First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes baby in the baby carraige,goes the old rhyme. But what if your own body defeats your best intentions? The psychological fallout from infertility lasts longer and causes more pain than most people think, claim two social workers, and even the ultimate arrival of children may not heal the pain.
Lara Deveraux and Ann Jackoway Hammerman, authors of the new book Infertility and Identity (Jossey-Bass), find that clients with fertility problems come i!them with one of two attitudes toward condition: either coolly dethey are or utterly awash in grief. Initially led by these reactions, the counselors soon realized that there are two different states of coping: couples try at first to their feelings about infertility then experience a rush of intense emotion.
They try to stay detached because society tells them they should just get over it. "Many people don't realize what a huge loss infertility is," Deveraux observes. "Having a child is something that people expect they're going to be able to do. When that's taken away, they experience a terrible loss of control."
Though people with fertility problems may seem to adjust, later events-a parent's death, a niece or nephew's birth--can revive the pain. Even having children may be no panacea. "Adoption resolves childlessness, not infertility," explains Deveraux. "People still struggle with the inability to bear biological children." And for those who do conceive, "it may have been so hard to do so that they're still afraid of losing the child."
The best--and perhaps only--way to cope with infertility, advise the therapists, is to integrate it into your idea of yourself. "You need to make infertility a part of who you are," says Deveraux, "not what defines you."
PHOTO (COLOR): A woman going through the baby blues.