I have a theory about what happens to couples who go through years of infertility. It’s not grounded in any scientific evidence. It’s all experiential, based solely on what has happened in my marriage, and what I’ve seen with other fertility-challenged couples whom we know.
Two things can happen to a couple — you grow closer, or you grow apart. You will not stay in the same place. The status quo of married-life does not subsist like it once did, pre-infertility.
So there you have it: you come together or you come apart. It’s a tragic situation for a lot of couples who find themselves on the apart-trajectory.
Going through years of infertility is the ultimate marital stress-test. It’s always there, hanging in the room that you share with your partner: that one thing, that isn’t there. Your together–baby. Your baby is missing, but you both want that baby. You are both saddened by the absence of the baby. You grieve and you struggle, and you grieve and struggle differently. Maybe one of you is more crushed. Maybe one of you is more ready to throw in the towel. Maybe one of you is making herself crazy, mining blogs, journals and millions of pages of data on the World Wide Web, digging for clues. Maybe one of you is shirking other duties, on account of the obsession with that person who isn’t there.
There is a place in my heart that I reserve for all the couples going through infertility who are not on the same page. A woman in my American support group recounted that she has endured Clomid and 3 IUIs alone (her husband begrudgingly offered some sperm samples). But he is against the idea of working “this hard” to have a child. “Why don’t we just get a dog?” he asked his shell-shocked wife.
I can’t even imagine. I cannot imagine walking this deserted road alone, with no one holding my hand. Or carrying me, the way my husband has. I would not have lasted a month going through this agony were it not for my hübster, my musmus (my “treasure-mouse”). There hasn’t been one turning point on our journey where we were not aligned about what to do next. We somehow always manage to sync up. To hold each other, process, grieve and research; and then synchronize our action plan. We handle the grief differently – sometimes at the same time (and that’s not very fun, when it’s 2 falling apart, not 1), but usually, we take turns. I get to fall apart when a round of IVF is cancelled right before transfer. I get to fall apart when the doctor with whom I’m assigned to rehash the implosion of a cycle doesn’t speak any English. I get to fall apart on the hospital bed when the doctor gives us bad news and I don’t know how to save face in the traditional Danish-stoic way.
My stone-faced husband gets to shudder after he injects me. He gets to grieve and scream in the shower after we lose a baby in the first trimester. And he gets to “stand on one leg” (our marital term for the über-dramatic flip-out) when coming to grips with the fact that he will soon be without a job. As if our bad luck couldn’t get bad-er. So we take turns being dramatic. Who has to be strong – and who gets to fall apart today. And I count my lucky stars that I am with a man sensitive enough to feel the depths of this ravaging sadness; whose bouts of frailty give way to my own spurts of other-worldly strength that I didn’t know I had in me.
Going through infertility with this man, I found out that I married an angel. A strong, steady, 2-meter-tall-Viking angel who will go the distance for me. And with me.
I found my happiness and my safe harbor when I found Martin. I would have discovered the gravity of that good fortune in time, without this fertility madness, but I’m grateful for the jolt of reality the last few years have delivered.
Before I got married, I often considered the old adage: “You need to find happiness on your own before you can find happiness with any other person.” As a single woman pre-Martin, I needed to love myself and be happy, all by my lonesome. And I maybe did that, but I’m not really sure. Because my happiness entered another level when I got to have him, after several years of friendship.
Infertility has shown us that we can survive anything, as long as we are surviving, together. On my darkest days and my gloomiest nights, Martin still strikes me as a miracle that I wake up to, every morning.
I do not have a baby, but I have him and that means: a minimum, guaranteed state of being okay and happy. Even when this infertility stuff is literally killing me softly, I know I will maintain some modicum of happiness.
Because I have Martin, and for that, I am extremely lucky.