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Love Letters

My fertility problems are hurting the marriage

Q.I’m married to the absolute greatest man I’ve ever met. We have careers, great friends, and supportive and loving families. But we’ve been struggling with infertility. It’s been an exhausting, agonizing, and soul-destroying two-year journey so far, and if it continues much longer, I’m afraid our marriage won’t survive it.

It might sound corny, but back when “Glenn” and I were first falling in love, I often imagined that our future children would have his sparkling eyes or his generous nature. So when he asked me to grow old with him, I believed that the rest of our lives would include children and grandchildren.

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Glenn and I have had an amazing physical relationship since the very beginning, so we both greeted our decision to “start trying” with giddy enthusiasm and the next eight months were pure bliss. That’s precisely how long it took for either of us to realize how long we’d been trying and to ponder why I hadn’t yet gotten pregnant.

By the time our long-awaited specialist appointment finally arrived, I feared what we would learn. Glenn was tested first and “passed with flying colors,” according to the doc. Since then, I’ve had countless blood tests, urine tests, super embarrassing and invasive “other” tests, and we’re no closer to knowing what’s wrong. Unexplained infertility, I was told. Most frustrating “diagnosis” ever, but treatment began and we were hopeful. In addition to the many prescribed fertility drugs (with their horrible side effects), I’ve been advised to make good lifestyle decisions. Fearing I’d been exercising too intensely, I’ve cut out running entirely. I haven’t had coffee in over a year and its been nearly that long since I’ve enjoyed an alcoholic drink. But the worst impact of all has been on our sex life. Nothing kills the passion quite like a strict sex schedule. For me, it’s grown monotonous and our bedroom has become a place filled with disappointment and sadness.

Almost two months ago we finally got our first bit of joy with a positive pregnancy test — only to have all that hope eroded with an early loss a few weeks later. Glenn thinks it’s a good indication that sperm and egg can meet and wants to begin trying right away. I feel emotionally and physically exhausted and I don’t know where to turn. I finally attended an infertility support group, but the other attendees are about a decade older, and one of them actually expressed displeasure at my being there because of my age. I know biologically I have time, but I don’t know how much longer we can continue having our hopes crushed every month.

Although Glenn has been endlessly supportive, I can’t help but wonder if he’s begun to resent my uncooperative body. If we can’t figure this out, will he leave me for someone fertile? What can we do to bring the joy back? Do marriages really survive this?

Babyless in Boston

A. Marriages can survive this kind of stress. Our bodies go through a lot in life, and when we get married, we sign up to deal with it all together.

You’re smart to look for help during this process, but please know that support groups can be a crapshoot. You never know who’s going to be sitting next to you, and sometimes the chemistry is just off. I’d ask your doctor about alternatives for support. It might be one-on-one therapy, or perhaps there’s an age-specific group that makes more sense for you. Also ask about trying a different kind of exercise. Your brain and body need a release, and it’s good for your libido. Maybe you can replace running with yoga.

And while you work on finding the right source for professional help, do some things with Glenn that you wouldn’t be able to do if you had kids right now. Take a fancy trip. See a midnight movie. Have really loud sex in the living room. And maybe have a glass of wine now and then. You have to be able to enjoy your life in the present. Marriage is so much more than sharing the experience of having children.

Also, don’t be afraid to talk to Glenn about your fears. If you’re worried that he regrets choosing you as a partner, tell him that you’re feeling insecure. Let him explain why he married you, and really listen to what he has to say. Meredith

READERS RESPOND:

I’ve been there and I’m sorry you’re in this place. I too was in a support group (which I loved) and there was at least one marriage that didn’t survive. But the vast majority did and there is no reason you won’t too given what you’ve mentioned about your general happiness with each other.

REB64

You did not give your age, but based on your letter, I am assuming you are in your early 30s. If that’s the case, I’d suggest taking a break in your endeavour to make a baby, take a breath, live your life with your wonderful husband and just have sex. Lots and lots of unscheduled, uninhibited, and aimless sex.

MSENIGMA

I bet when you met, he wasn’t instantly thinking, “This woman will carry my child because of her gene structure.” He fell in love with you for your looks and personality. You’ll find a way to get through this even if you can’t carry a child.

COMBATWOMBAT

It sounds like you have pinned all of your hopes and dreams of happiness on having a baby. It might be time to take a small break from trying to conceive so you can enjoy your life and marriage. SUNALSORISES

I’ve watched two close friend couples go through infertility over the past five years, and since they had strong relationships to begin with, they weathered the frustration and emotional rollercoster — together. Both were stronger for it. MABBITTY

So to you “making good life choices” means absolutely no coffee, alcohol, or running? That makes no sense. Why is everything one extreme or the other?

KISSMYANTHEA

Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at mgoldstein@
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