Infertility and TTC: It's Not Worth Losing Your Marriage
Infertility is hard. Really hard. If we let it, it can break our hearts.
And our marriages.
In addition to the thousand other things no one talks about related to this secret tragedy, add to the list its effects on marriage . Dealing with infertility can wreak havoc on your emotions, your body, your mental stability, your friendships. And yes, on your marriage.
First of all, very few go into marriage thinking that starting a family will be a problem. We just don't talk about that or prepare people for that (Pet peeve #1).
Second, once we realize there might be some infertility issues, we don't think that it will drive us apart instead of pull us together. But sometimes, that is exactly what happens. For lots of reasons. Men and women process these kinds of things soooo differently - and communication between men and women can be tough even on a good day. We women are often so jacked-up on hormones and other foreign invaders in our bodies that it's almost like looking at ourselves from the outside asking, 'Who is that crazy, raving lunatic?' Our husbands are probably asking themselves the question (If they are smart, they are silently asking themselves).
As if that's not enough, there's the timed sex - even when we are exhausted, cranky, had a rough day, had a fight...but we gotta do it now, or we are out another cycle. How romantic.
Then there's the repeated heartbreaks - the negative pregnancy tests every month. Her screwed-up ovulation. His low sperm counts. The miscarriages. The recurrent miscarriages. The failed IUIs. The failed IVFs. The delays. The physical complications. The bad test results. The let-downs. The disappointments. Month after month. It adds up.
There's the stress. The anxiety. His insensitivity. Her over-reaction. The unvoiced blame. The fear that underlies all of this but we are too afraid to say out loud:
"What if none of this works? What if we can never have kids?"
And the follow-up question to that: "If we can't have kids, then what? Can our marriage survive this?"
Infertility puts crazy amounts of stress on a marriage and seems to be the perfect storm. But nobody really tells you that going into infertility treatment. At least they didn't tell me.
This journey has caused me to do a lot of soul-searching. Why did I get married? Was it just to have a family? Did I marry the man who would be the future father of my children - or did I marry just the man - no strings attached? Was I satisfied with just him, even if he never became the father of our children?
If I remember my wedding day correctly, I married J, the man. I took a vow before him and before God to be committed 'for better or for worse, til death do us part.' Infertility falls under the 'worse' category, for sure. It's hard. All of it. It's hard to face the possibility of a life-long dream not coming true. What does that do to a marriage?
Well, obviously, it can either bring you closer together or tear you apart. What determines which way it will go?
I don't think there is a blanket answer for that. Every couple is so different. Some husbands are ultra-senstive. Some are ....well, they're guys. Some girls are thrown into the depths of sorrow and depression over this; others are able to cope a little bit better.
As I think about this (and I'm no expert), here are a few things that stick out in my mind in trying to keep a marriage strong while dealing with infertility:
1. Be aware of how trying and demanding this whole journey. How much it will suck the life out of you as you try to create life. This is no small issue; it can be all-consuming - emotionally, physically, financially, spiritually and in every other way. This takes a much heavier toll on us and our marriages than we initially anticipate. Knowing this, at least we can know what's coming and try to brace ourselves for it.
2. Pro-actively build up your marriage while you are TTC. Make sure your whole relationship doesn't revolve around getting pregnant. You have to make time for the two of you apart from TTC. Do things together that you love to do. That you used to do when you were dating. That bring you closer together. Even for a few hours of escapism, take a break from this TTC madness.