A change in DH helps a change in me

Since this past loss, I’ve sensed a big shift in DH. He will grasp my shoulders, look at me unwaveringly, smile, and say, “Hey, let’s just do it. Let’s have a family. Let’s commit to it. Let’s have a family one way or another, no matter what. We can do it.”

He has never been this confident before. He has never seemed so entirely with me. It has taken me some time to get used to, but at this point, I get it—he’s really committing, and he has little doubt that we can do this thing.

He said that he realized that I have been waiting for him to say something like this, with confidence and commitment, for a really long time. And that it has caused me to suffer. That up until now, we have felt somewhat separate on this journey because he wasn’t able to entirely join me. He worried that we wouldn’t have enough money to pursue all options, like adoption, and he worried that if treatments didn’t work, I would not be able to be happy without children. “I’ve been focusing on the idea that we could end up childless, and that we could be doomed, in that way, because you’d never feel entirely fulfilled.”

But now, he says, he isn’t thinking like that. He sees that in a few short months, he will be taking his licensing exam—this time off for me has worked out well, because I’m able to take care of a bunch of tasks, leaving him a lot of time and energy for studying, and his confidence about passing the exam has grown. He sees that with time and effort, we make things happen, we make enough money to take care of our needs, and we can weather anything.

When we first met, he said he wasn’t sure if he wanted to have children, and when we started dating, he warned me that, as far as having kids, goes, “I’m not there yet.” Not knowing exactly where the relationship was going to go, I was fine with that, but as our love grew, and as I grew older, we had to have some conversations. He loved his little niece and loved playing with kids, but he was worried that he didn’t have as strong a drive to have them as I did. But we talked about how a lot of guys—his father-friends among them—didn’t exactly spend the last decade or so yearning for an infant to hold. He would talk to these guy friends and they’d tell him stories about how they weren’t really that into the idea of having kids, but once they did, they fell in love with their children and couldn’t imagine life any other way.

One of the incredibly hard things about infertility is that it draaaaags out that period of ambivalence for some guys—with a fertile woman, they’d decide to go for it, and not too long after, they’d have that baby for the guy to fall in love with, end of story. But when that baby doesn’t happen, the woman goes on yearning, and the guy can go on feeling ambivalent, and the divide between them that was once small can further grow.

So we talked about the nightmare things that can happen for a couple if they experience infertility, and I tried to educate him about how long it can take to figure out what is wrong, and how expensive it can all be. I wanted to start trying right away; he wanted to wait a couple of years. We compromised somewhere in the middle. And you know the rest.

“I guess I’ve just been realizing that we can create any life that we want,” he said. “We don’t have to feel doomed.” Then he basically said that he doesn’t have to feel like this is my trip that he is supporting me on, that it is our trip, and we can commit to making a family. “It might not look exactly like what we pictured, and it might be a lot harder and take a lot longer than we expected, but we can do it.”

Since he has started talking like this, I have felt the burden lighten. And I’ve been realizing that for the past almost-three years, I really have often felt alone. He’s been an incredible support to me, but there is a difference between supporting someone and joining them. I don’t think I’ve written about it much, but DH and I have talked about it before. He has said in the past that he felt like he couldn’t join me—in the research, even in the grief—because of his not-as-strong desire to have kids. But it seems like now he understands—not just intellectually, but at a gut level—that he doesn’t have to have as strong a desire to have kids. It doesn’t matter. We want to live our lives together, and a life of family will be happiest situation for us, so we’ll make it happen.

I needed this. On some sort of deep, maybe even partially unconscious level, I think I’ve been needing him to say these things and demonstrate this unwavering stance. It gives me encouragement to do the same. And it seems to be giving us permission to begin to enjoy being just-two for now.

“If we believe that a family is in our future, really believe it,” he said, “we can relax. We don’t have to worry, because we know it will happen, and we can enjoy now and our time together.”

I’ve been relaxing a little bit more, and enjoying a little bit more, each day.

Other pictures of family are growing a little bit stronger in mind, and other timelines—timelines that used to make me shudder in horror—are starting to seem maybe not so bad.

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34 Comments

  1. Wow, I understand this more than you’ll ever know except that we’ve never had that epiphany. I still feel very much like this is my experience and he’s “allowing” it to happen. I know my DH wants a child but he would be absolutely fine without one. I sometimes think that he wants a child just to get the “old” me back and not because he truly “needs” one. It used to bother me but as long as he’s on board with spending the money and doing what I tell him, it’s enough because it has to be. My DH does not believe that we will ever be successful so I know he’s also protecting his heart in his own way..

    Reply
    • Ah, yes—DH has said in that past that he would be okay childless, too…

      We get the message from others/culture/etc. that not being ready to have kids trumps *being* ready to have kids; that being okay without children, if you are experiencing IF, trumps *not* being okay without children. That was a confusing sentence. But the point is, I’ve found it hard to continue on this trip when he was saying he doesn’t need to be on it in order to find happiness. But the difference is—he *would* be happy *with* kids; I *would not* be happy *without* kids. The epiphany was important because essentially he was saying that he realizes that the level of his drive is beside the point; he can join me simply because we are married and committed to having happy lives together. I wonder if having a conversation with your DH about looking at things from that perspective would open that door a crack. But he’s protecting his own heart—I so empathize. And everything else you say so resonates—getting the old you back, yes. I mean, it’s just simply true—finding motherhood will help us re-find ourselves. And they want that more than anything so they get their “full” partners back. I want that for you guys so much. XO

      Reply
  2. This rings a big loud bell for me too – without the resolution. I’m glad you guys feel like a team now (I had no idea you felt otherwise before I read this post). This is something we should all look for.

    Reply
    • I’m glad it resonates, but sorry to hear you haven’t experienced resolution. Yeah, I haven’t written much about where our relationship began (with the subject of having children) and how all of that has played out in these years of infertility and pregnancy loss. But he and I have talked about it privately and with our last couples’ counselor (this past spring) quite a bit. I think she was the one who really helped him begin to articulate how much it didn’t matter that he didn’t have the same level of yearning, etc., and to help him see the reasons behind the decisions he was making. She also helped us begin to understand the larger picture of marriage, the give and take, the times when one person is “driving” more than the other, the times when both are “driving” together, and so on. But after this past loss, and after assessing that we can take care of our needs financially (I think that’s still a gendered preoccupation for guys) and feeling that he can pass his exam, it all gave him this opportunity to join me, help me, with confidence. But I’m sure we’ve still got a lot of work to do.

      Reply
  3. Having a teammate, not just a cheerleader, is an amazing shift. This post made me so happy. You guys sound like such a rock solid couple.

    Reply
  4. You’re so so right, there’s a huge difference between being supportive and being a team. My husband and I got to the place of being a team only after 2+ years and 4 miscarriages, but it was an amazing turning point. I’m so glad your feeling this way, it will make things so much easier going forward.

    Reply
    • Thank you for commenting this. It makes me realize that it’s normal for these shifts to take so long, and take so much trauma! I remember after the 2nd miscarriage just being like, “God, how many miscarriages is it going to take for him to say he is *with* me…” He was right there, supporting and loving me, but you know, still separate. And I used to think that we *had* to have a baby for him to shift—which is maybe still partially true, in some senses—but at least the shift he has made now is that the goal is ours, not mine. We might share the goal for somewhat different reasons, but that doesn’t seem to matter anymore. I’m so glad that you found your amazing turning point. I’m hoping we follow the same path as you guys and that it does make things easier.

      Reply
  5. This post really hit a chord with me. I know exactly how you feel – there is a huge difference between supporting and joining. My DH has not yet joined me, and so the journey is very lonely and solitary, and I feel that while we are both pushing on the same yoke I am shouldering most of the burden. I’m so glad that you have him now to help lighten your load.

    Reply
    • I didn’t quite realize that about your DH. I’m sorry and can’t tell you how clearly I understand your metaphor of pushing on the same yoke but being responsible for most of the burden! It’s really just kind of brutally lonely. Maybe now that you are pregnant he will change. XO

      Reply
  6. Tess

     /  December 18, 2013

    He sounds fantastic. There was also a turning point with us where we became a team — we were going to create a family, whatever it took. IF, oddly enough, can make couples stronger.

    I was wondering – have you all all had a sperm fragmentation test done? (SCSA or a Tunel assay test) I’ve been wondering about my own case in terms of this. Sometimes I think because ICSI can fertilize, specialists may be overlooking severe DNA sperm fragmentation as a cause of IVF failure or miscarriage. We are considering ED, but may also fertilize some of the eggs with donor sperm if the fragmentation test is particularly high.

    Reply
    • Thank you, yeah, you’re right, it *can* make couples stronger—it’s tricky as hell to get from A to B without getting lost, but it can happen. I’m glad that you got there with your DH.

      Yes, actually, we’ve had the sperm frag test done twice! On accident. This is, er, one of those instances of me shouldering more of the burden than him. We decided that he was going to be in charge of managing his tests until he went through a $500 frag test, one he had to do himself at home, and freeze on dry ice in a canister the size of R2D2, and ship expensively—only for me to discover that he’d already had the test done at CCRM. At that point, I took back over the reins on his test management. (!)

      Anyway, the frag tests both came back okay. But that doesn’t mean anything for certain, according to Dr. S. The losses could still be due to him, as he is now the common denominator, and there is the possibility of early-stage fetal development errors (birth defects) going on due to sperm. If this next transfer doesn’t work out, we *could* try fertilizing with donor sperm—but I’m not sure if I have the stamina. Right now, it is not seeming that I will.

      But I think that certainly not enough is known about sperm issues. REs admit as much. The focus has been on women (for good reason) and the science just hasn’t amassed enough on the male side…and probably won’t in time for our generation to take advantage of it.

      I think it’s a good idea to fertilize partially with donor sperm if the frag test comes back a little wonky…but that’s coming from a woman who’s had six losses, so take my opinion with a grain of salt! (:

      Reply
      • Tess

         /  December 19, 2013

        thank you for the information! I know _entirely_ what you mean about taking back control of the tests because the DH is not completely on it. :) We’re going to do the frag test again and some others as we consider SD along with ED.

        I hear you about having the stamina. I should really keep to one step at a time. I am the type of person with several back-up plans.

        Reply
  7. I love this! I’m so happy for you because it really is helpful to have a partner who is wanting it as much as you! yay! I agree with your hubby..that when you really believe you will have a baby that you can relax. Once I started believing and hoping in God and not just being “wishy washy” about whether or not we could have children, I was able to relax because I know that when you believe and have faith, then God can do the impossible. I’m excited to hear of a pregnancy announcement soon!

    Reply
    • Thank you! Do you feel relaxed most of the time? I’m still wobbly. It’ll take time. I hope it just gets better. Faith in positive outcomes is tricky for me, but the one thing I believe 100% is that faith in positivity is nothing but good. You know in SW, there is this assessment called the bio-psycho-social. I did a paper on a new thing, the bio-psycho-social-spiritual. It looked at the effect of spirituality on quality of life. Spiritual people, and people who had faith in positive outcomes or God, were happier people by wide margins—and the happiest people of all were spiritual people who did volunteer work.

      Anyway, I’m striving away from “wishy-washy”, trying to believe that it will happen one way or another—thank you so much for cheering me on!

      Reply
  8. Kali

     /  December 18, 2013

    Wow, this is amazing! I am so happy to read this.

    Reply
  9. Excellent point about a woman’s yearning/man’s ambivalence! I’m so happy that your DH is being so awesome :) XO

    Reply
    • Me, too! Yeah, I’ve had to remind myself (and DH) that 75% of my guy friends not only were ambivalent but actively did not want children and now they are happy fathers. A lot of guys (not all) just don’t have that same drive. And I know that some of my guy friends, who are fathers now, would not have been as awesome at support as my DH has been if they’d had to deal with IF. IF really puts couples to the test. XO

      Reply
  10. Clare

     /  December 19, 2013

    I can totally relate to this. Once something finally clicked with my DH and he started to engage in the battle with me I felt like a huge weight had lifted off my shoulders. It gave me so much more strength and now it’s like I can meet him half-way in the sense that I’m able to give him support back rather than turning into a complete mess everytime things go tits-up.
    Between this post and the last one, your DH sounds like a sweetie.

    Reply
    • First off, I freaking love the expression “tits-up” and am going to steal it.

      Secondly—yes, giving support back! That’s it! We’ve talked about how the separateness leads to me being a complete mess when things go tits-up but when he is upset, too, because he’s sharing in the lost goal, I can be the one who takes care rather than just the one who is always taken care of (which can make you feel like an invalid after a while). The balance is important.

      I’m glad something finally clicked with your DH—he must be a sweetie, too.

      Reply
  11. I can just imagine how fortifying this is. DH and I have had enough problems just with the incongruence of how much suffering or optimism each of use felt at a different times. It’s all bad enough without isolation to boot!

    Reply
    • Hear, hear! I read this: “Roselle Shubin, an infertility counselor in practice with Dr. Charles Debrovner, an infertility gynecologist, has seen hundreds of couples in the last five years. ‘Even in good, loving relationships, unhealthy patterns of behavior may emerge,’ she said. ‘One or both partners are often depressed, and they can move in a downward spiral toward isolation and despair. Sometimes, the spouse thought to be infertile will unconsciously try to break up the marriage to give the partner another chance. A mate requiring surgery may be angry that ”it is me, not you who needs surgery, that something is wrong with me and not you,’ she said.” That incongruence can feel like a see-saw.

      Reply
      • Totally. Female-factor IF has really complicated things for me…so jealous of his separation from the genetic quandary of potentially facing DE, so worried that will pollute everything. And your feelings of longing in isolation must have been equally rough. Now…if I had just proofread that first response a little better lol.

        Reply
  12. This post really struck me in ways that few posts do. I absolutely could relate to the distance between you and DH due to his ambivalence. My partner never really got to the place that DH is at now, and it is still an issue between us. It affects his parenting daily and it makes me wonder if I chose the right partner in life. I SO wanted someone who wanted a family as much as I did but I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that the man I love just doesn’t and he’s doing the best he can in spite of that. Maybe some day that will feel okay.

    I’m SO GLAD that DH has come to that place and that you both can walk this path together, not you a few steps ahead. What a relief that must be. I can feel the change in you just reading this post, it’s that powerful. And it makes me very happy. I know you’ve been through a lot–more than I can imagine enduring–but I also know that together you can get through this. I have faith in that, especially now, after reading this post.

    Reply
    • That sounds so challenging! Maybe he will be a father who will “come into his own” a little further down the line, when the children are older, or maybe even when they are young adults. I’ve heard of that happening. But in any case, in the meantime, it doesn’t make it any easier for you. I’m glad my post resonated, but sorry to hear you are struggling through this.

      What you say about being a few steps ahead is so apt—that is how it felt. It’s a shift now, one that will take some time getting used to. I can’t thank you enough for your bright and genuine faith in me, and in us. It makes me feel really good! (:

      Reply
  13. This is a wonderful post and thank you for being so openly honest and sharing. It highlights how important to have a life *with* your partner and to *join* each other in the journey…that is something that makes life feel so much more meaningful and full. It is beyond support and it is the togetherness that frees you and gives space to enjoy life at the moment while in the space between before you grow your family. My heart is happy for you as that was something I had wanted from my previous dh. I am truly happy that your husband got to this place on his own to be with you. It is wonderful to hear that you are not feeling alone. Your story is confirming for me in my life’s story–I was not crazy for wanting what you have in terms of relationship and that it is possible for others. Wishing you both the best in 2014!

    Reply
    • What a sweet comment! Of course, no, you were not crazy for wanting that at all, and I love how you put that “it is the togetherness that frees you and gives space to enjoy life at the moment while in the space between before you grow your family.” Such a beautiful way to think about it. I wish you the best in 2014 as well. xoxo

      Reply
  14. Over 5 years ago, this is EXACTLY where my husband and I were and he never really “got” my grief, my depression. He had only really committed to our first IVF journey and after that, he kind of let go of the dream so to speak. It’s fantastic that he has emotionally engaged with you in this way.

    Reply
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