Friday, August 28, 2009

The Baggage we Bring to the Island: Part 1

Like father, like son...

In most families, it goes something like this:

"I see Xavier got your throwing arm!" Like father, like son!

"Aidan looks like quite a character, just like his dad!" Like father, like son!

"Caleb seems good with the ladies, too!" Like father, like son!

In our family, the phrase takes on a slightly different connotation. My mother-in-law has a painfully vivid recollection of a moment driving home from the doctor, after my father-in-law was diagnosed with severe chronic depression, where she hoped beyond hope that her sons would never have to know that same anguish. She has an equally vivid memory of a similar wish that her sons would never have to experience the social stigma and myriad of complications (emotional and otherwise) that accompany male factor infertility.

Those particular wishes were left unfulfilled. God had a different plan, fate if you will, that only years later came into focus. Sometimes she apologizes to me for the genetic cards my husband (and I through marriage) was dealt. Having experienced both depression and MFI first hand, she wouldn't wish it on anyone, least of all her own son. Having only begun to walk a few steps in her shoes, I couldn't agree more.

But there's more to it than that. What I already know from the years we've spent battling my husband's depression is that sometimes the depression takes everything you've got. It sucks us dry and leaves us marooned on the shores of a desert island. Sometimes he forgets that we're together on the island and that's just one of the many reasons it's so painful. But, when we find each other again and are there together, battling the endless baking sun and the battering waves, we're okay....eventually we make it back to the mainland, and we're stronger for it. Much, much stronger. Infertility is every bit the same. And, just like my mother-in-law, I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. But, I know that we'll be better for it. We'll be a stronger couple, "better" parents, and a more grateful family.

It's also true that genetics isn't the only thing that determines our fate. Personality plays a role, too. When we received our first SA results (via a phone call to me from my OB/GYN), I was devastated. But, I was told that I had to survive on the island by myself for awhile. From their past experience, both the nurse and my mother-in-law told me not to tell my husband. "Let it come from the doctor," they said, "He'll take it better."

When my father-in-law was given similar news in the late 1970s, the urologist used the "s-word": sterile. Furthermore, they were also told that they would never have biological children. Social stigma and ego proved to be too much. He was beyond livid, but over time that anger transitioned into his first diagnosed chronic depression episode. I was warned to expect a similar reaction, though it would be far from our first experience with depression.

But, this was not like father, like son.

My husband is remarkably okay with our MFI because we have a plan. I'm grateful for his calm and for the fact that he does not tie his sperm count, motility and morphology to his own self-worth. At the same time, it turns the tables a bit. I'm left as the one struggling to find the other on the marooned island. Such emotional extremes are hard to process...how can he feel as strongly about starting our family as I do when remains so even keel about it? But, I know that he shows his concern and caring by agreeing to the SA so early, by going to the specialists, by being my shoulder to cry on and never judging my emotions.

What I heard at the urologist appointment this week was that our odds of needing ART to get pregnant are extremely high. I expected to hear that, but it was (and is) still jarring. It still unnerves me and causes me to mourn the loss of the "quick and easy" conception that so many others around me are experiencing.

What my husband heard was that we can and will get pregnant, it’s just a matter of how. And, that's all he needed to hear. I'm grateful that his perspective is often my shelter on the island...that what depresses him, doesn't me and that what depresses me, doesn't him.

Fate and genetics. They don't live in isolation. I still believe that God only gives us what he knows we can handle. As it turns out, we were given some genetic issues to overcome. But, we were also given the perfectly balanced personalities to weather the island storm until we can overcome them. The irony is not lost on me...and I'm grateful.

-------------------------------------------------

Thanks to Mel for writing her post "I Watched Funny People and What I Learned about MFI" about the unique kinds of baggage that accompany an MFI diagnosis. I've appreciated the many responses left by others experiencing the same baggage. Please head over to read her post and the insightful responses!

Part 2 will explain why I (we) choose to talk about our journey through depression and MFI when so many others do not. The stigma that goes along with talking about MFI is another piece of luggage to add to the pile.

13 comments:

ifcrossroads said...

Beautifully written post! I'm very happy that the MFI diagnosis hasn't caused your husband to spiral into a depressed state. As you said, the fact that you have a plan to overcome MFI gives you hope for the future.

Alison said...

Oddly enough, my husband is also not all that bothered by the MFI. Obviously, we're still coping with the fact that our children, won't be genetically "ours," but I really thought the fallout would be much worse. I'm glad your hubby is taking it well.

Lin said...

Alison...I have not yet mentioned the idea of donor sperm to him. It's far too early on the road for him to consider that anyway. Too many "what ifs" down the road for him! :-) I'm a "what if'er." He is not! I do wonder if he would react much worse to that conversation than the general MFI one...but, he tends to surprise me quite often!

Courtney said...

I'm so sorry about your DH's depression and MFI. My husband was also diagnosed with MFI this past April and I know how hard that is on a couple. I hope everything works out for the two of you and that you're holding your little miracle soon!

ICLW

Jen said...

This is a really well-written post. I'm glad your hubby is dealing with the situation as well as possible. I have dealt with depression first hand, and I know what an obstacle it can be. Good luck!

Jess said...

A very well written post! I'm sorry to hear about your husband's depression and MFI but glad you two are working on it together and that he is dealing with it as best as he can! I think we have all dealt with some kinds of depression and some of us have had it more severe than others. I've learned first hand how hard it can be.

babyparamore.blogspot.com

Beautiful Mess said...

HAPPY ICLW!

I read that post and it was wonderful! As is yours. If my son or daughter have to deal with IF, I hope to be there for them. I want for them not to feel alone.

I think it's great when infertile couples talk about their struggles. Especially when it's from a point of view that isn't talked about as much.

Sending you and your husband lots and love, peace and good JUJU for your happy ending.
*HUGS*

becomingwhole said...

What a double-whammy for the two of you to have to deal with.

I think it's amazing that you (both) are able to talk about IF, particularly MFI, as people need to hear about it and have it normalized, though of course, it is "on" nobody to do the work of this by themselves, and no one should feel they "should" do something they are emotionally un-ready for (enough qualifiers, ya think?).

This is a great post. Happy ICLW, as it wraps up.

'Murgdan' said...

You can. You really can.

It was so hard to take in, and it took me weeks to be in a place where I accepted it. Weeks of crying unexpectedly.

It takes time.

Hang in there.

lowfatlady said...

I'm glad that your mother in law has been a source of comfort and that you and your husband are growing strong in your marriage through this process. I wish you luck and some day you two will be parents.

womb for improvement said...

Sounds like though you have a lot to deal with you are coping really well and managing to look forward. Stay strong.

Jo said...

Love, love, love this post. My husband also suffers from depression and MFI and dealing with the fallout often leaves me feeling "marooned on the island." It is so good to know that others are dealing with similar issues.

Hugs,
Jo

Lut C. said...

Popping in from the crème de la crème list.

I've had thoughts about that, passing on IF to the next generation. Your post gives me some things to ponder.

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