Family planning is exciting and invigorating in that you consolidate your past, assess your present, create a dream for the future and put it into action. However, family planning can also be scary and overwhelming as you face a fork in the road of life with several possible paths. The question of which path is the future that you envision for your family is tough to answer, and as the future is not entirely in your hands, it can be overwhelming to bear the responsibility of deciding where your family’s future happiness lies.
Family planning can be influenced by emotional, economic, religious, cultural, societal and personality factors. For some couples or single moms who decide to have children, the emotional readiness to take on a parenting role is naturally developed, while for others, it may take more mental and emotional effort to see themselves with a family. Other things often considered when family planning include:
- Your current financial state
- Your career goals
- Your moral and/or religious beliefs about family dynamic and having children
- Positive or negative associations you have with your own childhood and life experiences
Whichever factors influence your ultimate decision to have children and, if so, how many, the process of planning your family’s future can often be anxiety provoking, stressful, and unsettling as you throw yourself into a sea of doubt and hope for the best.
Throughout the process of family planning, there are several emotional and mental barriers for which to be on the lookout:
- For some women, family planning involves a degree of sacrifice if the type of family they have always envisioned is not consistent with the type of family they can realistically handle financially or emotionally. Additionally, if the ideal family looks different to one partner than it does to the other, it can be challenging to navigate these clashing ideals while maintaining love and respect for one another.
- For other women, having children is not a priority at all; they feel excited about a long and happy life spent with their partners, but feel subject to negative societal stigma or cultural shame or isolation.
- Single moms can face slightly different challenges as they lack the built-in support of a partner and may struggle to find it in themselves or their communities.
Should a married or single woman become pregnant unexpectedly, all of the challenges of family planning discussed above can feel magnified. These women may experience various degrees of anxiety as they contemplate their options. Without a supportive environment and self-compassion, the host of emotions that may be experienced may begin to interfere with daily functioning. Furthermore, the decisions made at this time can have a significant impact on women now and in the future, and we are prepared to offer support throughout the various stages of this process.
Deciding to try to conceive a child can be exhilarating and incredibly moving. But when things don’t work out as planned and you have troubles with fertility, it can leave you feeling confused, worried, scared and unsure of yourself, your future, and sometimes, even your relationship.
According to the CDC, 10% of women in the US have trouble getting or staying pregnant. There is a wide range of emotions that may come with infertility that can be quite difficult to navigate. Some women who struggle to conceive feel a great sense of inadequacy or guilt for not being able to perform the primary female task of child bearing and fulfilling their maternal roles. In cases of male factor infertility, women may feel blame or resentment toward their male partners even though their partners are likely to be feeling guilt and shame themselves.
Should a couple decide to engage in the sometimes long, exhausting and incredibly expensive fertility treatment process, it can be challenging to remain emotionally and mentally sound. In addition, infertility treatments often involve hormones and medications with harsh side effects (some of which may be experienced even without such medications), such as depression, anxiety, and others that can really put a strain on you and/or your relationship. During this rocky time, couples may also feel socially isolated and unsupported since sometimes, matters of fertility and even pregnancy are kept private until a certain point.
Adoption or Surrogacy
Couples working to fulfill their dreams of starting or growing their families may consider adoption or surrogacy. Whatever circumstances lead to couples making the decision to pursue this route, having children that are not biologically their own can be both rewarding and challenging. It can be difficult to accept if your vision is altered or that your children’s lives may not be as simple as they grow older and begin to question where they came from. You may even struggle to connect to a baby that was carried and nourished in a womb outside your own. Whatever difficult emotions may come, it’s important to practice self-compassion and find support as you persist in building your family.
Miscarriage or Stillbirth
If you’ve suffered the tragedy of a miscarriage or stillbirth, you may understandably, feel disappointed, hopeless, or fearful of the associated implications. Nothing can prepare you for the news that your pregnancy is no longer viable, and this painful reality can be more shocking still if your miscarriage occurred after the 20th week, as you’ve watched your belly grow and felt your baby kick inside, even possibly spread the news that you were expecting to family and friends. Some women must endure the heartbreaking experience of delivering a stillborn baby with the knowledge that this birth will mark the beginning of a journey that looks significantly different than the one they originally envisioned. A network of support and validation of the right to mourn these losses will be a crucial component of the healing process.
The experience of recurrent miscarriage may make some women feel as though it is impossible that they will ever have a child. With each miscarriage or failed attempt to become the mother they so badly want to be, they may grow increasingly less hopeful. Especially for older moms, the pressure they feel to become pregnant may be worsened by the sensation that their biological clock is ticking. The renewed depression, anxiety, stress, self-blame and guilt associated with each disappointment only compounds upon the last, which can create a great need for support, understanding, warmth, and compassion from partners, family, friends or a therapist trained to help.
Grieving and Healing At Your Own Pace
Whether you have experienced an early miscarriage (occurs during the first trimester), late miscarriage or a stillbirth, it is important to remember that loss is loss and the feelings that accompany your experience are 100% valid and encouraged as part of the healing process.As with most loss, grieving and healing will be an extremely difficult journey and will likely take time, but it is crucial to accept and allow for the emotions you feel to be felt. There is no correct timeline for grief, healing, or recovery from the loss of a child you never got the chance to meet. The pressure you may feel to try again after losing a baby is great, and the courage it takes to do so is greater, but whenever feels physically and emotionally right for you is the right time. Seeking support from a trained professional, family, or your partner can be an incredibly important component of the process that can also help you feel less alone.
The Journey is Yours
Regardless of the specific circumstances of your family planning journey and the complications, grief and/or loss along the way, your emotional well-being is at stake, and the endurance required to navigate through your unique situation should not be underestimated.
Firstly, the process of becoming or trying to become a parent will challenge your identity in ways you never could have expected. You will likely make sacrifices, whether it be of your time, money, or mental, physical and emotional energy, and you may become worn out, and/or lose the motivation and excitement you once had. When things don’t go as planned you may feel depressed, numb, stressed, or resentful toward friends with children. You may feel anger or blame toward yourself, your body, your partner, or just plain life, for throwing you curveballs you just weren’t ready to catch. But the most important thing to remember is that you decide what you need and when, and the people who comprise your support system can follow your lead.
How do I know if my emotions are normal given my experiences or if I should be concerned about my mental and emotional health?
If your experiences with family planning have been overwhelmingly negative emotionally, physically, or mentally to the point where it interferes with your daily life or ability to care for and nourish yourself or children you already have, it may be time to seek professional help. At Long Island Psychology, we work to:
- Provide a compassionate, understanding, non-judgmental environment where you can clearly assess your family planning goals (with or without your partner) as well as your anxieties and reservations
- Lend support and guidance throughout your grieving process if you experienced miscarriage or stillbirth, as well as brainstorm other ways for you to get the support you need in your family and community
- Create an empowering space where you can analyze, understand and come to accept your experiences as painful realities that happened to you as opposed to things you were somehow responsible or guilty for
- Identify other factors that may be interfering with your mental health in order to be better able to cope with the stress and anxiety brought about by your circumstances
- Assist you in paving paths of communication between you and your partner so you can ask for what you need and be a stronghold for one another as you continue to go through your challenging journey toward building a family
To learn more or to speak with one of our psychologists today, call 516-274-7876 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about our Garden City and Rockville Centre, NY locations, please visit our contact us page.