The past is supposed to make you who you are in the present, right? As the sixth year of trying to conceive is coming up in a few months, I have been thinking about the relationship I have had with my husband and how our marriage has evolved. For instance, our first Valentine’s Day as a couple occurred in 2005 and was complete with roses, a nice dinner at a fancy restaurant and a stuffed teddy bear with a heart-shaped frame holding a picture of the two of us. Yes, really.
This year, we celebrated the day of love by bringing our foster puppy to the vet to be neutered, and then had a quick lunch at a bakery before immediately going back to pick him up again. We had plans to have wine and dessert leftover from the restaurant, but due to some surgical complications from the pup, our Valentine’s Day was anything but romantic and more like a trip to the after-hours emergency vet clinic and the Chick-fil-A drive-thru.
I promise, the point is not that we are boring. OK, we are a little boring. And we have no money because we are doing our fifth IVF transfer in a few weeks and need to save up. When I think about that first Valentine’s, I think of the bear, the roses and dressing up to go out to eat. Yes, we still go out to nice restaurants, and he still buys me flowers. Back then I thought that this was what love was made up of.
We’ve had rocky moments. Our relationship was tested several times, and we’ve endured some of the deepest hurts a marriage could endure. There were times when the word “divorce” was uttered in the most spectacular of fights. There were times, I admit, I thought about leaving him. I mean, you throw two people together in an 800-square-foot apartment and expect them get along all the time? Back early in our dating years and early marriage, we were immature—we both fought each other for the right to say “I told you so!” He took the passive route and wouldn’t bring things up because he thought I would get mad, and I would holler at him because he took the passive route and would never bring things up. (OK, we still do that.)
When infertility hit us square in the face and forced us to undergo yet another obstacle in our marriage, we took a step back and realized that for once, the problem was no longer pitting us against each other. Instead, this was something we had to battle together. And since hindsight is always 20/20, it hasn’t been until recently that I can reflect back on these years, especially before IVF, as something we could only have overcome because of all we have been through.
We have dealt with our share of pain. I think back on that life-changing event early in our relationship, the first of several tests we needed to overcome, and how choosing to forgive my husband and moving forward was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. In other words, we can survive infertility because we have been through worse. And I think all those past hurts, challenges and leaps of faith have prepared us to face something that not all couples can get through together. It means that if we don’t end up having children, it’s OK, because we still can be with each other.
We don’t need stuffed animals, flowers, candlelit dinners. You take all that away, and all you are left with is two people who can face hell because it’s somewhere they’ve already been. They came out maybe a little scarred, maybe a bit worn and dirty, but still intact—still holding hands and still arguing over which brand of toilet paper to get. Had we not gone through the trials we’ve had, I don’t think we could have faced infertility together.
My husband loves “Doctor Who.” There’s a quote from the show that’s a favorite of his and he told me one time that he thinks about us whenever he hears it: “But times change and so must I. We all change, when you think about it, we are all different people all through our lives and that’s OK, that’s good. You’ve got to keep moving so long as you remember all the people that you used to be.”