I work with several obstetricians who specialize in infertility. When I talk to women undergoing infertility treatment, my heart goes out to them. They are recording their temperature every day, testing mucus, monitoring ovulation, injecting hormones at unheard of dosages, and usually feeling fat, bloated and tired. The goal is to put these feelings aside and still have sex on the scheduled days in the hopes of getting pregnant. Their husbands are part of the plan, and may have it just as tough. Their job is to support their moody wife (hormones make women uncontrollably emotional) and to save their sperm up for days so they will have a greater chance of impregnating their wife when her hormones are at the correct level with ovulation. It is an intricate endeavor; it is also expensive, stressful, and sometimes unsuccessful. It only takes one egg and one sperm though, so there is hope and usually a high chance that, if you can survive several “rounds of treatment,” you will be successful with a bouncing bundle of joy.
The emotional aspects of infertility are perhaps the most difficult to deal with, but along with the emotional is the sexual toll infertility takes upon a marriage. Husbands report feeling used through much of the experience as it is panic rather than love making during ovulation. They are summoned home at any time of the day; when the time is right, you have to take advantage of it. Feeling sexy, affectionate, and excited are replaced with performing a service in the hopes of pregnancy. It’s no easier for women; they feel like tired beached whales and, when the ovulation test says “go,” they have sex with little or no desire. One of my patients told her husband and I that she “felt as sexy as a cow” even when she wore her silk negligee.
I enjoy working with these couples because most of them use humor to cope, and the stories they tell me are hilarious. Since it is a stressful process, techniques to deal with the stress help protect your marriage. If you are feeling overwhelmed or tired of the whole thing, there is nothing wrong with taking a break. Make sure you communicate openly with your partner. You are stronger together than either one of you can be alone. Below are suggestions that may help you turn infertility treatment into a marriage enhancer rather than a marital nightmare:
1. Be a team. If you begin talking and supporting one another as a team, you will actually feel fortified by the “craziness” of your lives at this time.
2. Be prepared with activities or things to do if you are stressed or disappointed. Science still has a ways to go in predicting when and if pregnancy will occur. There are several ups and downs with infertility. Making a list of activities you both can do together and enjoy during the downs can make them less disappointing.
3. Schedule time to talk face to face each day. We draw strength from each other by looking into each other’s eyes and touching. If you have that time to sit and hold one another planned into your day, there is nothing you cannot bear.
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Steve Harvey developed Delightful, an online dating service for women to make them "more dateable." Right. Because women are the problem, not men who have been divorced twice, married a woman with whom they cheated on their second spouse, and think mustaches are a good idea.
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