Families come in all shapes and sizes and the two of you are a family already
More than anything in the world, I wanted to make my partner a Dad.
But over time, I realised that focusing on what was missing was taking a toll on our relationship. We were going through the motions, living from one medical appointment to the next and our mood depended largely on news from our doctors.
In Western society we've been conditioned to believe that there are certain milestones in our lives that we need to check off our To Do lists:
- finish school, top of your class;
- earn some qualifications, and do really well;
- start a career, and forge some success;
- find (and marry, if you want) your forever partner;
- buy a house; and
- have kids; who start the cycle again.
And if we don't check off all the things on the list we can be made to feel like something is missing in our lives or that our lives are somehow less fulfilled or worthy.
So it's no surprise that when people find they can't have a baby as easily as they were told they could in sex ed class, they wonder whether it’s meant to be for them. And shit goes sideways quite quickly.
So what can you do?
At this point, if you haven’t already, then I would encourage you to take a moment to really have a chat with your partner about what it is you both want. How you want your life to unfold from here.
You may find that one of you feels that having your own kids is necessary and the other doesn’t, but you need to have a really honest conversation between the two of you as to what it is that the rest of your life looks like together.
Are you together for the rest of your lives?
Do you need children to be a part of that to make you feel fulfilled?
Or can you be just as happy and fulfilled with your family being the two of you?
Did you know you are already a complete family?
It is my firm belief that if you are together with your forever partner then you are a family already. You are a beautiful team together and, in my opinion, you don't need anything further to make that connection stronger.
I remember being afraid that if I couldn't have children then I'd be failing as a wife, and my hubby would be within his rights to leave me in search of someone who could.
But we had a moment of clarity that I will forever treasure and believe made all the difference for us. It took so much weight off my shoulders and let me see that whatever the outcome of our efforts to have kids, that we, the two of us would be ok.
It was just a passing moment in our hallway as we were each on our way to the other end of the house. We held hands and looked at each other and spoke out loud to each other that even if this baby thing didn't work out, we already had all we needed to be happy, just the two of us. "We'll be ok won't we, if we can't have kids?" "Of course." We hugged. And I cried.
I can’t put into words for you how liberating that was for me, knowing he wasn’t measuring our success by having kids – that kids would be the cherry on top, not the dealbreaker I had feared.
It was the acknowledgement that I needed to confirm that he felt the way I did, that we were a family already, even if we couldn’t have a baby of our own.
So much pressure
I had placed so much pressure on myself to make it happen and I feel that clearing up that issue helped us (read: me) to relax into the process and stop pushing ourselves (myself) too hard toward a goal which we had no control over achieving.
Can I just say this though: Having a baby is not a relationship fix. It won't patch over unresolved relationship issues, it will amplify them. Because no one makes better decisions than an emotionally drained, physically exhausted person, am I right?
A fertility struggle is very stressful on relationships – it can be the very thing that pushes couples apart, so I want you to be really honest with yourselves about whether this is something that is necessary for your love and connection with your partner.
The emotional toll can be overwhelming and having to be patient while questioning your future can cause stress in even the most stable of relationships.
So here are some tips I recommend you try to help you keep your shit together so you have a solid foundation on which to build your growing family:
Let go of resentment
Yes, it is really easy to resent the people who fall pregnant easily. The ones who try for all of 5 seconds before that second line shows up on the pregnancy test.
That’s just going to make you bitter about what you do have. You’ll feel like what you have right now isn’t good enough, and we know now that that thinking is bullshit, right?
Instead, try to release that, how ever you can. It might seem like they have it all, but everyone has problems. Their marriage might not be as strong as yours. They might have nightmare in-laws who pressured them into kids before they felt ready. We all have our own shit to deal with.
Write a bucket list
We often lose perspective when we’re chasing a goal, especially when it comes to kids. Kids are great – but there are so many things out there that you can’t do once you have them! So make the most of being free to do what you want.
Sit down and write a bucket list of things you want to do. Some items can be solo, and some can be with your partner. Even little things like spending a weekend down at the beach can be added. Once you have that list, commit to working through as much of it as you can.
Spend some tech-free time together
When was the last time you spent 1:1 time with your partner where no one had phones, computers or TVs to use as a distraction? We often forget the importance of quality time, especially when stress builds up. But it’s essential to keep your relationship strong.
So make an agreement to have 10 minutes each day, or an hour a week, just for each other. Hide the technology, and share with each other. It might be time to talk out how you both feel at that time. Or it could just be some quality snuggle time.
Whatever it is, make it a priority.
Deal with your feels
It’s that easy. If you have feelings of upset, resentment, anger, whatever it is – do something about it. Write it down, talk to a friend, punch a pillow if you have to.
Most importantly – let your partner know. You can’t protect your partner from how bad you feel. He’s in the same boat, and he is there to help. A man’s goal is to keep his partner happy.
At one point, I had to get over not wanting to upset my partner. He couldn’t help if he didn’t know what was wrong. Even just using your partner as a sounding board can help lift that weight off your shoulders. A problem shared is a problem halved.
Word to the wise: There is no end to working on your relationship. If/When your family does expand, your relationship with your partner still needs time. In fact, I think it’s even more important. Your kids need to see that their parents are ok with each other, that they can fight and make up.
If you keep in sight what’s important to each other, you grow together instead of resenting each other. Stay on each other’s team throughout the journey – there’s no point in going it alone if you can do it together.
Please know that you are enough already. You are a family already. Whatever comes next is icing on the cake.