One aspect of our fertility journey that I haven’t spoken about yet is your relationship during IVF. Fertility procedures give us hope but they suck in more than one way. They’re stressful, they make the clinical process a top priority and they can take all of the intimacy out of a relationship.
I’d like to share some of the ways in which IVF affected my relationship and the lessons I learned along the way.
Your Relationship during IVF: The Changing Nature of Sex
Anyone who has dealt with infertility knows that their sex life will change completely, even before the issue is identified.
Trying to create a little person is a lot of fun in the beginning. You get into the sexy times and you basically feel like you’re handed a second honeymoon period.
As time goes by and the little bundle of joy doesn’t materialize itself, things start to change. I’m talking about ovulation tests, basal temperature measuring, cervical mucus checking – things that aren’t very sexy.
Eventually, sex becomes a necessity rather than a pleasure – something you have to do on schedule in order to accomplish the goal. The spontaneity disappears and if the ovulation test is positive, sex is on the table, even if you don’t feel like it.
Thus, from one of the most enjoyable and intimate ways to connect with another human, sex quickly becomes a mundane task, a burden. Very few couples that experience fertility issues manage to keep their sex life fresh and exciting through the years. We weren’t among them.
In the beginning, I was tracking things meticulously and planning sex. Eventually, I got so depressed with the whole thing that we went through a dry spell that continued for four months or even longer. If you don’t have sex, there’s no risk of disappointment in the end of the month, correct?
IVF and How it Affects Men
One thing that doesn’t get spoken about a lot is the manner in which IVF affects men. This is probably one aspect of your relationship during IVF that you will have to be understanding about.
When it comes to human reproduction, the man plays the active role (we all know that, no need for further explanation 🙂 ). IVF is all about the woman – she’s the one that has to give herself injections every single day, she goes through egg retrieval and the embryo transfer. A man’s active role is taken away from him. Rather, he becomes a side observer who’s actively involved for approximately five to 10 minutes following the egg retrieval.
The fact that a guy has to observe silently everything that’s happening to his partner can be so stressful and emotionally damaging.
She’s giving herself hormone injections, feeling bloated, anxious and moody. He can’t do anything about it. She’s having minor surgery to get those follicles aspired and those eggs collected. He can’t do anything about it but hold her hand in the recovery room.
Men generally tend to be less vocal about their emotions than women. I know that my husband definitely doesn’t share the pain he is experiencing. Thus, IVF can take a toll on their wellbeing in a way that’s very different from the manner in which the procedure affects a woman.
Also, by talking to ladies who were having a procedure at the same time that I was, I noticed that they tend to develop a bit of a victim complex.
Thinking that they’re the only one who’s dealing with it, these women ignore the needs and the emotionality of their partners. They don’t even talk about it and act is if they were going through IVF alone.
While a man isn’t physically affected by IVF, they do suffer. Seeing a loved one do unpleasant, painful and sometimes even risky things to themselves is never fun. It hurts and the stress levels are going to be high.
Failed IVF: Rebirth or End of the Intimacy?
The final thing that we went through and that I’d like to talk about our relationship and IVF is getting the news that the procedure has failed.
Obviously, it’s devastating. The manner in which you handle the news, however, will determine the manner in which your relationship will carry on.
Studies show that infertile couples are three times more likely to get divorced than people who aren’t facing such issues. For me, the numbers are easy to believe.
Many people start a blaming game in an attempt to make themselves feel better. Many people have had relationship problems in the past, problems that they wanted to address by creating a little human being. Infertility adds to the stress and it often makes partners grow distant.
We did one and the same thing every time our failed IVF (a total of three times) – we sat down and talked about it.
We told each other that we’re in it together, whether we manage to get pregnant or we have to turn to another option in order to become parents. The conversation allowed us to draft a plan for the future and to move on to the next part of the journey.
It’s quite interesting to point out that we had our honeymoon period each time an IVF attempt ended. We were finally free from the stress, the medications and the expectation. As a result, we could now pay more attention to each other and focus on making the relationship stronger.
I truly believe there’s nothing in the world that can now stand in our way after everything we’ve gone through during our fertility journey. I do realize that we’re lucky and that many couples aren’t blessed to stay together (maybe that’s for the better, who knows?). If there’s one positive thing that has come out of our struggles, it’s the renewed level of intimacy, trust, passion and love that we have for each other.
Patience, Kindness and Respect do Pay Off!
Maintaining your composure, respect and trust in your partner can be difficult when a pregnancy simply doesn’t happen. Even when things seem hopeless, however, do try to work on it.
Your relationship during IVF is going to be nothing like what you’re used to having with your partner.
Hardships are the ones that test the bond between two people. If it’s strong enough, you’ll emerge from the ordeal more in love with each other than ever before. Don’t be afraid to express your fears and to also figure out how your partner’s doing. Even if he doesn’t say it, he feels a lot, he’s worried and his hopes are high.
You have each other because nobody else knows what you’re going through. Don’t forget that you have a shoulder to lean on and that your partner may need the same every now and then.