What If*?

April 28, 2010 at 3:03 pm | Posted in Infertility | 15 Comments

J and I have been arguing a lot lately.

I’m going to lay it out here – I’m a hard woman to please.


My husband is an equal in every sense of the word when it comes to running our household. The man cooks, cleans, puts O to bed regularly. Does laundry. Gets up at 5 in the morning to unload the dishwasher and set up coffee and clean up before he goes to the gym in the morning. I mean, shit. On Saturday night, when O was awake and thrashing about in the throes of a temper tantrum at 3:30 in the morning, he took him out and drove him around for nearly three HOURS. So I could sleep before my half marathon.

He’s that full of awesome.

So when we argue, I always start off in a position of weakness. Because my husband tries harder than ANYONE I KNOW.

But we have no sense of balance in our life right now. Everything is a chore chore chore CHORE. We cram 5 hours of work into naptime each weekend. And because of it, our marriage has suffered.

I can’t tell you the last time we had sex just for the fun of it.

(Probably about 5 years ago, actually. Before we started trying for kids.)

I KNOW. You’re thinking “here she goes again with the infertility stuff.”

The sex thing probably ISN’T only an infertility thing. Even the fertile parents, I’ve heard, struggle with their sex life once Junior comes into their lives. I will confess it’s hard to switch the Mom off and turn on the Wife. Or Woman. Or whatever.

But it’s been like this for years now.

Initially, when I first tossed the birth control, our sex had more connection, more love, more tenderness than I thought it would ever be. Because we were going to create a life from our love. It was an amazing time for our marriage.

For, you know, maybe the first 6 months.

Then the fear crept in.

And after 9 months or so?

Trying to have a baby sucked the life out of our sex life before the male factor diagnosis. We called it Death March sex. It was awful.

And after that diagnosis?

Well, initially, it was the best thing FOR us. When Dr. HIT told us we had less than a 1% chance of conceiving without IVF (with ICSI, of course), it was SUCH a relief. The Death March sex was OVER. We didn’t HAVE to have sex anymore because I was ovulating. We could just because we WANTED to.

As the years have gone by, though, I’m starting to realize exactly what we’ve lost.

We’ve lost the idea that our love can create life. We’ve lost the idea that forging our connection is important because we don’t have the ability to CREATE something from our love**.

I mean, if I wanted to get pregnant right now? I could go back to Dr. HIT, take some medications, thaw an embryo or two, and there you go***. J doesn’t even need to be INVOLVED.

This is why I struggle with going back to the doctor for a sibling for O. Because when we were trying the first time, I would have walked through the fires of Hell to bring him home with us. Before we knew why I wasn’t getting pregnant, we killed embryos. To cope, I thought of them as statistical chances. Not beings, not souls, not life. Just chances.

And always, in the back of my mind, I have those thoughts. What if one of those embryos was supposed to be someone important? What if life begins at conception and I am responsible for killing my babies?

It’s so easy, in the here and now, to sneer at those thoughts. Because it’s science and statistics. And at the time, I didn’t KNOW I had a septum in my uterus which impeded implantation. Neither did my doctor.

And seriously, how LUCKY am I to even have O in the first place? If it were 100 years ago, I would still be childless, and likely labelled as barren. (Course, they wouldn’t know that it was J’s male factor that contributed too.)

So every day that I spend with my O, I am so thankful we live in the modern age, where they can isolate a few sperm and fertilize my eggs in a dish and transfer the embryo that turned into O unharmed into my uterus. Because the opposite what ifs are just as hard to think about.

What if there WASN’T science, and I didn’t have my O? He is my HEART, and I am so very lucky.

But I’ve also lost something, too. Relying on science has made it so that I’ve lost some of my humanity. Because for us, babies are NOT made with your husband, in your bed, out of love.

I’ve had to deal with that reality all over again this time around. Because for a while, I actually BELIEVED my OB when she asked me weekly what I was planning on for birth control. And that couples DO get pregnant by accident, even when it’s taken them three years and IVF to get their first baby.

So for the past year and a half, with every cycle, I wonder “what if I am pregnant?”

I never am.

Our reality is that we have to go to a doctor to conceive.

Embryos are statistical chances at a baby.

And though it doesn’t excuse me from making excuses to have sex with my husband, infertility HAS imprinted us with scars we’ll have forever.

Even though we’ve made it to the other side.


*I’m writing this post as part of Project IF, the effort by RESOLVE and Mel of Stirrup Queens to highlight consequences of infertility as part of National Infertility Awareness Week. It’s an amazing project and you really should go over there to see what other people have come up with.

** And yes, I know that forging intimacy with your husband creates a good marriage, which therefore makes us happier, which therefore makes our family bond stronger, etc etc. This metaphor was the best I could come up with in trying to put words into the pang of jealousy I feel whenever someone tells me they decided to get pregnant and then it happens. Because they didn’t need to go through the scheduling, and the surgical gowns, and the full bladder, and the speculum and catheter into their uterus while their husband stands next to them, holding their hand, in full surgical garb. I will never have those early days of trying to conceive, the feeling that we were able to MAKE something together, he and I. That’s the connection we lost.

*** Of course, assuming it, you know, actually WORKED the way it’s supposed to. Clearly I shouldn’t say that sort of thing lightly, given that it was our only last-ditch fresh cycle which worked, after two fresh cycles and three frozen cycles.



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  1. wow, Serenity, This was my other “what if” the sex stuff and I chose not to write about it because it just hurt too much to think about how much I lost to gain my children. How I love my husband more than life itself and how being close to him is harder than I really want it to be.

    Thanks for this post, for writing what I couldn’t.
    You are amazing , in so many ways, I know that you will get that what if answered. 🙂

  2. Great post, Serenity. We definitely feel those scars in regards to our sex life–thanks for putting it out there–posts like these are tough to read, but I appreciate the sense of not being alone.

  3. I wonder if things in the bedroom will ever recover for us. I know the male factor diagnosis for Mr. W scarred him deeply. He felt like a failure since he couldn’t give me what I most wanted. It didn’t matter that I had my own fertility problems, he still blamed himself.

    I often wonder why there is such a social stigma attached to male infertility. Female factor doesn’t get the same response. I wonder if some of the intimacy and fun will return once there is no longer a desire for another child. Even though the reality is that we will need ART for a second, there is always the hope that there may be a surprise, and I think for my husband, that is too much pressure once again.

    You are definitely not alone. Not at all.

  4. In so many ways I can relate to your post. Yes, science is wonderful–but it can also make things complicated in the relationship of husband and wife, mother and child.

  5. I, too, was relieved when we had a MFI diagnosis, because it meant that sex was purely recreational again. But over the years, and especially in the 18 months since the twins were born, I’ve really lost ground in the orgasm department. And maybe you do have a point about losing one of the primal connections, procreation. (Although I think that is very uncommon amongst the general population. But as infertiles, we romanticize so much.)

    I’ve had to change up a LOT of our (not in the) bedroom routine. But I also say no a lot more frequently than ever, because I’m upset about some small detail or conflict.

    Good post.

  6. Wow, Serenity, this is a great post. Thank you.

    I have been wondering for months now whether it really is just ‘stress and stuff’ that has absolutely destroyed my interest in sleeping with my husband. And I have been slowly coming around to the possibility that my infertility has a lot to blame. I think the drive to procreate is embedded, and when you know that just isn’t going to happen, it changes thing. I think these sorts of emotions came out in the Kite Runner- where the narrator felt that sex was empty once they knew they wouldn’t be able to conceive.

  7. Serenity-
    Wow. Great post. I’ve followed you for some time, even though I’m not technically infertile. I read a lot of blogs like yours because they a-teach me a lot (what to say, what not to say) and b-make me put things that I may take for granted into perspective.

    We also did timed intercourse and I’ve found myself saying, “it’s a wonder that people just fall pregnant by having random sex.” Ours was not the oh lets see what happens, it was more of a job. Our sex life has also suffered, but for different reasons I suppose.

    Point being, sometimes being infertile or fertile, takes a toll on your marriage and sex life because in the end, most of us become MOTHERS!! I think that is the word that brings it on…

    Know that I am right there with you!!

    Leslie B.

  8. I often wonder, the other side of what? I am not quite convinced you ever get to the other side of IF. It forever changes who you are, even if you are blessed enough to create a baby. It may be “the other side” but maybe miles down the river from where you would have been without IF so the terrain is very different. I don’t know if that makes sense and I know it probably doesn’t help. I just know how you feel.

  9. Because I still fantasize that we will be THAT couple…the ones that get pregnant naturally after stopping ART (and in my early 40’s to boot), I am so with you an shamelessly hoping month after month, that I’ll be pregnant. And, if it weren’t for the trying in vain to conceive, I wonder when we would have sex.
    I also want to give a shout out for good old fashioned affection…kissing, cuddling while watching TV, sharing daily I love yous, holding hands, and hugging as there is intimacy in that especially during the inbetwixt of sometimes few and far between love making.

  10. I think we barely touched each other for months after our IF diagnosis. First, it was because we had been trying SO hard to make a baby that we were ready for a break. Then, there was hubby’s surgery that put him out of commission for a while. Etc. Pregnancy and a young child haven’t been a picnic either. In some ways it’s been freeing for us that intimacy and procreation are independent. But it makes me sad more often than it makes me happy. One of my friends is trying for #2 and they are ‘just letting things happen.’ Every time I hear her say that, my heart aches. It’s just so far from my reality.

    I guess what I’m really saying is, I hear you.

  11. Delurking to say that I LOVED this post. We also have male factor infertility and are now blessed with twins after IVF. I am grateful EVERY SINGLE DAY for what I have, but have never really been able to get past, as you so eloquently put it, the fact that “we’ve lost the idea that our love can create life”, especially now that we’re looking to have a third child.

  12. Love this. My great secret? What I fantasize about is being swept away with passion and unwittingly becoming pregnant. It will always likely remain a fantasy. Although our son was conceived in our bed, it was done not out of love but out of fear of losing the minute chance that it could happen on its own that month.

  13. What a stunning post. Just beautiful, and thank you for your rawness, even from the other side.

  14. I thought I had read all the what if posts, but it seems not.
    I can only nod all the way through this post.

  15. […] Serenity Now Extrait de "Et si?" Post: "Et s'il y avait la science, non, et je n'ai pas eu mon O? Il est mon cœur, et je suis très chanceux. Mais j'ai aussi perdu quelque chose, aussi. S'appuyant sur ​​la science a fait en sorte que j'ai perdu un peu de mon humanité. Parce que pour nous, les bébés ne sont pas faites avec votre mari, dans votre lit, hors de l'amour. " R ead plus de détails ici. […]

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