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Family Planning: Dreams and Realities

How to talk about your plans, and stay loose with what comes.

Key points

  • During family planning, preparing a "Plan B" and "Plan C" can help if your first choice (Plan A) doesn’t happen.
  • Infertility is one of many common conditions that can be othering. Talking to a doctor about infertility can reduce stigma and secure treatment.
  • Families come in all shapes and sizes. There is no wrong way to make a family.
Pixource/Pixabay
Woman at crossroads
Source: Pixource/Pixabay

There are few things that create greater expectations than the idea of starting a family. When we think of having or adopting a child for the first time, we all have our own set of expectations of what that will look like for our partners and ourselves. We tend to default to a perfectly smooth process, with a happy and healthy baby and couple at the end of the journey. While this can and most likely will happen for many, there are grittier realities that we must consider and talk about with our partners before we get started.

Make a Plan A, B, and C

It’s not fun and may make someone feel like a wet blanket to consider and envision the “What could go wrong?" scenarios, and that is not the aim of this article. Rather, the goal of having the conversation about the “what if’s” is not to sow fear, but to approach a life-changing event with caution and mental preparedness so that in the event that things do stray from plan A, there is a plan B or plan C waiting in the wings.

For couples whose plan A is to have a child biologically, once you get on the same page that this is the avenue you would like to go down, it is not a bad idea to start the doctor appointments early.

At the end of the day, pregnancy is a medical process and medical knowledge and preparation can only better prepare you for a positive outcome. For couples attempting to have a child biologically, consider going to your OB-GYN when you plan to start trying to get an initial checkup. Most OB-GYNs offer pre-conception counseling and fertility evaluations to couples just getting started to make sure everything is set up for conception.

This is an easy, quick, and painless way to get things started on the right footing.

Why You Should Talk About Timelines

Another thing to discuss with your partner is timelines. Hopefully, you and your partner have already discussed timelines on when to try for a child, but the discussions do not need to end there. Talk with each other about how long you and your partner plan to actively try before seeking fertility help. Getting on the same page about this now will prevent fights in the future when emotions will already be running high.

Infertility and Other Factors

Ask your doctor about fertility and infertility. Infertility (defined as being unable to get pregnant after one year of trying) affects about 6 percent of married women aged 15 to 44 years in the United States. Additionally, 12 percent of women in that same age group have difficulty getting pregnant and carrying the pregnancy to term.

Sadly, these topics are still taboo and not often discussed as normal occurrences for many women. The concept of infertility is still very “othering” for women who experience it, in large part because the media doesn’t normalize it as it should; instead, most media normalizes un-aided pregnancy as normal, leaving many women feeling left out and insecure.

But not only is infertility, miscarriage, and child loss common, but one of the leading causes of it, PCOS, isn’t usually discovered in women until they are trying to conceive and have difficulty conceiving. PCOS, a condition that can lead to fertility issues affects between 6 to 12 percent of women.

For comparison, Toyota cars currently make up around 13 percent of the U.S. car market. The vast majority of people know, see, or own a Toyota. They are far from a niche or an exception in the automotive industry. PCOS is the Toyota of fertility issues and deserves more attention and awareness as an issue that many women face.

Car talk aside—because this is a reality for many many women, in your own relationship, have the conversation with your partner about what your plan would be if you do want children biologically and need help making that happen.

Research Your Options

Set times, and dates, and plans. Do research. What options would you be willing to try? What options would you not be willing to try? Research different areas of family planning such as IVF, IUI, fostering, adoption, surrogacy, etc. (This is another reason that it’s important to talk to your doctor early!)

One couple that had their first child through IVF stated that they wished they had done a workup right at the beginning. They had tried for two years without success, and only then did they go to the doctor, and only then did they find out that IVF would be their best chance at conceiving. Now they are proponents of early screening and fertility checks at the beginning of the journey of trying to have children.

If biological children are not in your family’s plan, then discuss and research your options of fostering, adopting, or surrogacy. What do you and your partner feel comfortable with? What roles do each of you want to take in that process? What are your budgets and timelines?

Remember: You Are Not Alone

If you and your partner run into difficulties in getting pregnant or having a child, there will absolutely be disappointment. No one who plans wants to see that plan changed. Yet if you and your partner have established a framework of how to talk about that disappointment and how to process and feel those feelings while staying actively engaged in your journey, then in the disappointment there will also be sober-mindedness to help to cushion what may be a painful fall.

Ultimately, families come in all shapes and sizes—and just as there is nothing wrong with having a vision of what your ideal family plan will be, there is nothing wrong with finding joy in another outcome. Your family is your family, and the love that will grow in that family is nothing less just because it doesn’t look like someone else’s.

References

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021). Infertility FAQs. CDC.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/infertility/index.htm#:~:text=Ye….

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2021). PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome) and Diabetes. CDC.gov. https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/basics/pcos.html

Cox Automotive. (2021). Cox Automotive Analysis: Toyota Quarterly U.S. Market Performance. https://www.coxautoinc.com/market-insights/cox-automotive-analysis-toyo…

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