Hi ladies (and gents), it's Caitlin's (Cait's) husband, Ben. I've been a long-time silent contributor to this blog (the man behind the lens with an occasional cameo appearance here and there), but I have never had the chance to address you personally. Caitlin has asked me to share with you all what IVF is like from the man's perspective, and I gotta be honest, it's pretty hard to put into words, so please bear with me as I attempt to give you my two cents.
Although IVF is typically seen as something that the couple goes through together - and it's true, infertility is something we both have to overcome - it is really Caitlin who is the true champ in this process. Literally everything is targeted towards her - whether through shots, pills, procedures or countless other things (my biggest contribution goes in a plastic disposable cup). Because the majority of the process is geared directly at Caitlin, there are definitely times where I feel there is nothing that I can really do to help other than to try to take some of the weight off of her back. From my perspective, here are some of the roles I have played (am playing) throughout this process:
I am the rock
No, not that Rock. Although, I am sure it probably would help. But, first thing first, and first is most important: above all else, I am here to support my wife. I hold her up when she needs the extra support and I hold her down when it is time to give her shots. Just kidding... but not really.
Over the last few years this has been a very hard and trying process on both me and Caitlin, and there are definitely times when it is hard to see past the shit (excuse the language). Although I know that ultimately we will have our little baby(s) that we have been working so hard for, there are definitely times when it feels that we are still waiting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is hard to continually tell my wife "I have a good feeling about this one" or "everything will be ok," (both have unfortunately turned into "this too shall pass") when deep down I am always praying "PLEASE LET THIS BE THE ONE." But no matter what, I will always be strong and be her rock - she should always know that I am always here for her.
One very distinct memory, that I will never forget, was going in for our ultrasounds following our first transfer. In the first ultrasound, I remember hearing and seeing the babies (twins) heartbeats - the most amazing experience and definitely a life changing event. We were so excited for the second ultrasound to see how much our twins had progressed (they had already graduated from poppy seeds to sesame seeds at that point). Next thing I know, we are in the room and all set to go and Caitlin is chatting excitedly away with the nurse - and fast forward to just moments later and our hearts are shattered as the nurse explains that the babies' heartbeats had slowed since the first ultrasound. Caitlin was trying to be strong and hold in all of the emotion while the nurse was still in the room, but as soon as the nurse left, everything exploded. At that moment, all that mattered was wrapping my arms around her and telling her that everything would be OK, even when deep down I am not really sure that it will.
I try to pick up the slack
Honestly, it is about the little things. IVF itself is stressful enough that I try to see what I can do to help eliminate some of the stress from Caitlin's day-to-day life. Whether that be taking charge of ordering all of the meds, being in charge of her injection schedule (aka playing doctor in our living room) or driving her to and from appointments. Keeping track of all of the different medications that she has to take on a daily basis is a job in and of itself, so if I can eliminate some of that burden then I was successful. Not only that, but I also want to make sure that she knows that I am a part of this process and everything is not entirely up to her to figure out or bear the burden of. Beyond the day-to-day stressors that we all deal with, Caitlin has to deal with a lot of extra nonsense, needless to say, so everything added up can feel a little overwhelming.
I stay positive and try to be a part of the process
I do not think that any couple plans on or looks forward to going through the IVF process (this is not to say that it isn't a miraculous process that helps many couples have children that they may not otherwise have been able to, it is just not an easy thing to go through). At first I had no idea what to expect from the whole process. I was originally thinking that it would be a beefed-up version the IUIs that we had gone through previously, but I was clearly wrong. I honestly know more about my wife's ovaries and menstrual cycle than any husband should ever know. It is amazing how much of a detailed and mapped out process this really is and how involved both of us have to be in each part of it (although, remember that it is all targeted at her). I learn everything that I can so that while we are in with the doctors and nurses, I am able to be a part of the conversation and help ask the right questions. Sometimes while you are in talking with the doctor, there is so much information being thrown at you that you cannot keep up and otherwise important questions or information may be overlooked.
Anyway, my point is that I just try to do my part to stay positive about everything and involve myself however I can.
Side note: normal life will continue (eventually)
Life isn't necessarily 'business as usual' when you're going through IVF. Between daily doctors visits, procedures and injections (that, a lot of the time have to remain on ice/refrigerated), it can be difficult to have a social life. We usually have to do shots precisely at 7:43:16 pm each night (just kidding, but not really). So those 7pm movies or dinner plans are usually out. Adios social life. But ultimately, I get to spend a lot of quality time with my wife and those 'Netflix and chill' nights aren't too shabby.
It's also pretty funny that while you are trying to make a baby, you are pretty much on "pelvic rest" (aka no sex) a lot of the time. And although it (sex) is important, it is worth it in the end and you have to keep in mind what you are ultimately trying to achieve.
To sum it all up, while going through IVF you can expect that nothing will really be the same. But you just have to keep your eye on the prize and know that it will all be worth it in the end.
I try to be patient and understanding
Last Monday, I got a call from Caitlin while I was at work. She was overwhelmed and in a panic because we had some contractors at our house doing some tile work and she had to make some final decisions that she really didn't know how to make. She was a little, shall we say, stressed (I would never go as far to call a woman crazy... I know better than that), but I knew that with everything else going on that this was not something that she needed to deal with. So I skipped lunch and drove home to quickly take care of the issue myself. Boom! Issue solved and we have a happier Caitlin (albeit a hungry Ben). Hormones can play some mean tricks on your body and as a guy, I've never really had that issue. So I just have to remind myself that sometimes mood swings happen (her mood swings just usually happen to range from crying to crying harder).
Speaking of crying... so, last weekend we were flipping through channels and somehow ended on Armageddon (not my first choice). As I was in the kitchen working on dinner, I yelled over to her to come help me out with something and the response I get back is this shaky, muddled sob, "you have to give me a chance to cry it out first." I may have been laughing at that point as we had been watching the show for literally less than thirty seconds. She eventually came over, smeared mascara and all, and we were able to laugh it out together and talk about other "similar" incidents in the last few years - never mention Mini (our aging dog) when she is on hormones. Let's just say you could end up with a river in your living room.
The other thing to be prepared for and to be understanding about is that your wife will take more naps than a two month old baby... literally. All of the hormones really do a number on her, so I am careful not to plan any big activities on the weekend without planning some time in for an afternoon nap or two.
I ask questions
"What can I do for you today, babe?" That's something I make an effort to ask on a daily basis. Most of the time I receive a "nothing" in return... but sometimes I get the occasional "call [this person]" or "take out the trash," yada-yada. And no matter how much I already have on my to-do, I know it's worth it to just get it done so that it is not just sitting on her shoulders.
And speaking of the little things, I also text her a lot while I am work throughout the day... "I love you's" and "you're amazing" and "I can't wait to see you," - they all help to make a difference in her day. And really, that's all I can do sometimes.
I make time
I am sure some of you already know this - because my wife is an open book and doesn't leave much behind the curtain - but with my job I do not have a lot of free time, especially during the work week. But when my wife calls and says "come home," I do my best to make it out of the office as soon as I can. I mean, I am not bragging or anything, but I know that her day is infinitely better when I am around. (I am kind of amazing like that). She works from home and aside from our two dogs, she has few to talk to throughout the day. I get it. She's lonely. And I know that IVF is lonely enough without the added stress of actually being alone. So, just so you know babe, I try to be there for you as much as I can... even if that means having to work from home the rest of the night.
I don't lose hope
I am a realist. But the fact of the matter is, I know we're going to be parents. We need to be parents. I mean, have you seen Caitlin? This gorgeous girl needs to make some little angels and dudes.
Of course, there is the very real possibility that this might never work and we could end up with nothing but debt. I've had some serious talks with God over the past few years and even some moments of disbelief. But, regardless of the outcome, we will find a way to be parents. Sometimes life can take a branch and beat you to hell with it, but each time you just have to pick yourself back up. As you all know, there have been some tough times where I have had to dust Caitlin off (and then silently dust myself off), but we stand back up together and know that we can handle anything that gets throw our way if we are there for each other.
Before we decided to embark on IVF we did a lot of research and read a lot of articles. And one thing these articles all mentioned that really stood out to us more than anything was that, "IVF will test your relationship." Between the emotional and financial investment, the hormones and mood swings and the emotional rollercoaster ride that it is, these articles all warned that the hardest toll IVF takes is on your marriage.
But, thankfully, I think IVF has done the opposite for us. Sure, it's tested our strength and resolve more times than either of us can count... but in the end, we have always been there for each other and we have only grown stronger as a couple. It is because of these trials, set-backs, losses and heartbreaks that we have been able to realize how strong we really are and what great parents we will be when we finally have our miracle baby(s).
Going into it, it is impossible to really be ready for what it all entails... the IVF process as well as what it will be like to finally be a parent. Are we really ready? I would like to think so. Through this process we have learned, and we know, that we are ready for this/these baby/babies more than ever. Just by watching Caitlin's strength, persistence and resolve over the last few years I know I couldn't have found myself a better wife, partner and someday mother of my future kids.
Do not forget
Although IVF is hard on both people in the relationship, the real hero(s) here are all of the women out there like Caitlin that have to endure the never-ending pills, shots, vaginal prodding (not the good kind), and all of the other
treatments torture. It is amazing what they go through to help bring little miracles into this world. Caitlin is stronger than anyone out there could ever realize and I am so proud of her. It's not easy fighting an uphill battle but she does it with such grace and a as level head as one can under such pressure and hormone manipulation. I am proud of you babe and honored to be your husband.
To end my novel of a rant (and yes, this took me several days to write), infertility is a bad card to be dealt. But we play our hand the best we can and while my wife may be in the hot seat, I sure as hell want to make sure I am there to help her with the next move.
Also, I would like take a second to thank you all for all of your support for this blog and for all of your support for Caitlin as she has gone through IVF over the last few years. I know that quite a few of you have reached out to Caitlin (and stay in touch with her), and it all means so much to, not only her, but also to me.
Thanks for listening to me today. And I know Caitlin will be sharing more of our lives with you so be sure to sign up for her newsletters to stay updated (shameless plug for my wife).
Hi ladies (and gents), it's Caitlin's (Cait's) husband, Ben. I've been a long-time silent contributor to this blog (the man behind the lens), but I've never had the chance to address you personally. Caitlin has asked me to share with you all what IVF is like from the man's perspective, and I gotta be honest, it's pretty hard to put into words, so please bear with me as I attempt to give you all my two cents on the matter and try to explain the different roles that I have tried to play throughout this process...