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Parenthood After Fertility Struggles: My Experience With Anxiety & What Our Family Learned

parenting after fertility struggles

Like many couples, my husband Jeff and I always knew we wanted to be parents, but had no idea just how difficult the journey would be. And while it was a long road to get to where we are today, I can proudly say we have a happy and very healthy 13-month-old named Amelia, who brings more joy to our world than we ever thought possible.

While our fertility journey was hard (one miscarriage, one chemical pregnancy, one failed IUI and one traumatic late-term pregnancy loss defined our fertility path), I’d be lying if I said the transition to parenthood has been easy.

For the three years prior to Amelia’s birth, we focused solely on getting pregnant and keeping pregnancies. Sure, we read books and enrolled in classes, but we didn’t worry about what happened when our baby actually got here.

We didn’t worry that my type-A, anxiety-prone personality would need some time to adjust to our new life, or how anxious we might be when she didn’t drink her bottles, breastfeed, nap, or poop at the right times. None of that mattered because we dreamt of a healthy baby. In hindsight, I wouldn’t change our mentality, but I am here to share what it was like for the first few months postpartum after wanting something so badly it hurt, getting it and then welcoming in our new life. Of course, we still don’t have things all figured out (and probably never will!), but here’s what we’ve learned so far:

  • Asking for help is normal—and necessary. We are extremely lucky to have supportive friends and family. My water broke at 31 weeks and we had an unexpected 3-week hospital bedrest stay plus a 2-week NICU stay, so it’s no surprise we had to lean on our loved ones—a LOT.  We also learned to let other people do things when they were around: diaper changes, bottles, cooking, laundry and cleaning—all of it.
  • And leaning on the pros is, too. Jeff and I hadn’t been around babies in a long time, so we learned we needed to ask questions and do our own research when we weren’t sure about something. We left numerous messages on the nurses’ line, called my mom daily and I had many chats with my mommy friends. While we ultimately did what we felt was best, leaning on others for info helped us weigh our options, so we could make our own informed decisions.
  • Therapy is amazing. Four months postpartum, we realized it was time for me to see a therapist. I was having a hard time releasing control of our schedule and I was worrying over the tiniest details—and, by the end of the day, my temper was shot. I chose a psychotherapist who shared the same values as me, and it has been one of the best decisions we’ve made as a couple.

What have I learned so far? That I’m doing a good job and I’m a super mom—no matter what. I’ve learned to let schedule blips roll off my back, and I’ve learned that sometimes you have to pivot when things don’t go exactly like you want them to. I’ve also learned that it’s okay to feel stressed and anxious, even though it’s the life you’ve always dreamed of. Being a parent is hard work, and feeling confident as a new mom or parent takes time.  

  • Dealing with past grief and trauma is important. Another big part of my therapy journey has been digging into how our difficult fertility journey has shaped our life. I’ve learned that much of my desire to control what’s happening stems from all the times I wasn’t in control while trying to become pregnant—and that I worry a lot because we spent years worrying over things.

While we’ll never forget the past, we now focus on the things we learned from those experiences and how we can enjoy the present, which is the life we’ve always dreamed of.

  • Taking time for ourselves is crucial. In those early days, Jeff and I learned rather quickly we had to set aside time each day to take care of ourselves. For me, that meant napping while Jeff watched the monitor, going to acupuncture, or walking around the block. Even now, we have non-negotiable times set aside for things like solo workouts and outings. We’ve learned that by taking care of ourselves, we have more to give to our family.

Olivia DeLong is a writer, editor, and content strategist with over a decade of experience crafting health and lifestyle content. Her own fertility experiences paired with many years of researching and writing about women’s health topics has led her to believe that now, more than ever, we need to be our own health advocates. She strives to share real, accurate information with the world so that we can all learn more about the health issues that affect us each and every day.

She lives with her husband Jeff, daughter Amelia and dog McCoy in Atlanta, Georgia. When she’s not sharing health content online, she enjoys long walks with her family, dancing in the kitchen with her daughter (while drinking a good glass of wine!), at-home workouts and podcasts…lots of podcasts.