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From hope to depression: the monthly cycle that is infertility

By: Imogen Rossam

For women experiencing infertility, each new month brings with it an entire grief process.

Many infertile women say that their infertility journey is exhausting.  The uninformed might think the exhaustion comes from hours of ‘do-ing it’ in the hopes of falling pregnant but for those of us on the journey too, we understand that the exhaustion comes from the emotional rollercoaster that each new month presents.

Mandy Rodrigues, clinical psychologist with MedFem Fertility Clinic, recently spoke at IFAASA’s Women’s Support Breakfast in Jo’burg and explained how women who are going through infertility – who try and fail to have a baby – go through a full grief cycle each and every month.

When your period arrives (and with it a negative pregnancy result) you hit the first stage of grief; shock and denial.  You might check a few times, or even pee on a few pregnancy tests just to make sure because the resounding voice in your head is saying, “it just can’t be.”  Feelings of numbness, disbelief and tearfulness are all common during this stage, and you really cannot believe that this time (again) you aren’t pregnant!

Then comes bargaining.  You try to reconcile the result and the overwhelming reality that you might not be able to have children naturally.  You try, try and try again to make sense of it all, often asking God, the Universe and pretty much anyone who will listen, “why me?”

Anger follows swiftly after bargaining, and can stay for quite a while.  You feel displaced, and like you don’t belong in your own life at all.  Much of the anger is internalised, and we often ask ourselves in our quietest moments, “how can I not be able to do the one thing I am supposed to do?” or “how can my body be so useless?”

Then comes depression – the hardest and perhaps most pervasive emotion of the grief process.  It’s constant dark, heavy feeling that oozes and sticks to everything when it comes to infertility; our thoughts, our hopes, our dreams, our reality.

And finally, with ovulation getting closer, the feeling of renewed hope and anticipation begins again.  The hope that “maybe, just maybe next month this is going to work” becomes our internal conversation and we begin our cycle of hope and grief all over again.

If you need help dealing with the exhaustion of grief that infertility can bring, contact IFAASA and we will refer you to someone who can help you cope.

To book an appointment with Mandy Rodrigues call +27 (11) 463 2244.

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