Sunday, January 30, 2011

Although no one asked, I'll tell you why

My (not exactly) last post was about domestic abuse which includes, as I mentioned, not only physical abuse, but emotional abuse too. And although no one asked if there's any connection to infertility here's why I think it can be.

For any couple, there are stress points, but infertility presents additional and particularly challenging ones.

When a couple decides they want a child, sometimes both partners want the baby equally, sometimes not. When they fail to conceive, perhaps both partners are disappointed equally or perhaps one takes it much worse than the other. This is one point at which bad things can creep into a relationship. Imagine this scenario (and, sorry for assuming that the woman usually wants the baby more than the man, I've just never had the experience of being a man...) a husband and wife decide that they want to have a baby. They try the first month and nothing happens. Neither's particularly disappointed. In fact, trying was fun & they look forward to trying again. But nothing happens that month either, or the next month. Or the next. The husband is nonchalant and is sure that they'll succeed sometime. The wife is beginning to be stressed, because she always worried something would go wrong / heard about her cousin who went through inferitlity / always wanted to have a baby by the time she turned 30 / or a hundred other reasons. She comes out of the bathroom crying that her period arrived and her husband just doesn't get what the big deal is. A husband who expresses empathy despite not feeling what his wife is feeling is helpful. A husband who lets his wife know how ridiculous he thinks she's being about it is not.

Another point is the decision to go for testing. If the couple has decided to have a baby and it's time to go for testing (general rule is after 12 months for a woman under 35 & 6 months if she's over 35) and the husband makes this difficult or doesn't agree to go for testing. This lack of support makes the woman feel helpless - sure, she can go for testing herself, but isn't having a baby a "couple" thing? And what if he's got low sperm count or no motility? If the couple agrees that the wife will be tested first, cool. But if the husband objects to being tested once the wife is finished with her testing, or to proceed with necessary treatment, it can be a huge stress point.

A biggie - once you've gotten the results of your tests, whether or not they're conclusive, there can be blame from one partner, whereas the other partner may feel guilt. Guilt can make one more vulnerable and make any blame aimed at him or her that much more hurtful. (And, of course, let's remember that in the vast majority of cases, the infertility is not self-inflicted, so blame is completely out of place anyway.)

Another point is financial priorities. If treatment (the success of which is unknown) is expensive, one partner may not feel willing to give up other things instead (e.g., a bigger house, a better car, vacations) or to go into debt. If his or her partner feels differently, it's another major stress point.

As time goes by without a successful pregnancy, achieving a pregnancy can become an obsession that leaves everything else - even the marital relationship - behind. What happens to a husband whose wife is so obsessed with getting pregnant that he can no longer have a conversation with her about anything else? Where's the support that he expects to get from his partner when he has a lousy day at work?

These are just a some of the points at which I see relationships falling apart because of infertility - I'm sure there are many others. Have you felt any of these happen in your relationship? Any clever ways to avoid them?