My wife and I have been married for nine years, b’H. To make a long story short, after many years of failed fertility treatments, my wife finally got pregnant through IVF. Unfortunately, she suffered from hyperemesis gravidarum during her pregnancy, and after the birth she had postpartum depression for which she had to go on medication. Baruch Hashem, it cleared up and she’s fine now.
Our baby is already two and a half years old, and I feel like it’s about time we start fertility treatments again for the next one. However, every time I bring it up, my wife starts crying about the toll it all takes on her health (the hormone injections and pregnancy). She’s convinced she doesn’t want to do it again, or at least not for a while. I can’t get her to understand that just because her last pregnancy was hard, this time it could be easy.
I don’t see what the big deal is. I come from a big family, k’h, and all of my sisters have at least six kids. Sure, it’s hard, but everyone does it and the results are so worth it. How do I get her to see how selfish she’s being before it’s too late? To put it bluntly, she’s not getting any younger, and who knows how long it will take for the fertility treatments to work? We’re already in our mid-30s and I want a big, beautiful family.
Every discussion we have turns into a fight and she winds up in tears. I’m not getting anywhere.
My wife loves your column, so I’m hoping she’ll see this and take your advice and words of encouragement!
Tired of Arguing
I’m sorry that you and your wife have gone through so much pain and anguish when it comes to fertility issues. No one who hasn’t walked in your shoes could possibly know what it was like for the two of you to struggle in this way or understand the various emotions that you both had to deal with in hoping, waiting, being proactive, and ultimately rejoicing in the birth of your child.
However, just like those to whom pregnancy came easily can’t understand your life experience, it seems that you, too, are unable to empathize with the unique hardships that your wife alone had to deal with — the painful treatments and the aftermath of postpartum depression. It sounds like it was quite overwhelming for her, and the thought of going through that again is something she is presently having difficulty wrapping her mind around.
I’m sorry to say that what I think is making matters so much worse for her is your attitude. Telling her, “I don’t know what the big deal is” minimizes your wife’s pain and suffering. It sounds dismissive, uncaring, and unsupportive. For her it actually was a very big deal! Your attitude is very possibly adding fuel to the fire and pushing your wife far away from where you want her to be regarding starting all over again.
When anyone goes through a rough time, no matter what it’s about, it’s always a bit easier when they feel that they have someone on their team, sharing their pain, supporting them, and encouraging them in a non-judgmental, gentle way. Being called “selfish” is the last thing your wife needs right now, and viewing her that way will have the opposite result from the one you’re looking for.
Whether or not “everyone goes through it” (fertility treatments) is irrelevant to one person’s journey and the feelings it triggers in that specific woman. What I’m hearing from you is a distinct inability to see, understand, and hear what your wife is telling you about her experience, which is never going to move this process along.
Furthermore, hearing about your sisters’ large families is probably making your wife feel that much more victimized and inadequate. Of course, it’s hard for you to see all of your nieces and nephews while wishing that you also had a large, wonderful family to be proud of. But don’t you think your wife also observes the discrepancies between families and experiences her own sadness over what is?
I think the first matter of business is for you to work on changing your attitude toward your wife and begin to see her in a more loving, sensitive way, rather than as someone who is getting in the way of your grand plan. She’s not the enemy; the fertility issues are. You two need to learn how to discuss this problem in a non-finger-pointing way, but rather as a shared hardship that needs to be figured out.
Once there is a change in your tone, attitude, and expectations, and you begin to show greater empathy toward her past experiences, I believe that your wife may be able to begin to empathize with your own needs and sadness over this issue. At that point, together as a team, you may be able to talk about things in a more natural and, eventually, more successful way.
Additionally, it sounds as though your wife did experience some trauma leading up to and after the birth of your child. I think she might benefit from speaking to a therapist who can help her work through those experiences and also help her build herself up so that the thought of going through it all over again (with the support of a loving, nurturing husband) is something she could consider.
So do some work on your attitude, language, and sensitivity, encourage your wife to do some of her own work on getting past her trauma, and, hopefully, the playing field will change in a very positive way.
Esther Mann, LCSW, is a psychotherapist in Hewlett. Esther works with individuals and couples. Together with Jennifer Mann, she also runs the “Navidaters.” She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 516-314-2295.