By Camber Hess
This post is the fourth of a six-part series: Confronting Infertility in Marriage
Today’s post is by my friend Camber, who is another former (and missed) Iowa City citizen. Camber inspires the heck out of me. I live in awe of her and her strength. She’s so helpful, quick to laugh and just unbelievably sweet. She doesn’t mention this in her post, but she told me it would be okay to share that just three months ago they lost their second child, Sarah, who was just four days old. Camber writes the story so so beautifully here (and Isaac here). And she writes a very helpful post about what to say to someone who goes through such a loss here.
Did you read those? Do you see now? Do you see how strong and beautiful and hopeful against all reason to be hopeful she is? She inspires me. I think she’ll inspire you too. – Celeste
I used to joke that our kids must have cold feet about being born in “this” economy. It took about 5 years for us to coax a child into joining our family, and the truth is we still don’t know why we have such a hard time conceiving.
About a year and a half into the process of failed reproductive efforts, our fertility specialist diagnosed us with the maddening label “unexplained infertility”. Without a treatable condition to address, he dropped the “you’ll probably have to do IVF” bomb on us.
We tried cheaper, less-invasive options first, like Clomid and artificial insemination. The chances of them working for our diagnosis were slim, but HOLY MOSES IVF is expensive, and even artificial insemination cost pennies by comparison.
They didn’t work.
As luck (or Divine Intervention) would have it, we moved to the Midwest for school, where the insurance at my job unbelievably covered IVF. We did 3 rounds of IVF, and all failed. We decided to adopt. Then we got the chance to do one more cycle (long story). That cycle worked and we now have an adorable little girl grinding Cheerios into the backseat of our car and giving wet kisses at bedtime.
Since this is a blog about marriage, let me tell you a bit about what our marriage looked like during those years between wanting and actually meeting our baby.
The emotional wife.
The first time I really cried in front of my husband was during some miscellaneous hormonal treatment when I just couldn’t hold it in any more. So I surreptitiously went into the bedroom and hid under the covers and cried. My husband found me (“What on EARTH?”) and then held me while I wept. Then we laughed at little at the absurdity of my meltdown under the comforter. It turns out that letting myself be real with my husband helped to strengthen our marriage.
Infertility allowed us to grow in new ways. I had to learn to be civil when hormones made me feel angry all the time. My husband continued to love me even though he saw me at new lows. I loved him all the more for forgiving my mood swings. We learned to mourn together even though we mourned differently. We learned unity as we decided together about which paths to pursue. IVF isn’t for everyone. My husband really balked at the idea at first, and we didn’t move forward with it until we both felt comfortable.
Infertility, believe it or not, does have some advantages. We had a lot of time to enjoy the “two of us” stage. We dated, took vacations, saved a lot of money (which allowed us to later get graduate degrees without debt), made friends, had game nights, and babysat for other people. I would never choose these perks over having kids, but they were blessings in their own way. Even though I wanted kids, it was important to remember what I did have—a loving husband and a supportive family.
Each stage of life brings different chances to touch lives. Infertile couples often feel a sense of isolation in addition to mourning the lost identity of mother or father. While I longed for the title of “mommy” I had a lot of other meaningful titles—friend, daughter, wife, nurse, sister. Without the responsibility of children, we were able to serve other people in different ways than we are able to serve now. I worked full-time as a nurse and had chances to comfort and help people every day. We could donate more generously to charity when our financial obligations were fewer. It was easier to watch other people’s kids or take meals to new moms when I had few obligations of my own.
Infertility isn’t, by nature, funny. But I give permission to infertile couples everywhere to find reasons to laugh at themselves or at life. An infertile friend of mine, when faced with the question, “Well, why don’t you have kids yet?”, would muster up her best fake scowl and say, “Because we don’t LIKE them!” During the ultrasound that confirmed the failure of our first round of IVF, as I tried to choke back the tears, my husband made a joke about something. I burst out laughing. The ultrasound tech must have thought I was INSANE to be laughing right then, but in the moment, I chose laughter over uncontrolled sobbing. (It’s easier on the makeup).
We did eventually manage to conceive and have a child. Biological children may not be possible for every couple. But children come into our lives in a variety of ways, and there’s no need to wait to be happy until you have them. They will bring new, deeper joys…but also new trials. We are so grateful for our little girl. But we are also so grateful for our years of infertility. I am a better wife and a better mother because of them.