Coming to terms with infertility, what I have learnt

By Nina Steele 

Our journey to conceive started in 2004 and ended unsuccessfully in 2013. I still remember the excitement and sense of anticipation, as I was sure that we would conceive naturally. My excitement was such that I made a point of telling everyone close to us that we were trying for a baby. I had never been pregnant in my life and so I took the slightest hint of nausea as a sign that I was pregnant, until of course I was proven wrong. This went on for 3 years, after which we decided to seek professional help.

A few tests later revealed that my husband was azoospermic. You can imagine our shock. I was not only upset that we could not conceive naturally, but above all, I was upset at what this devastating news could potentially do to my husband’s self-esteem. After all, in most cultures, a man’s virility is taken for granted. The papers are often full of stories of feckless fathers who keep on having children, while living on benefit. Reading about these men gives the impression that having children comes naturally to most men. In truth, as reported in this Daily Mail article, male infertility is on the increase and could be affecting as much as 1 in 5 men.

My husband is one of those men who doesn’t like to show emotion and so, at first, it was almost impossible for me to know how much impact this news had had on him. It didn’t help that in both our families, we were the only couple without children and that the men seemed to get their partners pregnant effortlessly, on the surface at least. When he finally opened up, it was clear that his confidence had been shaken. It wasn’t so much that he felt less of a man, but rather, his worry was about the impact that his infertility could have on our relationship.

The fact that I was supportive all along didn’t make his worries go away at first. What if I decided that not having children was too high a price to pay even for a relationship as loving and healthy as ours? And so I found myself having to be strong for both of us. On the one hand I had to come to terms with the fact that I was never going to be a mother, but crucially, I had to show my husband my unwavering support. Anything other than that had the potential not only to damage our relationship, but to also damage him as a man and that I was not prepared to allow.

For me at the end, it was a choice between a happy marriage and an unhappy one. As people, we are always going to be faced with hard choices in life and we have to be prepared to deal with the consequences of whatever choices we make, because this has the potential to determine how the rest of our life unfolds. The thing about growing up in a toxic environment, I find, is that it either sends you on an equally destructive path or it turns you into the complete opposite of your parents. And for me, the latter scenario has been true. My mother had 7 children, yet she never had the happy relationship she so desperately craved. I ended up with a great man, but with no children.

And so what I have learnt is that knowing what really matters to you is crucial when you are dealing with infertility. If having children is all that matters then chances are that you will carry on until you have your wish. If you are unsuccessful however, the likelihood is that your relationship may never be the same again (that is if you stay together), because of the pain that will always be there. The reason why we were able to come to terms with my husband’s infertility was because we both value our relationship above everything else. I believe that the reason why the impact of infertility can be so devastating is because of this notion that it is our right to have it all. We fail to realise that not everyone can have and will have children. No one likes to be the odd one out, but it is what it is for a reason and it is up to us to find a way to accept it.

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