This week is National Infertility Awareness Week (#NIAW2021), and I figured what better time to share a small piece of my journey.
You see, infertility isn’t something that is talked about much at all. Especially from the husband’s perspective. Though I know the struggles, heartbreak, and doubt from the female side of things is incredibly painful, today I wanted to share my own, often flawed, male/husband perspective. None of this is to take away from anyone else’s journey or story. Instead, it’s a place for me just to share a small piece of mine.
Kind of a “things I wish people would have told me” type of post (and the title of this post will make sense soon too, I promise!)
Many of us fantasize at some point of growing up, finding someone we love to marry, and starting a family. I know I always have. Having never had, what I viewed as, a “complete” family unit to grow up with I longed for the day I could have my own children and raise them with the type of father I always dreamed I deserved.
When I met my wife Lissette (though I call her Liz), our dreams on raising a family perfectly aligned. But over the next 8 years of our marriage, getting pregnant naturally never happened.
I wish someone would have told me the incredibly high numbers of couples who struggle with infertility. I thought it would be super easy to get pregnant. All my family always seemed to get pregnant right away. The movies (I know, it’s not reality) showed it was so easy. Heck, all we’re told in school is how to use protection because unexpected pregnancies happen all the time. But no one ever told me what the real statistics are. That over 6 million women in the United States struggle with infertility.
I wish someone would have told me how painful a “not pregnant” pregnancy test or the arrival of a monthly period can be. As we began to be much more proactive in getting pregnant, I never imagined how hard it would be to see my wife break down every month when her period would arrive. How the months when she was a few days late, we’d take the test, and I’d watch her heart break all over again when it was negative. But, I’m the husband, the rock, I have to stay strong for her. Or so I told myself. So even when the prayers felt ignored, the pain grew ever deeper, and the hope seemed to fade, I had to hold it together for her. And all I wanted to do was fall apart.
I wish someone would have told me there’s no shame in getting help. When you’re trying to get pregnant, and nothing happens, you feel like it’s your fault. Clearly I am doing something wrong. Growing up, and into my adult years, no one ever talked about getting help when you can’t conceive naturally. No one made it seem “ok”. Instead I internalized that seeking out help would be admitting I failed. But after so long, sometimes you can’t bear the pain anymore so you ask for help. Seeing an infertility doctor was by far the best decision we made. Why? Because we learned that we weren’t doing anything “wrong”. Every family that goes through this, has a different outcome/journey/story. For ours, it was a very low AMH that kept us from conceiving naturally. And our doctor shared that on our own there was nothing more we could have done. He walked us through all the science, his recommendations, and he gave us hope. Small hope, as he put it. But hope. He never pushed us to do any one thing, but he held our hand (metaphorically) throughout. I felt the shame slowly begin to melt away.
I wish someone would have told me how painful, slow, and long the infertility journey can get when starting treatment….oh and it ain’t cheap!! You see, when we started treatment I was sure it was gonna work. Like I just assumed, first month, BOOM, we’re pregnant. Oh, if only that was how it happened for us. We started with the least invasive treatment and saw very minimal change after a month, so we decided to try a few steps up. Being “advanced maternal age” (what they call 35 and above) he explained we were limited on time with our journey. And man, when you take steps up on the journey, the prices are CRAZY. And yeah, most insurances don’t cover that. So on top of all the emotional turmoil you’re going through, now here comes the financial stress and concerns. For months I watched Liz take pills, do daily shots, feel bloated, be in pain. And as the husband, all I could do was hold her.
I wish someone would have told me how helpless I’d feel. I felt useless as a husband and partner during these days. I couldn’t take the shots myself. I could’t take the daily pills multiple times a day. I didn’t have to completely change my diet. It was like “how is this fair??”. It ripped me apart inside knowing the only thing I could do, was be present and supportive. I had no control, and I had to learn to be ok with that.
I wish someone would have told me how hard the waiting is. You see, with a treatment every month, there are lots of tests and waiting. Did the follicles reach the size they needed to be, were there extras, were they in the correct ovary, did the next step take, and worst of all……the pregnancy test. You see for us, after every month of treatment, Liz had to go have blood drawn to see if it worked and if she was pregnant. And month after month, when the phone call of “not pregnant” would come, we’d break down. We’d cry, scream, and lose hope all over again. And every month I would think “is this meant for us?”, “what did we do wrong”, “maybe it’s time to let this dream go”. It hurt, and as the husband, I broke even harder watching how hard it was on Liz.
I wish someone would have told me that everything will be a trigger. Watching a TV show or movie, and someone excitedly gets pregnant, would make me break down. Hearing a friend or family member wasn’t even trying and were so excited to find out they got pregnant, would make me break down AND be incredibly excited for them at the same time (yeah it’s some weird emotions). Seeing a pregnant woman walk down the street, watching a dad play with his children, it all hurt. And no matter where I turned there were triggers.
I wish someone would have told me the fear doesn’t end when (or if) you get pregnant. Though every story takes a different path, ours did lead to some happiness. Though I know many families spend years in infertility treatments and never get the result they dreamed of, after multiple treatments ours worked. I will never forget getting the phone call after the pregnancy test. The immediate tears and heaving. The looks on the faces of family as we got to share the news. It was such a happy time. And on a side note, if you are struggling with infertility I do NOT share this in light of the pain and struggles you’re dealing with. I only share because I believe every journey should be shared, and the happy moments are meant to be celebrated. And the heartbreak and sad moments are meant to be shared too. But what no one told ME was the immense fear that would begin to take over, especially at the beginning, of possible miscarriage. Especially when the doctor told us it was a near “miracle” we got pregnant, and he wasn’t sure we’d be able to again. Knowing families who struggled with miscarriage, every little thing brought about fear. But we leaned into the fear, our faith, and our family and we are still taking each day by day.
Then….we found out not only were we pregnant, but we were pregnant with twins. The doctor was shocked. With a low AMH, he wasn’t sure we’d be able to get pregnant with one, much less twins. And our hearts exploded in joy. With the realization we may never have biological children again, to have two come our way, was a blessing we weren’t going to turn down.
So, during this National Infertility Awareness Week, I wanted to share a small piece of my journey with you. A few things I wish people would have told me.
I know if my wife were to tell her side, there would be tons that she viewed differently and experienced in her own way. Just like if you were to ask anyone else on this journey.
My journey is just that, my journey. It’s unique to me. But I am such a strong believer that when we share our journey, we help others who are on a similar path, feel less alone.
Now, why did I call this post “Can’t Make Rainbows Out of Rain”? Well, you see a song I heard this week inspired me to share this blog post. Riley Clemmons song, “I’ll Stay” (embedded below), had these lines that resonated with me….
“You’re stuck with all the ‘could have beens’
The worst is playing in your head
And every doubt is echoing
And it feels like no one’s listening
But I’m listening
I can’t make a rainbow out of rain
I can’t write a song to heal the pain
But I’ll be standing here while the world turns away
I won’t pretend like I can save the day
Say the words to make it all okay
But while the world turns away
I’ll stay, I’ll stay”
So if today, you are struggling with infertility and you feel all alone. You feel like no one would understand and that if people knew they might just give up on you or walk away, I want you to hear this……I bet you they’ll say “I’ll stay”. I bet you they will take your hand and hold you. They’ll allow you to see this journey isn’t meant to be done alone or hidden in silence.
And though I can’t make a rainbow out of rain, I can hold on. I can find hope. I can cling to my faith and know that God can (and does) bring about the rainbow after the rain. Even if it looks different than I ever dreamed it would look.
There are so many of us on this journey and we’re always better together.
If you’re looking for resources, check out https://infertilityawareness.org/