Infertility can cause a huge strain on a marriage. For some, it can actually cause the end. Luckily it doesn’t have to be this way. Read on to find out how my husband and I were able to keep a marriage strong from infertility to adoption.
I’ve often heard that the first year of marriage is typically the hardest, and for some that may be true. For my husband and I, that wasn’t the case. In our marriage it was the year we heard the words, “I’m sorry, you are going to need to either go through a surrogate or adoption if you want to have children.” There was something so debilitating upon hearing those words. At that moment I was hit with a huge rush of horrible emotions.
I will never forget leaving the doctor’s office and getting into the car with my husband as tears streamed down my face. He reached over to me and said it was all going to be okay. At the time, it didn’t feel like things would ever be okay. I realized that the thing I thought I was made for could never occur and I loathed myself because of it. I hated everything about the situation I was in but most of all, I hated that he was in this with me. I felt deeply guilty because of it.
As I sit here and look over at my beautiful little girl, I’d love to say that the time between sitting in that car crying to where I am now, was so easy. But I can’t, that would be a full fledged lie. I’d love to tell you that my marriage was totally and completely fail-proof and we overcame our struggle with flying colors. Unfortunately, again I can’t.
What I can do is give you advice about what my husband and I did to get through that hard time and what helped us come out of it stronger. It took a lot of work, but I can say that after all our hardships it was all worth it.
Let Yourself Grieve After Infertility
One of the first things we did after that particular doctor’s appointment was process everything that had been presented to us. It was a lot to take in at first and we needed a few days to just sit with it. So if you’re there right now, just sit with it and try and process how you feel. It’s okay to feel sad or mad. Maybe you feel guilty or disappointed. It’s okay to feel uncertain and just sit with that. It will probably feel uncomfortable, and as hard as it is, that’s a part of the grieving process. It’s okay to give yourself time to grieve but try not to stay there.
You might wonder why I mentioned grief. You might ask yourself if it’s normal to grieve something that you never had. Yes, it’s totally normal and okay. We all grieve at some point in our life, whether it’s something small or large. Keep in mind that everyone grieves in their own way. This was something I had to learn. When my husband didn’t shed tears or her didn’t seem as upset as I was when we got the information, I figured he wasn’t as distraught as I was. Boy was I wrong! He was very upset since he too felt a loss for the future we had imagined together; he just didn’t express it the same way I did. Give your spouse some grace when they don’t grieve the same way that you do. It’s okay if they take a little longer than you to process whatever stage you are in in the
adoption process. I promise this will save you a few arguments and help you guard your feelings from being hurt.
In her article, Karla Herlbert, a licensed professional counselor, says, “Each person’s unique experiences of loss and grief cannot be held to another’s for comparison. Every one of us is different and responds in different ways to loss and to grief…The most important thing in getting through grief and loss, coming through to the other side, is having hope and having support. Research has shown that grieving people, no matter how acute the loss, who are able to identify some aspect of hopefulness, are able to move through grief with a better outcome.” Stay connected and stay open to conversation during the entire process. Don’t shut your spouse out or assume their feelings. You’re in this together and will need each other because no one knows the situation better than you two.
Try Therapy and Counseling to Keep Your Marriage Strong
A few days after we received the news, my husband and I sat down and had a long conversation about how we felt and where we wanted to go from there. Honestly, it was a conversation that was held over a few months. Once we agreed that adoption was our next step, we decided that it would be best for us to start couples counseling. As we entered into that season, we were able to keep the lines of communication open. In counseling we were given tools and they helped us develop skills on how to communicate through the tough and hard emotions and conversations that came with deciding what was next.
From talking to friends and co-workers, I know that counseling isn’t always financially reasonable for some. Sometimes it’s a time thing, a location thing, or a financial thing. Here are a few resources that you can use if it is something that you want to look into.
TalkSpace is an online therapy service that offers the advice of licensed therapists and counselors.You can contact their professionals all day everyday with your mobile devices. When you leave messages, therapists and professional counselors check their messages twice a day five days a week, so you’ll always get an answer within 12 hours.
BetterHelp specializes in online therapy for non-severe mental health issues. As the leading therapy platform, BetterHelp offers unlimited therapy options and is even recommended by the American Psychological Association (APA).
ReGain is a popular platform that specializes in therapeutic services that help intimate, dating, and married couples to mend and improve broken relationships, or to strengthen healthy relationships.
7 Cups is a free, online, peer-to-peer chat service that provides unlimited support via their online chat system and video sessions. When you need to chat, 7 Cups will link you with a good listener that suits your needs. They also have fun activities that will help boost your mood. Whichever you feel like doing, 7 Cups of Tea offers several choices such as one-on-one chatting, group chats, forums, and self-help articles, and over 100 mental health and relaxation videos. They are supported on Apple and Google app platforms.
Other Tips for Keeping Your Marriage Strong
If apps aren’t for you, here are some recommended activities to do with your spouse. Hopefully these activities will help you guys from deeper connections to keep your relationship happy and healthy.
Our counselor suggested that we have date nights. Now I know it sounds funny because we didn’t have children yet, but wasn’t every night date night? Well in the process of trying to get pregnant, dates became obsolete. Our lives revolved around an ovulation and fertility calendar. Essentially, we had lost the spark of being married. So when our counselor suggested it, we both looked at each other and realized we hadn’t been out on a date that didn’t end in a very specific purpose for quite a while. We didn’t date each other for fun anymore. We got to work and set one weekend night aside for a date night. I remember that first official date night. Getting ready in our bathroom, doing my makeup just right, making sure I had the perfect outfit, I was so excited. It was like our first date all over. It was an amazing feeling.
What took me by surprise was how much I actually looked forward to date night every weekend. I loved that we would get dressed up for each other. After a while we started taking turns on who would plan the date. After about a year we made a date jar. It consisted of different, fun date ideas. Some were fancy and extravagant and some were just us staying at home in our pajamas, eating pizza and watching scary movies cuddled up on the couch together. But the point was always the same, we were in this together and we were making memories.
When my husband and I first started dating, one of the things that really brought us together while we navigated a long distance relationship, was reading together. We talked about the favorite genres we had in common. Luckily for us, we like a lot of the same genres. Our counselor suggested that we go back to that, but we should read books together that would prepare us for this next big adventure in our life. A child! If you are interested in doing the same, you might want to try The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery, The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts, and Babyproofing Your Marriage: How to Laugh More.
One of the other suggestions given to us was to try writing in a journal. Journaling all of my feelings is still something that I do to this day and it’s something that I plan on doing with my daughter. There is something about being able to focus on how I feel and putting it on paper that is freeing. I love being able to look back on the journals that I had back when I first started and seeing how much progress I’ve personally made, how far my husband and I have come and how much growth we’ve all experienced.
A part of the journal that became very personal and helpful for others was when I started my blog. There was and still is something very freeing and empowering about putting my words out there for others to read. I have loved being able to share our story and hear those comments that say, “Yeah, me too.” There is healing in the community. Which brings me to my next point.
It’s very important to go out with friends and give your spouse some space. Having people who will sit and listen to what you’re going through is so very important. But it’s just as important to have friends you can go and vent and cry to on your own. It’s important to have people around you who have a clear view of what is going on and aren’t wrapped up in all of the heartache that accompanies infertility and who can be a sounding board when your emotions are on high alert at the time.
These will be the people who help you fundraise if you need to do that. These will also be the people who you lean on once you bring your sweet new family member home. And they will also be the ones who love on your little person as they grow up. It’s good to have people around you that you trust and can lean on.
One of my fellow storytellers, Elysa Eliss said this, “I saved a million Pinterest projects and then we picked a few to do together. [it] resulted in a super over decorated nursery but it was fun.”
During the wait to bring our daughter home, we found something to do together to keep our minds off of the dredged waiting period. Days can feel like a lifetime while you’re waiting to be chosen but having something that can distract you and keep you busy is a great way to speed up the time.
“For our second adoption we were actually on a family vacation, in our favorite place, the Outer Banks, North Carolina. We got the call that a baby was going to be born and we had been chosen.” said Virginia Spence, another fellow Storyteller.
Along with many others, my husband and I love to travel. We were actually visiting friends and family when we got the news that our home study was approved. It was a huge sigh of relief getting that news and being around people we loved and who supported us during that time.
I saved the least fun topic for the end because unless you’re an accountant or financial advisor, you probably don’t enjoy talking about fiances regardless of if your fiances are great or not. The fact is that adoption is costly and it has a very large expense range. So coming together to talk about your finances and your adoption budget is an important task that must be done.
Talking about your finances when you first decide to move forward with adoption will save you a lot of unnecessary arguments and also some heart break. There may come a time when an adoption situation presents itself and if you’re not on the same page about things, it can cause a scurry and maybe loss of the situation.
To make talking this particular discussion less unbearable, I suggest you make it a date or change up your location. Try going to a local coffee shop or pack a picnic and make the least fun discussion a little bit more fun and scenic.
When discussing the finances regarding adoption, make sure you include what your limits are. If you’re up for fundraising think about the types of fundraisers you could do. What does your budget look like? What expenses are you willing to cover? How will you travel? Those types of things.
This is a great resource page from adoption.com for you to use when discussing your fiances. It lists different types of information ranging from fundraising, loans, and even the adoption tax credit.
Like I said at the beginning, my marriage is in no way perfect. It took a lot of help and resources to keep up strong from the time we found out we were infertile to bringing our daughter home. We continue to mess up every now and then. But we check in on ourselves and on each other. Our marriage is in constant upkeep. But like every relationship, it’s worth every single effort given to it. Every step it took to bring our sweet little girl home was worth every single tear, argument, therapy session and dollar spent and saved.
Khrystian Hembree is a proud military wife, a momma to an adventure-seeking and spunky little girl, and a freelance copywriter. She enjoys hosting playgroups, reading books, leading worship at her church, and anything that includes donuts and coffee.