Dr. Katie Martin is a licensed Clinical Psychologist in San Diego who has specialized fertility experience. She ran one of the largest surrogacy and egg donor programs in the country where she helped to connect intended parents with donors and surrogates. Dr. Martin currently sees individuals, couples and families in her practice to help them better manage the stress related to fertility issues. For more information, please listen to the Zen Fertility Center podcast that features her as a guest.
By Dr. Katie Martin, Clinical Psychologist
Most people grow up with certain beliefs around when, how and why they should start their family. They can become attached to these beliefs, and when fertility challenges arise and things don’t go as planned, they can feel profoundly betrayed. When this occurs, the struggle to conceive and start a family can feel like a roller coaster with highs and lows, stomach flips, and moments where a person feels like the only thing left to do is scream.
Everyone has their own way of dealing with emotional pain and distress. Some people avoid it at all costs, using denial and distractions to minimize the emotional impact. This results in lying to themselves, and those around them, because the truth is too painful to acknowledge. Some people take the opposite approach and let the fertility challenges and struggle become their identity. They let the intense suffering take over and it can infiltrate every piece of their lives and relationships.
Each of these strategies may have some benefit but, in the end, relying solely on either strategy causes them more harm than good. When people distance themselves from the truth of the situation, they lose connection to their power and capacity to heal.
True emotional health lies in finding the “Middle Ground.” It’s a very simple concept but often proves to be a difficult path to travel. The Middle Ground is an emotional space where a person can acknowledge the pain about infertility and look it in the eyes, but not allow it to overwhelm him/her and color every other experience in their lives. Finding the Middle Ground provides strength and allows connection to wisdom and the capacity to heal. It’s not a place that is always comfortable, but when reached it can provide immense rewards such as balance and increased perspective.
It helps to seek out a guide to travel the unfamiliar territory to the Middle Ground. A trusted therapist can be a great resource in this process, serving as a sounding board, a source of encouragement, someone to gently challenge unhealthy coping strategies and help individuals connect to the suffering in a way that acknowledges it, but doesn’t allow it to become too overwhelming.
Infertility is not an experience that anyone chooses, and can be a painful reality to accept, but every person diagnosed with infertility does have a choice about how to ride their personal roller coaster. The quest for the Middle Ground is one way to smooth out the bumpy ride.