They say the first year of marriage is the hardest, but I disagree. Of course every new marriage brings about learning opportunities. For example, you learn quickly that your pluff-mud soaked fishing boots don’t belong on the Pottery Barn rug; that toothpaste is squeezed from the bottom of the tube, not the middle; and that no matter what temperature the thermostat is set, one of you will always be either too hot or too cold.
So you adapt your ways and learn how to share your life and your personal space with someone else. And right when everything seems to be falling into place, something major happens to scramble it all up. And for my husband Will and I, a certain life event made all the little first-year-of-marriage nuances seem like a walk in the park. An event so big that while its intent was to bring us closer together, it inevitably began tearing us apart. This is the story of how trying to get pregnant almost ended my marriage.
We were both 29 years old when we got married. And as many new couples do, we had already discussed our ambitious life plans to travel the world together while having lots of babies and maybe even starting a family band (similar to the Jackson Five but with an Indie rock vibe). We both came from big families and knew that’s what we wanted. And with our 30th birthdays steadily approaching, we decided to start trying for children right away. Soon the months of “causally trying” to make a baby turned into months of ovulation sticks and scheduled baby-making sessions. Then it became years of baby making brought to you by vaginal suppositories, hormone injections, and Will driving his semen over the Ravenel Bridge in a hospital-administered sterile collection cup. And suddenly something that was once a beautiful and intimate moment became a chore.
And as the months turned into years and there was still no baby, I became an obsessive person who lived, breathed and perseverated over trying to get pregnant. Our dinners, which were once the two of us sitting at the dining room table laughing over things we’d heard that day at work or a funny YouTube video we’d watched, had become my husband sitting in silence while I blabbered on and on about cervical mucus and basal body temperatures. Until, finally, it became the two of us eating in silence at opposite ends of the living room with the TV blaring in an effort to conceal the awkwardness in the room. And then suddenly one day, after having a lengthy discussion with my doctor about in-vitro fertilization (IVF), Will finally spoke up and said, “Maybe we should take a break from all of this.” It was in that moment that I realized we were no longer on the same page.
Here I was in my beautiful home, with my beautiful husband, a great career, and a thriving social calendar. Yet I had never felt more isolated and alone. And the one person who I wanted to talk to about all of this was telling me he wanted to stop talking about it. Infertility has a way of beating you down to absolute helplessness. My heart felt broken. I was more anxious than I had ever been in my entire life. And to cope with this, I soon began to push him away. We began arguing daily over the most mundane things. I started questioning if I could stay married to someone who didn’t want children to the extent that I did. And he began questioning if he could stay married to someone who he had to walk on eggshells around because I could literally crack into tears at any moment.
There was a dark cloud hanging over me and I was unable to see past it to anything else. I had built my world around trying to get pregnant and having a baby instead of building my world around Will and our marriage. Somewhere in my dreams of starting a family, I had forgotten that I already did have a family. And that family was him. The man who held my hand and wiped my tears in the lobby of the doctor’s office on the day we lost the baby; the man who without hesitation and without complaining gave a countless number of lab samples to the embryologist; the man who fought back his fear of needles to do my hormone injections when I didn’t have the courage to do it myself; and the man that will still be by my side long after any babies are born, grow up, and move away to start their own families. It took me a long time to realize this, but even though a part of my heart ached for a baby, my whole heart ached for him even more.
So almost six years later, my marriage managed to survive. We laid it all out there and found a way to get on the same page. Sure, our marriage isn’t perfect. We still have our moments and he still gets annoyed that I don’t correctly squeeze toothpaste out of the tube. And even though I still have dreams of a big family full of children, I try to remember to give gratitude each day for the family that I have right in front of me. Because no matter how my heart feels, whether it’s full or empty or broken or sad, there will always and forever be room in my heart for him.
Priscilla Brown currently lives on James Island with her husband and their son, Liam, who was an IVF baby and, to add the cherry on top of all love stories, was born ion Valentine’s Day.