Marriage Struggles While Dealing with Infertility and Adoption
by Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P.
Britney and Michael share:
“For my husband and I, getting married also meant sharing a desire to have children and raise a family. As time passed with no pregnancy, we sought infertility treatments, knowing all along that adoption would be a final reason to hope, if that became necessary.
Our journey has been a painful one that strained our relationship just about every step of the way. We’ve worked hard at surviving the disappointments, high costs, and, for me, the physical pain along the way. We are happy to provide an honest recounting of what we’ve been through. Ultimately, though, it’s not the struggles that define us or our story.”
Survival Tips for Infertile Couples
Attempting to have a child and experiencing only disappointment month after month and year after year wears down any hopeful couple aching for children. When the reality of infertility hits, couples are sometimes pushed to their limits. We were determined to get through the painful ordeal together, and we found some successful strategies that helped pull us through.
The reason for infertility could be his slow swimmers or perhaps her polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Whatever the cause, nothing positive can come from assigning blame. The person helplessly responsible likely feels guilty. He may feel insecure about his masculinity. If the fault lies with her, she may question her femininity.
In our case, the cause of infertility was both of our problems. Mine with PCOS. When we got the news, my husband said, “What should we do about this?” Then he reassured me, saying, “We will get through this together.”
Allow One Another to Deal With the Reality
It’s healthy to go through stages of grief and not hold emotions locked inside. Being partners means providing one another with the particular type of support needed. Mourning, venting, grabbing a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Therapy ice cream, or time alone may be just what’s needed for one or the other of you to cope. Remember that your partner isn’t a mind reader. It’s better to explain what you need than not receive the necessary support.
Ready for Fertility Treatments?
When you decide as a couple to consider fertility treatments, the best first step is to visit a fertility specialist. The doctor will go over treatment options, processes, and cost. It’s then up to the couple to talk about what’s ahead if you opt for In Vitro Fertilization (IVF).
A great deal of financial expense as well as physical and emotional stress go along with IVF treatments. Discuss opinions and feelings. Listen to one another and try to understand your partner’s point of view.
For us, the decision to go with IVF treatments was made, though the timing required compromise. We made a plan and agreed to go forward with it in six months. We asked ourselves what if, in the meantime, money needed to cover costs was spent elsewhere–perhaps toward a new boat or other purchases? I was overweight and had lost over 40 pounds. Then, we knew, it would be time to reevaluate our plan, our actions, and perhaps our goal as a couple.
Going Ahead with IVF
We went ahead with IVF and discovered what a heavy toll it can take on a woman’s body. My husband had to make sacrifices by providing extra help when things really got tough. I had a tendency to feel awful during my IVF cycle, and my husband took on some of my chores. What did I have to go through? For eight weeks, I had to get a shot every night!
What my husband thought was the worst was going through the Clomid treatment. I was taking Clomid for five days in a row when my menstrual cycles began. As a couple we had the “requirement” of sex during a specific time frame, which can make lovemaking feel like a chore. When sex is on a mandatory to-do list, it can kill the mood and feel like an inconvenience. We also found that our desire to conceive was such a concern that we neglected adding romance during our required copulating.
Maintain a Sense of Humor
We found our greatest comfort as we developed a sense of humor through the tough times. The stresses of going through infertility treatments are too great to get by without humor. Making jokes about ourselves and our situation served to kindle greater affection towards one another and reduce our stress levels.
Seek Marriage Counseling
Infertility can truly be a hit on a marriage and getting counseling as a couple can be very helpful. There is great benefit in having an unbiased third party facilitate the discussions you have about infertility and your feelings. Counselors know how to help get to the root of a problem, and they can offer helpful advice on coping with disappointment or loss.
Although my husband and I didn’t seek counseling, there were times when it may have been helpful. For instance, I went through a period when I believed my husband deserved someone who didn’t fail at one of the most “natural” acts that a woman’s body performs.
We argued occasionally and recognized that our marriage could have been torn apart as we dealt with infertility. Instead, we grew closer as a couple by learning to accept our situation, meet each other’s needs, adapt our family goals, work as a team to reach those goals, and laugh at ourselves.
We worked together as our journey moved from infertility treatments to adoption, which has had its own set of very real challenges. We found that pursuing adoption also had an impact on us in our marriage relationship.
Struggles of Adoption
In sharing our adoption experiences, I do not aim to deter anyone from adopting. Instead, my hope is to strengthen the potential for success among families who choose to adopt. In my experience, the way a marriage relationship is affected by adoption is seldom spoken of but the impact is real.
Adopting is not a walk in the park. Suddenly, during and after the process of adopting a child, you come under public scrutiny. This is not something that happens to people who have no problems with fertility. The types of things adoptive parents are scrutinized for include the following, to name a few:
- What type of adoption did you pursue?
- Is your baby bottle-fed or breastfed?
- How do you discipline your child?
- Why did you decide to be a multi-racial family?
- What foods do you feed your children?
There is already pressure from knowing that a birth mother has entrusted you with the most precious of all gifts, and the responsibility can feel pretty weighty! Then it seems the general public also places demands on your accountability as an adoptive parent.
The Home Study
By entering the adoption process, you come under the most intrusive scrutiny of all – the home study. A complete stranger referred to as the Social Worker comes into your home and is allowed to ask about intimate details of your life and provide opinions about parenting—even if they are 28 years old with no personal experience with children. Parents hoping to adopt are asked about their sex life, their childhood, and why they’ve made all the major decisions of their lives.
Over time, the public scrutiny together with the intrusion of the Social Worker can put a strain on a marriage.
Families who adopt children, especially small babies, experience the sleep deprivation that naturally comes with being a parent. Other types of sleeplessness can also affect a couple involved in adoption. In the case of international adoptions, jet lag and time differences result in a lack of sleep that can begin to change your perspective on many things. At times when it may be critical to talk and take time out for other things for the sake of a healthy marriage, you may be too exhausted at the end of the day.
Special Needs Children
Adopting a special needs child also increases the possibility of getting a divorce, according to statistics. Connie and her husband Danny have ended up adopting five children, and all have special needs. Prenatal exposures are common, such as FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder) and Fetal Drug Effect, sensory processing disorder, ADHD, Reactive Attachment Disorder, Developmental Trauma Disorder, and PTSD.
Visits to specialists and tending to medical crises can be exhausting, and my husband and I don’t always agree on what actions are best to take on behalf of our children.
Tips to Protect Your Marriage
I’m so happy to say that my husband and I have stayed together through everything, and we can offer the following tips to help keep your marriage intact as you deal with the issues of infertility treatments and/or adoption:
- Work on improving communication with one another.
- Have weekly or, at the very least, monthly date nights.
- Create a budget so that financial problems don’t cause marital strain.
- Attend marriage counseling and go to marriage retreats or seminars.
- Both should engage in self-care.
Raising a family together is worth all the trouble that may be required to make it happen. It’s a journey my husband and I highly recommend. Our home is filled with the laughter of children, as we had dreamed for so long, and the strength of our marriage is multiplied many times over.