Friday, March 18, 2011

Infertility and Marriage

This is a post I wrote a while ago and I've held on to, not ready to put this out there for all to see. You see, I've never written about how the infertility affected my marriage. That ever important relationship between my husband and me. I've not done this for several reasons. First, I probably didn't even want to admit some of it to myself. Then of course I didn't want to make hubby feel uncomfortable. Also, though, there was the whole not wanting to "look bad" to other people. I mean, I'm a social worker. That means my job is to support people in having their own healthy relationships. And, geez, doesn't that mean I should be the model thereof, because if I'm not, then how can I be credible to anyone else. Obviously I completely realize that that standard is not in the least realistic, but it's where my insecurity lies.

Infertility is ugly, for so many reasons. I'm sure for some couples it's this horrible thing that wonderfully seems to bring them closer. That's not what it did for my marriage. I'm not saying that we were ever on the brink of divorce or anything like that, but it certainly permanently altered our relationship in a multitude of ways.

First, (cover your eyes relatives) it meant that the goal of sex was no longer pure fun and connection. It became all about conception with all the ridiculous things you do when you're desperate to get pregnant - certain positions, laying with your legs above your head afterwards, doing it on a very regimented schedule, regardless of whether you were "in the mood" or in the middle of a fight. You do it when the little test says it's time. Your life revolves around ovulation, not attraction. Sex becomes, sadly, a chore, not a way to connect. An obligation, not a way to tell your spouse you love him.

Second, it's something that's with you all the time. Well, for women it is. I think men are able to distance themselves much more of the time. But for women, at least for me, it was there in my head all the time. What was that?  What does that little twinge mean? My boobs are really sore.  Does that mean...?? It's constant. And it's not that you're trying to put energy to focusing on it, really, you'd rather not have to think about it at all, but it's there, pervasive, not willing to give you a break. And when you're thinking about that one thing, all the time, it's hard to focus on anything else, you know, like your spouse.

Then there's the whole part of wondering, for lack of a better/nicer way to put it, "who's fault is it?". I mean, am I the one who's keeping us from getting pregnant, or is it him? And which would I rather it be? Do I want to carry the guilt of it being *my* fault, or do I want to have to deal with being unfairly angry at him? There's no good answer there, and yet it still manages to require a lot of thought (even though I'd rather not have had it running through my head, still it was there). So I vacillated back and forth between thinking it was my fault, thus being ashamed and avoiding hubby because surely I hurt him by being incompetent, and thinking it was his fault and being angry with him.

Also, there's all the "WHY???!!!" questions - why aren't we getting pregnant?  Why is everyone else getting pregnant, but not us? Why aren't we good enough? Why, why, why... There are no answers to any of them, or at least none that I have now. Also, it's like beating a dead horse. And men tend to not enjoy that. They want to fix things then move on and there simply was no fix to this. So, I'd rant and rail, just needing to get some of it out, and he'd then retreat because he couldn't fix it and simply didn't know what to do or say. After a time, I quit talking about it at all because I could tell it was hurting him, too. I started internalizing, trying to protect him, but ending up pissed off that I was having to deal with it by myself.

Surprisingly, the start of our healing came when we started talking to other couples who were also experiencing infertility. Though we had come to not be able to talk to each other about what we were experiencing, we were able to share our experiences and emotions with other couples. Often the first time I'd hear how something had affected hubby (or visa versa) was when he said it to another man who wanted to be a dad.

Though we've made progress, we're not back to where we were before we discovered the infertility. I don't think we'll ever be back there, and that's okay because life isn't about going backwards anyway. But I do kinda miss some of who we were then. We were naive in a lot of ways and much more carefree, just assuming things would come to us. We were so young when we got married (barely 22 and 23).We didn't know how hard life could be, how hard marriage could be. Some of those changes just come with time anyway.  But I think the infertility stole what should have still been our honeymoon years.

On the plus side, I think the infertility taught us that we can weather the hard parts of life and marriage together. Even if we're not completely in sync in the midst of hardship, we'll still both be there on the other side of the storm. And if one of us emerges from it before the other, s/he will patiently (what?! I can be patient...sometimes) wait for the other to arrive.

Today's lesson - Sometimes I think we don't talk about the hard parts of life, the ugly parts, the parts about which we're embarrassed or ashamed. I think we avoid those things we find most difficult because we don't want others to know, or we don't even want to admit those things to ourselves. I think we assume others won't understand, that they haven't had hard times themselves. I think we avoid them because we don't want others to judge us. And, I think we do each other a disservice by pretending those parts don't exist.

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