From my own experience I have noticed changes in all types of relationships in my own life... From choices I have felt I needed to make, to the choices others may have subconsciously made. For example, there was one friend I had, and we used to share stories over a pot of tea and cake on many an afternoon. The problem for me was that no matter what time of day I would meet her, whether during school hours or not, she would always have at least one of her children in tow, often with the excuse, "I know he should be in school but he sooooo wanted to see you." Often I would purposely arrange to meet her during school hours to avoid the trauma of having a child in tow....this was around the time I was undergoing all the tests known to medicine, as the experts tried to tell me why I was struggling to conceive. So, in time, I made arrangements to meet her less and less, and now we hardly see each other. Self-preservation?
With my parents, I love them to bits, but as we live at opposite ends of the country it is difficult to have heart-to-heart conversations about stuff....especially as they have three other children, including two sons who are very attention-grabbing. As the sensible older child, it is assumed (as has been admitted to me by my mum) that I will always be ok because I am not so demanding of them. So the guilt I feel at not producing the longed-for grandchild (apparently it's different when a daughter gives birth than when the daughter-in-law does, or so I have been reliably informed!) is never spoken about, and the pain of my empty arms is noticed at family gatherings, but never mentioned.
There is also a strain on the relationship with my stepson. The pain of seeing a child who is the image of my hubby but has no part of me. The depth of the bond between father and son I can never share in, the secret jokes and conversations which don't involve me can be painful to watch, and a constant reminder of what I am missing. Yes, we women who long to be mothers know exactly what we are missing when we don't have our own child. Which adds to the grief of our broken dream. And so in order to help me cope, I distance myself. I want to see the relationship between hubby and his son develop and be strengthened, and wouldn't ever try to stick a wedge in, but for my own sanity and peace of mind, I have to sometimes not be part of their adventures, usually around the time Aunty Flo pays a visit.
And finally, there is the impact on the relationship with hubby himself. As I have mentioned previously, he has admitted he can't always understand my struggle and the pain; he can't always cope with the emotions I have as part of my journey...he has his child, it would be great to have another one, but it's not the same fear or frustration as it is for me. What should be a shared battle for most husbands and wives to support and encourage one another, can often be a lonely isolation for women like me who are stepmothers to another woman's child. Sure, we know you had a child before we married you, but we didn't know we would struggle to have our own. It was never supposed to be problematic. It was supposed to just happen when we were both ready.
I've been thinking a lot about relationships and friendships recently. And I don't want anyone's pity.... The purpose of writing this was to explore the real impact of infertility on relationships. It will be different for everyone walking on the Journey of infertility, and within each journey there will be moments when relationships are strong, and times when they appear to have broken.
But I thank God for the consistency of His relationship. If I've said it once, I've said it soooo many times, I don't know how I could walk this walk without Him. He is my comfort, my support, my shoulder to cry on, my encouraging word, my inspirational thought. Whatever your own experiences of infertility on your relationships, I pray you know the depth of the love God has for you, and a full understanding that no matter what, He won't leave you to work it out alone.....if you feel as though you are alone! He loves you enough to stand with you in the bad times as well as the good, and He will never throw your failings in your face, but will love you through your darkest days.
Father God, thank You for Your unfailing friendship which will never leave me just because I can't have children. You won't feel weird about what to say to me. You won't belittle me. You won't leave me. You will love and carry me through. I pray for all those women currently experiencing difficulties in thier relationships, especially with their husband, whether real or perceived.
May You bring people into our lives who will stand with us and demonstrate true love and support through the Journey of infertility. Who will bring the comfort and strength we sometimes need in our physical battles. And may we in turn be the comfort for someone else who needs to be comforted. In Jesus name I pray.