What if my spouse and I don't make it? What if we can't survive the crushing mountain of stress that infertility, pregnancy loss, and all things associated with them, places on us?
I've been haunted by this thought for so many years.
My husband and I have been friends since 1983, together as a couple since 1998, been married since 2001, and began trying to conceive in January 2002. In the beginning of our infertility journey we were happy, mostly worry free people. We were confident that we'd one day be parents. We set off on the journey together; a team; hand in hand.
Then somehow we got lost along the way. Not hard to do when you are in a constant sea of medical appointments, tests, injections, hormones, being poked and prodded, asked embarrassing questions, having humiliating and sometimes painful procedures, figuring out where money for all this is going to come from, loans, borrowing from retirement funds, trying to resolve yourself to the fact that this is going to take way longer than you anticipated. While month after month passed, and turned into year after year, it began to take its toll on our emotional health. Then the tidal wave came - success from IVF #3, only to experience no heartbeat at our 12 week appointment. Crushed, devastated, no other words to explain it. And, we were out of money. Yet the responses you get from people in real life are that you can just try again. No one really has any idea about the experience. Infertility is isolating, humiliating, embarrassing, stressful, chaotic.
This is where the changes in personality come in - enter hateful, jealous, resentful me. Enter the me that doesn't give a crap about anyone or anything, except herself. Not.even.her.husband.
And this is where we must not have been hanging on to each other's hands tight enough. Hell, I wasn't really hanging on at all. Honestly I don't know how it all affected J because looking back I wasn't really paying attention to him . I had become so focused, so obsessed with the outcome of having children, that he nearly ceased to exist, except for the times when we needed to have sex on demand. J could have walked out, a different person replacing him, and I probably would not have noticed a thing. I just wanted to resolve this all - where the hell were my babies?!
I wanted resolve so I could get on with my life but while I was searching for resolve my life with my spouse was slipping away.
Once I "recovered" from the miscarriage I threw myself into the world of infertility again. Finding more money, researching every procedure out there, find whatever way possible to have children.
Somewhere between the time of our miscarriage (2006) and the time our twins were born (2008) J developed a drug problem. A serious drug problem. You may think I'm crazy here but I didn't ever see it. I was blind to the fact -blind to everything he did. If it didn't have to do with me getting pregnant, staying pregnant, having babies -I didn't see it at all. Now he's so deep into it I'm not sure he'll ever get out. And, our marriage, well, that doesn't even exist anymore. On paper sure, but not really, it's gone, and I'm not sure we can find a way to get it back. Sad, we've lost a near 30 year relationship.
I consider myself a fairly strong person - I can handle a lot. When the stress of infertility hit me, I went to counseling, joined online support groups, read books on the subject to gain knowledge of how to deal with it all, started blogging. These were my outlets, ways to keep my sanity. J didn't do any of things things.
Now here's my theory: I believe that he internalized it - and now I think there's a possibility that his drug problem may stem partly from his inability to handle the stress from our journey. His hurt over all of it, of not being able to have children the normal way, of what it all did to our relationship, is made better by the numbing effects of drug use. Are there other factors involved? Sure - a predisposition to addictive personality, prior experimentation with drugs, whatever. But the thought remains - if we didn't go through infertility, if we didn't lose our first baby, if we had had our children the "normal" way, if it hadn't taken so long, if I hadn't gotten lost along the way, would J be in the position he's in today? Would our marriage be in the position its in today?
I'll never really know that answers to these questions. Time does not go backwards, infertility was and will always be our reality, and we will never know if things had been different if things would be different today.
I also have to wonder through all of this, what if it wouldn't be different? What if no matter what was different in the past J still ended up where he is today; and our marriage ended up shattered? What if in order to have my two beautiful children I had to walk this road?
What if, because of all that I've been through which has changed me and made me grow as a person, my children can grow up to be happy, confident, successful, loved men?
For information on helping to understand infertility check out www.resolve.org/infertility101
For information on National Infertility Awareness Week, April 25-May 1, 2010, visit www.resolve.org/takecharge