When Robbie and I first started trying for a family, it was exhilarating. The first month, I remember testing wondering if I was going to be one of “those girls” would get pregnant on the first try. I saw my first negative that month and it didn’t really bother me. It was only one month in. According to the pregnancy book I had bought back then, 98% of couples under the age of 35 conceived in the first year. And a vast majority of them were conceive within the first 6 months.
We spent the first few months dotting in baby fever and talking endlessly about how much our life would change with a baby. Every month we would calculate our babies due date if we conceived that month. We hardly talked about anything besides this future, yet-to-be conceived baby of ours.
Who would that baby look like? What traits did we want our baby to acquire from both of us? We talked about names, the colour of nursery we would want based on gender, how we would raise our baby. Where we would take them for vacations and how we would still go on date nights even when we had children. What we most looked forward to about being parents. We lived in that blissful state of make believe for months until a few months in when I just had that inclination that something was not right.
Our days of dreaming got put on hold.
Instead we spent our nights in bed planning out the logistics. This was only further emphasized once I was actually diagnosed with Low Ovarian Reserve. What if something is wrong? What if we cannot conceive on our own? What if we cannot ever have kids of our own? If I’m the problem, would we do egg donor? And if you are the problem, would we do sperm donor? Would we adopt? Foster? Consider embryo adoption? All of these options panned out before us.
Our days of optimistic dreaming were replaced with the what-ifs of our realm of reality.
Our marriage went through a reality of changes. Our times of intimacy changed from whats the point, we wont get pregnant any way to I’m ovulating, so lets get this done. The romance in the bedroom disappears for a while.
People always say at least trying is the fun part. But when you are facing a series of infertility problems, I assure you, trying is not fun at all. And when people say that to you, you just try and laugh it off. You know whats not fun? Knowing that you won’t get pregnant no matter how hard you try.
When Michelle Obama released her book Becoming, something she wrote really spoke to me. She wrote “It turns out that even two committed go-getters with a deep love and a robust work ethic can’t will themselves into being pregnant. Fertility is not something you conquer. Rather maddeningly, there’s no straight line between effort and reward. For me and Barack, this was as surprising as it was disappointing. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t seem to come up with a pregnancy.”
That’s exactly how it feels, maddening. At this point, I have been years into living a clean, natural lifestyle to the point of even being slight erotic about it. Doing literally anything and everything to make my body as healthy and fertile as I can.
We had a lot of fights during this time. Robbie being the never ending source of eternal optimism and me, just wanting to dwell forever in the doubt and the reality of our current situation. Most of our fights were just me being so negative that I was so entirely feed up with Robbie’s positive mentality. We would laugh afterwards because we knew that it was all so stupid.
But infertility can put a strain on your marriage. There is a lot more involved in conceiving when its not done naturally. A lot of paper work, consents, pre-IUI mandatory videos of how the procedures work, medication videos, finances, driving out of town, scheduling appointments etc, to name a few.
There was a lot of nagging. It takes honey-to-do lists to the next extreme. Did you fill out your consent sheets and fax it to the clinic while you were at work? We can’t go forward with ever having a baby if you don’t sign consents over for me to use your “donations” for our reproductive needs. Something you just never think of when you are thinking about conceiving a child.
I read recently that couples that go through infertility are 3 times more likely to get divorced than the average couple. That is how emotionally draining and how large of a financial stress infertility can put on your marriage.
Luckily for Robbie and I, our marriage become stronger because we put in the effort to keep it so good. We communicated anything when both of us were worried. We shared the burdens. There was never any guilt or blame placed on either of us.
One of the biggest stresses was money at the beginning. How many IUI’s and rounds of IVF would it take for us to have a family? We really focused on cutting out financial expenses. For us, we started an excel sheet. Gave ourselves a budget, calculated our monthly incomes, how much all our expenses were, so that we could figure out where we were spending money unnecessary and could save accordingly.
For us, the budget cuts came in simple ways. Limiting our takeout (we still go to Mucho Burrito lots because it’s just our favourite), and limiting our coffee orders (we were spending over $300 a month on coffee – I blame Starbucks). Other things that could save us money was taking my car when we could, instead of the truck. Anything to save money for fertility treatments we did. We roughly followed the Dave Ramsey budgetting plan (look into it if you want a good way to save money and pay of your debts without feeling overwhelmed).
We learned to be much more cautious with our money so that we could prioritize where it went. Whats more important? Take out and Starbucks OR having the financial means to afford a family? Obviously the latter wins. I highly doubt I’ll ever be on my death bed thanking the universe for good coffee over a wonderful family.
But do you know what the largest realization was for us? That we both were in agreement that 1) money is just money and 2) we would spend every penny, trade in our cars, downsize our house, take out loans after loans if that was what we had to do to have a family. Money, although so much in life revolves around it, means nothing. When it comes down to it. IT’S JUST MONEY.
It doesn’t ever mean were didn’t sometimes get stressed about it but it was very small in comparison to the stress it could create. Ask me about the time Hemingway tried to die on me, my car tried to kick the can, and my oven died all within a weeks time and trying to save up for IVF coming up soon. All with Robbie being gone and me dealing with that all alone.
I was definitely money stressed and emotionally stressed then too. Even from a far so was Robbie. “We have IVF coming up, we cant afford to keep spending thousands to keep the cat alive.” And my response “over my dead body will I let Hemingway go.” And there’s the story about how I saved my cat and ruined our bank account. Like I said, it’s just money.
But once we got over the financial stress and tried to let that burden float down stream from us, we become much more comfortable in our infertility state. It created a lot less stress and we were both much more in our financial state that we were much more at ease with.
We talked a lot about the future. We still do. How are we going to get baby number one, baby number two, baby number three. And if you ask me only and not Robbie, baby number 4. Part of accepting our infertility is also making light of it. I say all the time to Robbie “I guess you won’t ever have to worry about a surprise baby because you’d notice me missing every other day, debt receipts for parking at the clinic and a suspicious amount of money gone from the account.”
That has been a huge coping mechanism for us both. Just learning to roll with the punches and make jokes of them. Because all you have sometimes in this life is your mentality and it goes a long way, especially through the struggles that life can present you. Oddly enough, I have laughed more at the fertility clinic with Robbie, than I have cried. And that has been a saving grace for us both.
We came to accept that we would be parents, one way or another because we were both so open to other options. I thank God for that because that probably would have changed the entirety of our conversations. But it also came down to this – if for any reason we never are able to have kids, would we be better off together or alone? We both realized that over anything, our marriage is more important. With or without kids, we knew we needed each other.
Has infertility put a strain on our marriage at some point or the other? Naturally yes. But it has also made us so aware of each others emotions. We have learned to grieve and support each other in ways that we haven’t been tested in before. Robbie has been my rock, and I have been his.
We have made plans of our future with a baby and never let the fear completely blindside us. We have been dreamers and we have been practical. If we get to IVF and still don’t have a baby, would we do it again? Would we adopt? We communicated every thing, every ounce of fear, doubt, happiness, every emotion we felt and experienced, we talk about it.
Can infertility break your marriage? Yes.
But will we let it? No.
Its just like any obstacle you face in your life. Life can break you but only if you let it.
For all the infertility warriors out there, still communicating, still fighting through this, still putting your relationship first. Keep on fighting and keep doing what you are doing. You are doing better than you could ever believe.
Never forget your priorities. In any relationship, you have the ability to change someones life, their perspective on life. You are an endless source of happiness and strength for someone. Continue to be that support and you’ll find you get it back.
Communicate like your relationship depends on it – because in all honesty, it does.