It’s been a long two weeks away from the blog, spent mostly getting over jet lag from my Asia trip, a brief stomach bug, and a wicked fight with the hubs.

We’ve been having a hard time lately, the hubs and I. It is a hard thing to talk about publicly (and privately!) so I won’t go into the gory details, but I will say that the infertility dance can be hard on a marriage long after the music has stopped.

When I first started realizing that we weren’t going to get pregnant naturally, I started reading any and every infertility account I could get my hands on – blogs, books, articles, you name it. Most shared a similar story of two people joined together in the dogged pursuit of a shared dream, supporting each other every step of the way, even while navigating the fog of hormones, disappointment, and financial stress.

In these stories, each failed treatment presented an opportunity to look each other in the eye and share the grief, while contemplating the next step. There were many accounts of women distraught at the idea of not becoming a mother, and husbands vowing to do whatever it would take to help her fill that dream.

Oh how I longed for that to be our story. Instead, we struggled with differing views on how far we each were willing to go to create a family.  The hubs’ attitude has always been that he would be happy just being married to me, making a life for the two of us, kids or not. While in theory I appreciated that sentiment as I didn’t feel pressure from him, I didn’t always share it and over time, even grew to resent it.

Let’s face it, even if as a couple you are completely aligned on the mechanics of infertility treatment – how many hormones you’re willing to ingest, how in debt you’re willing to go, how much humiliation you’re willing to endure (think sperm in a cup and banana-like ultrasound wands), whose genetic material you’re willing to use – couples struggling with infertility are faced with decisions that most couples can’t even dream of. So what happens if you’re not totally aligned? In my experience, lots of heartache, long discussions, and – if you’re smart – therapy.

As our journey dragged on through the years and we both pushed the limits of how far we’d be willing to go, I kept looking for stories of couples who weren’t naturally in lockstep about the whole infertility thing. I couldn’t find them, and eventually decided that maybe those stories didn’t exist because this was too hard a struggle and those couples just didn’t make it.

It wasn’t until the hubs and I went to therapy to resolve some of our issues that I felt comforted to hear that no, not every couple is on the same page about what lengths they might go to in order to build a family. It was reassuring at the time, and it helped us to better understand and appreciate where we each were coming from. It also helped us both get to a place where we were aligned on the fact that we had gone far enough.

Now that we’ve gotten off the crazy infertility train, I’m so grateful that the hubs doesn’t feel let down by our biological failures. I have no doubt that there are many women who don’t deliver the goods and are dropped like a hot potato. The challenge is, as we struggle to accept and embrace and define our life without children, the alignment issue is rearing its ugly head in a different way.

I never really let myself consider what a life without children would look like, because for so long I refused to accept that outcome. Now I’m spending lots of time thinking and writing about it, and we’re spending lots of time talking about it. We’re trying very hard to find that alignment again, but it has been a struggle.

I can’t help but wonder how much better we would be at this had we not already been through the mother of all marital struggles?




5 thoughts on “Struggles

  1. Mali

    I’m really sorry you’ve been going through a tough time. My husband and I had different views about when to try to have children, what to do when it became difficult, whether to try IVF, and how we felt about donor eggs and adoption, and how to live our lives without children. Even though we started to try to conceive rather late in our relationship, now that I think about it, issues around having children (or not) have been present our entire married life. I can certainly say that we are not the only ones who have had to deal with different expectations, different limits. Ultimately we’ve been able to do that, but it’s not always easy.

    I think going through any of these transitions – let alone all of them – will be difficult. The whole issue, too, of what to do next, to find the next big thing, is another pressure. It’s been 12 years now for me, and my husband and I have never strictly agreed on what to do. In the interim, life has intervened. And that’s okay, even if it hasn’t been my choice. We’ve done other things in that time, or in years prior to infertility, that were my choice. Compromise. It sucks sometimes, but it’s worked for our relationship.

    Wishing you the very best.

    1. Abby Post author

      Thanks for the thoughtful comment, Mali, it is so useful to hear that others have struggled when I find that the few narratives out there don’t usually get into that. And the pressure to do something great is great! On good days, it is exciting too, to think of having options.

  2. BnB

    Add this to the list of “consequences of infertility.” Except while all of the medical stuff is discussed, the emotional and relationship stuff isn’t. Even in the best relationships infertility is like an atom bomb going off. Thank you for sharing.

    Infertility was hard on my relationship with hubs too. I dare say that there was a point that I wasn’t even sure that we were going to make it. I remember so well an argument late one night where I told him that if he wanted to divorce me and go find a woman that could have his kids that I would just sign the papers. We were on completely different pages about treatment too, but as it turned out that was irrelevant thanks to my useless ovaries.

    It wasn’t until the point when I realized that hubs wasn’t going to be able to give me what I needed emotionally (at least for all of the infertility grief). He’s a fixer and he couldn’t fix my broken heart, though he tried so hard. I didn’t need things fixed though, I just needed him to hold me, acknowledge my feelings, and tell me everything was going to be ok. Most of my anger and resentment towards him was as a direct result of me expecting things of him that he just wasn’t wired for. And I think that most of his anger towards me was that I seemed to be perseverating on the same things. He didn’t understand why I wasn’t over it already. It was black and white for him, whereas it was a gazillion shades of grey for me. So I started blogging. I started unloading on friends who get it instead of him. That’s when the healing truly began for me.

    I don’t think our relationship will ever be all unicorns and glitter, and we still have some pretty passionate fights, but at the end of the day we love each other and we will continue to work hard on our relationship. Hope you don’t mind the lengthy comment!

  3. Abby Post author

    I never mind a lengthy comment! Thanks for our honest. I know it is all a work in progress, Blogging and talking does help a lot, even when it feels scarily revealing!

  4. Kathryn

    I’m a new reader to your postings – love your header photo! Beautiful.

    I’m finding I’m not the only one who has a different line drawn in the sand compared to that of my husband. He too is also happy just being married to me, kids or not. I was going to do whatever needed to be done to get my happy ending. He had a limit to how much time/effort he was prepared to expend. Like so many others we were unsuccessful. He’s continued to walk on without a worry in the world, happy with his lot. I carry enough baggage for the both of us I guess.
    We’ve been married 21 years and travelling pretty well together but still frustrations rear up occasionally, usually when you least expect, and bite with a ferocity you had all but forgotten you possessed. My hubby’s recent comment about the study he’s doing for his personal interest (working part time and studies at least 25 hours a week for a Masters Degree) and if we had kids how I would have to handle it with him studying all the time. My quite biting and very forceful reply was “If we had kids you would not be studying, you would be taking them to their sports and their leisure/school activities and whatever else we were involved in. We would be on a very different path”. His face said it all…. quite dumbstruck….as if he had never thought about the alternative. Or it may have been the depth of anger he heard in my reply that had him frozen on the spot. It shook us both up.

    The few others I know personally with fertility problems also complain about being on different pages to their partners.
    I’ve dragged my emotional self kicking and screaming down the path of childlessness. I never expected it to be my lot in life. I never thought about kids, until I got married. They didn’t come so I worked because there was no reason not to. I’ve never been a career person so it also brought its own struggles. Then came redundancy in 2011. I called it my career break – which I am still on – (most people are horrified if I tell them I am retired).

    I’m one of those people who tries to keep everyone else happy at the expense of myself, so I’ve now learnt how to pull back and give myself a lot of “me” time, tried to accept the hand I’ve been dealt… let’s just say it’s a work in progress….. a big work making slow progress… I’ve got time now for some hobbies, lots of reading, especially these amazing online posts; mum’s got a personal driver now when she needs one for her appointments.

    In the meantime I’m still looking for that light bulb idea that will engulf me with enthusiasm and push me into dreaming about what the next 15-20 years will bring, gosh I’d be happy with dreaming about what the next 12 months would bring!

    You’ve been a bit quiet, I’m hoping it’s because you’ve been really busy. Your last post was quite reflective in content so I hope you and hubs have managed to find yourself on the same page or at least on the same chapter in your life.


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