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How Infertility Strains a Marriage
a blog by Jay Pal, September 26, 2011
To read more of the Funny But Not Fertile blogs, CLICK HERE.
When you get married, you know logically that every day simply can’t be happily ever after. You also realize that your relationship will go through different trials and tribulations. You accept this but know that you love each other and that you’ve both made a commitment to work through whatever comes your way. The trouble is that most women, like me, don’t factor needles and fertility drugs into the equation.
At present, I am 19 weeks pregnant after our third in vitro fertilization (IVF). Words can’t begin to express how grateful I am to finally be pregnant and that the IVF portion of my life, at least at the moment, is behind me. However, I would be lying if I said that infertilitydidn’t take a toll on both me and my marriage.
The Stress of Infertility
After almost three years of trying to get pregnant, the feelings that go along with that, the finances, the mood altering (and ovary altering) fertility drugs and the financial strains, my husband and I were left exhausted both physically and emotionally. Our communication skills were almost non-existent. The deeper we got into the hell of infertility, the more we developed our own coping mechanisms that usually didn’t mix. I’d retreat to our bedroom, throw myself a pity party and watch estrogen-laden television. My husband would set up shop in the living room, watch action movies and play computer games on his laptop. It seems the only way we were able to deal was by not dealing with each other.
In retrospect, I was overemotional. I took infertility very personally, and with every failure, I’d get down on myself and less hopeful. My husband, seeing how down I was, was afraid to share with me his feelings of sadness as I was already sad enough for both of us. In turn, his feelings on our situation unintentionally went ignored. I didn’t know about them so I couldn’t comfort him. He felt alone, I felt alone and despite our very best efforts to have fun and get through it, we fell short of the mark and pretty much went into “self protective mode."
In addition to developing your own way of dealing, I firmly believe that you are simply not who you usually are on a regular basis. You are a version of yourself that is under extreme pressure, and in the woman’s case, dealing with a hell of a lot of hormones. This can easily bring out the worst in people, relationships and especially in a marriage. I know for a fact that it brought out the worst in me. I look back at that emotional, moody, sad mess and ask myself, “Who was that???”
Feeling Normal Again
When we found out we were pregnant, I began to feel myself return to normal. I was the person I always thought myself to be. I was able to keep my feelings in check and leave my pity party behind me. I finally stopped thinking about my egg quality long enough to ask my husband, “Hey, how are you?” and really mean it.
There are some who try to get pregnant longer than us, and there are some who may never get pregnant but who find other options. No matter what your situation is, I just want to say to you that I truly didn’t realize how much our marriage was affected until the dust cleared.
Overcoming Bad habits
I urge you to stop for a moment and ask yourselves, “What bad habits have we developed since we’ve been trying to get pregnant?” You may be surprised at the answer. You may also realize that you haven’t checked into your marriage in a while as you’ve been too busy worrying about your uterus. And when was the last time you both really had fun and didn’t think about his sperm count?
Really, it’s not that I blame you. I was there, and it consumed us, but maybe if we took more moments to put aside our reproductive parts and pay attention to what was going on with us and the way we dealt with each other, we wouldn’t have been so worn out and out of touch by the end of it.
And that’s the thing: Getting pregnant didn’t solve the problems we caused. It only stopped the infertility train we seemed to be endlessly riding on. Once we got off at our stop, that’s when we looked at each other and said, “Holy crap. I feel like we haven’t talked. Are you OK? What’s new? Do you still love me? Are we ok?”
I’m happy to say that although it’s taken some time, my husband and I have been working hard to get back on track. We’ve done couples counseling, had long talks reviewing all that we’ve been through, and we took a vacation that I dare say was almost like a second honeymoon. If I were to say anything to my old self though, I would say that you must do everything in your power to make sure you still have a marriage intact despite being under the pressure of infertility. You are still a couple, you are each other’s family and you must not neglect each other or each other’s needs while you continue to work toward expanding your family.
Continue to fight the good fight… lord knows it isn’t easy.