Before I tell this story, I’d just like to clarify that there are days I have felt unloved by my husband. I am sure there have been many more days where he’s felt unloved by me. There are days where I think, how could we ever handle a child if we argue like this without one? No wonder God doesn’t bless us. Then there are days that are just OK. Sub/infertility is hard on marriage. As my husband says, its an opportunity everyday to be better than you ever thought you could be and some days you don’t meet that challenge. Our life is by no means perfect. But then there are days where I feel so, so loved. This was one of them.
One of the harder things for me about accepting our sub-fertility has been the idea that I did or am doing something wrong, something that has caused this. This will sound conceited, there’s no way for it not to, but I’m usually good at things. I learn things fairly easily. I’ve gotten good grades. I’m usually not scared to ask questions, although I do struggle with self-confidence, particularly since starting graduate school (when I’ve learned how much I actually don’t know!). I’m athletic and have also been involved in sports. I’m tall, so I usually feel physically capable, even around men. Even when I’m not good at something (like track in high school for example – I was awful even at my small school) I have the discipline or stubbornness or whatever you call it to stick to it and at least see some improvement that I can be proud of on a personal level. I read books on how to run faster and jump higher in high school and had a tutor for my college math courses. Working hard has usually equated to success in my life.
Having a child is not so much “work harder and it will happen.” In fact, many people think that it is the exact opposite.
It was common for people to remark that Mexico would be the ‘relaxing break’ we needed to conceive. As we passed the 1 year mark right as we moved there in the fall, I naturally had a hard time swallowing this advice. Pure length of time trying seems to point to more complicated issues that would at least involve time due to decreased probability, if not for treatment. But naturally, bringing this fact up confirms that you are indeed, stressed out. And in spite of research showing that does stress affects conception, but only in the short term (as opposed to long term), everyone seems to have a few stories about that ‘one person they know’ who had perfectly timed adoption and conception (even my priest in the confessional told me this!) that throws all that research out the window, right? Couldn’t they have still just needed more chances to try to get pregnant? But its all still too coincidental to believe it myself.
I would have conversations with my husband about this. It couldn’t be just stress that was keeping us from conceiving, could it? There were many months were I didn’t ‘dwell’ and where I just picked up and went on with my life. We even went on some cool, relaxing trips! Even when I did have months of unusual stress, my charts reflected no change hinting that my fertility was compromised. Same old, same old. But that idea haunted me. He knew it and would ask me, what if we do get pregnant soon and all those same people say, See I told you. Just stress for you! What would you say then? I voiced that it would bug me that they thought that, that ultimately we’d never know for sure, but I wouldn’t care because I would be pregnant!
Still, I’d counter him that what if maybe I was too strung out and if he thought that’s why we weren’t getting pregnant. Did he think it was my fault? He, the person who knows me best, would know. Maybe it sounds crazy that he could tell me something like that, but I trust him too much to not listen if he did tell me. And he’s good at telling me something that I need to hear how I can hear it, without sugar coating it or being unnecessarily mean. I am direct like that and that’s how I appreciate being treated in return. And I trusted the people who told me those things too much to just get pissed off at their comments without first considering them.
While I’ve never been a planner or an organizer, I’ve always been more of a type A personality in that I try something until its beat and I don’t usually give up on something. If someone says something that doesn’t make sense or confuses me, I’ll think about it and take the time to look it up until I come up with a conclusion for myself. I’m my harshest critic. What if this aspect about me, that same thing that makes me me, was hurting my fertility?
I thought maybe there is something that I can’t see for myself here.
It was one day during these conversations that I have never felt so loved by my husband. We were talking about stress and fertility and how what constitutes ‘relaxing’ for the purpose of increasing fertility and do you know what my husband said? I paraphrase:
“The reason those ‘just relax’ comments directed at you bother me, is because I take it as people saying that you need to just stop being you. ‘Just stop being you and you’ll get pregnant’ is what I hear. Sure all those times that your drive pushed you to do things you might have given up on, it was great, but the implication that you need to change yourself or that you’re not good enough is frustrating. It seems to me that because this is who you are and you’re valuable to the world because of that, even if you can’t be a biological mother, you have something to offer. If those things are connected, we’ll never conclusively know, but maybe you were given the strengths you were given to do something else.”
I understand that the people who made those comments to me love me, see me hurting at my lack of motherhood, and were trying to offer suggestions to help me get what I desire and am longing for. When you see someone hurting, you want to help fix it.
I’ve realized in our short marriage that marriage is a choice everyday. Every day (month? year?) you learn something new about your spouse and you have the choice to keep choosing marriage with them. With this new found sub-fertility on our plate, I wondered if it would be the easiest choice to keep choosing me, especially if other people were already concluding that I’m doing this to myself. These qualities that he used to like about me, that made me ‘me’, maybe they’re not worth it if it means you’re simultaneously self-sabotaging your chances to have biological children.
Looking down the barrel at a future with no biological offspring and again choosing me and my traits? It doesn’t affirm me, it affirms us. The magnitude of that conscious decision makes me speechless. I can’t express enough how much my husband’s words meant to me. That in spite of everything, he truly loves, accepts, and chooses this person, still, taking these traits with the good and the bad.
Nothing has helped me relax more than knowing this.