I didn't think my marriage could survive infertility and grief, but I was wrong
When we married in 2012, we’d known each other for nearly five years. I was 35 and my husband was 38. We had a magical fairy-tale wedding; all of our guests commented on what a fantastic start to marriage we’d had. My husband and I knew we wanted to have children as soon as possible, neither of us having any from previous relationships. We got started immediately, and I was thrust into the world of ovulation and “the fertile window.”
Fast forward to a year later. We still hadn’t conceived, and then the unthinkable happened. My father-in-law went into the hospital for a routine operation and never came back out. We sat with him in intensive care for 19 hours as his body slowly buckled under the pressure from internal bleeding. His father died four days after Christmas day.
It felt like I lost my husband for months following the death of his father, his hero. He was broken and grief-stricken; all I could do was hang on and hope that he eventually found his way back to me, given enough time. Things changed — as is inevitable when a parent dies — but slowly we rebuilt our lives.
Five months later, we went to see a doctor about our seeming inability to conceive and they arranged for some tests.
On July 13th, 2014, we were to be devastated once more. At 2:30 a.m., my mother called and asked my husband to bring me home as soon as possible.
I could only assume that something was wrong with my dad.
During the 10 minute drive to my parents’ house, I wondered how we were going to survive the loss of another parent within six months. I couldn’t imagine living the rest of my life without my dad; I was consumed by the unfairness of it all; we had only been married a year and a half.
We got to my parents’ house, where we learned it wasn’t my father who had died; it was my 33-year-old brother. He had been killed by a driver who was on the wrong side of the road, coming home from work at 11 p.m.
I have no idea how any of us got through those first few weeks and months; it’s a blur to me. I was destroyed. My brother was one of my best friends — we had worked together, made friends together — and I just didn’t know how to comprehend a life without him in it. I was lost and heartbroken. Most days, all I could do was push through until I could go to bed again.
Less than eight weeks later, the doctors rang to tell us that there was a major problem with my husband’s sperm sample — it contained no sperm, whatsoever.
We would need assisted conception to have a baby.
Genetic screening would reveal that my husband has mild Cystic Fibrosis. He has no symptoms, other than infertility. He has sperm; they are present in his testicles. However, he lacks the internal pipework to get them out of his body; they are, in effect, trapped. We were told that our best hope was for doctors to surgically remove his sperm and freeze them. Then, we’d attempt to use in vitro fertilization (IVF) to conceive.
I couldn’t believe how complicated our life had become so quickly. I fantasized about running off to L.A. and beginning a new life on the beach in the sun, with none of these worries. I didn’t want to be me anymore, I didn’t want to be in my skin — I wanted to be someone whose brother hadn’t been killed and who didn’t need IVF to conceive.
I was disoriented and grief-stricken. I knew I was making my husband miserable, and was further buried by guilt that I wasn’t recovering sooner. I honestly thought the best thing I could do was disappear.
The thing that helped us recover was our ability to talk about the really hard stuff — not just about what TV show to watch or where to eat dinner. My husband made it clear that he would not give up on us and would fight to keep me. I wanted to run away, but I realized that running away wouldn’t bring my brother back; it would leave me alone and isolated. I loved my husband, but I had convinced myself that our marriage had such a terrible start that we just couldn’t recover from it.
But I was wrong.
Slowly, the fog began to clear and I made a conscious decision to prioritize our marriage, to try to enjoy being with my husband again. I started to remember all the reasons why I loved him. I decided to fight for our marriage. My husband is fun, he sings, he dances. He loves giving me nicknames, the longer and more ridiculous the better. He was patient with me, and that made it easier. In the same way that I had waited for him to come back to me those few years before, he waited for me.
To date, my husband and I have been through three rounds of IVF, all of which have failed.
But we are a team, working together instead of drowning individually in grief, infertility, and heartbreak.
My husband is a pillar of strength, especially when I’m in fertility treatments. We support each other through the tough times, and while we don’t really want any more bad stuff to happen, we know that, now, we can face anything.