It is no secret that men and women vary in their emotional responses to life. For those of you who have read some of my other blogs, you probably remember me mentioning (multiple times) about my anxiety. Another thing I have been transparent about in my past blogs is our battle with infertility. Thankfully we have overcome this challenging journey; however, it has had a dramatic imprint on my emotional health and perception. My husband, the wonderful man that he is, is a “glass half-full” man. His emotional output rarely changes; he is as even keel as a balanced level. Oh, how I wish I could have just half of his emotional stability.
Life events and the onset of anxiety
Two recent events have really turned my attention to the differences in my husband’s emotional response to things versus mine. Neither being good or bad, or right or wrong—just different.
Prior to our current pregnancy, we lost our last little embryo very early on in the pregnancy. I was devastated. After six unsuccessful infertility treatments and then a healthy IVF pregnancy, how could I now be dealt the cards of losing a baby? Like every woman who finds out that she has lost a pregnancy, I was extremely upset. We had fought so hard, to only have lost…it just didn’t seem fair to me. As I traveled the empty road of heartache from losing the pregnancy, my husband didn’t seem too bothered by the news we received. One night I sat down and ask him frankly, “are you not upset by this?” His response was “no.” He continued to state that he saw this loss as just another failed IVF, and he didn’t feel the emotions I did because he didn’t “feel” the pregnancy and the emotions associated with knowing a little embryo was growing inside, like I did. He was incredibly supportive of me and cared for my emotions as I mourned the loss, but his life continued as normal without an afterthought about the devastating event.
Fast forward to our recent pregnancy, we recently found out that our baby boy has a single artery umbilical cord, also known as a two-vessel umbilical cord. About 99% of pregnancies have three vessels; we fell in the 1%. When I learned more about this cord defect, my anxiety reared its ugly head and put me back into my terrified state of fearing the worst. This diagnosis, after a loss, was not good for my emotional health. The risk for heart and kidney complications, genetic abnormalities, intrauterine growth restrictions, and still births are increased with babies who have two vessel cords. Although I knew our baby boy was genetically sound due to the genetic testing we had done on our embryos, I was still very concerned about the other risks. We were referred to a Maternal Fetal Specialist who encouraged me with the diagnosis by stating that everything should be just fine, as our case is minor because it was an isolated case (meaning that at this time no other complications were present).
In the days prior to the appointment, of course I shed tears of fear and I was so worried. When speaking to my husband about this diagnosis, again, he did not seem concerned, so I asked him, “are you not worried by this?” Again, his answer was “no.” He continued to support his answer by saying that “20-25% cases of two vessel cords have complications, which means we have a 75-80% chance that everything will be just fine.” This was not comforting to me at all, in fact it made me even more upset, considering that we fell into the 1% of pregnancies who endure this defect. He said he was not going to expend energy worrying about something when there was nothing to worry about yet.
I still tread lightly with the diagnosis; however, I am much more confident that everything will be fine after meeting the Maternal Fetal Specialist, but he has no worry in the world and is positive everything will be okay. I just can’t jump on the “everything will be okay train” because it is possible that everything won’t be okay. He told me everything was going to be okay when I started bleeding during our last pregnancy, but it wasn’t, and we ended up losing the pregnancy.
Dealing with the anxiety
I see a therapist to help me cope, and hopefully overcome some of the anxiety I am experiencing during this pregnancy. When I shared with her how my husband was an optimistic person and never worried about anything, she provided me with some great insight. She said that “it is often common in relationships that if one partner is pessimistic or a worrier, that the other compensates and tends to me more optimistic and sees the situation for what it is, with hope carrying them through.” She also brought it to my attention that my husband probably feels that he needs to be strong for me, and she was absolutely right. When we endured repeated infertility failures, he remained optimistic. When I asked him why it seemed that none of this bothered him, he responded “because I need to be strong for you. You are my first priority and it hurts me to see how sad and disappointed you are.”
When I step back from my emotions and look at life objectively, like my husband does, life’s challenges seem less complicated. He notoriously says:
“Why worry about something when there is nothing to worry about yet”
“Why stress over the things you can’t control”
“It is what it is and worrying isn’t going to change the situation”
“Life isn’t fair”
I admire my husband to the nth degree. He is an amazing husband and father. A part of me believes that he can’t be that strong all the time, and in fact does have emotional responses to difficult happenings in life (he just has to…this is the 6’4, brash, 43-year-old man who cries at commercials). But being the natural leader and provider that he is, I think he compresses his emotions and has this magical ability to move forward, ensuring that his family is safe and cared for first. I don’t wish that I was like this because naturally as a female I find that processing one’s emotions are important and healthy, and in return results in personal growth when one allows an experience to do so. Do I wish I had his ability to see the situation as it is and believe positive thoughts in the most difficult of situations? Yes. Considering my family history, I don’t think that my worrying nature will ever go away, but thank goodness I have my husband to dose me with hope when I can’t be hopeful on my own.
Appreciating the differences
I appreciate the differences that exist between my husband and I. He has always been my rock, but with my emotional struggles over the past few years surrounding our fertility journey, he has been my optimism. While in the “heat of the struggle,” it is easy to feel more frustrated than comforted by the differences, but the differences are what can help two people compliment, encourage, and support one another in times of need.
I am hoping that my anxiety will subside and become a distant memory once my baby boy is in my arms and past the three-month mark (I find that I begin to relax at this time). I did not suffer from anxiety until I started dealing with infertility and experienced pregnancy, helping me to be hopeful that “this too shall pass,” but until then, I will continue to fight my anxiety and lean on my husband, family, and friends for encouragement. I am realistic in knowing that thinking logically is not on my side, but with constant work and effort in living in the present and focusing on the beauty life is giving me today, I hope to deter the angst of what “could” happen tomorrow. Today I am pregnant and very thankful for that!