In recognition of National Infertility Awareness Week, I wanted to devote a post to Resolve's Bust an Infertility Myth theme. I'm busting the myth that not having children isn't stressful. I hear parents complain all of the time about their kids making them crazy because they drew on the walls with markers, puked in their bed, shoved a pickle up their nose, forgot about their science project until the night before it was due; the list goes on and on...
However, the stress of not being a parent or trying to become one is also incredibly daunting, and I think much worse.
As my pregnancy virgins and I know, the stress of not being able to conceive can overtake your life - your relationships with your spouse, your family and friends, your finances, and your dreams. Don't forget the stress on your body, mind and spirit (perhaps that's part two of this post).
I've never been close to the brink of divorce, but I know of infertile couples who have (and some who have even split up). When trying to conceive completely consumes your life, it consumes your marriage, too. Being tethered to the doctor's office, being told when to have sex, hormonal outbursts from fertility drugs, and blame games on why she can't conceive are enough to rock the strongest marriage. Add to all of this, the fact that the one person who completely understands what you're going through, is going through the same horrible thing. Ugh, even writing all of this is stressing me out.
Your family and friends:
Relationships with family and friends can also change dramatically when you're dealing with infertility. There always seems to be a teenage second cousin who gets pregnant or a hyper-fertile friend who "wasn't even trying" to bring up a lot of resentment and bitterness. And, as much as we try for this not to happen, it can just be inevitable. Heap on the sometimes insensitive, but well-intentioned "advice" that we're sometimes given about "not stressing", "just adopting" and "trying a conceptionmoon", and it's enough to drive friendships apart. And, when you're the only friend at brunch who doesn't have a "birthing story", you can find yourself jealous of episiotomies and C-sections. I've seen several posts along these lines around the infertile blogosphere. Tension-filled rooms at family gatherings asking "when are you going to start having kids?" can also result in a moratorium on Sunday dinners at the in-laws.
Fertility treatments, adoption home studies, background checks, and attorney fees, and the countless bottles of wine and retail therapy can set your finances into a tailspin. Do you put a new roof on your house with a leaking ceiling or do an IVF cycle? Put brakes on your car or buy a round of follistims? Take out a loan to get pregnant? I know of women who've had yard sales, just to pay for an IUI. Truly, thinking about the money we've spent on fertility treatments makes me a little sick to my stomach (would do it all over again, but still very stressful!).
If you've gone through fertility treatments, the process to adopt or other family building methods and no child comes into your life, there is the definite and heart-breaking loss of a dream. You may find yourself wandering about the 4-bedroom house that you bought to fill with children or aimlessly driving around in your SUV with a third row of seats - empty. I mourn things like Saturday morning pancakes made by daddy, fun at the zoo, running through my neighborhood with a jog stroller - dreams I've had since the day I met my husband. And, that can be the most stressful feeling of all.
So, as difficult as parenting may be, I'd take the stress of being a mom over the stress of not any minute of any day.