“Never waste a good crisis” is a fairly common phrase among business leaders. When economic conditions are good, businesses tend to coast. It is typically only when business conditions worsen that leaders begin to focus on necessary improvements because without this renewed focus, the business will not survive the crisis. Ideally, the business would have been focused on improvement during the good times so that when the bad times come, they are prepared. We would all like to think this is possible, but many of the things that need improvement do not even become visible until during a crisis. Try as we may to think ahead, there are just some things that cannot be fixed until an outside factor makes them glaringly obvious.
This weekend my husband and I had a little spat. I adore my husband and I know my husband adores me. We have a great marriage. Having gotten married young, we invested a lot of time (and money) into building a solid foundation for our marriage. Still, during our crisis times, there is always something new and interesting that takes us by surprise…a new threat to our oneness in marriage. This weekend, one of those threats was exposed. Our daughter has been battling an ear infection. This is her second ear infection and she gets pretty crabby during these times. So, when she wakes up overnight, we have gotten into a bad habit of just bringing her to sleep in bed with us. We are tired and she typically goes right back to sleep as soon as she hits the bed. Win-win…sorta. Inevitably she ends up moving around, kicking us, climbing on our pillows, pulling hair, etc. Not the most conducive to sound sleep. Saturday we photographed a wedding – something we love to do, but that typically leaves us exhausted. On top of that, darling daughter was apparently not a big fan of going to sleep that night. As my husband is also a pastor, Sundays are busy days as well. So, by Sunday afternoon we have two sleep-deprived, exhausted parents. The situation is ripe for conflict. My husband put our daughter into her car seat after church. When I looked in the car seat, I was shocked that he had barely tightened the straps, which I promptly let him know. He then informed me that they were just fine, to which I argued and ended up fixing them myself. And there it was – another argument. But that was just the argument, it was not the problem. Later that afternoon he insisted I take a nap, thinking that the problem was simply the lack of sleep. No, that wasn’t the problem either…and little did he know that his kind gesture of freeing up time for my nap was also contributing to the problem.
So, what was the problem? The problem has been going on for quite some time…ever since we started treatments again, really ever since we decided to ‘try’ for our next child. The problem was that I felt like he was constantly telling me that we cannot have more children because I’m not a good parent to the one child we already have. Sound like a big leap? It took me a while to put the pieces together, too. Let me walk you through it…
Shortly after we started treatments and I went from ‘normal wife/mom’ to being a psychotic crazy drugged up wife/mom and my husband announced that we were not doing treatments again. He didn’t like what it did to me. As soon as he said that, my dreams of a large family were crushed. The odds of us getting pregnant on our own are very, very, low…it has never happened in our entire 11 years of marriage. Immediately, my reaction was of guilt. Because I couldn’t control my emotions, I had ruined my chances of having more children. Perhaps if I had handled the treatments better, he wouldn’t be so adamantly opposed to doing them again. It only took us two months of treatments to get pregnant this time, so his opposition clearly wasn’t the time spent in treatments; it was doing them at all. My attitude was the real deal breaker. Fast forward to when we found out we were pregnant. It seemed like every time I struggled with something, he would say “what are you going to do when we have two” or “just wait until the next one comes” or “and you want more?” Never have these been said maliciously, but they hurt me. What I heard was “how are you going to parent more children when you so obviously cannot handle the one we already have?” Again, my bad attitude was dictating the fact that I would never have the large family that I have longed for since childhood.
So, the solution is to simply change my attitude, right? I know there are plenty of people who would choose that route of ‘discipline’ for women undergoing fertility treatments who have reached the end of their sanity. I could easily say “women, your attitude is going to affect your marriage relationship and your husband’s willingness to continue fertility treatments, so be careful.” I would liken this approach to ‘avert the crisis’ mentality. It’s a good one, but not very relevant in the middle of the crisis. Of course I want to change my attitude, to be rational again and never give cause for him to question my ability as a parent. We live in a real world, though, and I am not a perfect person…especially when I’m still on my fertility drugs to keep this pregnancy.
My solution: hold on to your hats, girls…communication. As is our custom, we sat down last night to talk about our fight that day. My husband started the conversation by informing me that I seemed much better after my nap. Trying not to let that comment frustrate me more (after all, that weakness of needing a nap was just another reason why I was incapable of parenting more children), I let him in on how I had been feeling the last few months. He was genuinely shocked. He had no idea the weight of his comments. He had never intended to make me feel like a bad parent, he thought I was a great mom. Yes, he thinks the drugs hinder my ability to function to my full potential (no argument there), but that was about the drugs and not about me as a person/mom/wife. He would never have connected those dots had I not informed him of how he was making me feel. He asked for forgiveness and let me know that he would stop making such comments now that he knew their full and unintended impact.
What if I had chosen to simply commit to a better attitude without letting my husband know how his comments were affecting me? My husband would have continued making his innocent comments and I would struggle with them each and every time. I may have learned to control myself better, but the root of the issue would never have been solved. Open, honest communication is vital during a time of crisis so that both people in the relationship are working with full information.
My advice to anyone undergoing a crisis, especially the crisis of infertility: never waste a good crisis. This time will stretch you, your marriage and your faith more than you can imagine. You can certainly try to control the crisis on your own, but there’s a reason for the increased divorce rate among couples facing infertility. It will either drive you apart or drive you together. Committing on your own to ‘be better’ may have worked during the good times, but it isn’t going to cut it during this crisis. You need each other. Both husband and wife need to honestly communicate with each other on a level that has perhaps never been necessary in the past. Increased sensitivity, increased awareness of the other person, and increased open and honest communication are vital to the success of your relationship. There will be feelings you experience that you never imagined, talk about them. When something takes you by surprise, sort it out together. Look beyond each frustrating scenario and discover the root cause of your emotions and talk about it. Sometimes there is very little ‘good’ that comes out of a crisis. At the very least, let it be a strengthened marriage.