Wonderful, rich husband. A mansion on a couple acres of land. A dog or two. A couple of beautiful curly haired, blue eyed kids running around. The white picket fence dream.
I found the wonderful husband. I’ve got a really nice house. My puppies are incredible, even if they are a little strange. But this is the point where my childish dream and reality part ways.
The truth is I have nothing to complain about. I work really hard and have a very good life full of nice things and great people. Obviously, infertility continues to be an issue for us, and we haven’t yet started our family. But we will. So how have we gotten to this point without splitting up?
Before I get into that, there’s a misconception I want to clear up. A marriage doesn’t survive infertility, because infertility is never truly resolved. A marriage continues to cope with infertility indefinitely. Even once we have a child, infertility will always be with us. It won’t be as prevalent as it is now, but it will always be there.
So how do we do it? We never stop communicating. We don’t let “nothing” be the answer to “what’s wrong?”. It’s cliche, but we never go to bed angry, even if it means staying up until 3am talking it through. We accept that fighting is part of a relationship, so we try to fight fair and make up quickly. Here are my suggestions for making it through in one piece.
Get on the same page
We weren’t always there. In fact we started out with very different ideas of what it meant to go to a specialist. Once we were at the specialist, it was hard to come to terms with all the testing they wanted to do. After all, no one wants to be “the problem”. However, dropping any assumptions and preconceived notions helped us at every stage.
Talk it through
We actually didn’t agree on treatment right away. I wanted only IUI and wasn’t willing to budge. Brandon didn’t see a difference between IUI and IVF. It took me over a month to come to terms with the potential for IVF, which was good, because we had to start that early in our treatment. But I didn’t get there by waiting it out. I talked to Brandon, and anyone who would listen. I had to come to the conclusion I was ok with IVF on my own.
Talk to a therapist
Therapists aren’t for wimps. They are for people who don’t want to waste time banging their heads against a wall, anxious and frustrated by a daunting problem. Therapists are for people who know they don’t have all the answers but actively want to be part of their own solutions. If you are going through fertility treatment, you probably could use a therapist who knows what you’re dealing with. Don’t wait to talk to someone who can provide you with insight and coping strategies.
Respect each others’ limits
There are a lot of options available in the fertility treatment spectrum. And not all couples agree on where their limits are. At the end of the day, you both have to live with the choices you make, so you have to find a way to agree on what treatment you will try and where you draw the line. Brandon and I were lucky that we got to the same place eventually. But even though we’ve agreed on our treatment, that doesn’t mean we don’t still struggle with it. Talk to a professional (see previous paragraph).
Forgive yourself for skipping family functions, baby showers and birthday parties. Forgive yourself for feeling sad, angry and jealous. The world is full of horrible people, things and experiences. You need to be kind to yourself through your infertility journey. I had a really good therapist tell me it was OK to feel sad and hurt and that I didn’t need to try and cheer up or put on a happy face. By dealing with those feelings head on instead of covering them up, it took less time to resolve them.
Accept your new normal
You will never in a million years hear me or my husband say we like infertility. We’ll never say we’re glad we are going through this. But we are going through it, and the longer we fight it, the less productive we’ll be. Infertility is part of our life, but we can control how big of a part. We don’t like it, but we can’t change it. So we deal with it. Don’t let it define you. This is hard at first, but over time it gets easier. And it’s ok to ease up. You don’t have to jump down everyone’s throat until the end of time (you will do this lots at first) because they gave you a suggestion for how their cousin’s brother’s friend’s wife got pregnant. It doesn’t mean you’re giving up, or that you aren’t fighting the battle hard enough. It means that you understand life needs balance.
Don’t forget about your relationship
YOU aren’t infertility, it’s something you have. If you define your relationship by the situation you’re in, it will be very tough. Brandon and I made sure we were always communicating and being open about how we were feeling. It was hard at first to have a normal life, but over time it got easier. We went on dates. We fought. We started doing things that interested us again. We argued. We spent time together not talking about our medical situation. At the end of the day, it’s destructive if infertility becomes the only thing in your life. We set no-infertility times, during which we couldn’t bring up our issues unless we really needed support. We argued about what constituted a need for support. We didn’t have the perfect plan, but we didn’t give up. You have to make time for your partner and remember that you aren’t defined by your inability to procreate.
Talk it through some more
We still talk about it five years later. Sometimes we talk about the treatment we’ve been saving for. Sometimes we talk about what it will be like to have that child we so desperately want. Other times, we talk about how angry we are that we have to deal with this. Quite regularly we talk about how frustrating it is that we have to pay all of this out of pocket. Saying these things out loud assures us that our feelings are real and justified. That reassurance goes a long way when you feel alone in a world of fertile people.
My husband and I are stronger than we were before infertility tried to define us. I don’t know if we would be this close without it, but I like to think there was a happier, more positive route to this same place.
We are a work in progress, and don’t have it all figured out. In fact, I’d say we have very little figured out in the grand scheme of things! But we do know one thing. For us, this battle is worth fighting.
After the rain comes a rainbow, and on the other end of that rainbow is our happily ever after.