I know my husband loves me. We’re one of those couples that even though we drive each other crazy on a regular basis we know we’re both in it for the long haul. We argue over the little stuff like crumbs on the floor or lights left on in the living room but we support each other when it comes to the important things, like making time for each other’s physical and mental health, for giving each other attention when needed, for being there as a shoulder to cry on when things get tough. I never thought I’d have any reason to question whether or not we’d make it.
An unexpected reason to worry emerged.
We were ready to start a family about a year after we got married. At first, we weren’t concerned that I didn’t get pregnant right away. Starting a family is a big decision, so a couple of months bought us some extra time to settle into the idea. The idea quickly took root in our minds, but not in my body. The months passed. Then the years.
Over and over, I replayed a conversation in my head that I remember having with my husband years ago, early in our dating life.
“I want enough to field a soccer team”.
“You want eleven kids??”
“I want as many as I can have”.
Even as a nineteen-year-old college student, my husband talked about wanting a family. Other than making sure the light switches are off when no one was in the living room, having a family is the one things I knew meant the most to him. So, how could he be happy forever with a wife who couldn’t give him a child?
I started to have serious concerns about whether he could stay with me if we were unable to conceive, or if he did stay with me, that he would never be truly happy. He didn’t do anything to perpetuate either of these ideas, but the anxieties wouldn’t leave my mind, nonetheless. I’m an anxiety-riddled worrier, and this situation expounded that.
Each month that passed was a devastation. Each failed cycle was a punch in the gut. Each month that we couldn’t even attempt to conceive, due to med complications, recovering from miscarriage, or waiting for ovarian cysts to subside, felt like an eternity.
The stress that comes along with infertility isn’t due to failure from an individual cycle, it’s the from the compound effect of repeated loss and the looming dread that it’s never going to happen. Not this month, not next month, not ever. With all the media attention that showcases women in their forties and fifties having babies, and all the technological advances making IVF more accessible, we sometimes forget that science isn’t magic. That not everyone ends up with that particular happy ending. That “it’s never going to happen” isn’t just how it feels, but is sometimes how it really is.
Some people can’t have children because of chance, because of genetics, because of and medical mysteries. For us, luck was on our side. I don’t believe we became parents because it was meant to be, and I don’t believe it happened when it was meant to happen, I think we ended up becoming parents because we were lucky. That, and the correct cocktail of ingested and injected meds, and the healthy dose of applied science that worked out in our favor.
The rational side of me knows that we would have figured out how to navigate a life without kids and that we surely would have been able to make it, despite plans working out differently than we had an anticipated. My rational self thinks hat maybe it could have made us even stronger in the end. The overly emotional side of me is beyond thankful that we have our two beautiful girls, not just because we get to watch them and learn from them and love them, but because we have two more reasons that make me wholly confident again that we will make it. Two fewer reasons to over-analyze and fill my mind with self-doubt.
It’s National Infertility Awareness Week. Does your insurance cover infertility treatments? Does your employer allow it’s employees to utilize infertility treatment without fear of termination? Does your state provide legal access to a multitude of family planning options? Do your friends and family support those who struggle with infertility? Do the candidates you are voting for? It’s time we all start asking these questions. Even if we have our own fertility resolved.