A woman last month asking for a consultation ended her email with “It’s my fault my husband isn’t a dad.” That line broke my heart. She’s not alone in blaming herself for her infertility, for the fertility treatments failing, for the depletion of their budget caused by repeated in vitro fertilization cycles. Have you ever carried this guilt on your shoulders? Have you ever thought that your husband would have been better off married to someone else—someone, let’s say, who was fertile?
The Woulda, Shoulda, Couldas of Infertility
Blaming ourselves for infertility may be futile, but it gives us the illusion of control. No one likes to think that we live in a world where awful things can just happen. It’s far preferable to believe that we caused our suffering because if that’s the case, we can also fix it. Oh, it only it were true!
The truth is that all the forethought and perfect living in the world can not always prevent the tragedy of infertility or failed fertility treatments. Sometimes bad things just happen; sometimes Clomid, IUI, or even IVF doesn’t work, and there is nothing we can do to make it work. And even if there was something we could have or should have done in the past to prevent our infertility, it doesn’t do us any good now to play the shoulda, woulda, coulda game.
We each come into marriage with baggage. It’s unavoidable. Some baggage is heavier than others, but helping the other person carry the load is what a lifetime partnership is all about. We also each bring our own unique sunshine, and our partner gets to bask in that beauty as well. The light and dark are both part of the package that is you. So, if you’re going to blame yourself for your baggage, the least you can do is give yourself credit for the unique goodness you also bring.
View from One Who’s Been There
I received the following from one of our Creating a Family community. It seemed too wise and thoughtful not to share.
Blaming yourself? Totally normal. I did it for years. It was *my* body doing the failing, after all, not my husband’s, so it was my fault, right? Nothing I have ever said has upset my husband more, but I couldn’t help it. I kept thinking “if only…”, trying to find a reason, trying to find the culprit, even though deep down, I knew it was totally baseless.
For me, the self-blame came from an almost desperate need for control. If it was my fault, I could somehow fix it, right? And in the maelstrom of cancer, infertility, and adoption, there isn’t much you *can* control, is there? No wonder we look for something or someone to blame, even if it is ourselves. You *did* lose a part of yourself – your uterus and ovaries. You didn’t lose your life, your soul, your ability to be a good mother or your chance to have children. All those things, the things that make us who we are, you have.
In the end, though, those struggles, along with others, have led me to be a more flexible person and more flexible parent. I am more likely to let the little things go, and roll with it. I have fewer preconceived notions about who I, or my husband, or my son is “supposed to be”, or what motherhood is “supposed to be like”. It was those very struggles, and the long (what felt like interminable) wait that have led me to feel the overwhelming gratitude I feel every single day (not all day, mind you – he is two, after all- but every day) that this beautiful little soul is in our lives. We are so very aware of how precious each day is now, and are able to more fully live each day with him. Just our experience so far. I hope that knowing that others have gone through something similar, and survived, and have started to maybe even thrive, gives others some comfort….
How do you handle the occasional dips into infertility self blame?
Image credit: Andrea Schunert First published in 2013. Updated in 2015.