The hardest time of my life (thus far)
Five years on and I could finally start to write about it; the gut wrenching pain of helplessness and feeling constant failure, wearing me away, like a wave of desolation. The private battle you go through, not revealing your scars and almost becoming numb to the question of “when are you guys having kids.” If only it was that easy. We, like one in six couples in Australia, had difficulties with having children. In this day and age our friends are posting pictures on facebook, seemingly daily, of their first, second and third child and my wife and I are left behind, in the dark, pondering growing old on our own. I remember previously praying that my friends didn’t have to go through struggles with starting a family, and then I watched enviously as they all had a child, and then another. Even friends who were single after my wife and I had been together for ten years were now settling down and having kids before our very eyes. Though endometriosis seemed the major obstacle, there was no clear answer as to why things weren’t happening. I couldn’t bear my wife feeling responsible in any way. I blamed myself and found myself not wanting to socialise at all, trying to keep myself busy, but the mind has a mind of its own and as hard as you try – it’s all you can think about. From close friends we heard about some of their struggles of miscarriage, after having a child, but this was something different, and though it would be unimaginable and traumatic, at least the possibility was there for them to try again. Ours was another type of hardship, one that might mean no children ... ever. Not that there is a problem with those who choose to not have children, but when it is something a couple yearns for, it can test all aspects of human spirit.
Like so many others, we got married and started trying to start a family. The first year things were not too drastic as the honeymoon, seemed a long one, but then it started, like a dull pain. Just relax, it will happen, we constantly heard, but each test was the same negative result. We had only recently moved into a new house and our two dogs a crazy kelpie and a naughty cocker spaniel kept us well occupied. We were not so late for this day and age to start trying. My wife was 29 and I was 31. Although the clock was ticking, time was seemingly on our side. The second year was trying; still no luck. We started to think of life without a family, we could make it work it would be fine. My wife had tests and her endometriosis was still there, although apparently not impeding our chances. One operation helped clear things, but still future attempts were the same. Meanwhile it seemed all our friends were sharing their good news and we felt guilty because although we were so happy for them, behind closed doors human nature only made us yearn more and the mental scars deepen. Guiltily, I would forget how many children some of my friends actually had, the fog would thicken around me and I could not keep up with everyone else’s progress. As a male, I’ve never felt so helpless, fighting a battle against an invisible shadow. A fight I can never win, but can only hope to outlast. My faith had been tested and in these dark hours I had lost all purpose in my life. It took all of my resolve to hold it together and though I became more introverted, I needed to for my sanity. Sometimes I just had nothing I could even say to my wife. We would sit in silence or I would just stare at the TV screen, dumbing my senses, till they were like jelly. Everything was too much effort and I blamed myself for not doing something more for my wife, but when I didn’t know what to do I became more and more depressed. As hard as it was, I can’t even begin to imagine the battle my wife went through, that ingrained maternal instinct, not being allowed to bloom.
After four years crept past, IVF seemed the only pathway and although the moral issue came into question, we both felt that we had to try. Once again this was a big decision for us as we spent a long time thinking that if we couldn’t conceive naturally then the only consideration might be adoption. The excitement and hope as we went in for scans, maybe this was our time. When one of the nurses asked “how many times have you tried?” uncertainty arose. How many times does it usually take, and with that negative result, it rocked our world again. My wife had to self-inject medication and go through getting prodded and poked and nada – nothing and to make matters worse, the medication made her endometriosis worse. The initial moral battle of whether it was right or wrong to try IVF was overshadowed by the result – heartbreak. As a male I tried to hold it together, don’t show too much emotion, be strong, but it was tearing me up inside. I worried about my wife and she worried about me and our communication struggled. I would pour my efforts into writing and we bought land as my wife found her passion in fuel trees that would save our environment, while our personal lives were crumbling. The big picture was promising, but we were faced with a bleak present. We worked our day jobs and toiled away on weekends, occupying ourselves, trying not to think about it coming up with various responses to prepare our self-defence for any future children questions. What to do now? We had tried and it had failed. We didn’t want to spend year after year in the IVF cycle. After another laparoscopy and another six months my wife was ready to try again. We had two frozen embryos so we had another go with these. This time we went in a little less optimistic. Our specialist went from 40% chance to 80% chance for success after two attempts though after initially wanting to hear every detail, every percentage; it was the last thing we now wanted to hear. We didn’t want to find out later how unlucky we were to miss out and be told to just keep trying. After a few more weeks later, it was the same result. Our funds were already exhausted, we both already said we wouldn’t keep going with this, but there was that one last embryo In the back of my mind I knew that when my wife felt up to it, this would be our last embryo. What if?
We had already discussed fostering a child and more seriously considered adoption by requesting the paperwork. My wife’s disappointment, like any female’s, was on display. I wish I could have let it out, but the empty pain churned away, raging inside. We filled in the adoption forms apart from our signatures and within a week my wife asked what I thought about that last embryo. She was ready to go back to back. We had nothing to lose; we would send the adoption papers after this final disappointment. We had also booked a family holiday so either way, we had something to look forward to. Then one normal morning literally five years after getting married, my wife said calmly, “does that look like two lines to you?” It was clearly two lines indicating that she was pregnant. After initial excitement we needed further evidence, another test. Once again we had further confirmation, still after all we’d been through, it was hard not to disbelieve. After a few more weeks we had another meeting with the specialist and there it was –A HEARTBEAT, clear as day. He talked about not waiting too long for the next one if we wanted two children and all we wanted was to celebrate the success of one. The sales pitch was lost on us. We will be eternally grateful for IVF, for his involvement and living in a time when it is possible, but we didn’t want to think about anything but this child ... this miracle. We felt like we had just hit the jackpot. A wave of relief and euphoria overwhelmed us. No, now was not the time for discussing more, now was the time to appreciate all that we had in life. We’d heard friends complaining about not being able to have three, not being able to have a boy or girl, we learnt one of life’s most important lessons – be grateful for all that you have! I feel for anyone who has been through this silent battle, a battle played about behind closed doors. Sometimes you just need a hug. It is such a hard issue to share with anyone who hasn’t been through it, but as long as you are going through it with the one you love, whatever happens, you’ll get through it together. Now after the birth of a healthy baby boy, we can relax. There are still many hurdles to cross in this life, but there is hope and belief once again and now more than ever, we treasure all that we have.
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