Part One: How Do You Function as a Couple?
Infertility is no picnic. There are months or even years of suspecting a problem, opening up about it, asking for help, educating yourselves about issues, medical terms, finding acceptance and making decisions about how to proceed. Its not entirely straightforward for most couples. How can it be, unless you are incredibly agreeable, immediately find the right doctor and receive an unequivocal diagnosis and solution? Often, I get annoyed by the over-used term fertility journey, but it fits here too perfectly to cast aside, as I describe various crossroads you may reach on the way to creating your family. A crossroads, in this context, is one of those times when you have to stop and deliberate a big decision that will affect the way you pursue parenting and its success. You may have a possible diagnosis, a medical opinion, and/or the opinions of family, friends and forum members to contend with, fighting for attention in your head. You have to pay attention to what your body is telling you as well. Primarily, if you are in a relationship, you must come to an agreement with your partner at each of several crossroads.
How will you get through these rather large bumps in the road? For the most part, that will depend upon how your relationship already works.
For a couple whose communication skills are quite healthy, facing these decisions may not be too difficult. Secure in their relationship, they may sit down together and have private, peaceful conversations every step of the way. They will lay out the pros and cons very efficiently, really listening to each other and reading the subtext (that which is not actually spoken) to arrive at a decision that both find acceptable.
The couple who do not talk about much may just launch into medical investigations and treatment without much forethought. That may seem unbelievable, considering the physical, emotional and financial costs, but it works for some. This is the couple that knows they want children, want their “problem fixed” and allow their doctor to run the show. It seems like everyone is having fertility treatment these days, so why shouldnt they? One concern is that if they dont talk about huge issues like fertility treatment, they may not know when they need to be supportive of each other.
Where one person in the relationship is clearly dominant, the person who is in the power seat makes most of the decisions and their partner follows the lead. When it comes to fertility issues, I would lay a bet down that the woman is making the decisions. This is actually more effective than you might think, in that traditional relationships assign matters of health, wellbeing and family planning to the woman. Her man goes off to work, doesn’t accompany her to the doctor’s office and understands the need for scheduling tests, scans, injections, sex and, well, life. She only has to tell him where and when to show up to fulfil his parts of the equation.
Finally, there are the couples who discuss EVERYTHING in minute detail, who I divide into two camps:1) The couple who talk about everything with each other and everyone else. Copious research, note-taking, question-asking, Google-obsessing, and forum-hopping is normal for them, but they do finally come to a decision and eventually take a step forward and 2) The couple that goes round and round the issues in circles, saying “What do you think? No, you say what you want first. Please just tell me what you want to do. Maybe we should discuss it more.” This couple is in danger of losing valuable time in getting their treatment started or moving on to the next available spot with the clinic.
This is Part One of a Series. Please look for the next Part: Coming upon a Crossroads, What You Need To Make Your Decisions.
Lisa Marsh is a Fertility Coach working with people on all aspects of fertility, including female and male infertility, pregnancy loss, assisted conception, alternative means of family-building and menopause. Visit her blog http://yourgreatlife.typepad.com or her website http://yourgreatlife.co.uk for more information. For coaching, email email@example.com