But everyone else can have a baby

When you've been trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant, you see babies everywhere. Suddenly, everyone in your orbit has a baby and none of them appears to have had any trouble getting pregnant. It all seems grossly unfair and can make you feel sad and left out. Some women who're able to have kids at the drop of a hat can appear unconcerned whether they have another child or not. How fair is that? Of course, you know that these things have nothing to do with your infertility, but they can still make you feel angry.

How she may feel

For many women, motherhood is the ultimate expression of femininity and so you may feel less of a woman if you can't have children. In fact, you may feel less of a person altogether and it's not uncommon that the infertility experience dints your self-esteem and self-confidence, hopefully not in a lasting way. I talk about ways to maintain your self-confidence in Chapter 11.

You're certain to feel sad and worried about the future ('Will I ever have a baby?') and you may also wonder if your relationship with your partner will survive or crumble under the pressure of it all.

How he may feel

We used to think that men with an infertility problem feel vulnerable and weak because the infertility reduces their masculinity. Although this may have been true in the past, recent research shows that most men today don't equate fertility with masculinity, so this stereotype no longer holds.

In fact, infertile men see fatherhood as a highly valued and important life goal. Childlessness is no less distressing for them than for their partners. So feelings of loss, sadness and worry are all normal.

Challenging research

In a study conducted in Australia, 112 men who'd been diagnosed as infertile five years previously filled out questionnaires about what had happened in terms of their infertility since they were diagnosed. Almost all of them (96 per cent) had gone through some form of infertility treatment with their partner and most had become fathers (87 per cent), either as a result of the treatment or after conceiving spontaneously or adopting a child. The men were asked to indicate whether they agreed with a number of statements about parenthood, and their responses, shown at right, challenge the stereotypes that men believe that fertility is linked to masculinity and that having children is less important for men than for women.

I Parenthood is as important to me as to my partner (84 per cent)

I Having children makes a marriage a family (70 per cent)

I The disappointment of not having children is greater for the woman than for the man (42 per cent)

I Having children makes a stronger bond between husband and wife (71 per cent)

I A man can never be sure of his masculinity until he is a father (10 per cent)

I Becoming a mother makes a woman truly female (15 per cent)

Avoiding the blame game

Wanting to pin the blame on someone or something when you're facing difficulties in life is normal. That someone or something becomes the target of your frustration and gives you an outlet for your negative feelings. But if an infertility problem lies with just one partner, blame can cause havoc in the relationship. A fertile man may resent not being able to have children because his partner has blocked tubes, and a fertile woman may wish she'd married someone with a normal sperm count.

Infertility is not 'his problem' or 'her problem': It's a couple problem that you have to deal with together, so avoid the blame game.

The burden of being the partner with the fertility problem can affect the dynamics of a relationship too. The infertile partner may become withdrawn and feel inferior because she or he is 'causing the problem', and may even offer to end the relationship so that the fertile partner can find someone else to have a family with. This then places pressure on the fertile partner to bend over backwards to be reassuring and understanding. Talking openly about your feelings is the best way to avoid damaging your relationship.

Pregnancy Guide

Pregnancy Guide

A Beginner's Guide to Healthy Pregnancy. If you suspect, or know, that you are pregnant, we ho pe you have already visited your doctor. Presuming that you have confirmed your suspicions and that this is your first child, or that you wish to take better care of yourself d uring pregnancy than you did during your other pregnancies; you have come to the right place.

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