Thursday, February 21, 2008

Love the One You're With

I have physical therapy twice a week for the foot I mangled in a car accident shortly before Christmas. I tell you - it is about the only "uninterupted" time I get and I actually get to read through a magazine or two, since most of the work on the foot and ankle I do sitting down. They have Entertainment, People, Cottage Living - all sorts of selections. I picked one up yesterday that had a big picture of Dolly Parton on the front and one of the story captions read "Can This Marriage Be Saved? She wants a baby . . ." The article essentially went on about a husband and wife who were trying to have a baby and facing difficulties, culminating in having to go to donor eggs for best chance at becoming pg. Wife became obsessed with it (like many of us do), husband feeling stressed by many other factors, including wife's obsessive behavior, job, a miscarriage, finances, etc. Wife upset with hubby because he won't talk about it and she does nothing but want to talk about it. Nothing out of the ordinary there - really, sounded pretty familiar to me. The part that got me the most though, is at the end when they check back in on the couple after the counselor gives her advice and they've had a while to work on things. This glib happy tone when the couple reported they had their dream child and everything was peachy now, everyone rides off into the proverbial sunny sunset. Okay - yes, having a child you desperately want can definitely make you happy - but be the only reason your marriage is saved? Because literally - that was how the closing lines read to me. I hope that there was more to it than that - but I truly felt a bit uncomfortable with this idea - a child being the only glue that could keep two people together.

Yes, our personal infertility struggles and certainly the recurrent losses put a definite strain on things. My husband and I grieved things so differently. In large part, I think that was due to the fact that the negatives month after month, and then the recurring miscarriages affected me on more levels in that they were not only an emotional disappointment, but a very intense physical experience as well. Not to say he wasn't upset and frustrated too - but by different point of view. He didn't feel the cramping or have the bleeding. He wasn't the one putting the thermometer in his mouth every morning and plotting a graph. I am in no way saying it was harder for me than it was for him - just that we had different angles that we were each coming from. He had his disappointment in not having the child we both wanted and in having that desire postponed time after time. He also had to see ME going through the physical aspects and my disappointment as well. I was so caught up in my experience - that sometimes I didn't see his experience and often resented him for it. He seemed to move on much quicker than I could. Other people's baby news didn't seem to upset him as much as it did me. He never seemed to want to listen when I needed to talk. It wasn't until years later that I found that he seemed to think that if I was talking, it was because I expected him to **fix** it. Get out his tools and bang things around and fix it. Because this was something he couldn't fix, he was frustrated. Each time I brought it up and he still couldn't fix it, the frustration just mounted and probably felt like I was blaming him in a sense for not taking care of it because I had to talk so much about it. Once we both got on the same page - I told him that I didn't need "to fix", I just needed "to listen", he seemed more open to letting me talk. Within reason. I learned from him that sometimes when it isn't productive to do so, talking constantly about something might only just make you crazier and if you couldn't do anything about it, why beat yourself up for something you can't do anything about? Hard. Hard, hard, hard. Gosh - is so much of our identity tied up in our reproductive organs or what? Because of some strange hormonal off-balance that I had nothing to do with and had probably been born with a predisposition towards, and certainly had no control over - I was starting to view myself as a failure. What I didn't see until my significant other pointed out to me during a particularly frustrating time, was that I was trying. Trying and succeeding are separate things, but also dependent upon each other. I could neither fail nor succeed if I didn't try first. Neither one would come to me without taking some kind of action. Of course, it took years of trying, failing and sometimes succeeding before this finally took hold and I begin to realize what he was talking about. I am a great theory person - but practical application trips me up every time! I waffled about how far we should go, when it was time to quit and give it up. He said whatever you decide. Ugh - that drove me crazy! Though - what he really was doing, was supporting me in whatever decision I made. He knew that I was the one giving myself injections every day and being examined constantly, etc. and wasn't going to force me to endure any hardship that I wasn't willing to endure myself - not even if it left him disappointed. Sometimes I could just kick myself when I realize that all those times I questioned how deep his love for me was and all along he was telling me and I didn't hear it. When the time did come that I knew I had given everything I could possibly give to this rather strange, physically and emotionally trying career of mine - I was able to quit on my own. He didn't make the decision to quit or forge on for me. Maybe that might seem a bit wishy-washy to some and him being incapable of making a decision, but he knew me well enough to know that if I didn't make that decision on my own, without his influence, I would never be content and constantly be second guessing the choice, probably for the rest of my life.

There was a point shortly after our second loss and in the midst of our third, that I found myself in a very deep depressive state. I went through the whole thing - why me, I must be a horrible person that this keeps happening to me; the drug addicts and prostitutes and teenagers in the back of their parent's cars and EVERYONE ELSE are doing this - why can't I? I also at one point tried to convince my husband that he would be better off without me - he deserved "better" than me, someone who could give him children. (Never mind the fact that I had already given him one child and was practically killing myself to give him more.) Even after I got pregnant again for the 5th time and actually made it far enough to deliver a live baby (albeit a very sick premature one) I still felt "unworthy" somehow. On the day that he drove me home from the hospital newly discharged with our daughter wired up still in the NICU, I asked him if he would be disappointed if we didn't have any more children. I was exhausted at this point - three miscarriages back to back, the depression, getting extremely ill, recovering from that to get pregnant, chasing a toddler, an abrupting Placenta Previa, a premature infant and hemorrhaging post csection was quite a bit to deal with. In retrospect, I know now that waiting a little longer to give me a chance to heal more would have probably been wiser. However, at the time - I was quite frankly obsessed. I thought the only way I was worth something and could be happy was if I was pregnant and had a baby. My life depended on it - my marriage did too. Rational? Reality? Not really. My husband's response was "Of course I would be disappointed (we had both wanted a large family), but I would understand." I had to ask "You wouldn't wish you had married someone else?" His response (after not swerving enough to avoid a nasty pothole that had me clutching my recently stapled together gut and yelping) was "why would I?" He honestly could not think of any reason why he would wish he had married someone else. The thing I find most ironic is that all those years that I wished he could just listen to me, I was guilty of the very same thing I was upset with him for - not listening!

Over the course of the various treatments, the pregnancies, the losses, the surgeries (csection and otherwise) - we grew. We began to see that our way wasn't the same way for the other person at times, and that was okay. We learned how to complement each other in our differences rather than clash over them. We learned not to expect things from the other that they couldn't give - because of personality or just plain different vantage point. Can that solely be attributed to having our dream child(ren)? I can't say for certain because our lives turned out that we do have children. I do believe though, that if we didn't believe the other was worth sticking around with, and working with - children or no, we might not have made it. He can still make me completely berserk sometimes and I am sure he doesn't always find me a picnic either - but at the end of the day he still comes home to me and I can't think of anyone else I'd rather wake up to.

So yes, I do think this marriage can be saved.

1 comment:

loribeth said...

(cue the Twilight Zone theme music here) I saw the same mag, same cover headline, stood at the newsstand reading the same stupid story. "Baby lust" indeed, ugh. :p I agree, it's a lot to put on one poor little baby's shoulders to "save" his/her parents' marriage. There's got to be more to it than that...!