Growing up, I was taught that if you even look at a girl the wrong way she will get pregnant. I knew it to be hyperbole, but my underlying takeaway was that having sex, no matter how safe, could lead to incredible responsibility. I took this very seriously. My wife and I waited to try until we knew kids were right for us.
What came next was certainly unexpected.
After two years of trying to conceive, we discovered I had a low sperm count. I got varicocele (link) surgery and waited a few months for my counts to recover. But alas, they never did. After some genetic testing we found out I have a Y Chromosome Microdeletion (AZFc), which meant, based on the location of the deletion, I genetically have about a 2% chance of fathering children “naturally”. That left us one choice - IVF (sperm counts were too low for IUI). After a failed first IVF transfer, the stars aligned and here we are today 8 months into pregnancy.
Our fertility journey had a lot of twists, turns, highs and lows (lots of lows). But there was one thing that got us through it all – and made us better people for it. Life dramatically improved the day my wife and I transformed our communication with one another.
Infertility was immediately tough on my wife, on me, and on our relationship. We felt disconnected by the whole experience and felt as though we were drifting apart. It’s not that we didn’t love each other, we just didn’t know how to express it in a way that made the other person feel whole and complete. Our communication was rooted in trying to understand what page we each were on, and then trying to get on the same one.
For my wife, she felt so alone, stuck and “like she was drowning”. Everyone around her had what she wanted (to her credit, it’s amazing how many friends and family were getting pregnant or already had kids) and every person she used to rely on for emotional support, didn’t understand her suffering, though they tried. The distance and aloneness grew deeper and deeper.
For me, all I could see was how we continued to distance ourselves from the life we wanted to live and the people we wanted to share it with. Being an eternal optimist, I wanted to still be able to enjoy life. But any happiness I experienced, I felt the need to hide from my wife or it would be overwhelmed by the incredible weight of infertility. It was all consuming. It seemed as though we were putting our life on hold, or worse, actively pushing it away.
I wanted her to get me, and she wanted me to get her.
Then, after a series of personal development workshops, we transformed our communication. We invented a new way of being there for each other that didn’t require getting on the same page. It turns out that each of us just wanted to be heard, validated, and given the space to be how we were – without judgment or a request to change. My wife was free to be heartbroken and I was free to remain optimistic.
We stayed in close communication, getting in each other’s world, just listening for the greatness in one another. I was able to acknowledge her sadness without taking it on. It turns out I don’t have the emotional intelligence and fortitude to handle such continued sadness. And she wasn’t asking me to. Once I was able to detect it, I witnessed how powerful in the powerlessness she really was. And now, I’m so in awe of her strength and courage.
And she had the same listening for my own way of being. I was given the real freedom to bring joy into our relationship and to celebrate the new babies being born to our friends and family. She made it clear that she would celebrate where she could, but that there were times she just needed to be present to the sadness and that even in those times, I should maintain my joy.
Our ability to transform our communication with one another actually happened rather swiftly. It was like turning on a light switch. Once we put language to it, we never looked back. We gave voice to “her page” and “my page” and gave up obsessing over trying to get on the “same page”. And I don’t mean “gave up” as in not trying. I mean gave up our attachment to the expectations of how one another should be and gave up feeling guilty for just being in the process.
The only thing that was left was space – space to be the way we knew how to be and to love each other unconditionally for it.