Infertility and Intimacy

November is Adoption Awareness Month.

This article was written by Deb Olshever, Sandy Orenstein and Toby Zaitchik of Adoption Associates. For more information look at their website, www.AdoptionAssociates.org or call 617-965-9369.

“OK, we know we will have to try harder to have a family.”
“So what is so bad about that?” ask our friends. “Doesn’t that just mean you have sex more often, how hard can that be? Kinda makes me wish we had a prescription to do that too!”

“Wow, what they don’t know,” you think! They have several children, and never had to think about the timing of when they were intimate. For us, we were told when we should have sex and when we shouldn’t. The timing was critical, and something we did not want to “mess up,” so that we could maximize our chances of creating a new life!

But think about that, having sex by prescription, on demand! How many people enjoy that? Shouldn’t “making love” be just that, as opposed to “making baby?” We like to do it when we are in the mood, and when we are inspired, or spontaneous….but an infertility diagnosis sure ruins that idea!

And who is ever in the mood, when we are always thinking about the outcome, and not our actual experience! Kind of hard to perform, right? And yet…..

OK, so intimacy…does that have to involve only sex? Are there other ways to be intimate? Can we preserve our humanity, our spiritual side, when we have to follow a medical model that makes sex mechanical at the best? Can we still be playful, joyful and romantic?

Of course, intimacy involves a lot of communication, a lot of emotion, a lot of decision-making. Are we even able to discuss all this? It can be very helpful to consult with a therapist who specializes in working with families impacted by infertility. In the best of cases, couples are very able to get closer, despite the loss of a part of their dreams – or the new definition of their dreams. The skills they learn in therapy ultimately impact their ability to attach to whatever child does join them, and their ability to be good parents and lovers. So nothing is lost in the end, although that is not how it feels when going through it. Sometimes having a good outside source, a professional with an understanding and appreciation of the challenges of maintaining an intimate relationship while dealing with the stress of infertility, can be extremely helpful. One loss can add to another gain! Learning how to talk about feelings, at least those complicated ones, is sometimes hard. Learning to do so, and actually making the time to prioritize communication, will only add to the closeness and bonding of the couple.

And for marriage to be fulfilling, satisfying and happy over the long term, it is important for couples to be focused on more than their children, (or their lack of ability in even creating a pregnancy). Affection, humor and empathy are key criteria for a positive marital adjustment. Today’s families are often so focused on their children’s well-being that they forget that they, the couple, are the foundation of the family and the necessary ingredient for good adjustment. It is imperative to remain focused on the individual’s, and then the couple’s, well-being, as well as the child’s. Sexuality often is not a focus once the child arrives, and yet this is part of the glue of the marriage. It is important to focus on all of this, before, during and after infertility.

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