Matt Barwick and his wife thought they were on the same path as all the other successful late 20s couples they knew. They assumed (like most of us) that merely deciding it was ‘time to start trying’ they’d end up with a baby nine months later. The universe however had other plans.
Author Matt Barwick on his own journey with infertility…
Infertility is unique in many ways and far more emotionally taxing than many people realise. My wife and I found infertility to be a cruel monthly lottery where we both pined for success and with each recurrent defeat were saturated by grief: grief over the lost opportunity, the unborn child and the possibility that we may never be parents. We had crafted our lives in such a way that we had everything ready for a new arrival. Instead, however, we were left treading water-living a life in limbo.
This was an excruciating routine to endure month after month. But for many couples like my wife and me there was still the possibility, no matter how miniscule, that the next try would bring elation. So with a skerrick of optimism left we would show stoic resilience, dust ourselves off and try again, even though our wounds from the previous attempt were still painfully fresh. This loitering hope was insufferable torture, a roller-coaster of emotion. It fostered the dogged persistence to go another round, which inevitably brought another vicious cycle of grief from which we would never fully recover until the cycle was broken, either by becoming pregnant or finally accepting our childless fate.
Maintaining a relationship under such circumstances can be difficult at times. You yearn to create a child that symbolises the love between you and your partner-the most natural desire-yet you are forced down the medically assisted path-pricked, poked, probed and prodded-an experience devoid of love and affection. There were times when I would ejaculate more in containers than in my wife’s presence and she would be naked in front of fertility specialists more than with me. And I am ashamed to say we started behaving like PRICKS (Partners Really Invested in Conceiving Kids Soon!’) and unknowingly became the creepy, childless observers at kids’ birthday parties.
But we managed to maintain a healthy and loving relationship through the ordeal by always talking to one another openly and honestly about our infertility concerns and fears; remaining open to the positives of childless alternatives; remembering all we had to be thankful for and trying to look at the funny side of our predicament. I wish I could also say we were able to always keep the romance alive, but I found this tough on occasions. Particularly when rudely awaken by the pre-dawn ‘shag alarm’ and under strict doctors orders to get down-and-dirty. At such times we simply both went through the motions with minimal emotional attachment because both of us were still virtually asleep-operating on intercourse auto-pilot.
And when that didn’t work we continued to follow doctor’s orders through countless fertility treatments including IUI and IVF over a five year period, having a heartbreaking stillbirth along the way.. Thankfully we persisted and got supremely lucky with a little miracle-baby Oliver-who is perfection. And it is fair to say both mum and dad are besotted with him.