This week is National Infertility Awareness Week in the United States. The crazy thing is we didn’t know this when we invited Cathy Burningham, who together with her husband has faced infertility for the last 10 years, to share her story. In fact, we didn’t realize this until the episode was released. But we like to believe that God knew and made sure that those who are struggling with infertility knew that He is aware of them. Some might call the timing of this week’s episode of All In a coincidence but we have seen similar situations too many times to believe that.
One research study examined the impact of infertility on couples and found that couples who are unable to have a baby after fertility treatments are three times more likely to get a divorce or break up than those who are able to have a baby. As part of the episode, Cathy shared how she and her husband, Kirk, have refused to let infertility tear them apart, and instead, they have seen their marriage strengthened.
The following excerpt has been edited for clarity.
Morgan Jones Pearson: Infertility, obviously, because of everything that you described, emotionally, spiritually, and financially, can place a huge strain on marriages. But you and your husband just celebrated your 10-year wedding anniversary, I wondered how would you say this experience has brought you closer together? And how have you learned to approach this as a team?
Cathy Burningham: Yeah, so it definitely is a team effort. And I think one of the things that really helped my husband and me was realizing that we are different. We’ve had plenty of arguments, you know, especially with this fertility [struggle]. Emotions are high, hormones are high. I’m pretty chill for the most part. I mean, I can have anxious moments and things like that. And so when I started on these hormones, my husband was so surprised, like, ‘What is going on?’ You know, like, ‘Why are you crying all of a sudden, like, why are you so mad at me?’ And I didn‘t even know that. I mean it was the hormones. And so I think a friend of mine has suggested if you ever find yourself arguing or having a hard time in your marriage, go to therapy, go to therapy early because it can give you a perspective from a trained professional that can kind of help you guys through this. And I think for me, I thought maybe he wasn’t as invested or wasn’t as interested in the treatments that we were doing. And I mean, it’s kind of one of those things. So for women, we’re prodded, we’re poked, [we have] surgeries like it is just physically intense. Whereas the male kind of just gives the sample. And it’s so much more simple for him. And so for me, I thought maybe he just wasn’t as interested. But when we went to therapy, I remember the therapist was like, ‘Are you guys considering divorce?’ And we’re like, ‘Oh, no, like, not even close to that.’ And he’s like, really? Like, no. And he’s like, oh, okay, and I’m like, ‘We just keep getting into the same fight.’ And we just need some help. And sure enough, we both said, our part. And once the therapist kind of explained what we were talking about or tried to kind of help us with what we were feeling, I was like, oh, that’s what you’ve been feeling. And the same thing, vice versa. And so it really helped us. So I think it’s really good to be purposeful in what you do because it really can mess, like I said, with your finances, with your intimacy, right? Couples already struggle with intimacy. I think that’s kind of a common one. And so when you put in that there—you have to do it at certain times. Like you have to be intimate at certain times and not at other times and things like that. It’s just homework. Like it’s not fun. It’s not helpful. And so I think being purposeful like I said, we no longer lived in this, ‘What if I get pregnant?’ So we traveled, we really enjoyed traveling, we really enjoyed even just turning off our phones and turning off everything and just laying down and watching a movie together. And so I think it’s really important to do that. And on top of that, I think it’s so essential to involve Heavenly Father in every aspect of this process. Because I’ve known couples that have gotten divorced due to this fertility treatment. And in our particular case, it’s made us stronger. It’s brought us closer together. And I think it’s because we involved the Lord in it, we would ask Him for help when we were arguing, we would ask Him for help when we were feeling sad, when we were feeling fearful, to help us to be guided to help us with our intimacy with everything. And so it really was—it really has been—a blessing for us, we’ve kind of turned it to the Lord. And I think that’s why it’s made us stronger. And my husband, he’s my favorite person, I love being around him. And he’s my best friend, you know, I mean, he’s just great. And so I’m really grateful that this has not torn us apart, but brought us together. And then again, having that perspective that my husband has, having children will be a wonderful addition to our family. And so we want to be happy as a couple, and we want to enjoy being a couple. Because when we do have children, they’re going to get married, and they’re going to have their spouses for eternity, I’m going to be with my spouse for eternity. And I like my spouse, and I want to continue to like my spouse. So I think it’s really important to be purposeful in reconnecting and enjoying each other.
Morgan Jones Pearson: Well, and I imagine speaking of that so two people—a husband and a wife—make covenants to one another. And I imagine that covenants have played a part in this and I wondered, how have you seen the power of your temple covenants? And how has the Lord become a bigger part of your marriage as a result of this experience?
Cathy Burningham: So I’ve kind of talked a little bit about it, right? But we really have made it a focus to put the Lord first. I remember pre-pandemic, and this had a lot to do with my mom [because] my mom worked at the temple so we would go with her, and we would go every week to the temple. And that was absolutely wonderful, no matter how things, you know how hard things were. We lived in Los Angeles so [no matter] how crazy the commotion would be, when we were in the temple, all of a sudden, we just remembered an eternal perspective, you know, not the stress as of right now, but the eternal perspective of we’ll be able to have kids forever so I do think that plays such a big part. Again, involving the Lord in everything that we do, remembering that if we keep our covenants, the Lord will always keep His covenants, He will always keep His end of the promise that we can be together forever, that we can have a family forever. And I’ve also been really grateful for the Scripture stories. Because in the Bible, there are a lot of women that struggled with infertility. And you know, Sarah and Abraham, they struggled, right, and Elizabeth and Zechariah, Rachel and Jacob, Rebecca and Isaac, this happened with them. And I’ve been really grateful to read about them because they’re no less wonderful, right? They’re no less amazing. It’s not like they weren’t keeping their covenants, not like they weren’t keeping the commandments. And the Lord was not giving them children because they weren’t doing the right things. And so I keep that perspective as I read about them continuing to keep the commandments. And I can imagine they were such better parents because they were so focused on the Lord and trusting the Lord the whole time. And so that’s been something that we’ve really tried to do with my husband is just really turn to the Lord, focus on him, keep the commandments, fulfill our callings. I think it’s been a little bit harder with the pandemic, just getting out and things like that, and trying to not get sick, but for the most part, just really trying to stay close to the Lord.