Deciding to have children together is a monumental decision. It can be an exciting and hopeful time to embark on this journey together. But when trying to conceive lasts longer than you both think it should, it can be frustrating. Seeking out fertility treatments like IVF and IUI can add to the stress. During and after IVF, there are still many ways for you and your spouse to stay connected.
While undergoing treatment for infertility might be one of the most difficult periods of you and your partner’s life, it can also be a time to strengthen your relationship. Here are a few ways a couple can connect with one another emotionally and physically during and after IVF treatments.
Throughout IVF Treatments
Honor One Another’s Contributions
It doesn’t matter what part of the journey to parenthood you are on, honor your unique journey and contributions toward having a child together. There will always be moments that you might shoulder more of a burden, but the same is true of your partner.
Holly Schechter, who went through IVF with her husband, explained how hard it was for her at first to consider herself as part of a team. She writes, “I had kept him [my husband] a bystander; I sought satisfaction in martyrdom. And I carried a grudge, too; it was difficult to acknowledge that this wasn’t solely my burden to bear, just because it was solely my abdomen…We would spend almost two more years sitting at our kitchen table, trying to make a baby. As I lost hope, I also relinquished my need to be a martyr. It became our struggle, our treatment.” You are a team, with different roles and responsibilities. Together you will get through this time in your life, too.
Connecting During IVF Treatments
Be ready for the emotional roller coaster
As you continue this journey toward parenthood, medical treatments, doctor appointments and schedules can quickly dominate your lives together. Recognize that you are both on an emotional roller coaster, too. The American Society for Reproductive Medicine describes it this way:
“Infertility often creates one of the most distressing life crises that a couple has ever experienced together. The long term inability to conceive a child can evoke significant feelings of loss. Coping with the multitude of medical decisions and the uncertainties that infertility brings can create great emotional upheaval for most couples.”
Knowing this is normal and that many couples experience feelings of grief, worry, frustration, sadness, hope and even joy. Take it day by day and check in with one another. If feelings of anxiety, depression or sadness become overwhelming, finding emotional support can give you both a sounding board and some relief. Support groups such as those offered by RESOLVE or finding a professional counselor can help you both, individually or together.
Find new ways to connect with each other
Intimacy is more than sex. There are times when physical intimacy might not be recommended, such as after egg collection, IVF, child birth or other medical procedures. Remember the power of holding their hand for the first time, giving hugs, massages and going on a walk together.
You can also offer support through love notes, little gifts like their favorite drink or treat. Do a task for them that they dislike. Clean the kitchen or their car, pick up the groceries. Show you care in the little moments.
Australian charity Centre of Perinatal Excellence (COPE) recommends creating “‘IVF-free’ evenings or days when talk about IVF is off-limits.” This simple practice can give couples the breathing room to step away from the IVF vortex. You all might consider getaways or a vacation between cycles to practice self-care for yourself and your relationship together.
Nurture your physical relationship
Going through IVF can definitely take the romance out of a couple’s sex life, but there are ways to lessen the stress and anxiety this new reality can bring. Trying to have intercourse on a schedule on the most optimal days and times can quickly transform a pleasurable experience into a transactional one. Find ways to reclaim your physical relationship and make it about connecting with your partner.
Schedule a date night
While we are still in a COVID-focused world and at home more often, take advantage of the time you both have available to connect one on one with your spouse or partner. Fun date night ideas:
- Play a game.
- Go on a walk.
- Cook a meal together or take a cooking class together.
- Go to a (virtual) concert together.
- Take an online course together. For example, Pinot’s Palette is holding virtual art classes.
- Complete a home improvement project not related to a child.
- Try a new hobby.
- Go on an adventure, even if it is to a store or a local hiking trail.
Set time that is just for you two. There are so many wonderful ways that you can spend time with each other. This time is so precious. Here are even more date night ideas.
Remember to chat with each other
Communication is key. Being able to talk about insecurities, worries and fears are important as a couple. But it is also equally important to not drown your partner in conversations about infertility all of the time. You both may have different ways of processing the emotions you are feeling. One week you might not want to talk, or the opposite may be true. Creating a safe place to discuss how you’re feeling and how to make decisions together will help you have more empathy and compassion for one another. You may have many decisions to make together about treatment, finances, which friends and family to tell and more. Be ready to listen, compromise and help each other through the hard parts.
Going through infertility can yield positive benefits no matter the outcome. COPE reminds us that “Research studies have found the crisis of infertility can positively benefit relationships by forcing couples to be self-reflective and improve their communication, and it encourages partners to develop effective coping strategies together.” Coping and communication skills are the foundation of healthy relationships for the long-term.
Staying Connected After You Become Parents
For many couples, IVF is a solid path to parenthood. For other couples, they may need to build their family in other ways – such as with a surrogate or through adoption. Once you have a child/ren, your life as a couple is permanently changed and life will never be the same. Accept that. The journey you and partner have been on, with its joy, sorrow, excitement and hope has created expectations for life as parents. The transition from dream to reality may be a little rough, but here are some suggestions for connecting with your partner after you become parents.
Give yourselves some grace
The transition to parenthood can be tough for any new parent. Sometimes our expectations of how we think it will be don’t always match with reality and can cause misunderstandings. Have some grace. Both of you are caring for newborn. You are exhausted and will be that way for a while. The laundry, house and chores simply won’t be the same because your child’s needs will come first. Enjoy the precious moments you have together as a couple and with your child/ren.
Listen for each other’s needs and enlist support
Keep in touch and help each other through this transition. You may not have the personal space you are used to and the caregiving schedule can become overwhelming. Take turns and lean on each other. Enlist support to help you during the sleepless nights or with chores. Meal and grocery delivery services can make household chores easier. A friend can coordinate a meal calendar to allow many friends and family to provide meals to help you all during this time. Call on family or employ a night doula also called a baby nurse or night nurse to help you make it through those tough first few weeks and months as routines become established.
Reserve time to be a couple
Date night and couple time after a child is different. When you are able to have a family member or babysitter watch your child, get out of the house and go for a date (see date ideas above), even if it is a walk around the block. At-home date nights are a wonderful way to connect with your partner. Try a game night or movie night. Make a meal together. Get dressed up and enjoy a meal. Dance together or pick up a different hobby together. The important part is to make time for one another and practice self-care. Prioritizing your relationship and taking care of yourself and each other are wonderful habits to model for your child.
Prepare your child for their own family
Because you have faced infertility, then you understand the toll it can take emotionally, physically and financially. What if you could reduce the financial impact of IVF for your children, would you? LifeSpring Insurance Services offers an early-life supplemental health insurance policy for children ages birth through age 13 that covers them when they are older and ready to have a family. LifeSpring’s affordable Primary Infertility Assistance Policy is a unique way to make fertility treatments affordable for a child you love. Learn more about setting up your child’s financial future, and join the LifeSpring mailing list to stay in touch.