“Not to be too detailed, but I’ve had an ectopic pregnancy, miscarriages and I’ve had fertility treatments.
I’ve done all the stuff you can possibly do to try get pregnant.”
– Nicole Kidman, actress
Natalie sat in my office in tears. She had arrived composed, but full of an anxiety that was written all over her. She fidgeted in the chair, avoided eye contact, pushed back her hair several times and looked like she was ready to bolt from the room at any second.
When I asked her what was on her mind that would bring her to my office, the tears started flowing. Her eyes flooded and big drops started running down her cheeks. As she reached for a tissue, some of them fell onto the white sleeve of her top.
I gave her a few moments to regain her composure and said,
“Something very important is going on in your world. Are you ready to talk about it?”
Natalie looked about 25 years old. She had that plump look of too many soft couches and too few hard crunches. She was well dressed in business attire. I later learned she was a bookkeeper for a local business that sold furniture. She had been married for two years to Nathan, a self employed artisan, who made and sold customized metal decor.
When I asked her what brought her to see me, she replied,
“… strange rashes on my arms, skipping one of my periods…”
“What behaviour forms did it take, Natalie?”
“Oh! You wouldn’t believe it! Like sleepless nights, missing work, avoiding my friends, strange rashes on my arms, skipping one of my periods, and especially avoiding my husband!” she said with a worn out, discouraged look on her face.
Then, Natalie blew her nose, wiped her eyes again, and looked up at me.
She said, “I want kids so badly, and so does my partner…but, I’ve been to my doctor and I’m infertile…and I don’t know how to tell him!”
“How long have you known, Natalie?” I asked.
“Over a month now! And, I’m just panicking about it over and over again.”
“Why are you so concerned with how Nathan will respond to your situation?”
“It could be a fantasy or a nightmare.”
“Ken, Nathan’s an only child. He has four nieces and nephews whom he loves. He dolts over them on their birthdays and during the Christmas Holidays with gifts. He is forever talking about how he will treat our kids when we have them. It’s a really big deal for him. I don’t know if our relationship would survive if we can’t have children.”
“How have you been coping over the last month, Natalie?”
“I’ve been working later more often, and bringing work home to make it easier to avoid him, and to avoid telling him. And, he’s starting to notice, Ken. He knows there is something wrong, but whenever he approaches me I deny it or try to change the subject.” she replied.
“It sounds like you have been putting a lot of pressure on yourself about this…creating lots of anxiety and stress for yourself. Natalie, since our stress comes from our illusions about life, I’m wondering what illusion you carry around that needs to be resolved?”
“Do you mean I stress myself out because I have a fantasy in my head?” she asked.
“It could be a fantasy or a nightmare. Either one can create anxiety or stress. When you and Nathan got married, what were your dreams for your relationship?”
“I was thinking two or three children in our family and having these magical family holidays at the beach or on the ski slope.” she replied.
“People with fertility problems are not alone. It is a very very common problem for couples today. I’ve seen statistics that are just staggering.” – Michael Zaslow, actor
“What has that got to do with us having children?”
“So, I’m guessing the nightmare you are envisioning now is you being barren and you and Nathan being childless. Is that where your thinking is Natalie?”
“Yes, that’s fairly accurate. But, you need to add the disappointment in our families to that as well!” she said, her face and voice dropping simultaneously.
“But, what if they are only your fantasy and nightmare, and not Nathan’s?”
“Ken, we’ve been talking about this for a long time. Nathan wants children. And, he has been very emphatic about that for as long as I’ve known him!” she said emphatically.
“I understand that, Natalie. I’m just wondering where it fits in the hierarchy of his highest values…and you highest values? Do you know the order of your own highest values?” I asked.
“What has that got to do with us having children?” she asked, frustration emerging in her voice.
“… but, being with Natalie, is not!”
“Natalie, your past experiences have enabled you to develop a specific list of core values which determine (unconsciously) every behaviour you display. The same for Nathan! Do you know his core values?” I responded.
“I’ve never really thought too much about it. I just know he likes kids, his family, his work and…I think, me!” she replied with a doubtful tone to her voice.
“But, I guess you don’t know which are the most important to him?” I said.
“Yes, that’s really the part that scares me the most. And, I have been thinking about it over and over, from every angle I can imagine…and I still don’t know!”
“I suggest to you, knowing your own core values is much more important than knowing Nathan’s.”
“Why would you say that?” Natalie asked.
“Especially in your situation, Natalie!”
“While it is important to know your partner’s values for a healthy relationship, it is vital to know your own for a healthy future!” I said.
“Even in my situation?”
“Especially in your situation, Natalie! Remember being with Nathan is an option for you, but, being with Natalie, is not!” I replied.
“That’s an idea which never occurred to me.” she replied thoughtfully.
“So, once you know your own values you’ll know how to deal with your current challenge.” I added.
“So, you’re saying, if I know my own core values it will enable me to talk to Nathan about my infertility?” Nathalie said with an intonation of uncertainty to her voice.
“Let me be a Devil’s Advocate for a moment and ask you some questions? OK?”
“Do you think Nathan married you only to have children for him? Have you been assuming it is more important to him to have children than to have you? And, if either of those were true, would you want to spend your future with him?” I asked.
“Yuck…you’re an excellent Devil’s Advocate? Are you suggesting I’m not putting much importance on myself and my own worth?”
“What do you think, Natalie?”
“Unfortunately, with fertility, time is not your friend. People are waiting longer to get married and longer to have kids, and so many more people are experiencing fertility issues. But no one ever talks about it. Bill Rancic, businessman
“…everyone parents in some way…
“I guess I have always felt I was the underdog in our relationship and saw Nathan as the alpha male, over-dog. Maybe, I need to rethink that a bit!” she said, as if thinking out loud.
“That’s one of the advantages of knowing your core values. It enables you to know who and what is most important to you and so you can be more decisive in important situations. Do you want to do that, Natalie?”
“I sure do, Ken! Where do we start?” she asked.
Natalie was able to quickly identify her highest values. She then did some work with me on her distorted perception of herself and her self worth. As she completed that work raising her self esteem, she then had the self confidence to sit down with Nathan and discuss their situation. And, of course, her anxiety behaviours started dissipating as she progressed in her level of self awareness and self esteem.
Nathan was disappointed in her infertility, but more so in her not sharing it with him earlier. He reassured her of his love and commitment to her. This led them to a discussion of other ways to parent. Eventually, when they had exhausted all the medical options, they applied to adopt a child.
In the transition, they eventually became successful foster parents to a number of children. Then, they ended up adopting one of the foster children, an eight year old, who had been living with them, as their own.
The last time I spoke with them, at one point in our discussion, Natalie said, “I’ve learned everyone parents in some way, and there are so many ways to do it, and so many kids who need it. Now, we have lots of ways to be a mom and a dad.”
“Yoga reduced my stress and bodily tension. It allowed me to bring my body back into balance, to emerge from my fertility struggle with my sense of self esteem and self worth intact, and to forge a stronger bond with my husband.”
– Brenda Strong, actress
Until Next time…
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