Support can ease the strain of infertility
ALL Mandy wanted was a baby, but she had never imagined how much ''frustration and unhappiness'' trying to conceive could cause.
For 16 months her life had evolved around her menstrual cycle, while she was trying to get pregnant. Once her periods started her down moods began. For Mandy it meant her life was on hold until it was over before trying again.
She and her husband went for medical ''investigations''. They discovered her husband, George, had a low sperm count.
The news of George's infertility hit Mandy hard. They decided to search for alternatives.
They opted for in-vitro fertilisation, but the treatments have been unsuccessful.
Many of Mandy's friends and colleagues have had babies in the meantime and she tries to console herself with the idea that she is not as ''lucky'' as others.
''I've tried to convince myself to accept the fact and get on with life,'' she says.
However, she finds herself becoming more angry and agitated.
For most couples, coping with infertility is a long journey. Besides focusing energy on looking for alternatives, they need to pay attention to their psychological well-being and ask whether they have truly accepted the situation.
Like many women in a similar situation, Mandy feels overwhelmed by the issue of conception. Even though she knows it is not George's fault, deep inside she cannot help feeling it is all on her shoulders.
The fact is, she is the one subjected to most of the treatments, not to mention ultimately bearing the child. Therefore it is hard for her not to feel resentful.
Intellectually she realises she cannot hold George responsible for what she has to go through; therefore it makes it more difficult for her to share her bitterness. All she can do is endure and keep it within herself.
Infertility affects both men and women emotionally and psychologically. However, in most cases they handle it differently.
Most males accept the problem as fact and try to seek alternatives without letting it affect other aspects of their life.
For females, however, the problem affects their emotions and their femininity. They tend to take longer to come to terms with the issue.
Men are usually able to deal with it privately, whereas women are more likely to confront social pressure. People will inquire: ''So when are you having children?'' Often people unknowingly ask inappropriate questions, unaware of the problem the person is dealing with.
Mandy quickly found out it was difficult to talk about their infertility problem with friends without revealing personal and private matters between her and George.
Even when she decides to share, she finds outsiders cannot appreciate the pain she is going through.
There is no simple solution to cope with issues brought on by infertility.
It is a long process which requires patience and mutual support between a couple.
The most important step is for a couple to encourage each other to share their grief, pain and feelings.
Many women feel they are running out of time - either because of age, or growing impatience. Therefore they tend to rush into new treatments while their anxiety levels are high.
Unless they are emotionally ready, the treatment procedure will be more difficult to endure, and less likely to succeed.
It would be useful for some to participate in a support group, such as ''Coping'', to share their emotions with other women dealing with an infertility problem.
The above is not an actual case.
Cathy Tsang-Feign is a licensed psychotherapist and author of the book Self-help for Foreigners. Her office is at the Vital Life Centre, phone 877-8206.