For nearly four years, I’ve publicly shared how this seemingly endless road to motherhood has affected me, my emotions, my body, and my self-worth. I’ve shared the stories of my three miscarriages. I’ve even shared a bit about my wife’s own miscarriage, and how that was a whole new level of heartbreak for me. But this journey has affected so much more than just me as an individual (or my wife as an individual for that matter).
It’s taken a huge toll on our marriage.
Sara and I were together for a year and a half before we got married, and I started fertility treatments six months after our wedding — so we’ve been actively trying to conceive for four of the nearly six years we’ve been together, and virtually the entire time of our marriage. Since we are a gay couple, “actively trying to conceive” means countless fertility treatments, month after month, for almost four full years. We have more heartache packed into those years than any young couple should, and sadly, our time together has been marked with more pain than joy.
This is not what I thought marriage would be.
Writing those words makes me feel more vulnerable than I’ve ever felt. It feels like a betrayal to our marriage to admit that this isn’t what I signed up for, this isn’t what I thought I was getting myself into. But isn’t that what marriage is, really? A commitment to the unknown with the person you love?
It’s not to say that we don’t have happy times. But this struggle has put such a weight on our marriage, and it often feels like it’s strangling us. Infertility isn’t just a difficult battle to get pregnant, it’s an assault on even the strongest marriages. We argue about next steps. Which one of us should try. When we should quit. What this journey has done to us financially, even with insurance coverage. Why I feel like no one understands how I feel. The stress is overwhelming, and some days it feels like all I know of our marriage is pain, loss, and fighting. It’s hard to focus on the good, and even harder to feel the good, when the yuck is so thick.
As individuals, I’d say we’re both pretty damn strong women. We’ve both been handed our own fair share of adversity in our separate lives, and we each overcame it all. My wife told someone the other day that this journey has taught her that she and I can get through anything. But that’s all it seems we do: get through.
Between the injections, pills, patches, and suppositories — to say nothing of how they leave me feeling physically and emotionally — our sex life has all but vanished. Hell, we spent our 4th anniversary at the fertility center undergoing yet another failed attempt at starting our family. There are few things in the world less sexy than that.
Then there’s the increasing pressure as a gay couple to represent marriage in a positive light. God forbid we suffer from the same struggles as our straight friends. There’s no room in this world for the very real fact that gay married couples feel the same stressors as heterosexual married couples. We fought so hard for this right, so we better get it right. We better do it right. And that doesn’t include the right to say, “Fuck, this is hard.”
Women continue to become braver and braver by discussing their infertility, and even more recently, their losses, so why is the strain it has on marriage still not being discussed? Maybe because infertility on its own makes you feel like such a failure. And admitting your marital struggles makes you feel like a failure. If we confess that infertility negatively affects our marriages, aren’t we then just super failures? Of course, my logical brain can remove all of that weight and recognize that this struggle is not a reflection of myself or of my worth. But tell that to my heart.
So few people talk about how hard marriage is. So few talk about how hard infertility and loss are. I haven’t heard anyone talk about the affect one has on the other. But I know we can’t be alone in this, and I am grateful my wife said she was okay with me opening this door. I know it will invite people into a whole new area of our lives and shatter the image we have upheld as a super strong power couple.
But the truth is, we barely make it through some days without fighting. We have more conversations about fertility treatments than we do about anything else. I look at my wife and I see a woman who loves me and who has proven her commitment to me and our marriage time and again. But I also look at my wife and I’m reminded of our years of heartbreak. I see her and I see that time we held each other for hours, sobbing the ugliest of cries, squished in the hospital bed together, after I lost our twins. How can someone be your beacon of hope and love while also being a symbol of the worst moments in your life?
I believe that Sara and I will somehow make it through this. But I can’t pretend that this journey has left our marriage unmarred. And that truth includes the very real fact that this shit is tough — and it’s far from all rainbows and butterflies.More On