By Iris Waichler, M.S.W., L.C.S.W.
In a blog I recently read the author described her “survivor’s guilt”. She experienced two pregnancy losses and has been trying to conceive since 2006. Her blog described her multiple attempts at intrauterine inseminations and IVF transfers without any success. She candidly described the darkness and emotional and physical pain related to these multiple losses. I wondered what she meant by guilt?
She went on to explain that a life changing seminar she attended had made her recognize that it was up to her to release the emotions and sadness linked with these multiple losses. She discovered that the sadness and guilt she had placed on herself for failing to have a healthy child had emotionally and physically caused her to be immobile.
She believes that women have a choice about how to deal with the painful episodes caused by the inability to conceive a child and become a parent. She chooses to believe that she will become pregnant again at some point in the future. The author thinks she lost some readers because she chose not to continue to describe the darkness she felt and is focusing on feeling positive and better.
I was struck by an observation she made that I believe is true. She described the gap that occurs between someone who is trying to conceive, becomes pregnant, or decides to adopt, and those that are still trying to conceive. Her theory is that once you become pregnant there is a sense of guilt about those who are not pregnant but were there for you when you were trying to conceive. She believes a successful pregnancy can make you feel as though you have left them behind and nobody speaks about it or understands what to say or do.
I led a parenting after infertility group for several years and guilt was a recurring theme. My group participants also expressed fears that something would go wrong with their pregnancy because of past failures. They described feeling guilty for being pregnant and having friends still struggling to get pregnant.
This dilemma is something many have experienced. It is a delicate balancing act allowing yourself to be happy about your own pregnancy and being sensitive to others who are still trying to get to where you are. Anyone who has been infertile can describe the savage emotional and physical impact it has on their lives. You become a member of a club nobody wants to belong to. Yet, this club’s members offer each other unconditional ongoing support and understanding. Suddenly you are not a member of that club. If you are among the lucky who eventually have a healthy child those memories are not erased. I believe room can be made to experience the joy of conquering infertility and simultaneously sharing feelings of encouragement and compassion with those you know who are still trying. If you have a close relationship with another person who is infertile and you feel comfortable enough to discuss this issue it can ultimately strengthen you relationship. You both have to be willing to take that chance and express what you need from each other. In the end this experience may be a source of comfort to all the participants.
Iris Waichler is author of Riding the Infertility Roller Coaster