I don’t know where to start with this post. It’s hard to share details like this because nobody likes admitting something isn’t quite right in their relationship but I am slowly learning that this is common and it’s an important part of the
infertility struggling with fertility journey.
Things haven’t been smooth sailing between Mr.Husband and I. Actually we don’t remember a time when things were smooth sailing for us. We married at 20, struggled to complete our studies together, survive financially, buy a place, travel and act as normal 20 something year olds.. Ten years on and we both feel that we haven’t really moved forward. It’s like we’re doing the running man but stuck on the spot.
Struggling with fertility has brought out the best and worst in us as a couple. It has tested us, beaten us and stretched us beyond our comfort zones. I really do believe our stressful lives shifted my hormones and periods. In one way it’s brought us closer,
it’s healed past resentments and made us really appreciate the love we have for each other.
In another way, it’s made
us me question where the last ten years have gone, wonder what’s next for us if having a family isn’t on the horizon and question whether we’re right for each other.. whether we’re meant to be a family and together still. All of this fed into the bedroom. The sex was dying and that for me was a huge alarm bell.
I started to believe that I was really dysfunctional. Not just because my ovaries weren’t behaving but also because of the way I started to question my marriage. That was until I spent two weeks living at my sister’s and roaming her bookshelves. She’s a sex therapist/relationship counselor, you see. I explored Amazon for books that I thought might help me make sense of my marriage and help find a way to heal the situation.
I ordered ‘I love you but I’m not in love with you’ on Mr. Husband’s Amazon account to my kindle and then cursed myself when I realised it had pinged an email of the book title to him. He came home looking forlorn and thinking I wanted to leave the relationship. I had to explain..
“I want to fix things. We’re not truly living, we haven’t been for a long time and I’m not always here.. paying attention.. because I feel so lost. I want to give more but I feel sad and I don’t even know who I am anymore. I’ve worked so hard over the years and I feel like I’m at zero again. I just always thought I’d be a mother to your child by now. I can’t feed energy into us when I’m in no man’s land.“
I knew that my zombie state wasn’t healthy for him or fair on him. Even he asked, “Do you think we’re fooling ourselves?” To which I replied, “I don’t think either of us would be pushing on with this if we didn’t believe our love.”
The author of ‘I love you but’ breaks a relationship down into categories by the number of years you’ve been together. According to the 10-15 years category, by now we should have a joint dream, a joint project and for most couples that is a child. Suddenly I didn’t feel so insane or dysfunctional.
I didn’t want to speak to my sister about it because it’s a bit … weird. Plus she’s newly wed and trying for a baby too, I didn’t want to be a Debbie downer on her by offloading my issues. But when she called me, I confessed that I was reading ‘Resurrecting Sex’ by Dr.David Schnarch – a book I had seen on her sofa. She immediately told me to put it down and read ‘Passionate Marriage’ by the same author and to throw out ‘I love you but..’ (she didn’t like the title and hadn’t heard of the book or the author). I made my way through 100 pages of ‘Passionate Marriage’ on my Kindle and being the great sister she is, she made time to pop over for a tea to discuss it.
Here are snippets of our conversation and what she made me realize.
The issue of acceptance (seems to be word of the year)
Sister: You’re angry and still holding onto grief. I can see it in your eyes. You need to let it out.
Me: I don’t want to cry. I’ve already cried so much and it makes me feel like shit. I don’t want to feel like shit anymore. I want to be strong.
Sister: It’s still in you. Just look at your eyes. I can see it.
[At this point I notice her eyes are welling up in response to what she sees in mine and I admit I was fighting back the tears. Damn sisters!]
Me: I can be angry and shout it all out but it won’t fix anything.
Sister: Yes it will. It’ll stop you from holding it here. [She points to her ovaries] You’re angry at Mr.Husband and you haven’t truly moved on from it. You’re holding yourself back. When I thought I’d never meet the right man for me, I’d cry and shout at how unfair it is. You need to do the same but for your fertility. You need to accept that you may not have a child and if you don’t have a child, then that’s okay too. You will be okay. The way I accepted that if I didn’t meet a man, I could live life without a man and be okay.
Me: But if I accept that then I feel like I’m saying to my body and the universe that I don’t want one. That I’m not fighting for it.
Sister: No, you’re saying that you want a child but you’re okay and strong enough even if you don’t.
Me: You’re probably right. I am still angry at him. It’s why I want to punch things these days. I don’t like to be angry at him though, I’ve played my part too in our relationship.
Sister: I know but anger is part of the process, it gives you the energy and motivation to push forward. You’re feeling pretty low right now and that’s okay. It’s part of the journey. When you first gave up work, I had to wonder what you were doing and I didn’t think it was right. I admit I was wrong because you’re looking much better for it. You need to be where you are right now to get to a better place tomorrow.
[I nodded but it didn’t make me feel much better]
Using eye contact to melt
Sister: What do you see when you look in his eyes?
[I shifted awkwardly]
Me: I don’t really look. I tend to look away.
Sister: But when you do look?
Me: His eyes show emotion but I’m frozen.
Sister: Because you’re angry. You need to look into his eyes and you need to think about what you see and feel. Eye contact will melt you.
On wanting to run away
Me: The thing is… everyone did their running away when they were in their teens. I have the urge to do it now. I just want space. I feel like I’ve lost myself in the struggle to just get by and survive.
Sister: Sure you can run away but you’ll still be stuck with yourself wherever you go. You need to fix things here and get that space here.
Me: I need to do some serious growing up as an individual.
Sister: Yes you do. I don’t doubt you’ll make an incredible mum. You’ll probably be better at it than me but you need to get yourself into a good place first.
Where we’re standing now
What touched me most was that my sister recognized my grief and my acknowledged my strength. ‘People look at us and say I’m the ferocious one and that you’re the gentle one but your core is much stronger than mine. You need to use that core for you,’ she said. When she left, I knew that I’m going to face stormy waters but I am going get through it.
I realised that the internal blame game has to stop. I want my marriage and I want a family but most of all I want us to be happy. My happiness can’t depend on a child. My sister pointed out that it’s not whether we’re meant to be a family – we are a family already – even without a child.
I have consciously tried to accept that maybe a child isn’t written for us (yet or ever) but I haven’t really accepted the fertility struggle. One minute I’m hiding from it, the next my head is lost in charts and I’m popping Zita West Vitamins. I’m not in a state of peace.
Mr. Husband and I have already started talking through it all and the more we talk, the closer we become. The more we open up, the greater intimacy we achieve and while certain topics can leave the atmosphere tense, it never stays that way. We hug and end up play fighting.
It’s likely that the next few posts are going to focus on sex and intimacy. My mind is running circles around it. I’ll note my thoughts on ‘Passionate Marriage’ and how we’ve started to apply it. My sister suggested therapy but right now I don’t want someone picking at my brain. I want to read, reflect and absorb. I want to melt and love in Mr.Husband’s direction.
Right now I’m off to find a way to get that anger out.