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Ask Jamie: Infertility and Relationships

Posted Apr 25 2009 12:27am
Anonymous asks:
"How has infertility affected your personal relationships? (marriage, family, friends, professional) Also how did those relationships change once you became a mother?"

Infertility was difficult for all of my relationships. For a long-time, I turned all of the infertility-related feelings inside and could not talk to others (except in the blogosphere ) about many of the emotions and feelings I was having as a result of my infertility. My natural instinct is to be introverted and infertility heightened my anti-social nature. I didn't want to chit-chat in the office at school, I didn't want to attempt to make new friends, and I didn't want to talk to many of the friends I did have as they all seemed to end up pregnant the second I did so much as think about them.

Marriage - Mike and I both dealt with infertility very differently. For me, I felt like it was my problem and I was the one who was actively seeking and pursuing treatments, while Mike's role was -- for lack of a better phrase -- less invasive. ;) Mike is, by far, the most supportive husband I could ever hope to have, and we still struggled at times during our infertility journey. There were times where I thought he should just leave me for someone who wasn't "broken". There were times when I didn't understand why I was so upset and he was so calm. There were times when he brought home flowers for no reason what-so-ever and reminded me that we would be okay and that we would eventually have children -- some way, some how. Overall, I would say that infertility made our marriage stronger. Mike and I really don't argue or fight and this has really been our only true "issue" during our marriage (we're lucky, I know).

Family - I guess the tricky issue here is some of my family didn't want to hear anything about it and others wanted every single detail. Both sides of the fence drove me crazy and there was no way to meet in the middle.

I could detail how each family member impacted me during my infertility journey (it's still on-going) - what they did right and what they did wrong -- but honestly, I think it would just bring old ghosts out to haunt and it isn't worth that. Suffice it to say, I heard the "adopt and you'll get pregnant" (no, I won't, I don't have the parts). I heard that my IVF failures were my fault and news was spread about my pregnancy with Bo before I was ready. Being the "infertile in the room" is a bit like being the "elephant in the room" sometimes...

For the most part, those who knew about the journey were supportive in their own way and that was appreciated.

Friends - Infertility impacted my relationship with all of my friends. With some friends, it was simply the fact that they couldn't understand why I was going through IVF multiple times. They couldn't see what was motivating me, why I would put myself through this, or why I wouldn't or couldn't "just adopt". (As if there is such as thing...) Other friends already had children and couldn't understand why it was so difficult for me to be a part of their lives during that time period.

Tertia's classic post "How to be Good Friends with an Infertile" says it better than I ever could....

Professional - I was very upfront with my boss regarding my IVF cycles. Honestly, there was no other way. I had to take almost all of my sick leave during my IVF cycles and the hormonal basket case I became during each cycle made it pretty apparent that something was going on. I feel very lucky that my principal was very supportive and didn't blink an eye when I'd end up crying at his desk about a situation that was totally ridiculous. I am proud to say that the last time I shed tears in front of the man was just a few days before I found out I was pregnant with Bo (the height of my hormonal messiness!). I did encounter a few issues with a colleague (also during this heightened hormonal time) that I probably could have dealt with more effectively but their were some other issues at play in that situation as well.

Since I've become a mother, I've been lucky that a lot of my relationships have mended and healed themselves. For some relationships, it took long talks, apologies (from both parties), and time. For others - it was simply forgotten and we moved forward. There are also relationships where I have moved forward and they are still stuck in the past. I hope eventually they will move forward and forgive me as well. I think my journey proved that true friends and family stick around and stick by you, even when they feel they've been wronged -- and even when logic says they probably shouldn't...

Several different factors come into play that have helped heal my relationships. I think the first is my pregnancy with Bo and Bo's birth. It was during this time period where I finally felt like everything was going to be okay and my attitude changed and I was able to turn over a new leaf.

Since my pregnancy, I've become my county's resident guru on IVF /infertility because I am now willing to be an extrovert and share my story with others. I've talked to numerous people who I know in "real life" about infertility and IVF. I've been contacted by people locally who want to talk about infertility, who I am surprised even know I exist. I feel like part of the reason I am an infertile is to share my story (the good and the bad) with others who are in the infertility trenches.

That said, there are still some things that make my infertile claws come out. "Once an infertile, always an infertile." Most people in my immediate circle avoid letting me stand on my infertility soapbox too often... I guess that's what the blog is for. ;)

How has infertility impacted your relationships?

National Infertility Awareness Week ( NIAW ) is April 25-May 2. I would like to encourage you to help break the isolation that so many infertiles feel by sharing your story with others. One in six American couples face infertility -- help them feel like they are not alone.

Friday's Feature at Sticky Feet Part Deux is Ask Jamie. Feel free to email me or leave a comment with any question you would like for me to answer. Anything is fair game!
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