The infertilite marriage and divorce

When I got married, one of my vows was “to accept children lovingly” into my life.  I saw that on paper and cringed.  I was 26 and I didn’t want kids.  I thought kids trapped you, wrecked your body, sucked your bank account, turned your life into one full of mom-jeans and sensible flats, tripping over Tonka trucks and Legos and other endlessly messy toys strewn about.  When I repeated that vow on my wedding day six years ago, a voice inside me screamed, “Eeek!  No, I don’t!  No, I don’t!

A year later my niece arrived and she only reinforced my beliefs about children.  She was exhausting to babysit.  She never stopped crying.  She didn’t sleep anywhere but in your bed.  She played with loud toys that she left everywhere.  I didn’t see the joy in parenting.  That and I felt completely incompetent as a woman around her, unable to read her cues or understand her needs.  I never really babysat anyone before – a hazard of being among the youngest in the extended family – so I didn’t even really know how to change a diaper.

Meanwhile, my husband started saying weird things, like, “Wouldn’t it be fun to have four squirts?”  He was loving my niece and I was jealous he was so good with her (he being the oldest had a lot of experience raising kids).  But mostly we had these conversations playfully, to the point where we’d start categorizing activities as “things we couldn’t do with squirts.”  And every year we were married, he came down on his number of squirts.  And every year, I started moving more in his direction, particularly as both of our careers stabilized (though nothing is really stable in this economy).  Kids didn’t seem like a sentence anymore.  And I reached a point in my life when I found myself asking, “There’s got to be something more.”  I sensed a gap in my life that I knew would not be filled by experiences or things.  And that’s when we started trying to conceive.

That was three years ago, three years into our marriage and seven years into our relationship.  My husband and I are now wrapping our minds around the fact we’ve been together for ten years… but we’re also watching friends’ and families’ marriages fall apart.  And falling apart in part because of the baby question.

The average U.S. first marriage lasts 8 years, and the second lasts 10 years.  So our friends who married in their early to mid-20s are starting to divorce.  In two of the most recent cases I know about, babies and infertility are chief among the sticking points.  In one couple, the wife’s sisters and mother have all been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and have experienced heart-wrenching and life-threatening complications in the last two years.  No doubt the fear of having your opportunity to have children kicks your biological clock into high gear…  but her husband didn’t reciprocate the feeling.  Another couple discovered some minor complications while trying to conceive, and as a result the husband wants to talk about their options for growing their family and the wife doesn’t want to deal with it.  Both couples are now separated, and guess what?  They were both married for eight years.

When I tell people this story they ask, “Wouldn’t they have talked about kids before getting married?”  Sure, that’s what you’re supposed to do.  You’re supposed to talk about your finances and spending habits, your expectations for living together, your hesitations about each others’ families, your values, your ideas about having a family (or not).  But even if you did that, sometimes circumstances change your mind.  You lose your job, you travel abroad, your family moves away, you develop an allergy to cats, you find out you’re an infertilite.  And sometimes a couple can recover from that fundamental change and sometimes they can’t.

Being an infertilite alone is hard work enough.  When you are with a partner, it will challenge the foundation of your relationship.  You will have many long tearful conversations.  You will both feel pulled in so many different directions, and sometimes those directions are polar opposites.  You both deal with the stigma and with the difficult conversations with the outside world.  Focus on the love you share for each other to help you dig in.  Be honest.  Listen unconditionally.  Withhold your judgment.  Get a professional to help you communicate if that’s what you need.  We’ve all been there.  You are not alone.

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The Ultimate Parents-to-Be Playlist explained

As described in my earlier post about how my husband and I have always exchanged tapes to commemorate special events, I managed to come up with a unique list that I thought both he and I would appreciate.  A nice mix of his music tastes and mine, as if, appropriately, our tastes had a baby.  Or, as Jeff Tweedy sings in Wilco’s puzzling “Muzzle of Bees,” “Half of it’s you, half of it’s me.”

1. “The Times They Are A-Changing” by Bob Dylan.  I can’t imagine there being something that happens in your life that will change it quite as much as having a child does, or so everyone seems to lead me to believe.

2. “F.N.T.” by Semisonic.  The title of this one refers to the chorus, Fascinating New Thing (not unlike the “P.Y.T.” of Michael Jackson’s “Pretty Young Thing).  These guys from the 90s, most famous for their follow-up single, “Closing Time,” tell the F.N.T. “I’m surprised that you’ve never been told before that you’re lovely, that you’re perfect, and that somebody wants you.”  And what’s more fascinating than a new baby?

3. “Bootylicious” by Destiny’s Child.  This song was the inspiration for the entire playlist.  Early on I really struggled with having a new body, and one which I really can no longer control.  “I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly,” spoke both to me seriously and playfully to my husband.  If I can’t fight it, I might as well embrace a new bootylicious bod!

4. “Haven’t Met You Yet” by Michael Buble.  I think this would probably be the most obvious choice of all the songs on this list.  I have to believe that he’s speaking to his future child when he says, “I promise you, kid, I’ll give so much more than I’ll get,” and not his future wife – because otherwise I’d have to believe it was written in the 1950s when white men were the only ones who held human capital.

5. “Daughter” by Loudon Wainwright III.  The two best things to come out of the movie Knocked Up: the ending credits and this song.

6. “Birdhouse in Your Soul” by They Might Be Giants.  I seem to remember my husband once saying he liked TMBG in high school, and this song in particular.  When I listened to it again it made me think of the process you go through wondering if you’ll ever have room to love someone else as much as you love your significant other.  Who really knows what “blue canary in the alley by the lightswitch” means?  But “Who watches over you?”  Yeah, that’s me.

7. “Born at the Right Time” by Paul Simon.  Just about the only folk singer from the 70s I can stand is Joni Mitchell.  Seriously.  James Taylor, Carly Simon, Simon & Garfunkel…  blech.  I’m more of the late 60s/early 70s rock fan myself.  But again, this playlist was intended for not only my husband but for general audiences, and sometimes you have to compromise.  I stumbled upon this one (thanks, Google!) and it actually made me cry, and became an earworm.  Although it still always makes me think he’s talking about Moses for some reason.

8. “I Miss  You” by Bjork.  If he can have a song he loved from high school, then so can I.  Going through old cassette tapes as we cleaned out the house I found a recording of this gem.  Another play on the theme of all those hopes and dreams you have while you’re waiting for them to actually happen.  “I miss you but I haven’t met you yet.  I remember but it hasn’t happened yet.”

9. “Stay Up Late” by Talking Heads.  Another Google find.  Talking Heads, again not one of my favorites, but one of those weird bands the husband listens to every now and then.  (I swear I will never understand his taste in music).  This is kind of funny? Ironic? Twisted?  The baby’s so cute I just want to make him stay up late...  I’m pretty sure it’s the other way around, buddy.

10. “Beautiful Boy” by John Lennon.  Since at the time of the playlist creation we didn’t know the gender, I wanted to make sure we gave equal opportunity for the sexes.  You couldn’t have a parent-to-be playlist without this classic.

11. “Getting to Know You” by Della Reese.  The King and I was one of my favorite movies growing up watching my grandmother’s Turner Classic Movies network.  This version keeps the optimism of the original musical recording but without the length and weight.

12. “What’s the World Got in Store” by Wilco.  This was the only sure bet for a song and the song which inspired me to create the entire playlist.  While on the plane returning from vacation at the end of June, my husband popped one earbud into my ear and said, “This one goes out to my little friend.”  I immediately teared up and couldn’t get through the whole song – since I didn’t want to look like an idiot on the plane.  One month later I requested they play this song for us – and they did.  They then played “Muzzle of Bees.”

So there you have it!  What would you have chosen for your playlist?

A playlist for parents-to-be

Really, one of these days I’ll turn my attention back to infertility!

When my husband and I were first dating, we engaged in a two-year long-distant relationship where we talked daily but saw each other maybe once or twice a month on the weekends.  We often sent packages to each other of sentimental items or handmade trinkets, including the then-modern version of the mix tape, a mix CD.  The mix CD continued into our marriage, commemorating big moments in our lives with a special soundtrack one of us would surprise the other with – our first vacation, a solo trip for a work conference, a road trip weekend.  But I’m afraid the mix CD has gone the way of the mix tape, and I’m out to make a playlist for my husband and I to enjoy this new adventure.  I’ve thought of a few songs but I’d like to crowdsource and ask you what songs you think should be on it!  Funny songs, upbeat songs, sentimental songs…  leave your suggestions in the form below or email them to me at expectanthope@gmail.com, and check back in a few weeks to see what I’ve come up with!