- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 1, 2001

Laurie Granger skipped many parties, especially baby showers, during the three years she was trying to get pregnant.

"I avoided a lot of stuff," says Mrs. Granger, of Arlington. "My husband, Matt, and I just curled up in our own shell."

Mrs. Granger eventually underwent successful in-vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment that resulted in the birth of her son, William, last summer. However, she says the emotions of the situation made for "a hellish few years."

Despite the stress, Mrs. Granger says her husband was very supportive.

"Having a baby has actually been harder on our relationship," she says.

The Grangers are lucky. The mixture of shock, denial, guilt, anger, loss of control and isolation can be tough for many couples, says Sharon Covington, a licensed clinical social worker who counsels couples in infertility treatment at Shady Grove Adventist Medical Center.

"Infertility can drain the intimacy from your marriage and deplete emotional resources," she says. "It is critically important to make special efforts to put positive energy back into your relationship."

Mrs. Covington says couples should take an emotional break from the demands of infertility treatment.

"Plan play time," she says. "Have regular dates where you can have fun and take a break."

Other advice from Mrs. Covington:

• Separate baby-making from lovemaking.

"Infertility can put a strain on your sexual relationship, making what was once fun now a tedious job," she says.

• Build a support system.

Infertility can be an isolating experience that often puts pressure on a couple to provide all the emotional support for each other.

Some couples have found counseling helpful. Others have found supportive friends, both from previous circles of friends and organized support groups such as Resolve, a national infertility advocacy and support network.

"Infertility really does affect every aspect of your life," says Erin Kramer, president of Resolve of Metropolitan Washington. "It is important that people know they aren't alone."

• Communicate. Some couples find that infertility becomes the focus of their conversations. It may be necessary to put limits on the time you talk about the situation so it does not consume all your conversation, Mrs. Covington says.

Sharing feelings about the situation also can help infertile couples gain perspective and avoid conflict.

"I've learned so much about infertility the last few years," says Bill Newsom of Fairfax. Mr. Newsom, 54, and his wife, Lydia, 40, have been through several cycles if intrauterine insemination and in-vitro fertilization.

Even though Mr. Newsom is a father of two and grandfather of two, he says the experience has been as emotional for him as it has for his wife.

"Sometimes I think she feels my heart is not in this because I already have kids," Mr. Newsom says. "That is totally not true. My concern is for her. She wants it so badly."

• Seek help before problems get too big.

If you find you are at an impasse or your usual coping strategies are not working, counseling may help. Resolve, along with most fertility clinics, can refer patients to counselors and psychologists experienced in infertility.

• Maintain your sense of humor.

Laughter is good for you. No matter how stressful things get, try and find some humor in the situation.


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