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EXCERPT: The Fear Factor

Navigating the LAND of IF: Understanding Your Infertility and Exploring Your Options (Seal Press 2009)

Chapter 12: Pack Your Bags: Achieving Pregnancy

by Melissa Ford

Almost everyone has fears that they’ll lose the pregnancy. But there are other layers of fears you may be dealing with, including wondering if you’re actually ready for pregnancy or parenting (yes, even people who have been trying nonstop for years can feel this when they’re actually in the moment). If you used donor gametes, you may have a whole host of additional concerns you thought you were ready to face, such whom your child will resemble. If you used surrogacy, you will be terrified you won’t be able to handle your jealously of the surrogate.

It would probably be impossible to put together an exhaustive list of all kinds if fears one may feel during this time. So let’s just move on to how to cope with these powerful and influential emotions.

Step 1: Face Your Fears

Fear isn’t one of those things you can talk yourself out of feeling, despite what well-intentioned self-help people would like you to think. The fact is that you have little control over this bumpy ride. You are going to feel fear, so accept it. Write out long lists of your fears, catalog them and stare at them. Take them out if your head and place them on paper – they will still exist in your head, but looking at them with your eyes, instead of just with your brain, can help reduce feelings of being overwhelmed and will help with the next step.

Step 2: Put Your Fears in Perspective

Fears have a funny way of morphing from “rational” to “irrational.”
For instance, it is rational to have a sobering moment every time you get behind the wheel of a car, to consider that accidents happen and to remember that you need to drive carefully. But it is irrational to start weeping every time you get behind the wheel (only after checking your last will and testament, of course) and driving ten miles an hour with a large sign taped to your car, begging other motorists to SLOW DOWN, OR WE’LL ALL GET KILLED!

No one wants to have their life stilted by irrational fears, but fears won’t go away without hard work and introspection. The way you’re going to overcome these temporary fears (yes, temporary – because the longest you could possibly be dealing with these fears is nine months, when they’ll be replaced by new fears . . .) is by communicating with your doctor, becoming informed enough to advocate for yourself, and engaging in self-decompression – in the form of therapy, writing, mediation or enormous containers of ice cream.

Step 3: Embrace Your Fears

Your rational fears are a big part of the natural instincts that kick in to prepare you for the task of parenthood. Instead of fighting them, or thinking your fears will make you a terrible parent, consider the idea that what you are doing unconsciously is thinking through all the problems that can arise with new parenthood and troubleshooting before they get out of hand.

Fear, when faced and put in perspective, is a good thing.
Take the driving example mentioned in step two. Some of the most dangerous drivers on the road are the 16-year olds who’ve just gotten their license. But it’s not just because they are inexperienced. It’s because they are fearless and don’t believe they could ever be in an accident.

In the same way, a healthy amount of rational fear is key to good parenting. Oftentimes, parents who think they know everything and have the whole situation totally under control are the ones who are messing things up left and right. But the ones who have a solid appreciation for the enormity of the task? Those are the ones who end up doing just fine in the end.