Writer, survivor and advocate of all things infertility
Maintaining a relationship when living with infertility is not easy. Nothing prepares couples for the brutality of infertility, says Caro Townsend.
My husband will tell you that being a man without functioning sperm is not something he likes to dwell on but, unfortunately, we’ve very much had to do so.
Like many other couples, having a family did not come easily for us. Where we’d previously thought that birthing a child was the most natural task known to woman-and-mankind, we instead found ourselves on a daunting journey, which revolved around injections, procedures and a whole host of other people’s expertise.
The process of getting pregnant
Being infertile and attempting to create a much longed-for pregnancy in a sterile, clinical environment is not the stuff dreams are made of. Where joy and romance should have been rampant, grief and regimented organisation overtook, leaving our marriage with an ever-present and most unwelcome third wheel.
Trying to maintain a relationship when living with infertility is not easy, in fact it’s heart-shatteringly tough. There’s disbelief, shame and anger, and I remember being surprised at how quickly a future, filled with such promise and hope, could trickle away to be easily replaced by the brokenness we found in the reality we were forced to exist in.
We felt tricked, cheated and conned as other couples were readily bestowed with their bundles, whilst we were left empty. I sometimes feel an overwhelming sadness that so much of our newly-wedded bliss was spent wishing for a different life.
Discovering children weren’t going to appear naturally gave a very real meaning to the vow we’d made on our glorious wedding day, when we’d felt invincible, untouchable and certain of the happy ending which was sure to follow. However, weeks, months and then years on, we were still battling through the “worse”, ignorant, and losing confidence as to whether the, once taken for granted, “better” would deign to present itself to us.
Unprepared for the brutality of infertility
Nothing prepares couples for the brutality of infertility, or can fully warn of the all-consuming force of nature it is. We didn’t know how we were meant to act with others or, at times, even with each other. We kept on muddling through, learning lingo, navigating a sea of grief and attempting to make sense of what was happening, blindly putting one foot in front of the other as we tried to create a ‘normal’ life amidst the chaos of pain and rigid structure of treatments.
It took us over four years to hold our son, but during that time we discovered that strength can be found in vulnerability, that grief has no gender and that there can be no blame; infertility is a team event.
Infertility is known to affect 3.5 million people in the UK
But ours is just one story, one tale set in a world of devastation with no guarantees, a world which is currently known to affect 3.5 million people in the UK, and a world experienced by one in every six UK couples.
November 28th sees the launch of the Health Awareness; ‘Your Fertility Journey’ campaign. Looking into both sides of the story, the campaign aims to increase knowledge and raise understanding around infertility and the treatment options available.
Working in association with organisations such as Fertility Network UK and The Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Your Fertility Journey will look to support those experiencing infertility, offering expert advice on many areas, including the process of thinking about IVF and, if embarking upon that route, how to prepare for it and find a good clinic.
Living with infertility can be a lonely and isolating time but please know you are never alone in your fertility journey.