Counselling Infertility

Relationship Matters:
Beyond the Empty Cradle

Beyond the Empty Cradle

Our experienced family counsellors answer your questions on relationships, marriage and family.

Q: My husband and I have been married for five years during which we tried to get pregnant, but nothing worked for us. We went through a series of tests, consulted with medical experts and took all their recommendations, but still nothing. We prayed for children day and night, but we remain childless. We used to be so close to each other, we always shared our thoughts and feelings. Now the intimacy between us seems like it is fading. I don’t want to lose my husband also due to all this.

Both of you are probably experiencing many hidden losses resulting from being unable to have a child. Two significant losses that usually take place are, low self-esteem and a strained relationship with your spouse. Facing the despair of not becoming pregnant month after month can lead to an unhealthy relationship between you and your husband. Infertility treatment, under the anxiety of performance, can harm the strongest ego. It is tough to go from invasive treatment to making love with your husband.

Infertility not only increases our stress, but it can also become a constraint to sexuality. When it becomes crucial to have intercourse at specific times, recreation becomes just procreation. What was once intimate passion can become a technical task. Both of you are now at a crossroad: Should we stop treatment? What do we do next? If the treatment does not work well, you must choose between living without parenting and becoming parents through alternate means.

These are some of the toughest decisions you will ever make and you have to make them together. Do permit yourselves to grieve as there is always a loss in any decision you take. Despite all this, your lives, after all the treatments, can still be rewarding and fruitful. Think about what brought purpose to your lives before the infertility. Remember your early marriage days. What brought you together and what built up your love?

What are the qualities in both of you that strengthened your bond during treatment? How can these qualities bring a new dimension to your present and future relationship as a couple? Be responsible, disciplined, and creative in helping your marriage grow stronger.

Q: Ever since we got married, we’ve wanted to have children, and we rejoiced every time my wife got pregnant. For some reason her body rejected every pregnancy. We went through the pain of a miscarriage six times. Now we have accepted the reality that we will never be able to have our own child but we don’t know how to deal with our future. How should we talk about our childlessness with friends and relatives?

Home Shanti

Infertility can cause a lot of grief, and it is not abnormal to feel a profound sense of loss. You have the right to experience deep and unfulfilled yearning. Before you talk about your childlessness with others, recognize the need for privacy about the particular details of your individual problems. Most men may not like to share their shortcomings and many women may not be comfortable discussing things associated with their identity as a mother.

It is your responsibility to choose how much detail you and your spouse want to disclose. Once decided, determine how you are going to share it with others using specific words. Edit and re-edit. Rehearse it until both of you feel comfortable. Expressing our vulnerabilities and hurt to people takes a lot of courage. Make sure it is the right time when people are ready to listen and when you feel secure to show emotion.

Explain that infertility is a disease of the reproductive system, and that millions of couples around the world experience it. While one third of infertility can be attributed to male factors, and about one third can be attributed to female factors, one fifth of infertility is unexplained and the remaining is caused by a combination of problems in both partners. Finally, tell them directly what kind of support you are expecting: empathy, problem-solving, or affirmation.

In case you need a break from family gatherings, explain that it’s about using energy wisely. Make clear that you will share your family decisions only when both of you feel ready.