The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
For those of you following this blog, I'm sure you appreciate how difficult our situation can be emotionally, physically and financially. I talk freely about most everything we're experiencing but am also aware that not EVERYTHING needs to be said for privacy and sanity's sake. I wanted to take some time to acknowledge the difficulties and strains that living through this can place on relationships.
There's no doubt that Chris and I love each other. We've been together almost 13 years and have had many ups and downs. When we said our vows nearly 4 years ago, I don't think either of us were thinking about what would happen if we had trouble having children...I guess that's where the "through good times and bad times" comes into play. We married with the understanding that we both wanted children....just not right away. We waited until we were BOTH ready and that's a great thing. Well, we've been ready and have been waiting and waiting and waiting...... Years ago, I was just starting my career and we both had so many things we wanted to experience as a couple first. We love to travel and wanted to enjoy married life with one another for a little while. I have little regret and am glad we did it that way because we have had so many wonderful experiences which made our relationship grow....like the time we got lost in Venice for over 3 hours. We've been to about 7 different countries together, willingly jumped out of an airplane together, and have made some pretty great friends along the way....experiences we may never have been able to have with children. Experiences that made us who we are today. We also wanted go the "traditional" route and buy a house and become more financially stable first. I know we'll struggle to afford the cost of living with children even now, but we sure weren't ready for those responsibilities earlier. Children are a big commitment not to be taken lightly, and we were and still are well aware of it. Sometimes I feel like I'm being punished for "doing it the right way"...if there is such a thing.
9 months ago, when starting our journey with the reproductive endocrinologist, I wish I would have taken the time to become more informed how much of a commitment and strain this was going to be. I don't know what I thought back then...I guess I thought it would be easier. For a few select couples, I guess it is. Clearly we didn't make the cut. At that time, I didn't read up on how difficult the testing and procedures can be and I surely didn't do my homework with regards to the emotional aspect. I've said a million times already that this has a funny way of bringing a couple both closer together and farther away all at the same time. Because of infertility, we have a special bond that few other couples will have. Because of infertility we also have had many difficult times as a couple too. I believe if we can make it through this, we can make it through anything. I believe this has got to be one of hardest things a couple can go through and we aren't making it out unscathed. There are plenty of times when things are not perfect and just downright hard. Communication, understanding, sympathy and compassion are key...and I will be the first to admit we aren't a perfect couple and have flaws in each department. But we are learning.
My hope is that other couples thinking of journeying through this process will read this so they have an idea of the struggles ahead. I also hope that those of you lucky enough to not deal with this can appreciate what they have. Here are just a few things I wish I knew earlier....BUT experience is the best teacher.
1) No matter how "sensitive" your husband is....men and women are still different. If your partner doesn't express themselves, it's not always because they don't care. They may be dealing with things differently than you.
2) Do your best to join each other for doctor's appointments. Unfortunately with our job schedules this has been one of our biggest obstacles. Many times I had to go alone and that's pretty scary....especially if your a newbie and don't know yourself what to expect. If your partner is unable to join you, maybe ask a close friend or family member to be your support. This is something I wish I had done. If you miss an appointment...acknowledge how much you'd really like to be there and make sure you ask questions how the appointment went, what they did and why. Not asking makes you seemed disinterested. As much as we all need to work...try to put this as a number 1 priority if your life.
3) Make a calender where you BOTH can see to track treatments and upcoming appointments. I did this for myself, but wish I would have done it for both of us. This way you can both keep track of treatments you've had months ago....after time they all blend in together and this information may be of use later. It's also helpful to see when upcoming appointments are to help make sure both can attend. Also, it gives both people an appreciation for how MUCH you are doing for this miracle to happen. Let's face it, even if it's the guys problem, we women unfortunately get the brunt of it all. There are weeks when I go the doctor 4 times. I don't think people have an appreciation for how much of a time commitment this is and how much it can interfere with work and everyday stuff.
4) Since women are the one's receiving 95% or more of the testing and procedures, it's important for us to talk to our partners about how much these procedures hurt (both physically and emotionally) as well as the medical aspect behind them. They may not understand how difficult and draining these procedures can be. They don't have our "parts" so we need to do our best to help them relate. Without communicating this, I think it's MUCH harder for them to be sympathetic.
5) How many men have gone to a gynecologist appointment? My guess is not many. Before they attend the first one, it may be helpful to give them a quick run down about what occurs. It's new to them and can be intimidating. I think it will help them prepare themselves for what's about to happen. You need be explicit about the details about HOW they can support you and also what NOT to say and do. Not educating them on how what occurs, how hard and invasive these appointments are and how they can support you can backfire. It's too easy for them to become embarrassed or laugh and giggle. If things start to go badly making guidelines during the appointment isn't the time. They need to know that these appointments aren't your typical gyno appointments. Much more occurs at them and if you need support, they need to know what to do (or not to do). Express in your best words how invasive, embarrassing, awkward, and downright painful these procedures are going to be. Try to figure out a way to help them relate....and for the men, above all do your best to be mature and compassionate. We are doing this not only for us, but for you. Is it fair that we are the ones dealing with all the awful procedures? No...absolutely not. But reality is that we are the ones who have to have the baby so try to appreciate our efforts. And women, encourage and coach your men in the most positive way possible. If you see things not going how you envisioned, but they are giving good effort, give them some slack and talk to them how to improve later. If they are acting like "typical men"...good luck trying to figure out what to do.
6) Say thank you and be appreciative for the support you are given and offer them suggestions about what more they can do. They may need help knowing HOW to be supportive. It's SO easy to be resentful when you feel like the other person doesn't have an appreciation for all you do.
7) Be patient. Most likely we'll have to take hormones that can have some pretty nasty side effects. It's a good idea to tell your partner what you're going through. Keep in mind, moodiness is a given with hormones. Guys, bite your tongue when we bite your head off. We don't like feeling this way any more than you like receiving the brunt of it all. Women, don't use the hormones as an excuse to be mean to people. Your husband is an easy target and realize you can't burn bridges because you need him. If things get rough, take a step back, leave the room, and breathe!
8) Be explicit. Both of you need support and maybe in different ways. No one is a mind reader and we can't take it for granted that the other person knows what to do. This is unchartered territory for both and both need a map. Tell each other what you need from them and how they can do it (then follow through and do it!!!). Do your best to stick by the "plan." Talk about how you can "care" for the other one...especially when given bad news
9) Talk about your treatment plans so you both are on the same page and know what the other is thinking. What if all this fails...are you both willing to adopt is just a small example. Not knowing what the other person's expectations are can backfire.
10) Both need to be 100% committed to wanting children.
11) When upset, do your best to walk away and not say hurtful things. This is a given for anyone in any situation, but I find it the hardest. (I lack self control when I'm mad). Even if what you are saying is true, there's a better time and WAY to say it.
12) Minimize any unnecessary stress. Personally I had to stop saying "yes" doing things when people ask. I realized since I'm so busy working and going to appointments, sometimes I need "me" time.
13) Make time for fun stuff as a couple and for that time make NO talk of infertility. Enjoy each others company.
This is just a few ideas of advice...Chris and I learned the hard way. Just because we love each other doesn't mean that we are doing a good job at getting through this. It helps, but isn't enough. Chris and I are two very different people....that's part of the reason we fell in love. But sometimes the very reason that made you fall in love with someone can be the reason for tension.
Strain in relationships isn't just limited to our spouse. Because no one can truly understand what you feel and what you're going through, it's difficult for others to say and do the right things sometimes. Infertility is like the white elephant in the room. It's easy to become jealous and sad that others have what you don't. It's even harder when many don't even realize how good they have it. I talk openly about most of my struggles, yet I still find people being insensitive at times or not knowing what to say...so they say nothing. Despite my best efforts, it's difficult for me to be around others with children. Even my own mother can't understand how I feel so how can I expect friends and other family members to understand? Just remember that the people who really matter in life will find some way to support you and "to hell with the others!"