news item– “our infertile years” by vanessa hua

This article– “Our Infertile Years” by Vanessa Hua– brought back some memories for me. I almost don’t even know where to start. How do you piece out clips of an article that is about the whole of someone’s infertility-before-parenting experience?

There’s so much to say. I’ll break down the main points:

 

Ownership & Guilt

I told no one, feeling ashamed, abnormal, betrayed by my body… I, not we. I shouldered most of the responsibility for the treatments. That was the reality of the female anatomy: my eggs, my uterus, my pregnancy.

I remember how different the beginning of infertility was from the later stages of infertility for us– the phase where we acknowledged there was a problem, were actively pursuing treatments, and had to process the fact that they weren’t working (yet?). I remember my husband’s stellar SA and my less-than-stellar ovulation, even with varying amounts of Clomid. I remember, despite Husband’s reassurance, that it really was my fault, my infertility.

I am lucky– my husband is sensitive, caring, and a very good sounding board. He didn’t make me feel like it was all on me, even though we both knew that it was technically my burden, both because the infertility was mine and because I would be physically responsible for the care and keeping of our fetus (or, as we later discovered, whatever the plural of “fetus” is).

Sometimes I drank, a glass or two, only at dinner, and only on the weekend. To pair with the meal, to relax and for a chance to feel as if my life hadn’t been put on hold for a future that might never come.

My husband wasn’t pleased.

Husband let me take the lead on what I should and shouldn’t do and didn’t try to police my food intake or activity level. Maybe that’s in part because I was pretty paranoid about anything I could potentially do to lessen our chances of getting and staying pregnant– I didn’t need anyone to police me because I was policing myself already. I beat myself up pretty well, but I wouldn’t have been too keen on him swiping a glass of wine out of my hand. Hoo boy. Ahem.

 

Life on Hold

While attempting to start our family, my husband and I had deferred trips and let go of plans and opportunities. I had understood my life and its attendant freedoms to drink, eat, do and go where I wanted would change as a mother, but I’d never considered the limbo in which the precautions would turn out to be pointless, month after month.

Sound familiar to anyone else? It is to me. I skipped out on a lot because of infertility– mostly baby showers (sorry, IRL friends who might be reading this; know that I love you and all of your babies)– but I also skipped a lot because of the specific pursuit of pregnancy. There were corks left unpopped, late-night events I skipped in favor of early-morning blood draws, parties I left early to go home and give myself shots. I was never much of a gym rat, but I didn’t work out most of the time we were doing treatments, too, just in case it might have been too much strain on my body. Worst of all, though, was the medication I took to treat my skin issues– acne that I’ve had since I was 12, which I never realized before was part of my infertility because it was caused by the same hormonal imbalances that caused my probable PCOS and ovulatory issues– was contraindicated for pregnancy, and I actually had to stop taking it for a full month before I was allowed to go off the pill and start trying. My beautiful clear skin disappeared pretty quickly, and it was another 3 years from that date before I had my daughters in my arms. I still can’t take it because I’m breastfeeding. All those days that I hid from photos, for over two of those three years, was because of infertility.

 

Toll on a Marriage

My husband and I had to be united, not divided, to survive the trials of infertility.

“I feel so helpless,” he said, apologizing. “I know this is hard on you. That’s it’s all on you.”

We promised to do better. We had to do better. If we were fortunate enough to conceive, we’d make decisions together for years as parents, as equals.

This is where my experience differs from the author’s somewhat, but I think it’s worth being very clear– infertility is hard on a marriage. Guilt, blame, resentment, helplessness, and having to be on the same page for plenty of big decisions– would you ever want to adopt? how do you feel about IVF? I don’t know if I can put my body through that sort of treatment again; can you come to terms with not being biologically related to your child?

People tend to discuss whether or not they want children before they get married or even engaged (speaking here, of course, about the couples who are legally free to do so; certainly many couples decide to have children who cannot get married or chose not to and I don’t want to leave them out here). What most couples don’t talk about, though, is how they feel about, say, discarding unused embryos from IVF, or using donor sperm, or how many times they feel they should try a certain procedure or treatment before they think they’ve put in “enough” effort to move on.

Have you ever tried having an intense, life-changing debate with your partner who you tend to overall agree with? Take any happy couple and give them a list of ten highly controversial topics to discuss. You might find even the most pleasant, otherwise-on-the-same-page pair tearing each other to verbal shreds after a while! Most couples don’t have to try to find a common ground on so many life-changing issues, but couples experiencing infertility often do. It’s a real test.

 

To really get the full picture of the author’s story and experience, go and check out the article “Our Infertile Years” by Vanessa Hua. Come back here and tell us what you think. If you feel the need to go deeper, link us to any posts you write in your own blog about this article and we’ll add your link to our Weekly Summary this Friday. A few questions to get you started:

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Did you feel your marriage was tested by infertility? In what ways?

What in your life did prolonged infertility make you miss out on?

Did you as a couple have difficulty navigating ownership of the infertility, guilt and helplessness?

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