URBANA, Ill. — Infertility and isolation are soul sisters, claims University of Illinois family studies professor Constance Shapiro. As friends, siblings and co-workers effortlessly become pregnant and deliver babies that become the center of their lives and conversations, an infertile woman — and her partner — often feel alone.
Shapiro’s blog, inspired by her book When You’re Not Expecting, has the potential to change all that by providing the support couples need to thrive and survive during months, even years, of infertility treatment options, difficult decisions and emotional turmoil.
“As an infertility counselor for 20 years, I always felt that clients came to me because these issues are so deeply personal. My blog is another safe place that couples can go when they don’t believe their friends and family could ever understand their anguish and frustration,” she said.
It’s also a good resource for single women and lesbians who want to become mothers and are excluded from much of the material that’s written on infertility, she said.
Shapiro began blogging about infertility in 2009 when the younger people in her life encouraged her to give the ideas in her book a wider readership. Within a month, Psychology Today had asked Shapiro if she would put the blog on their website. There she offers tried and true therapeutic tips developed from years of working with the couples in her practice.
She addresses such topics as the emotional impact of invasive medical treatments; what to do when making love becomes hard work; how to cope with baby showers, family gatherings and child-centered holidays; recovering emotionally from pregnancy loss; and putting your life on hold while you’re waiting for expensive treatments to succeed.
“People tell me that it’s been a lifesaver for them. They say I’m talking about issues that are causing them anxiety and that they feel better when they’ve read my blog addressing those concerns,” she said.
When she sits down to write a new installment, how does she choose a topic?
“Usually I think there are compelling issues no one’s talking about, or there are issues in the news I want to comment on,” she said.
The blog she’s writing now will address women who are delaying attempts to become pregnant until they reach age 40 or so.
“They want to believe that, because they’ve taken extremely good care of their faces and bodies, their eggs are as young and healthy as their bodies appear to be.”
Shapiro thinks these women may be influenced by celebrities who delay having children until their 40s, but the blogger suspects that many high-profile late-in-life moms are using donor eggs and having a variety of fertility procedures that are never mentioned in the news stories.
For many couples, infertility treatment ends successfully, but the experience is never forgotten, she said. Other persons and couples will find resolution in adoption, surrogacy or the choice to live without children. But, before that happens, they will need to complete the anticipatory mourning they’ve probably been doing for some time, she said.
“It’s a lifetime loss,” she noted. “In our culture, people meeting a new couple for the first time are likely to begin a conversation with ‘Do you have any children?'”
Shapiro said that the inability to give birth to a child will always be a piece of a person’s identity, but she urged infertility survivors not to let their infertility define or consume them.
Hobbies, caring relationships, work, volunteer activities and travel can add balance as individuals and couples seek new ways to find meaning and purpose in their lives.
To read Shapiro’s blog, visit www.psychologytoday.com/blog/when-youre-not-expecting.
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Why is this topic even in F & D? Whatever happened to poeple accepting the fact that not everyone is able to have a family .. at least in the traditional sense? Acceptance of one’s fate is part of life.