My spouse recently started telling friends that we were having trouble starting a family.
“But how did you tell them?”, I asked earnestly. “What did you say?”
What I was really asking him was: “How? How can I find the words to tell others?”
See, I’ve hardly told a soul about our difficulties in getting pregnant. For the first couple years of our marriage, my husband and I easily masked this as ‘our time’ we were happy to spend childless. Going out, drinking, partying, the occasional nightclub — it was all good fun. Yet if someone were to ask me, directly and to the point, if I was happy? I would not have been able to admit I was. Underneath all of our good times, our newlywed years, was our burning desire to have children.
It all started four years ago, when I was were told by a doctor point-blank that I couldn’t have children.
This pronouncement hurt us deeply, but we weren’t ready to accept his words. Not when I was healthy and in my early 20s. So we started shopping around, getting second and third opinions from medical professionals, reading books and trying to decipher medical articles.
This year, we were given a new piece of challenging information: I was, for lack of a better term, fertility-challenged. Ironically, the time we spent waiting to have children was also the time we should have been actively trying to conceive. Now my husband and I know what took us five years of marriage to find out: there is little hope we can have a child ‘the way nature intended’.
We have now turned to the marvels of ART (assisted reproductive technology) in the hopes that modern medicine can help us become the parents we want to be. My husband and I are currently learning about the many options that exist to have a child with the help of modern medicine. We wonder which combination of techniques and which approach will result in a successful pregnancy. Which one is meant for us? We try not to think too much about the years we spent not knowing we needed the help of ART, yet we think about it all the time.
So what am I so scared of, telling others? I know that a large part of my reluctance is fear of being judged, fear of hearing what others will say in response. I am afraid of hearing the all-too-familiar replies: “Why don’t you adopt/relax/wait 5 years?”
Hearing that I am ‘fertility-challenged’ over and over by different doctors is hard, but being judged by people close to me? Ouch. I don’t know if I could get over that.
Why, then, am I writing about infertility for the world to see?
When I first found out I couldn’t ‘just get pregnant’, I was devastated. It was like everything came crashing down on me. Nothing anyone said to me on the subject could make me feel better, so I kept quiet. I hid my pain. My husband went through his own stages of emotions. Sometimes I wondered if our marriage could handle so much stress from this, and he did too.
In this post-modern world of ours, it feels like there is a quick and easy solution for everything. A pill for this, a great Amazon Prime deal with that. Maybe it’s all in my head, this idea that talking about infertility outside of the therapist’s office was taboo. Maybe it would have been easier from the beginning, if I had been open with my friends and family about being infertile. After all, the struggle to start a family is nothing new. All you have to do is open a Chumash to the beginning to read about Sarah, Rivka and Rachel’s fertility troubles, warts and all.
Four years have come and gone since my dear spouse and I started our fertility journey. We have each gone through our emotional stages at different times. There has been grief, anger, sorrow, and even humour. I feel blessed that I have someone to share this infertility journey with. In the midst of things, we have had each other to look towards and to lean on. Still, two can still be a very lonely number when you’re dealing with something that takes over your life.
So if you’re having fertility issues too, I want you to know that you’re not alone. It’s not easy. I know that on some days, its no big deal but that other days it feels like everything. I would love to find the space to share and listen with you.