I felt going to the first mommy and me group. I teared up, and almost went home. Then I looked at my baby and thought, we got this. Some of those women still support me today, two years into motherhood. Find your tribe.  

Here are a couple of related articles:

The Loneliness of Motherhood

The Facebook Moms

Coming into Motherhood after Infertility

How to let go of one's infertility identity? 

Many women report not knowing how to accept a pregnancy, or to transition from years of living in the uncertainty of infertility and longing for a child, to becoming a mom. During pregnancy, there are often two paths:  feeling ambivalent or detached from the pregnancy, or feeling overwhelmed by anxiety of something going wrong.

Post-birth, many women are thrilled to become a mom, but complex feelings may arise. How wonderful to finally be part of the motherhood club, yet familiarity with the previous infertility identity and associated thoughts, feelings and behaviors makes it difficult to leave that way of being behind. Some experience loss of support from moving onto a different path from friends whom they bonded with during infertility treatment. Others may have a difficult postpartum experience, which can heighten feelings of guilt and maternal ambivalence.

It can be challenging when partners and family quickly accept this identity change, and forget about the complex emotions of the previous fertility journey. Yet, for someone who has gone through this journey, infertility may always be a part of them. It’s hard let go of something painful that has defined you for so long. Thoughts of the long TTC journey may resurface during the first few years of parenting. That's part of the healing. It is only with time that you can integrate the previous parts of your identity into new ways of being, and become more confident in the new mother role. 

Resolve has some great resources to help with this transition.

https://resolve.org/support/pregnancy-after-infertility/
 

Later Motherhood

A recent CDC study reports that the 2016 birth rate for women ages 40–44 was 11.4 births per 1,000 women, the highest rate in more than four decades. Since 2007, the birth rate has risen 19% for women in their early 40s and 11% for women in their late 30s. For women 41+, attempts at utilizing assisted reproduction through IVF have risen by 50%. Since this path is no longer considered a ‘trend,' it is essential to consider some of the positives of later parenting. (We are all familiar with the negative aspects reported often in the media.) 

Many women report feeling a stronger sense of self and increased financial stability as an older parent. Some were initially ambivalent about motherhood and chose to wait until they were in a more emotionally secure place to provide for a child, even with declining fertility. Other women wanted to be in a strong, supportive relationship. Most report carefully considering their current life circumstances in order to ensure a healthy environment in which to raise a child.

Some surprises do occur: experiencing the perimenopause or menopause transition so close to giving birth, reduced time for self after having a longer phase of independence prior to becoming a parent, and an increase in ‘sandwich generation’ responsibilities from caring for an older parent while also caring for a young child. 

Having a child at any age is a very personal decision. There are many paths to parenthood: natural pregnancy, assisted reproduction, third-party family building, adoption, and foster parenting. The decision is based on one’s subjective experience. One thing is certain: the age range for becoming a first time mother continues to expand.

 

Pregnancy Reading List

I’m often asked about pregnancy books for expectant parents. Here are some helpful resources to check out. 

For Moms-to-Be:

Becoming a Calm Mom: How to Manage Stress & Enjoy the First Year of Motherhood
Deborah Roth Ledley PhD

Nurture: A Modern Guide to Pregnancy, Birth, Early Motherhood - and Trusting Yourself and Your Body
Erica Chidi Cohen

The Birth of a Mother
Daniel Stern and Nadia Bruschweiler-Stern

The Mindful Mom-To-Be: A Modern Doula’s Guide to Building a Healthy Foundation from Pregnancy Through Birth
Lori Bregman

Mindful Motherhood: Practical Tools for Staying Sane During Pregnancy and Your Child's First Year
Cassandra Vieten PhD

The Journey to Parenthood: Myths, Reality and What Really Matters
Diana Lynn Barnes

For Dads- and Partners-to-Be:

The Expectant Father: The Ultimate Guide for Dads-to-Be
Armin A. Brott and Jennifer Ash

Dad’s Expecting Too: Expectant fathers, expectant mothers, new dads and new moms share advice, tips and stories about all the surprises, questions and joys ahead
Harlan Cohen  

Mommies, Daddies, Donors, Surrogates: Answering Tough Questions and Building Strong Families
Diane Ehrensaft 

Confessions of the Other Mother: Non-Biological Lesbian Moms Tell All
Harlyn Aizley

Postpartum Wellness

Let’s focus on maternal mental health. There is much post-birth emphasis on newborn health, but a new mom’s own health is also a priority. Postpartum mood changes affect both biological and adoptive moms. You have to be able to take care of yourself in order to take care of a newborn.

It can be helpful to talk about what you are experiencing as a new mom.

How are you feeling emotionally? Physically?
Is your body healing from the birth?
Are you sleeping? How is your appetite? Are you getting outside?
Who helps at night when the baby wakes?
Are you having any breastfeeding, supply or latch difficulties?
How is your mood? Are you sad or tearful? Are you irritable or angry? Detached and numb?
Are you anxious? What are your worries? Are any of your thoughts scaring you?
How do you feel about your connection to your baby?
Your connection to your partner?
What worries you the most about the way you feel? Does your partner know how you’re feeling? Is there anything you’re holding back from telling others?
How are you taking care of yourself?
Who can you turn to for support?

Many women experience difficulties adjusting to new motherhood. It makes sense; you've never been a new mom caring for a newborn or infant before. New motherhood is filled with transitions, some expected, but also many, many surprises. And cumulative sleep deprivation can wreck havoc. Often moms report that something feels off, but they may not know how to express what they are feeling or worry they may be judged so stay silent.

How can you take care of yourself? Learn about postpartum mood changes and check in with yourself. Ideally during postpartum and pediatric checkups, you will spend some time focusing on your health as a new mom. If not, find friends, family members or a mental health professional who will check in with you. If you’re not feeling like yourself, tell someone. Remember, it’s essential to put on your own oxygen mask first. 

The Uncertainty of Infertility

Nothing tests our ability to deal with the uncertainty of events beyond our control as experiencing infertility. This is living in the grey area. Nothing is concrete.

Treatment cycles can be unpredictable and women experience many ups and downs through cycle cancellations, negative beta cycles, or positive cycles that later result in miscarriage. This grey area requires women to learn to sit with not knowing and ultimately, come to terms with the fact that sometimes answers simply don’t exist. Even if you do everything ‘right,’ things may not always go as planned.

Through this process, women experience feelings of hopelessness, disappointment, anger, loss of control and frustration. It can be exhausting carrying this burden for years and feeling as if your life is on hold.

How can we learn to let go?

  • Understand what’s in your control and what is not. Loosen your hold on wanting things to be a certain way. Know that so much of infertility is not in your control.
  • Acknowledge that this moment is challenging. Identify and express your feelings.
  • Promote feelings of acceptance. Things are as they are. Surrender.
  • This means not blaming yourself or your partner for something beyond your control.
  • Notice and release any judgments, expectations, or comparisons to others.
  • Increase self-compassion. How would you support a friend going through this? Show the same care and concern for yourself.
  • Learn coping skills to help face uncertainty without feeling overwhelmed. Try mindfulness exercises, relaxation techniques, spend time in nature, express your feelings through journaling or speak with someone who can hold what you are going through, find humor in this process.
  • Find a mantra that works for you: I let go. Some things are out of my control. The only thing I can control in this situation is my response to what’s happening. Delays can be beneficial. My life is unfolding as it’s meant to be.
  • Remind yourself that you are not always going to feel this way.

Through all of this, make sure to continue to live your life. Remember, infertility is just a part of you; it does not have to define you. The fertility journey is challenging, but what you learn about yourself through the uncertainty of this process can be a beautiful thing.