Interview: How the Holidays Are Particularly Hard for Couples Struggling with Infertility
Marc Sherman and his wife Erin know the pain. Perhaps you have been trying to have a baby for a while now. As the year comes to a close, the sense of grief can feel like a heavy chain, pulling you down and stifling your joy for the season.
It’s one thing that babies seem to be everywhere at this time of year, and maybe unconsciously you had hoped you could bring some tidings of good news at a holiday gathering. Instead, you may feel like it’s one more year of infertility, on the books—perhaps you were in the same position last year—and one more on the way; will it ever end? The pain can be compounded when loved ones say unhelpful things.
So as we near Christmas, we at Natural Womanhood spoke with Marc Sherman of Organic Conceptions, on how real this pain can be for couples, and how loved ones might better respond.
Natural Womanhood: Can you tell us what makes the holidays an especially difficult time for infertile couples?
Marc Sherman: My wife and I were living it, and we definitely heard this difficulty echoed through our help with couples over the past few years. Even if it is unspoken, when September, October, and November roll around, you may be wishing extra hard to miss that period—secretly you wish you will have a last-minute miracle to have some good news for the family. When reality hits, that it’s yet another year struggling with infertility, it can be a double whammy—there’s the dashed hope that you can’t pull it off, and also the reminder: oh yea, I was here last year.
Natural Womanhood: How can family and friends best respond?
Marc Sherman: Many family members desperately want to help, but often that’s not what happens. Things are said that are uncomfortable, or questioning what they’re doing. Or maybe someone has kids who doesn’t love them in the way that someone who really wants kids has in mind to love them. Multiple factors can compound the struggles of couples experiencing temporary or lasting infertility. We are now working to develop a module for family and friends who are trying to do their best to support those in their families who they know are struggling with infertility.
Natural Womanhood: How do couples cope with this?
Marc Sherman: One husband reached out to me and shared this story:
About six months ago we found it so hard to be around friends and family, birthday parties, and so we sent an email to our family saying we might not be around as much for birthdays, and so on. This went over horribly; people took that very personally: how could you not be there for the little kids birthdays? And so on. Now we, after working through Organic Conceptions, we are in a better place and want to reconnect, but there was some damage done.
He asked me how to connect back.
Withdrawing is a normal stage in response to the grief of infertility. At the end of the day, couples with infertility need more empathy. As much as there is biology, there’s an emotional and spiritual sphere. I think it’s irresponsible to not address all three in a comprehensive treatment or care. You can’t underestimate the ripple effect of addressing the emotional strain of infertility; there’s the dynamic with the women, and loved ones, family and friends, and with caretakers.
Natural Womanhood: How does Organic Conception help couples get through the holidays together, relationship-wise?
Marc Sherman: Of the couples seeking support from Organic Conceptions on their path to parenthood, most of the time we’re interacting with the women struggling with infertility, but I recently received contact from a husband. It was a beautiful note, it said how the program was describing their journey to the nitty-gritty details and it helped he and his wife “find ourselves and become more trusting”; he said, “my wife and I didn’t know how to discuss—there were things in the room that no one was discussing,” and the Organic Conceptions program set the stage for real discussions. Now, he says, they’re in such a good place.
Natural Womanhood: Do people ever give Organic Conceptions as a gift? How does that go over?
Marc Sherman: I’ve had many mothers-in-law reach out, believing this will be a helpful tool for their loved ones. But how can you be sure not to offend somebody? I have had a couple of gift orders, but it’s rare.
I think the most logical choice for the person to give the gift of Organic Conceptions would be for the husband who has seen his wife’s struggle. It could help him say, I’m committed to you; I know this is hard but let’s do this course together and grow closer through this challenging time.
In Australia, there’s a husband and wife duo, one who is a NaProTechnology doctor, and now every single patient coming to him with concerns of infertility gets the Organic Conceptions program along with their standard care. He’s convinced there’s an emotional component to infertility for many couples.
With the divorce rate these days, couples can really use the delay of kids to strengthen themselves and their marriage. And I believe this prepares them to be better parents.
Natural Womanhood: Michelle Obama discussed her challenges with infertility in her recently released book Becoming. How did her contribution add to the cultural conversation on infertility?
Marc Sherman: I think what was powerful was its timely nature. Most people experiencing infertility are suffering in silence. For a woman struggling to conceive, Michelle Obama’s story affirms how alone and broken she feels.
I believe more women need to be affirmed in their feelings, and that’s an essential part of healing from infertility. That is what Organic Conceptions is all about—addressing the emotional component in a more substantial way than “just relax”—we walk couples through the 9 distinct emotional stages that our data shows couples, who have surprise babies after infertility, go through.
I believe caretakers who serve couples with infertility need to include this program as a standard part of care. Because I keep hearing from couples how this program is changing people’s lives. It’s one thing to have a program recommended by a friend, but couples dealing with infertility are bombarded by recommendations and may become oversensitized to what people tell us what to do, eat, and so on, to the point that investing in our emotional well-being doesn’t make the list. But if a doctor, who is helping you with fertility charting or other biological aspects of infertility, says this is an important part of the process of healing, that is more impactful. So it’s great to see more caretakers addressing this emotional component of healing in their treatment plans. We have great new subscription services now that make it easier for caretakers to roll this into their practice.
Michelle Obama’s words in her book make it real. The reality of infertility is brutal. So many couples suffer in silence, and women are being treated as statistics. People are fearful even before they begin trying to start a family; in my view, the stress and pressure they’re under may be doing more damage to their fertility than the egg quality most people are worried about.
Are you or a loved one struggling with infertility? Read below on how Fertility Awareness-Based Methods can help.
- My Journey Through the Grief of Infertility to Motherhood
- How Fertility Awareness Reduces Risk of Miscarriage
- How Soon Should You See A Doctor for Infertility?