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A new book takes a closer look at how couples cope with infertility. Author Constance Shapiro says that the inability to give birth to a child will always be a piece of a person’s identity, but infertility survivors should not let their infertility define or consume them. “I make the case that a couple should thoughtfully and selectively share information because the fallout from infertility is too heavy a burden for a couple to carry alone forever.”

ILLINOIS U. (US)—As friends, siblings, and coworkers effortlessly become pregnant and deliver babies that become the center of their lives and conversations, an infertile woman—and her partner—can often feel defeated and alone.

“I’ve worked with hundreds of people who have been diagnosed with infertility, and my book uses the well-disguised voices of my clients as they talk about their challenges and coping strategies,” says Constance Shapiro, professor of family studies and social work at the University of Illinois and author of the new book When You’re Not Expecting.

“One of the things a couple has to decide is how much and with whom they’re going to share this personal information. How much of their emotional struggle will they expose to the view of coworkers, supervisors, and their parents who long to experience the joys of being grandparents?” she says.

“I make the case that a couple should thoughtfully and selectively share information because the fallout from infertility is too heavy a burden for a couple to carry alone forever. They may be tightly locked in support of one another but still have very different ways of looking at the issue.

“It’s not unheard of for the infertile partner to offer to let the fertile partner out of the marriage so that person can have children with someone else,” she adds.

For many couples, infertility treatment ends successfully, but the experience is never forgotten.

Shapiro says that the inability to give birth to a child will always be a piece of a person’s identity, but infertility survivors should not let their infertility define or consume them.

Hobbies, caring relationships, work, volunteer activities, and travel can add balance as individuals and couples seek new ways to find meaning and purpose in their lives.

While some will find resolution in adoption, surrogacy, or the choice to live without children. They will still need to complete the anticipatory mourning they have probably been doing for some time.

“It’s a lifetime loss,” she notes. “In our culture, people meeting a new couple for the first time are likely to begin a conversation with ‘Do you have any children?'”

University of Illinois news: www.aces.uiuc.edu/news/