Thankful

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Thanksgiving is our holiday to host; it was also the first holiday after we were given our infertility diagnosis. So while I’m caught up in the hustle and bustle of preparing a feast for 30+ guests, I couldn’t help but stop myself to sit down and write this post. Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends, giving thanks and counting our blessings as the most magical time of the year commences; however if you’re in the midst of your struggle trying to conceive, it can also evoke other feelings. While my blessings are abundant this Thanksgiving, I can recall all too well just how difficult it was to get through another holiday sans baby, or without even a bump.

There’s nothing better in this life than memories made around the table, toasting one another, feeling nostalgic devouring family recipes, and carrying on traditions. There’s belly laughs, happy tears, and if you’re like us, probably a minor casualty or two. Besides remincising about the good ‘ole days, there are also usually discussions of what’s to come as children run through the hallways, holiday bests are dirtied, and fleeting kisses are snatched.

If you’re in baby limbo, it can be an uncomfortable place. While you are so grateful for the love that surrounds you and all that’s good, there’s still something missing. Some people can sense it; others can’t and more likely than not the opportunity will present itself when someone says “Bet you can’t wait for that” or “When are you having one?” as you watch the littles playing about. The hardest part of it all is trying to keep smiling, when your heart is sobbing inside.

Don’t get mad at yourself for feeling that way. As much as you appreciate your life, it’s only natural to feel this way. It doesn’t make you a selfish or bad person-it makes you human. These warm and fuzzies we feel inside are human, just like sadness, emptiness, even jealousy. It’s okay if you need to excuse yourself from a conversation or even have a quick pity party in the bathroom because while you are thankful for your beautiful life, you’re still waiting for your time to receive the greatest gift of all.

In your circles these holidays you’ll find there are some who have received that gift and thank God everyday. There are others who have received it unexpectedly, some who take it for granted, and probably some still waiting like you, whether they’re open about it or not. We all have our different stories and outlooks on life and while we might not always understand one another’s words or actions, we can all agree we are only human. We all make mistakes and have weak moments, in the same way that we can all forgive, regroup, and move forward.

It took me a long time to come to this realization. There are times, even now, I have to remind myself it’s ok to feel. I would often be disappointed in myself or guilty, especially when there are people without family, food, and shelter. There are people going without a lot more than I had, and while I can’t fathom that, those material things are nothing compared to the gift of life.

Maybe rather than worrying about finding the perfect present or snagging that Black Friday deal, we can give each other a better gift this year. The gift of time, the gift of support, the gift of acknowledgment, the gift of understanding and forgiveness. The gift of hope, the gift of community. The gift of realizing we are all just human, going through the motions of life, fighting some battle or another, giving it the best we can at this given moment.

My gift to you is validation-that what you’re feeling is okay and warranted. By other’s opening up, I’ve come to learn this is something we all experience and are not alone in. For that I am eternally thankful.

MFI: Male Factor Infertility, Major Female Issue or Both?

As if infertility isn’t hard enough to deal with, it’s seeming more and more that Male Factor Infertility (MFI) is the primary or sole cause. From experience, I can attest that MFI adds a whole other layer to deal/grieve/cope with. It may as well also stand for Major Female Issue.

Traditionally speaking, infertility has always been thought of as a female disease. For decades, it was even uncouth to suggest that it could be the male partner with infertility concerns. While the majority of women still blame themselves if their lady parts aren’t cooperating, it’s less taboo than if the problem lies within the man. As women, we believe that we should be capable of conceiving and carrying a baby to delivery. An inability to do so can be heartaching, damaging, and cause feelings of uselessness.

Manliness, however, seems to be judged based on what you’re working with down below. So much of guy talk revolves around how you work it that even young boys hone in on the social expectations of what having man parts means. It becomes a standard measure of how much of a guy’s guy you are. Therefore, when MFI comes into play it can be a huge blow to a guy’s ego and even their identity. There’s a shame and inadequacy that goes beyond that of a female in my opinion because as women there’s so much else that plays into our femininity.

In our case, what was initially thought to be the problem was my inconsistent ability to ovulate. It turned out, though, that MFI was the main concern with why we’re unable to coneveive naturally. Thus, I experienced both firsthand. Mind you, anovulation is fairly common and easily treated, so I didn’t go through any guilt or self-worth issues. I figured, like anything, if it’s broke, fix it. Yet when I learned the news of my husband’s diagnosis I felt as if the world was coming crumbling down on me. It wasn’t that it just meant there was a possibility of never having a biological child, but even more in that moment, that I had to tell him something was “wrong” with him.

I don’t even like using that term in quotations because in infertility, blame is the root of all evil. There’s no sense in placing blame on who’s fault it is because either way you can’t do it without one another. Don’t get me wrong, are there moments in which “I wouldn’t have to do this if it weren’t for you” thoughts happen or when you’re tempted to pull the “blame” card out in the middle of a fight? Of course, because we are only human. However, avoiding ever labeling one another as the issue is crucial. That, mixed with the associated emotions of struggling to get pregnant, is a deadly potion for any relationship.

Yet, the question comes up more often than not, “Is it you?” Or “Has your husband been checked?” We found it helpful to come up with a blanket statement in the beginning before we were comfortable disclosing the details. “We are both having issues but are seeing a fertility specialist,” usually was enough to keep the inquiries at bay.

I vividly remember asking my poor husband at 6:30 in the morning, before I left for work one day, what I should say. I offered to say it was all me because, lets face it, that’d be easier. In fact MFI is also a Major Female Issue because I believed that wholeheartedly~that if I were the “problem” it’d be simpler. I wouldn’t have had to lie or keep the details of our diagnosis secret. I wouldn’t have had to be vague about what was going on. I wouldn’t have had to worry about scheduling, and doctors appointments and relaying the information because I’d be the one there. (My husband felt more comfortable going to his urologist follow-ups without me; I’d attend the “major” ones and all appointments with our RE.). I could be the one doing all the leg-work, all the tough stuff and he could just be on the side-lines to support me. I would be the only one having blood work, shots, and procedures which physically, mentally, and emotionally seemed more manageable.

Instead, I had to prod to get him to go to the the doctor. I had to pry to get more answers and plea for him to ask the doctor my questions. I had to watch him inject himself with meds that insurance wouldn’t cover and repeatedly be anxiety ridden over semen analyses. I had to tread lightly between being too over bearing and not attentive-enough all while trying to ensure that he was okay. That he didn’t blame himself or worse off think I did. MFI adds a whole other layer because besides worrying about yourself, or you as a couple, you’re constantly worrying about him as an individual. How is he coping? Is he as sad as I am? Is he about to reach his breaking point? When will he say enough is enough? Does this consume him the way it does me? Why can’t he talk more about it? Why is he sleeping and I can’t? Is this what’s keeping him up tonight?

That’s what love is, though, worrying about another more than yourself. And while he may not have been as open or chatty about it, his actions said it all. They said that he loves me so much he’d do anything to have a baby with me. They showed me that he was selfless and willing to sacrifice it all, even some of his dignity, if it’d make me happy. They showed me that he was more “manly” than any guy I’d ever met and if guys were as half a man as he, the world would be a better place.

Fertility is hard. I think in some ways MFI can make it harder on you both. It has shown me though, that having a family was just as much a priority for me as it was him. MFI forced my husband to get to that place mentally where I had been for a long time. He had finally come to realize my longing and felt the same fears, grief, sadness that I had. Just in the way that it has shaped me as a mom, infertility also shaped him into the amazing daddy he is. What an example for our son to see what it means to truly be a man.