Infertility Man – The Seven Mindsets of Infertility

Eloise Edington  |   15 Dec 2020

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Jon and Laura are a couple based in Melbourne who have been trying to conceive for three years. Jon has azoospermia (lack of sperm), following a testicular cancer diagnosis ten years ago. They have done fifteen IVF cycles and two microTESE sperm retrieval surgeries, in their quest to have a family. They encourage people faced with the huge challenge of infertility to find humour, by building resilience through their YouTube channel and social media presence, as Infertility Man and the IVF Warrior. Here is their take on Infertility and the different mindsets people can experience.

Over to Infertility Man

www.infertilityman.com | @infertilityman | JonandLaura

Many of us are familiar with the seven stages of grief, especially if we have experienced the loss of a loved one or some other significantly bad trauma. Identifying the different stages of grief and knowing what to expect during each one can help you understand the emotional changes that occur following a loss and can help you learn to cope. It can also help those around you understand how to support you.

But how does this relate to infertility? Certainly grief can be part of the infertility experience, however applying this same idea to the stages people may go through while trying to conceive provides an interesting framework to help us understand ourselves and others going through this challenging experience. When an individual is trying to have a baby, they may find themselves moving through these mindsets. When they are in one of these mindsets they are not able to see from another perspective because they have to go through the experiences related to that mindset before they can move to a different one.

Related Article – IVF Blog: The Things No One Told Us About Infertility

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So What are the Seven Mindsets of Infertility?

To be clear, people may not go through these stages in any particular order and there is no hierarchy to these mindsets. Their experience will be unique, depending on their diagnosis and experience. This is simply a list that describes the mindsets a person might go through while trying to conceive. Here it is:

  1. Being able to conceive naturally

  2. Being able to conceive with fertility treatment using your own eggs and sperm

  3. Coming to terms with using donor eggs, sperm or embryos

  4. Being able to carry a pregnancy to term

  5. Coming to terms with using a surrogate or gestational carrier

  6. Exploring other parenting options, such as adoption, fostering etc.

  7. Coming to terms with being childless

This can explain why people struggling with infertility get so offended and upset when people say things like: “Why don’t you just adopt?” or “Just relax and it will happen!”

The reason is because they are not in the correct mindset to receive that advice. Suggesting that they just relax and it will happen is only relevant in Mindset 1 and fertility advice about adopting is only relevant to those in Mindset 6. Of course the best option for people is to provide no fertility advice at all. Advice-giving is insensitive and shows a lack of understanding of what would actually help someone in one of these Infertility Mindsets.

Related Article – Trying to Conceive Sucks: A Man’s Perspective by Mosie Baby


Examples of Scenarios and What To Do

If you are struggling with the things people say, then understanding which mindset you are in can help you to understand your negative response to unsolicited advice. It can help you to support someone you care about – if you take the time to figure out and to understand which mindset they are in, it can help you tailor your response to them.

Example 1 – If a couple is undergoing fertility treatment and trying everything they can to conceive with their own eggs and sperm (Mindset 2) it is not an appropriate time to offer to donate embryos to them. Even though the offer comes from a kind place, it disregards the mindset that they are in. Understanding these mindsets is also important within a couple. What happens when you and your partner are not in the same mindset? Unfortunately, this is something that occurs frequently in infertile couples.

Example 2 – When one partner wants to move on to fertility treatment (Mindset 2) while the other partner is in denial about their ability to conceive and is still in Mindset 1.  Understanding that your partner is in a different state of mind to you can help you understand their perspective and their inability to take action. It can help you to approach them in a more compassionate way, especially if you don’t make them wrong for being in their mindset, just as you are not wrong for being in yours.

Example 3 – After years of fertility treatment, one partner is ready to move on to Mindset 6 or 7, while the other partner can’t move beyond their hope of carrying a pregnancy to term. Acknowledging that you are both seeing your situation from an entirely different perspective can help you to be sensitive and understanding about where you partner is coming from.

Related Article – Infertility Counselling: Navigating Infertility with a Partner who is Different from You


How Will You Know Which Mindset Someone is in?

The best way is to ask questions and listen closely to understand their answers. Here are some questions that may help determine someone’s mindset:

  • What do you think is the best course of action for you right now?

  • What do you think is the best next step for you?

  • What do you think you would like to try now?

You can also reflect on these following questions for yourself:

  • Which mindset are you in?

  • Which mindset is your partner in?

  • Which mindset are the people you care about in?

  • How can you respond more kindly and with more empathy, especially if someone you love is not in the same mindset as you?

  • Which stage do you need to be at, in response to your diagnosis and situation, in order to move forward with living a happy and healthy life? What steps do you need to take to get there?

Related Article – Parenting After Infertility: Do We Ever Truly Move on from Fertility Trauma?

Hopefully this fertility blog has provided you with a deeper insight into the different mindsets people can have when going through infertility and how best to approach these situations should they arise.

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