Monday, September 19, 2011

Mourning Sex

Last week, just before I woke up, I had a racy dream. It was the kind that – if I hadn’t had to get up for work – I would have coaxed Buddy out of sleep for some frisky cuddling and maybe a little somethin’ somethin’. Instead, my first thought was “ha, like that would happen.” By the time I got out of bed, I was near tears and stayed that way all day. You see, there’s just not a lot of sex going on in our house lately, and it’s been almost as emotionally difficult for me as the IF stuff has.

To be honest, we haven’t always been super active in the bedroom, even as newlyweds. We were always a twice a week couple, maybe more in the very early days. Sunday mornings especially used to be guaranteed to start off with some loving. But when it came to ovulation and my fertile week, we always got the job done with sex every other day or even every day. There was only one cycle I can think of where I counted our chances as zero because of bad timing. Still, outside my fertile week, our sex life was more about quality than quantity.

And then, we were given our MFI diagnosis. Since then, much has changed. We’ve gone the length of an entire “textbook” cycle without a single act of intimacy… on two occasions. Buddy isn’t interested in anything. He has no urges and no desires. I don’t know if it’s the blow to the ego or the suspected low testosterone (he’s supposed to schedule an appointment for testing by Friday) that’s driving it, or both, but it’s got me feeling downright undesired.

It’s a rough situation to be in. I love my husband more than anyone in the world, and wouldn’t want to not be having sex with anyone else. His mental and emotional well-being is of the utmost importance to me. I can only imagine how much the MFI diagnosis stung for him, and I’d do anything in my power to make that not hurt. That said, I still have urges, and I miss my sex life. I miss eye contact lasting a little longer, a kiss being a little deeper. I miss everything about seduction and foreplay and the act itself. I miss pleasing him and being pleased. I miss my Sunday morning sex. I miss my lover.

I know it could be easy for people to say “maybe something’s wrong in your marriage that you’re not owning up to.” It’s not the case. Nothing else is different. I still get many kisses and hugs each day. He still asks and listens about my day and praises my cooking. He helps with the dogs and cleans my car weekly. On the surface, life is unchanged. But behind the bedroom door, there’s a black hole of intimacy. He acknowledges it and feels awful about it. The rejection has been the most difficult thing. I’ve tried all I can think of to get things going, and the lack of interest is really hard. I try very hard not to blame him because I know he doesn’t want it to be this way, but sometimes it’s all I can do to not want to shout, “just suck it up and let’s do this!” It’s sometimes hard not to withhold non-sexual affection and cop an attitude when I feel my intimate needs aren’t being met, but that would be hurtful and my intention is never to hurt my husband.

We’re 4 weeks from our second anniversary, and this year has certainly been harder than the first. IF has taken away a lot of the bliss that was supposed to come with that relatively easy second year (our first year was amazing, BTW, but if it was supposed to be the hardest, this one should have been like walking on a cloud). I didn’t imagine a year ago that I’d be feeling so lonely, on top of everything else. I never expected that rather than engaging in morning sex, I’d be preoccupied with mourning sex.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Childfree vs. Childless

I recently posted on the board on The Knot that I frequented very regularly when Buddy and I were engaged. An old reg noticed my forum signature - which has similar info to the sidebar with our diagnoses - and asked what it meant. I believe my response was something along the lines of "it means we have are having a difficult time getting pregnant and due to some other circumstances, we're currently moving on and trying to come to terms with a childfree life." A pretty decent, yet shallow, explanation for someone not familiar with fertility, and it seemed to be enough of an explanation for her, as she expressed condolences and the discussion moved on.

A bit later, I checked back, and another old reg - one who I've never had a conflict with yet we're not really friendly, either - said that "childfree" isn't the proper word to use for our circumstance and that we're instead "childless." I explained that there is a board on The Bump that was labeled "Child Free Not by Choice" and that the phrasing had been chosen - from what I remember - to reflect that though the posters there wanted children, they were unable to do so, and thus "enjoy" the merits (extra disposable income, uninterrupted sleep, freedom to travel, etc) of a childfree life. I believe that "childless" was avoided as it implied there was something lacking or negative in the connotation.

The old reg counter-pointed that those who were truly "childfree" were so because they chose the lifestyle and didn't feel there was anything lacking in not having children. To couples who are in this way childfree, the term emphasizes the free choice to not have/raise a family, and should only be used for couples in their situation, and not for couples in mine. I respected her opinion and explanation and promised to be mindful of my terminology.

Here's the thing, while I don't disagree with her, it's very hard to refer to ourselves as "childless." It feels so negative, and so permanent. It makes me think of a sad couple who've missed out on life with children and haven't had any joys to balance the sorrow. Though we are sad now, I have hope that with time, life without children will feel fulfilling. I think we'll always feel as though we're missing something, and perhaps even the "childfree" couples will have moments where it can be admitted that the presence of a child could add to the experience. I don't know. I've never not wanted them, and this old reg has never wanted them and/or had problems having them. I can't truly understand her view, and she can't understand mine.

I just feel it's kind of a sensitive subject, but I get that it's more than just a difference of semantics. I may get flamed for this, but it reminds me somewhat of the use of the term "marriage" among gay couples. There are the staunchly conservative and heterosexual couples who, like the old reg, feel the term should be theirs and theirs alone because of the way it's defined somewhere (in the case of "marriage," the Bible is cited). On the other hand, there are the committed and loving gay couples who, like me feel that their feelings are every bit as legit and see the end result is the same, so the label should be as well. This might be a stretch, but I do see some similarity in the two situations.

I haven't decided how I really feel about it. On the one hand, I want to be respectful of the "childfree" couples and the of their lifestyle, and on the other hand, I want the right to label us as we see fit. I feel that at some point, every couple without children has to make a decision about their "childfree" life. For some, it's prior to marriage (I assume) and is just a way of life from day 1. For others, it's a decision made often after testing and treatments and hours of thinking and thousands of dollars and tears shed to not move forward and to move on. In the end, none of use have children, and we're all in the same boat. I feel it can be transitional. At this time, we are "childless." Once we make our final decision, don't we become "childfree," since we made a free choice to accept the hand that's been dealt and make the most of it?

What do you think about the "childfree" vs. "childless" distinction? How do you define those couples who are with out children but not for lack of trying and wanting?