We all have moments or periods of our lives that we wish we could take back or do over. Here’s mine: My husband and I began IVF because he was diagnosed with severe male factor infertility—low sperm count, poor morphology, low motility…the whole nine yards. I blamed him for our problems because it made me feel better (read: less ashamed) about having to go through IVF. It was a side of myself I wasn’t proud of, but I couldn’t help myself.
Entering the fertility clinic felt like I was going to jail for a crime I did not commit. I said awful things to him like, “This should be you!” and “Why am I always taking the fall for your problems?!”
I knew he couldn’t help or fix his situation, but I couldn’t help or fix the fact that I had to undergo IVF. Therein lies the mindf*ck that is infertility and the bigger mindf*ck that came with undergoing countless injections, blood draws, and even surgery for a problem that wasn’t mine, all in preparation for a result that was not guaranteed. I had a hard time dealing with this and took it out on my husband, and even people at the clinic.
I always considered myself someone who worked hard, was healthy, and did the right thing. As a result, I never thought I’d end up at a fertility clinic desperately trying to conceive a biological child because of my husband’s issue.
Conventional “wisdom” has us assume that when there are conception issues, the woman is to blame because she is the one who has to carry and birth the baby. The man’s contribution to the pregnancy seemingly ends in a matter of minutes—how could he be the problem? Yet, there I was bearing the brunt of his problem, and being absolutely terrible about it. Conventional “wisdom” has us assume that when there are conception issues, the woman is to blame because she is the one who has to carry and birth the baby. The man’s contribution to the pregnancy seemingly ends in a matter of minutes—how could he be the problem?
I was angry, frustrated, and ashamed about what IVF had in store for me. Angry and frustrated for having to go through such a grueling, exhausting process to treat someone else’s problem, and ashamed because we were unable to have what so many people achieve effortlessly and even accidentally.
However, the root of all of the animosity was fear. I had never done IVF and did not do well with needles. I couldn’t help but dwell on the fact that I was going to be pumped full of medication with all sorts of side effects for a non-guaranteed result. It was too much for me to bear.
I sought therapy and so did my husband—as a couple, but mainly separately so we could speak freely and work through our individual issues.
As our IVF cycle began, the tension in my body and in our house was palpable. I was on edge and so was my husband. I had massive meltdowns and never missed an opportunity to blame him for what we were going through. To his credit, he took it from me. He never fought back, but I could see the hurt and frustration in his eyes. It did not stop me because I was still the one who had to take multiple needles and report to the clinic for my wanding and blood draw in the morning.
Each night of the IVF cycle was a gauntlet of frustration and resentment as the stim needles plunged through my flesh. I wanted him to feel the same mental and physical pain that I was feeling…the jab of the needles, the thoughts that raged through my mind as the hormones clouded my brain. Each night of the IVF cycle was a gauntlet of frustration and resentment as the stim needles plunged through my flesh. I wanted him to feel the same mental and physical pain that I was feeling…the jab of the needles, the thoughts that raged through my mind as the hormones clouded my brain. My husband, a man’s man, was adept at pushing his feelings down and displaying a stoic exterior, but I could tell he was crumbling inside.
My husband, a man’s man, was adept at pushing his feelings down and displaying a stoic exterior, but I could tell he was crumbling inside. I was in survival mode and instinctively did what it took to make it through the cycle. But how was he going to survive this? Would we survive as a couple?
Once the cycle ended and our four embryos went out for genetic testing, normal life in our house resumed, but it was evident that damage was done. There was only so much a person could handle mentally and emotionally. I knew I had hurt him.
Only one of our four embryos was genetically normal, which was a shock initially, as we were woefully unaware of how difficult it is to get a “normal” embryo. That summer, we transferred our embryo and expected to get pregnant. I had passed every infertility screening and was told on many occasions that we were doing IVF due to male-factor issues.
Much to our dismay, our first embryo transfer failed. When we got the devastating news, I tearfully screamed at my husband, “IVF is ruining my life!”
He interpreted it as, “you ruined my life” and burst into tears.
The weeks that followed were some of the darkest of our lives. He did not leave the couch for three days. We did not eat or sleep. I spent countless hours searching for answers. How could this happen? I don’t have infertility, I thought.
In the countless hours I spent researching, trying to understand what could have gone wrong, I discovered a test, a biopsy that screens a woman for endometriosis. Despite my doctor’s assurance that I did not need the test, I insisted on getting it done. Lo and behold, the test revealed that I likely had some degree of endometriosis, and many women who have endometriosis deal with infertility.
Another mindf*ck! Just like that, the game changed.
Once I received my own infertility diagnosis, my attitude toward IVF and my husband changed. I became much less combative towards treatment and towards him because I was now treating my own issue, not just his. I immediately issued a heartfelt apology to my husband for relentlessly making him feel horrible about a problem over which he had no control. I vowed to never speak of his infertility issues again and it is a promise I have upheld.
Being diagnosed with endometriosis was a kick in the pants. I stopped fighting every step of the IVF process and became an active participant in my treatment. We started working together and communicating more effectively. The arguments stopped and we grew closer as a result of this experience, at a time when we could have easily fallen apart. We started working together and communicating more effectively. The arguments stopped and we grew closer as a result of this experience, at a time when we could have easily fallen apart.
If our first embryo transfer was successful and I had not received an infertility diagnosis, I never would have let my husband live down his fertility issues. I would have continued to resent him for forcing us to through “unnatural” means to have a child.
I am deeply ashamed of my behavior during this time, as flashbacks of my actions still haunt me to this day. I also realize now that I should’ve always been an active partner in treatment – that when one person in a couple has infertility, they have to address it together.
After a laparoscopy and three more rounds of IVF, we had a successful second embryo transfer and are now the proud parents of a baby girl, who is the greatest thing to ever happen to us.
Infertility has been the most humbling and profound experience of both of our lives and we are incredibly grateful to have had a positive result despite all of our setbacks. IVF showed us that some mindf*cks can knock us down and others can shock us and propel us forward to get us to the place we want to be.
Jade Barrett is an American high school teacher who experienced infertility from 2017 to 2021. She is the author of the book, The Good News Is, You Don't Have Endometriosis. Jade hopes that her story can help women and couples facing infertility find some solace, humor, and strength from the experience.
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