Written By: Janet Jaffe, Ph.D./ Center for Reproductive Psychology /www.ReproductivePsych.org / www.UnsungLullabies.com
One of the most profound decisions you must make when dealing with
infertility – as important as the decision to try to conceive in the first place – is the
decision to stop trying. How do you know when enough is enough? How can
you be sure that one more try won’t do the trick? Like a gambler going for broke,
even though the odds may be against you, you may feel compelled to try again –
and again – because the prize, having a baby, is priceless.
But infertility treatment takes its toll in so many dimension of life:
Physically: You may be exhausted from the side-effects of
medication and multiple invasive procedures.
Emotionally: The ongoing and tumultuous roller coaster of
emotions – from despair to hope and back again – can wear you
Interpersonally: Relationships – between you and your partner,
as well as with family and friends – can be strained, sometimes to
the breaking point. Watching others get pregnant and have their
dreams come true can drive a wedge between you and those
closest to you.
Financially: The high cost of reproductive treatment, sometimes
only partially covered by insurance, often not covered at all, is yet
another major stressor.
If any or all of these are causing significant tension in your life, then it may
be necessary to get off of the infertility treadmill and rethink your options. It can
be helpful to ask yourself what is most important to you and your partner:
Is it the experience of pregnancy and childbirth?
Is it passing on your and your partner’s genetic selves?
Is it the experience of being parents and raising a family?
Depending on how you answer these questions will open or close doors.
For example, if you are less concerned about genetics, but really want to
experience pregnancy, then you might consider using donor eggs, sperm, or
both. Or if you are willing to forego the pregnancy experience and rank raising
children as your most important objective, then adoption could be the right choice
for you. There are no right or wrong answers; each individual and each couple
must come to their own conclusion.
Janet Jaffe, Ph.D. “Knowing When to Stop Trying” February, 2008
Center for Reproductive Psychology
But this is not easy work. It takes much soul-searching to really accept
that your first choice – having your own biological child the “old-fashioned” way –
is not a possibility. It is a process, and as much as you may want to hurry it up, it
takes time. No matter what you decide upon – whether to start a family using
alternative reproductive techniques, opting for adoption, or choosing to remain a
family of two – it is vital to mourn what you have lost.
You might experiment by “trying on” each option open to you as you would
a new article of clothing, living with it for awhile, and seeing what fits the best.
Remember that it’s normal to feel resolved about your decision at one moment,
and feel completely unsure of yourself the next. That’s why it’s important to allow
yourself time, especially hard when you may be feeling that time is of the
essence and you have none to waste.
What can be particularly painful in knowing when to stop is if you and your
partner disagree as to what the next best fit is. You may be ready to move
forward with adoption, for example, while your partner may want to try IVF one
last time. At these moments of impasse, It can be helpful to talk things out and
really listen “between the lines” to what each other has to say. With a deeper
understanding of each other’s needs, you and your partner can find room to
negotiate and compromise, and help each other move forward to the next phase
of building your family.
Janet Jaffe, Ph.D. is a psychologist in San Diego, CA helping men and women
cope with infertility and pregnancy loss since 1996. She is a co-founder of the
Center for Reproductive Psychology and co-author of Unsung Lullabies:
Understanding and Coping with Infertility (St. Martin’s Press, 2005). For more
information visit: www.ReproductivePsych.org or www.UnsungLullabies.com.