There have been so many times when I have looked at my husband when he’s doing something completely normal and mundane and just thought to myself, “how did I get so lucky?” but I have never thought that more than when he is supporting me through times that I need him most. Him holding my hand in the waiting room, hugging me when I lost our babies, or making me giggle while I’m lying on the exam table waiting for a checkup is when I find him the very most attractive. He’s supported me in so many ways in our marriage and I will forever be grateful for the man I married. The thought crossed my mind the other and I questioned if he felt the same way about me? Is he proud of me like I am of him? Do I make him feel as loved as he makes me?
My question was answered the other night when he legitimately questioned if I still loved him. It was such a rude awakening for me. I have put so much of myself into our fertility treatments that I put our relationship on the backburner. I know this makes him feel neglected and I don’t blame him. Instead of seeing to his needs and wants I was planning our next round of IVF, scheduling appointments, researching ways to increase success rates, etc. Pretty much everything I have talked about for the last few years has had to do with planning around baby making. It’s so tiresome but I never realized how much it effected our marriage.
Since our last pregnancy loss, I have been dealing with a lot of hostility especially towards my husband. It feels like he grieved for a few days, lost a few nights of sleep, and moved on but I’m still here wrapping my mind around everything and physically still dealing with the aftermath. How can he not care enough to grieve? Because of my hostility I’ve been short tempered and downright mean to him. If I had a bad day I have taken it out on him. I’ve given him dirty looks, said hurtful things, and physically pushed him away. Things have been tough, but I’m determined to be a better wife.
I asked him the other day what he feels is the hardest part of going through infertility with me and his reply was exactly what I knew he’d say but it was still good for me to hear. He feels helpless. He explained that everything else in life he’s able to get whether it’s a job, house, vehicle, etc. He’s able to work towards it and accomplish it, but with this he feels completely lost and doesn’t know how to help me. He wants to do more but knows there is nothing that he can do to fill the void. He doesn’t realize that just by him being there for me he is fixing me.
I’ve realized that men and women both grieve, but in different ways. Women are emotional. We cry, retreat from others, and then try to figure things out. Men are not so emotional. They usually turn to anger and immediately try to fix the problem. Right after we lost the baby Nate was pissed and I took it very offensive. He was never mad at me. He was mad at the doctor and the whole situation. He wanted answers immediately. When we met with our doctor I basically told Nate “If you have nothing nice to say, don’t say anything” so he didn’t. He said maybe 2 words to the doctor because he was so mad at him. Nate see’s now that this was beyond our doctors control, but at the time he needed someone to place the blame on. We were both highly emotional for the first few weeks but in completely different ways.
I feel like infertility and miscarriage plays a bigger role in a relationship than pretty much anything else that life throws at you and it’s important to stay centered through it all. It’s easy to get caught up in your personal needs throughout the process, but it’s so important to put your partners needs high on your priority list. Do simple things that make him feel loved like cooking his favorite food, turn your phone off and really focus on connecting with him, plan a date that he would enjoy even if it doesn’t sound fun to you, and most of all always let him know that you appreciate him. After all, he wants to be a parent just as bad as you do. He may show it different but I guarantee that infertility affects him just as much as you. Being the one expected to stay strong and the support system is mentally and emotionally draining. It's easy to forget but men hurt too.
This last weekend I had the opportunity to attend an infertility conference held by a local support group called the Utah Infertility Resource Center. They had a full day of speakers covering all different topics related to infertility ranging from the importance of overall health when trying to conceive, how to cope with the trauma of infertility, recurrent miscarriage support, and so many more. It was a great day of information and so much support for one another.
One of the classes I attended was coping with the trauma of infertility. I have always known that my struggle with infertility has caused changes to my personality and mentality but I never put a title to it. I’ve never gone to counseling or seeked outside help because I like to do things my way on my own time. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing but there are times where an outside perspective helps in more ways than imaginable.
During the presentation, they brought up the topic of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the symptoms of it. I was floored when I read through the list and I had every single one. I knew I had some psychological, social, and mental issues from what I’ve gone through but never would have thought to label it as PTSD. PTSD has different degrees in which it affects people. For most of us we label the disorder with war veterans or those who have gone through something extremely tragic like car wrecks or crimes, but that is not always the case. Certain situations affect people in different ways. For instance, someone who has gone through the trauma of infertility will sometimes need to medicate to function, but others can handle it well enough on their own without it. It all depends on how the brain responds to the trauma. I know this isn’t an official diagnosis but it makes sense that it’s what I’ve been dealing with. Infertility is a trauma that is relived every month when your period starts, every procedure done, every shot given, and every doctor appointment. It’s extremely hard to continually get bad news and feel like you're inadequate with every test and check up you have.
The presentation then talked about coping techniques and how important self-care is during this process. This topic really hit home to me because it made me realize just how mean I have been on myself over the last few years, but especially the last 2 months. I have said some of the meanest things to myself, things I would never say to anyone else going through infertility or pregnancy loss. It forced me think about how I can become an overall happier person and at what point was I the happiest with myself in life.
I immediately thought of my health. I can honestly say I was a happier and more relaxed person when I put my health first by going to the gym and eating right. Notice that I reference my health, not weight. It’s that mind frame that I need to be reminded of. Going to the gym every day is not vain or selfish. In most cases, it’s an escape for people from certain points of their lives that they need to step back from. My outlook on exercise has completely changed since I started focusing on my mental health in conjunction with my physical health. I have no desire to be “perfect”. I want to be happy.
When going through infertility it’s easy to feel like your infertility is your identity because it’s all you focus on. When you tell other people in your life it’s often the topic of conversation as well because it sparks interest and empathy. It’s important to remember that we are more than infertile. We have a lot more to offer the world than our experience going through infertility and it’s important you remember all that you have to offer. Self-care plays a major impact on the mentality we hold during tough times. I recommend writing down a list of all the qualities you have that make you a great person in your journal. Writing has been proven to be very therapeutic so any time you feel overwhelmed or depressed open your journal and read the list of your amazing qualities.
I’m taking in all the advice I learned this past weekend and making an effort to practice at least one self -care item every day. I need this for myself right now. I can feel that this miscarriage has shook me in ways that I’ve never had before. I’ve always felt in control over my grief but over the past few weeks I haven’t been. I want to be able to focus on myself to be a better person and a better wife. Nate deserves it, but most importantly I deserve it.
Hi my name is Whitney and I'm a mom to 2 adorable boys. Here you'll find our story of infertility, adoption, grief, and hope. I'm an open book so you'll never know what I'll post next!