I’m a 37-year old woman. My husband and I have been trying for over 2 years to get pregnant. We’ve been through 2 unsuccessful IVF cycles. It seems like everyone around me is having babies including my sister and sister-in-law. It’s getting painful to be around them. Am I overreacting? Is it okay for me to give myself some space from all of these family-focused gatherings?

Written by our mental health expert, Dr. Karen Kranz, Registered Psychologist. 

Trying to get pregnant for over two years and enduring two IVF cycles without the outcome of a baby is heartbreaking. You have been through painful, invasive, and costly treatments and still are not any closer to fulfilling your dream of having your child. You are reacting in a similar manner to many other infertile women who have also struggled to deal with the physical, psychological, and social pain of infertility.

It is important for you to know that it is entirely normal to feel grief, loss, sadness, anger, and even a sense of injustice when you hear about another person who has just conceived or given birth. In the wake of your loss, it is understandable that you might feel a sense of desperation when you’re invited to yet another baby shower and are again faced with shopping for someone-else’s baby. Feelings of guilt are normal when someone close to you announces their pregnancy and instead of sharing their joy, you feel like you’ve been kicked in the stomach.  It is normal to fear that you’re being left behind as your siblings and friends start having their second or even third child. It makes sense that, to protect yourself, you may need to put up an emotional barrier between yourself and friends who talk endlessly about the joys of parenting, or even worse who complain about sleepless nights, sick kids, and other normal challenges of parenting. You may feel a sense of shame for not being able to do what everyone else seems to do so naturally. Perhaps you worry that you have changed into someone you don’t recognize – someone who is negative, cold, distant, and who does not want to spend time with other peoples’ children.

None of these reactions are wrong or uncommon – many women who have struggled with infertility feel the same. Take a big breath. You will come through this. It’s completely OK to avoid family-focused gatherings right now. You don’t have to try to contain your tears and fake your way through social engagements – pretending to be happy when you’re desperately sad and grieving to loss of your own child. Talk with your partner and close friends about your feelings. Let them know you love them but need time and space to heal. Know that you will not always need to avoid these situations. The pain of infertility will not always be as great as it is right now. So be gentle and compassionate with yourself. Choose wisely when you need to protect yourself by turning down invitations that may be particularly painful (e.g., baby showers) and surround yourself with friends and family who understand your loss, and who love and support you.

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