Finding value in infertility

People often ask me about my work with individuals and couples dealing with infertility. I respond in general terms because I am committed confidentiality so I can’t share the details.

However, it’s difficult to talk in general terms because each client comes with a different challenge, and different goals. The situations tend to be very complex.

Recently I came across an article that reflects the complexity of infertility and offers a glimpse of the range of choices available even when there appears to be few options.

Written by a single woman in her early 40s who was 32 months into IVF treatments, this article, titled My Fertility Crisis, gives us an accurate picture of the feelings experienced and the nature of the decision-making that goes into navigating infertility. This article also explores the challenges of navigating infertility in a society that holds parenthood as the ideal for all.

As a coach, I noted that this writer had identified a very strong limiting belief that so many hold, whether we care to admit it or not —the belief that we have less value as human beings if we don’t reproduce. Below is the quote that made me take notice: In the end, infertility can make you feel less human. As cultivated as we are, we hold on to a deep-rooted belief that our worth is tied to how well, and how much, we reproduce.

If this is true for us and we continue to hold on to the belief that a person is less human or has less value in the world if they don’t reproduce, then we will continue to set ourselves up for failure and for unhappiness. The real risk of failing to conceive is the risk that our limiting beliefs around our value in the world as childless persons will cause us to be stuck with the idea that we can’t be human, happy or fulfilled without biological children. The writer of this article seems to think that will be true for her.

And, sadly, it will be true for her if she continues to hold onto that belief.

So how do we find value in infertility? Like any “crisis” infertility presents us the opportunity to take stock of what we really value in the world, and who we really want to be in the world, and what we want and what we are willing to sacrifice for what we want.
But if this process of discernment and discovery is colored by the very limiting belief that happiness and fulfillment is achieved only through conceiving and/or bearing a biological child then many people are destined for disappointment and unhappiness. In fact, if we hold this belief to be true, then one in five women in the United States who are in their 40s and remain childless are at risk of having that less-than human experience.

Sad. And totally untrue. And totally unnecessary.

Photo credit: Flickr photo by Amandabhslater