Many people think of infertility as just that, the difficulty in conceiving a child. The reality of the situation goes far beyond the problem of conception and this is something that many couples unfortunately have to face.
Couples experience frustration at the inability to conceive, anger at their partner / self for being the cause, anger at others that have conceived or keep aspiring as to when they will have children. Some couples report sadness, humiliation, grief, relief, and resentment and many other emotions.
Added to the anxiety and stress are decisions on which course of treatment to follow. Many opt for programs such as In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) or Artificial Insemination Donor (AID). When these are successful the stress and anxiety endured all seems worthwhile but when unsuccessful there can be more distress and heartache. Many of my clients have been unsuccessful and the Conceive program was established for those couples.
What causes such a range of reactions can only be traced to each individual and their attitude to life. The pressure placed on a couple and their relationship can be catastrophic or weld the relationship into a far stronger bond.
George and Gracie were your average couple. George was 29 years old, a real estate agent in his own business and contrary to the market in general he was doing quite reasonably. Gracie was 27 years old, a beautician who thoroughly enjoyed her work. They had been married for 4 years and had a what they called ” a great relationship”.
They decided to have their first child (they wanted 3) so they could have a reasonable time between each and Gracie wouldn’t have to be pregnant year after year. Their parents were overjoyed at the possibility of their first grandchild and almost immediately started suggesting names. Although they were close to their daughter and son in law each set of parents seemed to get a little closer.
They tried to conceive for eight months without success and by this time the potential grandparents were asking questions and applying pressure as to the date of the soon to be “apple of their eye”. Both George and Gracie were concerned so it was decided to consulted a Doctor to rectify the problem.
They started with the GP then went to a specialist but no problem was found. All the tests from Gracie and George were normal and they were worried. “If everything is normal why can’t I have a baby” asked Gracie. She started blaming the Doctor’s for not finding and fixing the problem. George blamed himself for not being enough of a man to father children.
They were encouraged to go into an IVF program and this put extra stress on Gracie. Although George wanted to be involved he couldn’t release himself from his own guilt at what he perceived as his shortcoming ( which was amplified by his difficulty in fully supporting Gracie throughout her IVF sessions).
Unfortunately their IVF program was unsuccessful. The pressure of the program, the associated drugs and the family’s constant questions pushed George and Gracie to the brink of divorce.
That is were hypnotherapy entered the scene. Both mastered Self Hypnosis and began to get on top of the enormous pressure they had been facing individually and started to work as a team, in short they supported each other.
The last time I heard from George they had decided on adoption as the best option for them and were proceeding along this course. They are now much happier and more adept at coping with their families questions and probings.
Fred and Ginger were a very different couple. They had already been through every possible medical alternative in a vain attempt to conceive. They had invested enormous quantities of time and money because they so desperately wanted a child. “My life will not be complete without a child” said Ginger and Fred rapidly agreed. What options do we have, even though they say nothing is wrong the best Doctors can’t help us and we’ve tried IVF and AID programs. “They were very professional but (with a tear in his eye), no baby”.
Their relationship was rock solid. They communicated well and supported each other in their joys and fears. The Doctors didn’t know which partner had the difficulty in conceiving but neither Fred or Ginger cared. She said “It doesn’t matter which one of us has the problem, the fact of the matter is that we need to fix it.”
They chose to undertake a special program, called Conceive, which combines Self Hypnosis and therapy sessions to establish whether or not a psychological reason for the inability to conceive exists. In this case Ginger expressed fear at the prospect of caring for a child and this proved to be the key to the problem. She was a nurse and early in her career she was nursing retarded children. There was a child named Bobby, by her own statements he was a lovely kid but tended to be mischievous and on this particular day for whatever reason she couldn’t handle his naughtiness. She told him repeatedly to behave and when he didn’t she threw him onto his bed (about 1.5 metres distance). “It scared me. I didn’t aim at his bed I just threw him – he could have hit the wall. I didn’t mean to do it, I just lost control, thank God I didn’t hurt him”.
Her statement of being scared was much more telling than she realised. Subconsciously she made a decision that she would never let it happen again. The conscious action she took was to change jobs so she would never be in the role of a carer of children again but the subconscious reaction was even more dire. It seemed that she was unknowingly terrified of losing control with her own children and seeing she would be in constant contact with them it would have more opportunity to occur.
Fred was speechless, Ginger had never mentioned the incident and from her reactions when it was uncovered it had obviously distressed her greatly. He supported her in every way he could and this support cemented their relationship even more.
They both expressed dismay at the possibility of a psychological problem causing infertility but just prayed that the uncovering of the problem and its resolution would resolve their problem. They were told to practise their Self Hypnosis, relax and “do what comes naturally”. Four months later Ginger rang and told me that she was pregnant and shortly after (you know the procedure) they became the parents of a baby boy. Ginger expressed none of the previously discussed fears about having a child and felt she could cope fairly easily, especially with Fred’s help.
Tom and Jenny consulted me after being told of the success of some friends in the Conceive program. Their relationship was in tatters. They both desperately wanted children but a low sperm count on Tom’s part was causing the problem. As much as Jenny tried not to, she resented him bitterly for stopping her having her baby and Tom felt very guilty so he rarely if ever fought back and just wanted to rectify the problem.
The had tried the IVF program unsuccessfully and Jenny resented Tom for indirectly forcing her to have to undergo the treatment when it was his problem. The fact that they were unsuccessful just illustrated Tom’s “inability to satisfy her”. Jenny was savage in her criticism of Tom and took every opportunity to remind him that if he was “normal” they would have a child by now.
Tom started therapy in an attempt to raise his sperm’s swimming ability and numbers. While this was successful in the fact that his sperm count rose and they were “free-styling” instead of “dog paddling” when he started to relax and feel better he decided that the guilt he had been accepting for the situation was “not on”. Although he was responsible for the problem, it was out of his control and it was unfair of her to keep blaming him.
The next time Jenny attacked Tom blew his cool and it very nearly came to blows. Jenny was just about to hit him and he warned her that if she did he would not hesitate in return the favour. Jenny withdrew her arm but walked out of the session. Tom said he felt strong for the first time in years – “if it costs the marriage so be it” but that was more bravado than reality.
A few days later we recommenced the session and Jenny was more subdued. The tantrums had stopped but she resented Tom for allowing things to deteriorate to the point that they had reached. In essence she resented Tom for standing up to her now and for not standing up to her earlier.
Tom and Jenny decided to split. Jenny found she needed a child to make her life complete and couldn’t stop criticising Tom in all areas even though it was based in the infertility problem. Tom refused to accept the abuse and now stood up for himself but this only caused more clashes.
Their separation was amicable and both have agreed that it is the best for all concerned. Jenny feels happy that she is now free to find a new partner that can provide her with a child and Tom has re-established his self-esteem and self worth.
The aim of this article is to show that infertility can reflect in many different areas and not just on the individual. The relationship is almost certainly effected because it is made up of the two individuals.
While this articles shows definite benefits arising from the Conceive program and the participants have usually been unsuccessful with other programs eg In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) or Artificial Insemination Donor (AID), it is important to note that I would only see the cases that have been unsuccessful. Both IVF and AID programs are important and extremely beneficial in many cases and should be considered in any infertility problem. Hypnotherapy is an important adjunct to medical treatment and can often provide assistance in cases where no medical cause has been found.
Leon W Cowen Cert IV C H (AAH), Dip.Hyp.(Syd), Dip.Hyp.Mast.(USA), M.A.H.A., M.N.S.W.C.A. is a clinical hypnotherapist and Executive Director, Academy of Applied Hypnosis, Lindfield, NSW.
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