When my partner and I got married, we decided to wait a few years to enjoy our time together as a couple before starting a family. By the time we decided to pull the goalie in the bedroom, so to speak, we were both thrilled that our rarely used spare bedroom would soon become a nursery.
But while we were enthusiastic in our attempts to get pregnant, it soon became apparent that I had fertility issues. As much as we loved each other, the fact that we couldn't get pregnant the old-fashioned way, like so many other couples we knew, started to take a toll on our marriage.
My partner and I are both overachievers. We're the kids who were always on honor roll, won all the awards in school and grabbed the scholarships to the good graduate schools. We'd assumed that getting pregnant would come just as easily to us as everything else did. The first day we took a pregnancy test, we both woke up early, sure that like so many other things in our lives thus far, we were about to get the good news we were hoping for.
When the test was negative, we were both shocked. We had never failed in anything we'd set out to do before, and it made us frustrated with ourselves and each other, especially because at that point, we didn't know if we had a fertility problem and who the source was.
Even after tests revealed that it was me and my bum ovaries that were the issue, we both experienced a few months of denial, when we thought that if I just ate healthy or did acupuncture or if we were just really, really good in bed, perhaps it would happen. Still, I didn't get pregnant.
When I eventually learned that I had premature ovarian failure (POF), which causes a woman's ovaries to stop working before she turns 40, I thought it would help stop all the "what ifs?" that had been swirling around us. And it's true that finally knowing the "why" behind why we weren't getting pregnant was a relief. But having a definitive diagnosis didn't fix the problems our relationship was experiencing.
After I learned I had POF, the only way forward on the road to parenthood was adoption, or using seriously expensive advanced reproductive technology that isn't guaranteed to work. Soon, we started spending the vast majority of our time making the big decision about where to go from here.
Gone were the hours of laying on the couch watching movies or playing video games. All of our conversations became serious and heavy. I used to come up with every excuse to leave the office early or have my partner drive me in the morning so I could spend a few more minutes with him. Now, I started to dread coming home after work.
I used to come up with every excuse to leave the office early or have my partner drive me in the morning so I could spend a few more minutes with him. Now, I started to dread coming home after work.
To his credit, my partner never overtly said that he blamed me for being the source of our fertility issues. But I felt guilty over being the one who had the reproductive issues. When we met, we'd both said we wanted children of our own one day, and I couldn't help but wonder if he still would have proposed to me had we known of my fertility issues ahead of time. My partner had once refused to go on a date with a girl who smoked. Would busted ovaries have been a dealbreaker, too?
More than once, I told my husband that he should divorce me and find a woman with a fully functioning reproductive system, but he always told me to stop being ridiculous and that he wasn't going anywhere. Still, those months weren't easy. I spent a lot of nights crying alone in the bathroom — not just because I was sad for myself over the idea of perhaps not becoming a mother, but also because I felt guilty, like I was holding him hostage from the life and wife he deserved.
I wanted to make a choice: we were either going to decide to move forward with an adoption application or fertility treatments, or give up the process of trying to conceive altogether. But my partner was worried about the costs of both options, as well as the thought that might may never get pregnant or be selected as a family to receive a baby. Since he was the financial breadwinner in our family, I didn't feel comfortable pushing the issue. So we started to ignore the question of whether we were going to have kids entirely. Whenever we saw an infant in public, we froze up, afraid of what the other might say or how they may react.
The issue finally came to a head one night, when I finally decided to be honest with my partner. I confessed that even though I knew I was the one that was to blame for the fertility problems we were having, I still really wanted to experience being pregnancy if I could and wanted to try fertility treatments.
I thought he would scoff at the expense again or worse, accuse me of trying to use him for money. Instead, however, he agreed with me completely. We made an appointment with a reproductive specialist the next day, and on our very first round of treatments, got pregnant with healthy twin boys.
I spent a lot of nights crying alone in the bathroom — not just because I was sad for myself over the idea of perhaps not becoming a mother, but also because I felt guilty, like I was holding him hostage from the life and wife he deserved.
We were luckier than many couples. Some struggle for years with infertility issues before finally welcoming a child, and other couples find that their relationship can't withstand the stress that comes with fertility problems. We made it out of the other end stronger, but I'll never forget those months when nothing was certain, including my marriage.