What Infertility Has Taught Us About Marriage
The other day my wife, Katie, and I received a bit of news. Not good or bad news — just news — we were told that after 6 months and seemingly endless testing we cannot have kids. Of course this news is unwanted and certainly not the desired news one would want to hear from a doctor but given the past six months, the news was not unexpected. However, despite the tears — yes we both cried — the heartache, the typical questions one would ask, questions such as: why us? and how is this fair?, this experience is more about us succeeding as a couple and allowing us to fully understand the meaning of marriage than anything else.
This past January, after about a year of trying, Katie and I decided to start the process of speaking with different doctors about why we were having pregnancy issues. We started with an OBGYN in our hometown and then we were referred to a “Conception Specialist” (my term), as well as other doctors. We wanted to find answers but there was always another test which only exacerbated our feeling of being in limbo. It seemed that no matter the number of tests we took the picture was not clear enough to give us a definitive answer.
After receiving the first round of test results we immediately knew the odds were not in our favor. We were shocked, upset, scared, and confused, we had long conversations that played out different “what-if’ scenarios, one of which was about our marriage.
“Would our inability to have kids be the cause of us divorcing?” My wife, immediately responded, “If that was the case the vows we said on our wedding day, in front of everyone, would be a sham. We married each other because we love one another and want to be with each other — not based on the ability of whether or not we could procreate.” She nailed it and though I am not religious the vows said on wedding days are about a couple — two people coming together — going from an “I” and a “me” to form an “us” and a ‘we.”
Our situation has taught us other lessons, like focusing on what we have rather than what we do not. For whatever reason it is human nature to focus on the latter — what we do not have or wished we had. This in no way should negate ambition but what Katie and I have learned is that focusing on what we do not, or cannot, have will only cause us to lead unfulfilled lives. Instead we have tried to remain focused on everything that we do have — our health, our families, our friends, good times, laughter, shared experiences, and, most importantly, each other.
As a couple we had the hardest time dealing with the feelings of loneliness and isolation that accompany pregnancy complications. We, like many, when faced with hardships surround ourselves with our most cherished loved ones, our families and friends. However the personal nature of fertility can cause a couple to be reclusive and cause them to stop leaning on those who support them the most. For the most part we tried to be as open as we could be, or wanted to be, with our family and our closest friends. When we did talk to our family and friends about what we were going through and feeling our pain was not resolved but these conversations reinforced our support system.
Another aspect that has caused me to really think about is the expected nature of pregnancy for primarily females but also married couples. Yes, we have been together for 12 years, and will be married for 5 in July but even before we started down this long road we are often asked questions like, “when are you all going to have a kid,” or “when are you all gonna get one of those” (asker points to a baby). Deep down we know these questions are not meant to be invasive and are asked because people think we will be good parents but often those who ask these questions forget the personal nature of the question and are subconsciously / consciously operating on the assumption that parenting is the only life arch for a married couple and is the expectation for females; in both cases the assumptions and expectations are false.
As for right now, the results and news is far too new and raw to make any decision about other options. There will be plenty of time to have these discussions and, just as we would have if we could have kids, we will navigate this new path together. Certainly it will take some time but we know this situation will prove to only make us stronger as a couple. This proof was never more evident than when the doctor asked us, “What is your plan B?” and I replied, “Doc, our plan B has always been plan A, to love each other unconditionally. So there really isn’t a need for a plan B.”