How to Overcome Hopelessness After an Infertility Diagnosis
Overcoming feelings of hopelessness and depression is easier when you tune in to the right channel! Here’s how to find joy, hope and peace after a diagnosis of infertility or ongoing fertility problems. “Women helping women” is the theme of this article; I share 10 tips on how to overcome hopeless feelings from women who have survived the dark pit of an infertility diagnosis.
“After seven years of infertility problems, I asked my sister to be a surrogate mother for me,” says Treena on Help Coping With Depression When You’re TTC and Can’t Get Pregnant. “She agreed, and my husband and I got a lawyer to draw up a surrogacy contract. We started the appointments with the fertility doctor. But then we had to meet with a nurse social worker at the clinic. She gave me and my husband a psychological evaluation, and said I wasn’t psychologically or emotionally stable enough to move forward with our surrogate motherhood plan. I was devastated. Not only did I have to learn how to overcome the hopelessness of our infertility problems, I was told that I wasn’t fit for motherhood! But it was the first step towards emotional healing for me – I started to look at why I so wanted to have a child. With meditation and mindfulness I realized that my worth as a woman and a human being was tied to my ability to have a child. I got help, and no longer feel the hopelessness of infertility problems so sharply…but sometimes I still have sad days.”
In this article, I share how different women recovered from different types of fertility problems. My hope is that you find help and healing here, comfort and support, wisdom and guidance. May you find strength and energy to overcome the hopelessness and despair that often accompanies an infertility diagnosis.
Your thoughts on how to overcome infertility depression are welcome below, in the comments section. My focus is “women helping women” – and I’d love to hear what does and doesn’t work for you as a woman coping with infertility problems such as intrauterine insemination attempts that didn’t take, failed in vitro fertilization treatments, emotional health struggles, relationship struggles, faith crises, and financial setbacks.
10 Tips for Overcoming Hopelessness Caused by Infertility Problems
Whether you’re currently undergoing fertility treatments or you’ve given up hope of getting pregnant, you will find a woman you can relate to in this list of tips on how to feel less hopeless and depressed during infertility problems. There’s something here for everyone.
Here’s the rest of Treena’s comment:
“At first I told myself that I wasn’t a whole woman because of my infertility problems,” says Treena. “But other things happened in my life to make me very aware of my spirituality. In my mind I saw my inability to have a child as a reflection of who I was as a person and that because I had failed to have a child, I had failed as a woman. But I was so wrong! It has taken years to overcome the feelings of hopelessness and depression of those thoughts, and I’m still not done untangling my view of who I am. But I know I am not a ‘barren woman.’ The emotional toll of my infertility problems was based on my view of who I thought I was and what childlessness meant. Now that I have an identity in God I have more hope and help than I ever thought possible.”
1. Value yourself as a complete woman despite your infertility problems – Treena
Treena’s hope and help came from a counselor who helped her see that having children – being a fertile woman – is not her identity.
She was basing her self-worth as a woman on her ability to conceive instead of God, in whom she believed loved her. Treena overcome the hopelessness she felt by establishing herself as a faithful woman.
This first tip on how to overcome hopeless feelings worked for me, too. Finding my identity in God was how I overcame the pain of infertility problems and failed fertility treatments. As a woman, I was surprised to learn that sometimes (about 33% of the time!) not getting pregnant is caused by male factor infertility. Who knew? Not me. My husband and I can’t have children because of azoospermia (he doesn’t produce sperm) – and the shock of realizing that not all infertility problems are the “woman’s fault” changed my perspective dramatically.
2. Participate in the “women helping women” journey – Meredith and Tori
“For me, blogging about the whole infertility process was really helpful,” says Meredith. “It was a little scary putting my fertility problems all out there on social media, but once I did, the response was overwhelmingly positive. So many family and friends reached out with encouraging words and support. The best thing was, many women with their own infertility experiences reached out to me and helped me to know that I was not the only one.”
“This may sound cliché, but we can be a beacon of hope,” says Tori. “Do something to help other women overcome their feelings of hopelessness after an infertility diagnosis. I am an open book about my infertility journey. I blogged about it. I have a Pinterest board about it. I share stories about my fertility problems on my Facebook page. If my being an open book about infertility helps just one woman overcome her depression and hopelessness, then I have done something good. If there is a local 5k or fun run to raise awareness for fertility problems, do it. Get the shirt and wear it proudly. Let women know that they are not alone if they’re coping with an infertility diagnosis. Maybe there will be a woman in the grocery store who sees that shirt and she will feel like it’s a sign to start her own journey.”
3. Rely on your husband, family, and God – Anna
“I was lucky enough to have an extremely supportive husband who let me cry whenever I needed to,” says Anna. “My mom was also willing to lend a listening ear. Once I started talking about my infertility problems in a support group, I connected with several healthy women who helped me feel I wasn’t alone. That really helped with overcoming my feelings of hopelessness and despair. Ultimately though, I had to let my Savior Jesus Christ carry my burden. As a religious person, infertility really forced me to rely on my faith, and that helped me through more than anything.”
Read Was Called Barren: A Devotional for Women Going Through Infertility by Brandi Chase if you’re undergoing fertility treatments or trying to conceive naturally after an infertility diagnosis.
This book is exactly what I mean with the “women helping women” idea: Brandi walks alongside women who feel hopeless and depressed after an infertility diagnosis. She shares her own real-life experiences and journey through fertility problems. Brandi gives hope to women who are sad or depressed about trying to get pregnant by sharing her private, up-hill, zigzag, and unexpectedly long voyage to motherhood.
Don’t let your feelings of hopelessness or depression overwhelm you! Learn how to recover, renew and refresh yourself by connecting with other women who overcome those same low feelings.
4. Overcome feelings of hopelessness by crying and being angry – Carrie
“I want women with infertility problems to know that it’s ok to cry and to be angry,” says Carrie. “Don’t be ashamed of those feelings. Being emotional won’t eliminate your infertility problems or help you get pregnant, but but I absolutely believe it’s part of the process of healing. Getting your feelings out is part of learning how to overcome the pain of infertility. I didn’t think growing up that I would need fertility treatments, especially not IVF, to have a family. Let’s be honest, when playing dress up with friends, none of us ever went to go see a reproductive endocrinologist, we went to the grocery store or the park. No one expects to have trouble starting a family.”
Carrie adds that after she worked through the worst of the grief that followed her diagnosis of infertility, she overcame her feelings of hopelessness and depression by taking control of her life and health. She researched different solutions and treatments for infertility problems – and she stopped blaming herself for not getting pregnant. “I stopped playing the ‘what if’ game. What if I had done something differently? Just call a fertility clinic, see a doctor about your infertility problems. The more prescreening we completed, the more answers we had. The more answers we had, the more empowered we felt. Even if the answers were painful, it was liberating to have that information and to feel proactive and more in control.”
5. Learn the difference between pain and suffering – Laurie
I found hope and healing in the realization that every woman on earth has painful problems to deal with, but not everyone actually suffers from those difficulties. For me, pain was realizing that our infertility problems would lead to coping with a childless life for me and my husband. But I’m not suffering, and I didn’t allow myself to get overwhelmed with feelings of hopelessness or depression. I found hope and healing.
I learned that suffering is dwelling on the pain instead of accepting it and moving through it with God. Pain comes in different sizes and shapes, but one thing is the same for every woman on this earth: we all have different types of problems that cause pain. It doesn’t matter how strong our faith is or how wonderful our relationship with God or the Universe is…this world is a painful – and beautiful – place to be.
Here’s the difference between pain versus suffering when you’re learning how to overcome the hopelessness of fertility problems: pain is the unavoidable emotional, psychological, and physical trauma that has to be faced. Suffering because of infertility is optional. Why? Because suffering involves revisiting the pain, pulling the scab off the wound, dwelling on the depressing, heartbreaking, bleak aspects of living without children.
6. Value different paths to a joyful, happy life – Julia
“Learning how to overcome the hopeless feelings that come from fertility problems involves letting go of the assumption that women without children are missing something in their lives. Instead, society should benefit from valuing a variety of paths for adult women to have satisfying lives,” says sociologist Julia McQuillan in 7 Ways to Make Peace With Infertility.
Julia adds that we need to listen to a broad spectrum of American women about the degree of importance of motherhood in our lives. “The meaning of not having children is reshaping how we think about opportunities for meaningful adult femininity. Just as reproductive options have increased, both for limiting fertility and overcoming fertility barriers, we are learning what is devastating for some women is a relief for other women.”
7. Hold on to hope and be your own “fertility advocate” – Heather
“I would encourage women with three things: hold on to your hope, keep trying, and be your own health advocate if you’re looking for help overcoming feelings of hopelessness,” says Heather.
“Fertility doctors are amazing at what they do, but you need to educate yourself on the process of fertility treatments and overcoming infertility problems. Know what is happening to your body and why they are doing what they are. I was misdiagnosed for years before I went to finally found the right fertility clinic. After finding the right doctor we started to make headway. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I had not known my body well and had a doctor who was willing to listen. Our journey was 8 and a 1/2 years long and 10 cycles of fertility treatments (Clomid, IUI, and IVF), but we now have two beautiful boys. Hang in there!”
8. Be open to changing your heart – Allison
“I tell women who are undergoing fertility treatments that if she if she wants a baby and wants a family, she will have one,” says Allison. “It may require years, many tears, and a lot of money. The family she has may not look like the family she originally imagined. I began seeking fertility treatments at the age of 23; never in a million years could I have imagined that I would conceive my beautiful daughters at the age of 26 after six cycles of IVF, the final cycle being a donor egg cycle. But my daughters are perfect to me in every way, and I am so thankful to our anonymous donor.
I can promise a woman that if she has the finances for fertility treatments and if she wants a baby and will fight for a baby, she will have her baby. It might require a change of heart – you might have to be open to donor egg, donor sperm, gestational carrier, even adoption. But you will get your baby, and it will be perfect and all completely worth it.”
9. Know that you are stronger than you know – Lauren
“How did I learn how to overcome the hopelessness that comes with a diagnosis of infertility? I kept telling myself that I was much stronger than I gave myself credit for!” says Lauren. “My infertility journey is teaching me that I am so strong and that nothing will stand in the way of my dreams to be a mom. I would also say to be kind to yourself—this journey is a tough one and you are doing the best you can. If something brings more stress and worry to your life, then let it go — you don’t need negativity and stress in your life when you’re coping with infertility.”
Read Life Without Baby: Surviving and Thriving When Motherhood Doesn’t Happen if you’re letting go of your dream to have your own biological children.
In this book, Lisa Manterfield shares what she learned from her own experience coping with infertility problems – what she learned from the women of the community she created. She’ll help you:
- Know when it’s time to cut your losses and let go of your dream of having kids
- Give yourself permission to grieve the loss that few others can truly understand
- Learn some emotional aikido moves to handle social challenges, such as baby showers, Mother’s Day, and the dreaded “Do you have kids?” question
- Rediscover your passion and find joy again, without enduring a complete life makeover
- Get pragmatic about aging without children and building a new kind of family
Manterfield is a comforting and supportive companion who will guide you gently down your own path to overcoming hopeless and depressing feelings, making peace with being childfree-not-by-choice, and thriving in a new happily ever after.
10. Avoid the triggers that make you depressed – Cyndi
“When I was going through the worst of my grieving process, I didn’t want to be around new moms, babies, or pregnant women,” says Cyndi on How to Be Happy as a Childless Woman – Single or Married.
“Childlessness was very painful and I didn’t know how to be happy as a woman without children. I encourage you to be aware of your grief process and the “triggers” that make your world come crashing down. While you’re going through the worst of your grief, avoid those triggers. As you start to heal and grow stronger, you will find yourself able to be with new moms, babies, and expectant mothers. You will learn how to be happy without having to be surrounded by childless women all the time! Trust me. You will heal.”
What do you think of these “women helping women” ideas on how to overcome feelings of hopelessness after a diagnosis of infertility? While I can’t offer personal advice, I do read every comment. I encourage you to respond to other readers’ comments if you feel led, and to share your experience coping with infertility.
May you find wisdom and healing, strength and courage as you learn how to recover from the pain of infertility problems. May you find peace in whatever road you take, and may your life be blessed no matter what unfolds. May you grow healthy and strong, and may you hold on to the peace and joy that surpasses all understanding.
Source of numbers 2,4,7 and 9: Shady Grove Fertility – a fertility treatment center for couples trying to conceive.