A few weeks ago, a piece I wrote called "Trials and Errors" was published in the anthology Love is a Verb. This piece is special to me because it's about infertility and, to date, I have yet to read any good works on this topic from the perspective of the husband. Most of the men I've met in support groups don't have a clue what's going on with their wives. They wonder what happened to the woman they married and how their lives got to this point.
Here is an excerpt from the piece:
About a year into the treatments, my wife and I were invited to a marriage retreat. We would be sharing the intensive counseling experience with two other couples. Our first assignment was to each create a Life Map of our experiences leading up to the present. Then, the next morning, we had to present the Life Maps to the group. When my wife’s turn came, she shared her story growing up and how she and I had first met and fell in love. When we got to the part about our current relationship, she shared about our struggles with infertility and, as usual, began sobbing. The leader asked if I had been there for her in her grief. As I sat back and waited for her to proclaim my sensitivity to the group, I heard her say no.
“When have I not been there for you?” I asked.
“Lots of times.”
“Do you remember a month ago when I couldn’t sleep? I had been crying for several hours and you just laid there and pretended to sleep. Then when I tried to wake you up so you would talk to me, you huffed and said, ‘This again?’ Then you kicked the sheets off the bed and stormed out.”
I sat back stunned. “I did that?”
I tried to remember the incident. If she said it happened it must have. I was certainly concerned that I was capable of treating my wife with such brutal impatience. But what concerned me more than anything was that I had absolutely no recollection of this incident. I racked my brain trying to remember when I had been insensitive toward her grief. I recalled evenings I had been watching TV or working on the computer when she wandered in and asked, “Whatcha doing?”
“Do you want to do something together?”
This question had always irked me. It implied I never spent any time with her. Also it irked me that I felt trapped by the possible responses. If I said yes, I’d just be spending time with her out of pity. I’d be distracted by what I really wanted to be doing, I’d resent her for taking me away from it, and I’d do a terrible job of hiding it. If I said no, I’d feel selfish for not wanting to spend time with her. One night I finally got tired of it and said, “You’ve really got to get a hobby.” Now I realize the message I had sent. Your pain, your misery, and your identity crisis are a nuisance. You’ve got to get over this and move on for my sake and get a life. Was this the husband I had become?
The piece doesn't end here (I don't want you to think I'm a complete tool). But you'll have to buy the book to see how I became the calm, sensitive, understanding husband I am now. And for my immediate family reading this, the publisher didn't send me any free copies, so you're on your own.