Just as I started to write this piece, I read “Infertility is a struggle, not an accident.” The contrasting words being struggle and accident, with the former, you have to forcefully remove yourself and the latter, it happens to you; how you react is the deciding factor.
Reactions to TTC, infertility, IVF and fertility treatments in general are diverse and sometimes shocking, but also do a great job of showing the exact opinions of people concerning the subject matter, so, in a way, they are welcome. Better to deal with the truth than to put up with lies masquerading as truth.
Asides reactions, it also shows secrets that people might have preferred to keep secrets. TTC opens you up, to strangers even. It brings out hidden aspects of your life, sometimes, it reveals dark areas and sometimes, it brings out the soft aspects.
For Funmi and her husband of fifteen years, three miscarriages changed the face of their marriage. It broke her husband, even though he tried to hide it, but he was a softie under all that his brash façade.
They had been married less than a year when they experienced their very first miscarriage. It had been disheartening for Funmi, or so she thought. Her husband had been present when the radiologist delivered the news; he had held her hands, while they waited to go in for the D&C. A taciturn man, he had had few words, except “Sorry dear” and then he would pat her hands. That was absolutely fine with Funmi, whose mind was in turmoil.
Her grief had been so bad that her mom had moved into their home for three weeks, to keep watch over her. Afterwards, she was fine enough and able to move on with her life.
But her husband wasn’t. He hid it well, but then he started talking about getting a puppy. Funmi, not an animal lover, had been so vocal about not wanting a dog in the house. But after so much cajoling, she agreed, as long as he kept the dog far away from her. That was how they got a dog in the house.
Funmi’s husband spent so much time with the dog, that Funmi found herself jealous of it. He even talked to the dog. Some of those conversations Funmi overheard and that was how she realised her husband had hurt, perhaps even more than she had over that miscarriage and he had no outlet like she did. He had bottled everything up, to maintain the perception that he was big and strong.
To reach her husband, she joined in on the fun with the puppy. That pet became a replacement for the baby they lost and it helped bring them together, more than anything else.
Funmi eventually got pregnant years later and gave birth to a baby girl, whom the dog loved, even though it was also jealous of her. Through the other two miscarriages, they experienced, Funmi learnt to grieve with her husband and not exclude him from the process, even when he withdrew from her. They learnt that together, they could be stronger.
Another couple, Sharon and Timi, found out that infertility brought out their phobias. She hated small spaces and he hated hospitals, needles and anything medical. In fact, he feared childbirth, but the truth never came out until they had been married for two years without children.
Interestingly, he was the type of man who asked after a new mom before he asked after the new baby. So, the fact that his wife was yet to see in the inside of a labour room was something that did not necessarily bother him, at least not to the same extent as his wife.
Sharon knew Timi had lost his oldest sister, a day after she had her first child, due to negligence on the part of the doctors. What she did not know was that the incident touched him a lot. He feared childbirth, as his mind had associated the process with death.
It was a struggle to get him to go see a doctor. He went but it was to a clinic, which looked the least like a clinic and the first thing he told the doctor was, “I don’t want to lose my wife!”
Both the doctor and Sharon were surprised by his statement. They were trying to get a baby, not lose each other. However, as events unfolded, it became pretty much clear that the incident of his sister’s death was still quite vivid in his mind. He had a short temper with the doctor and nurses, especially when he did not think they were doing what they are supposed to with his wife.
He became over protective, he wanted to know every single detail of whatever procedure Sharon was going through. When the report of his own investigations came out, he was a bit disappointed that they had not found anything wrong with him. He wanted to be the one who had to go through all the invasive tests, but since he wasn’t, he turned his eagle eyes on how the procedures were carried out.
Sharon realised she and Timi agreed they wanted a baby, but fear was playing a terrible game with Timi’s mind and subconsciously, he might be willing that they not have a baby, because he did not want to lose her to child birth.
It took a lot of counselling and guarantees by the “hated” doctors and his beloved wife, for Timi to agree to IVF and then he went with her for all the appointments. He was her shadow. Even though he hated needles, he was always with her when she took her injections. Such was his devotion!
When Sharon eventually had their baby, he was more interested in the wellbeing of his wife, than the baby. Every few minutes, he would ask his wife, “Are you okay?” If he thought she looked pale, he called the doctor. Peradventure Sharon complained of anything, he was on to the doctor’s neck, reminding them nothing must happen to his wife.
However, the truth that infertility brings about in some relationships are not always pleasant. They are shocking in the least and make you wonder why they bothered getting married in the first place.
Omolayo was once married to a man who treated her like trash, due to her infertility. It was as though she deliberately did not want to get pregnant. To everyone else, he was a good man; he cared for his family, he was honest, at least he had told her upfront that he was a single dad, and the child even lived with them.
But his words never failed to hit home, anytime he decided to talk about the fact that she was yet to have a child for him. He took to calling her by the name of his child, he said, “to cover her shame.”
Well, it got worse. After three years of marriage without a child, his extended family members also came in with their demands, and that was when she knew she was married to her enemy.
This was a man who discussed her with his family members, who discussed her diagnosis and badmouthed her, that she could never have a child.
On one fine sunny day, Omolayo had had enough of the whole drama that her life had become. She packed her bags and left. Upon plead with her to return. They believed him and were truly begging their daughter to return home, until she told them the full extent of the emotional abuse she had been living with.
After a month, he had moved on, and Omolayo also moved on. She met and married another man. Today, she is a mom to two children. As for her ex, he is still a dad to his only child, and two other women have left his house since then. His good man reputation sorely dented.
In all honesty, infertility is a journey to self-discovery, opening up of oneself to different experiences and such. It can also make for a better you and a better relationship or it can break a relationship with no solid foundation in the first place.
My heartfelt prayer is may TTC bring out only the best in our marriages, rather than break it! And the cynic in me couldn’t help but add that, if infertility could break a marriage, then there wasn’t much there in the first place…or what do you think?.
Baby dust for the journey, sisters.
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