There's no denying the impact that struggling to conceive has on your relationship. One of the biggest causalities is sex. It’s infertility’s cruel, silent, irony. I guarantee there won’t be one couple who has struggled to conceive who doesn’t know what I mean. TTC sex is not an easy topic to talk about. You won’t find it as a topic of conversation at the dinner party. This is the really intimate part of a very personal and private fertility journey.
Nothing kills passion like timed intercourse. When you are TTC it doesn’t take long for the fun and excitement of making a baby to disappear. A friend of mine told me that when they had been trying for just a couple of months, she became stressed about sex. She wanted it over with quickly and told her husband that. He was understandably upset and they didn’t try again the next month because they didn’t want to experience that again.
The pressure is huge. So much feels at stake. I can tell you that there is nothing romantic about the act of sex when you have been trying, and failing, to make a baby for as long as you can remember. My husband and I were trying for so long that it got to the point where the pressure, expectation, and desperation, would leave me in tears – we’re talking before, during and after. It wasn’t pretty.
So why is it so hard? When you are trying to conceive, sex is no longer about sex. It is about reproducing and when you can’t do that, well it sucks. It’s really hard not to take it personally and wonder what the heck is wrong with you. You become disheartened and disappointed while at the same time being desperately hopeful. You will not give up. So you try and try again and hope that this time it will work. Insanity, as they say, is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. By this point you have firmly taken your seat on the train to crazy town.
Of course, you do what you can to keep the passion alive. You try hard to bring in romance but with all the tension and whatever other emotions are flying around, there is not much room. I read the same articles as everyone else. We tried date nights, new lingerie, nights away, creating the mood with candles and music. But who can keep that up under the conditions, especially when you factor in that you feel miserable and sex is the last thing you actually want to do. Which of course, makes you feel more miserable.
But you persevere. You keep trying and try anything that gives you a gleam of hope. One method we tried was the ‘abstain from sex until the optimal time’ approach. This, we were informed, ensured vigorous sperm and therefore increased chances of conception. That meant a big fat no to any monkey business until the temperature, peeing on sticks, and mucus indicators, determined it was the right time. Sounds sexy right?
Delaying sex may build passion in other circumstances, but when the pressure is on this one window of opportunity, passion leaps right out of that window. It eliminates all spontaneity, and its close friend joy, from any encounters. It is no longer sex but a calculated, meticulously timed, insemination process aimed at maximising fertilization.
You can see why most women who receive the well-intended advice, to ‘just relax’ find it unhelpful, to say the least.
After excruciating waits and countless disappointments, IVF for us, was a welcomed respite. Injections, hormones, and egg collection seemed an attraction alternative to the current situation. Hope was renewed and came in the form of medical science. I was putting all my eggs in the IVF basket. But that is another story for another time. Let’s just say the disappointment is hard to bear when you have put so much of everything into it.
My husband and I didn’t really talk about the sex much. We just accepted the situation as another part of the experience and just did what we could and got on with the task at hand. We are lucky though. Infertility takes a big toll on many relationships and we have come out the other side stronger.
I also didn’t really talk about it with other people, well certainly not this bit. Why don’t we talk about this stuff more? I know I found it hard and uncomfortable being open and vulnerable but most of the time I was busy pretending I was ok.
Is this sounding familiar?
Now that I have some perspective, I know it would have helped me to talk about it with people who understood, who were going through what I was. It would have taken some of the pressure out of the cooker. What I’ve also learnt, is that what can help a relationship is making sure that you are ok.
Here are my top five tips to help because all the sexy lingerie in the world won’t do much if you are feeling empty and stressed:
If you don’t want to have sex, don’t. Listen to what it is that is right for you.
Stop charting and planning for a while. Don’t be afraid to take a break from ‘trying’ if things are getting too much.
Take time for yourself. Do things that make you feel great and take you mind off ttc. Rest, dance, walk barefoot in the rain. Start a new project, take the class, begin a new practice – whatever nourishes and feeds your soul.
Know that one person cannot provide for all your needs. I think we sometimes can expect so much from our partners. Remember they are struggling too.
Following on from above, tap into the wonderful sisterhood out there for support – find someone who get it! It is so important to not feel like it is just you or that you are going crazy. They too may need just the connection you could offer them. You may want to check out fertilitypotentials private facebook group.
And if all else fails, just relax!