Following the Thanksgiving miscarriage and subsequent social media shut down, I slowly began to emerge and - of course - create a list on what needed to occur next. I needed to focus on what moving on looked like. What did being single with infertility look like? What divorce would mean emotionally and financially; and what needed to occur to make it all happen smoothly.
Infertility often impacts relationships in unexpected or at least unplanned ways. The more time that passes trying to become pregnant, and, as failed treatments stack up, even small issues in a marriage become amplified. The significant emotional, financial and physical toll that infertility takes on couples increases each month. Infertility is unique in that there is often an amount of guilt on one or both partners that does not come with other diseases. In fact, sometimes there is guilt that the emotional and physical toll of infertility is taking isn’t life threatening but is still felt as a painful loss. Infertility alone is usually not the cause of a divorce. The added stressors infertility brings just highlights and compounds other issues in the marriage. Issues that may have gone undiscovered or been viewed as acceptable trade offs in any other marriage.
The level of investment each partner had in the process is where I first noticed the issues in my own marriage. As I doubled down on treatments and went further and further down the infertility path, I felt more and more emotionally distant from my husband. The lack of questions or interest he expressed caused me to feel alone. This was likely not as one sided as I believed it to be. I am sure he had his own feeling that were occurring but we each dealt with them separately, creating an issue that would turn to isolation.
His numbers and sperm quality were always good and even though our infertility was unexplained, I couldn’t help but feel an amount of guilt. Guilt that I was likely the reason we could not have children. Guilt that infertility wasn’t a life threatening disease yet it hurt every day. Guilt that there were people dealing with far worse than not being able to have a child. Not to mention every article mentioning an advancement in fertility treatments or on insurance coverage for treatments was met with host of assholes commenting that the world is over populated and those facing infertility should, “just adopt” because we all know how adoption is a cure for infertility….
Treatments had left sex emotionless at times and more of a job. That isn’t to say that’s how it felt every time we had sex, just that even if one of us was tired or stressed or sick, we had a timetable to adhere to and I’ll be damned if we are going to miss a month because I was pissed you let the dishes pile up while I was out of town. Get in here, f!@# me and then go to your side of the bed because we still are NOT speaking.
The financial cost of treatments creates its’ own stress. Each new treatment brings a new financial cost. Fortunately for the two of us, both being in the military with a decent income and being stationed at a military treatment facility that had a reproductive Endocrinologist, medications and testing, a large portion of our treatments were covered. This is not the case for most individuals. In fact, even those in the military without access to one of the five facilities that offer treatment encounter a high cost. Each IUI costs about $350 for the sperm wash. Not too bad, but our portion of IVF even without testing or ICSI was about $6000… still affordable for us, but that is not the case for everyone. FET was about $3000 and PGS testing around $2000. Still affordable for a round or two, but as the cycles add up, this can quickly get out of hand. And yes, these are discounted prices. Most couples pay close to $20,000 or even $30,000 per IVF cycle.
The reasons I mentioned and some of the reasons I have missed are why divorce rates tend to be higher among those with infertility. Feel free to google it, it’s a thing, and it turns out we were not the exception. As I’ve said before, our divorce was based on far more than infertility alone. I still have no ill feelings toward my ex. Too often people stay in an unhealthy marriage far too long resulting in a bubbling hatred for the other person that results in not being able to be in the same room with them.
That was not the case with us. I still look back fondly at the good times and love him in many ways. I simply recognized I was not the woman for him. I could not provide him what he needed and there were things he could not provide me. This became evident to me as I watched the two of us become less and less ourselves. As I watched us each became lesser versions of ourselves than better. Without getting into the details, the core of the demise of our marriage was failed expectations. This became clear to me when I would ask why he loved me. I suppose part of me thought he would respond with a list of attributes. His response to the question was always the same, “because you take such good care of me”.
Each time I replay those words in my mind it reaffirms that I made the right decision and sometimes even angers me a bit. I did take good care of him, at the expense of myself and with no reciprocation. “Who was taking care of me?” I had to wonder. I had an amazing support system of friends, co-workers and an on – and - offline TTC community, but when I was at home who was taking care of me? Who was asking about my appointments? Who was helping me on the days after a miscarriage or when another failed cycle passed? Who was asking how my appointments went, when my next appointment was, what our protocol was, and what the various medication did?
The decision was not an easy one. Further complicating the decisions were the thoughts in the back of my mind. What would single life knowing I had fertility issues look like? I was still in my 30’s and most age appropriate men may either already have children, want children or want to remain childless. At what point in a new relationship is it appropriate to bring up that you may not be able to have children?
It wasn’t just concerns about dating while infertile, but also all of the normal hesitations that occur with divorce. Splitting finances, telling family and friends…the impact divorce would have on day to day life.
I have always had a theory on divorce. I call it the puss theory. I think most people stay in a relationship way too long, be it they stay out of guilt, fear or obligation. It starts off with the minor annoyances common anytime you spend the majority of your time around a person. These are things that occur in all marriages. Well, every marriage except the ones that insist every day is better than the last, those assholes are usually hiding something really big or are newlyweds and they don’t count. Either way, the minor everyday issues are the normal things; problems that aren’t something most would divorce over. They snore, don’t help with the housework, chew like a cow, every day annoyances. Then there are other issues - being emotionally distant, having no financial responsibility, issues that may be worked out in counseling or with increased communication. Then there are the game changers. Cheating, living a double life, being a criminal, having a secret family in another country, eating fries with mayo, things you can’t see past. The game changers are not the reasons for divorce that make up my puss theory.
The theory is very simply the combination of everyday issues and moderate issues start like a small pimple on your back. If left untreated these issues grow, just like the zit. They fester until you just wish one of you would make a game changing mistake so they can divorce you without guilt. The arguments increase in frequency and intensity. The relationship, like the pimple, becomes painful. Eventually you can’t remember a time when things were really good. A person might stay longer than they should because they lack financial or emotional independence. Someone may be weighing the cost of alimony or palimony and child support against the dislike for their partner.
They stay together for years past when they should have called it quits. Then one day things are so toxic and so bad they start to try and hurt the other person. It all comes to a head and explodes in a single eruption of disdain and hatred one night when you are late because they didn’t put the clothes in the dryer like you asked 7,000 times. This small misstep brings it all to the surface. Eventually there is so much toxic puss and disdain that it overflows, like one of those boil popping YouTube Videos. The couple can’t stand to be in the same room with one another and this person you once wanted to spend your entire life with is just a painful reminder of poor choices.
I didn't want to ever view the man that I had loved as puss but I also could no longer stay as shadow of myself.