HOW INFERTILITY CHANGED MY MARRIAGE
By: Amelia Freeman
Infertility: the hijacker of marriages, fully encompassing the mind, body and spirit of individuals trying to conceive. My husband and I aren’t the same people as when we said “I do!” over eight years ago. I would be lying if I told you that any of this has been easy. That our intimate life hasn’t suffered along with our wallets. That the stress throughout this process hasn’t brought many marital ups and downs, ones we could have never anticipated. Ones that at times felt detrimental to our future, leaving us concerned with how we would make it through.
Our dreams remain united but our path has deviated in ways we didn’t know possible.
Like most relationships, ours was built on a mutual attraction, love and understanding for one another and the life we dreamed of living together. This union was then bonded by our commitment and persistence to achieve these dreams, hand in hand, through thick and thin, and whatever life threw our way. But as life so often times goes, dreams are derailed and holding the pieces together on the journey becomes almost a higher priority than getting there. Suddenly holding on to one another is harder than it seems, when everything you expected your life to be comes into question.
Our dream, like many, was to have our own family. Not a life full of wealth and material things, but a family. A dream we never doubted. A goal that would surely happen to us. A goal that we were confident we’d accomplish without a struggle or from paying a dime – just like “everybody” else. Infertility wasn’t even in our vocabulary.
Infertility: the unexpected game changer.
It challenges not only your strength as individuals but your endurance as a unit, because unfortunately like many goals, it takes time. It is long term fight that will not be accomplished overnight. Overnight success is for those who aren’t experts at injections, who have no idea what BBT even stands for, and who think that ultrasounds are only done on top of a big, beautiful, growing belly.
For us, infertility was always in the cards, we just didn’t know it. We met in high school, fell in love and spent the next ten years preventing pregnancy. We worried about all the trivial things – taking my pill on time, condom breakage, pre-ejaculation – but close calls never came. My period showed up like clockwork and we sighed in relief that we had made it another month. I remember turning twenty and thinking, phew! At least we won’t be teen parents. Then at 23 saying, At least we are out of school. We were young. We were happy. We were excited for our future family, we just weren’t ready for it yet – and that was okay.
At the time, I saw all our little hurdles as big ones. I thought that if we could survive high school, college, long distance dating and our first years of marriage, that we could survive anything. I thought our relationship was so strong. I thought that I couldn’t possibly love him any more than I did in that moment. How was I to know that our strength was just beginning to be tested? That I would love the man that stands before me today in an entirely different way?
We were living in the Midwest when we decided to pull the goalie, that little did we know, wasn’t even in the game. I went off birth control and we left it up to the fates. If we had a nickel for every time someone said to us, when it’s meant to happen, it will happen, we would be rich. But the truth is, at that time, I believed it. I thought it would be as simple as me downloading an app, tracking my period and having sex on those five fertile days. Fate had our backs, everyone said so.
This was a happy time for us as a couple, as I assume it is for most people beginning their journey. A time of possibility. A time where every month brought a big fat what if? I can remember the nervous excitement in his voice as we wondered if it worked. Were we ready? Would we be able to pay for a little bean? Were we still too young?
We both felt all those things, but it was all part of the fun. The uncertainty lit us up and “trying” was more of a game than a heartache. A game we didn’t know we were losing yet. We thrived on taking chances, it was how we lived our life in every other way. Why not in how we made a baby?
Why not? Because we never had a choice.
Not having a choice came as a punch to the gut that neither one of us were expecting. Not having a choice is what slowly started to wear us down. It’s what stripped away all the fun we were having. It’s what made for tense nights under the sheets, tears and fights that weren’t worth fighting. It’s what made one of us build emotional barriers to hide behind and the other to become a walking zombie, bone dry of all the joy that used to make her sing.
We needed a break, not necessarily from each other, but from our pursuit.
So we moved to New York four years ago and spent our first six months enjoying our new lifestyle. We were carefree and the happiest we had been in some time. So much new, so much to explore, so revitalizing to a marriage that was already four years underway.
Our Brooklyn neighborhood was full of young families, teeny scooters and baby bjorns so it didn’t take long for the fever to set back in. We began trying more aggressively. I downloaded a second app, bought ovulation sticks and we went to work.
And work it was.
Stomach aches, long days at the office, colds and sore muscles didn’t stop us from having intercourse in our window. As unpleasant as it sometimes seemed, through awkward moments and this isn’t us tears, we tried. We tried every day, every other day, every third day. We tried gravitating lifts and every position imaginable. I worried about what I was eating, how much I was drinking and if running was the problem. Even still, I didn’t think it could be us. Not our chemical makeup that could be causing the issue. In my head, we were tired, aggravated and antsy but we were still perfect. We were still the two people who met thirteen years ago, fell in love and were destined to have their happy babies.
Our parts had to work together. But they didn’t.
In November 2017 I made an appointment with an OB-Gyn who then referred my husband to a sperm lab to retrieve a sample. By December, we had answers, not all the answers, but it was a start. We were not perfect. We were broken. Mentally and physically this was a dark time for our marriage. We held each other up the best we could but neither of us were fully capable of being the rock the other one needed one hundred percent of the time, because the truth is, we were both hurting. In our own ways, at different moments, for different reasons, but hurting nonetheless.
The one thing that held us together like peanut butter between bread, was that we wouldn’t quit. Our dreams were ours, and ours alone. Through the times when we wanted to give up, to stop trying, to take a break, we couldn’t. Not then. Not now. Not ever. Giving up, even briefly, was not an option because our desire to have a family outweighed our own personal grief every single time. And for that beautiful reason, all our quarrels, sleepless nights and uncertainty didn’t matter. None of that negativity ever defined us, even when we thought it did. We were always us under this diseases’ shell, that same bright-eyed couple with dreams and goals that we knew we would achieve. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday. Together.
We began treatment eighteen months ago, and if you would have told me then what I know now about my husband and myself I wouldn’t have believed you. If you would have told me that I could love this man any more than I already did, I would have shook my head in a denying grace.
The thing about infertility and marriage is that you go into it believing that the two of you will always be together and you come out of it knowing so.
Infertility changes you. It changes your partner. It changes the way you operate. It forces the two of you to really dig dip within yourselves and commit to the family you are hoping to create. To commit in a way that no one who hasn’t experienced it could ever understand. To stand together on big decisions, daily tests of strengths and the unsettling reality that things will not always go your way. And when that happens, and you feel the lowest you’ve ever been, there is only one other person in the entire world that is feeling it too. And he or she is standing right next to you.
So how has infertility changed my eight year marriage and fifteen year relationship? The answer is a simple one – in every way possible. I am a better wife, best friend and future mother because of this journey, but mostly because of him.