I am that typical guy. I get involved in things and ask questions later. It is so much easier to be the bull in the China shop, hope for the best and fix things later. In 2003 my wife and I wanted to grow our family. We had pets and called them our kids but we began to wish a real kid. We wanted to realize our Pinocchio dream and have a real boy (or girl). We went a few months trying to conceive with no luck. We would realize we had to rely on medical help for any hope of having children. I went to appointments with my wife. I watched her cry. We lost pregnancies. I doubted myself. She felt like less than a woman and I felt like less than a man. It has been well over a decade since those difficult days. I learned many things from that journey.
As the man on the infertility journey I believe the first thing you need to do is set ego aside. If you are the strong silent type you may inadvertently send your wife into emotional turmoil because she does not know what you are thinking and it frees her mind to think the worst. Communication will save a bunch of heartache. Open your mouth and take her emotional temperature. Don’t tell her to toughen up either. You need to make sure she understands that you are with her not because “woman make man-child” but because you love her and she is the reason you are excited when you come home. I have seen many weddings both in real life and on television and never once in the vows did I hear “you will make me a baby”. Ask her questions often. After appointments ask what she’s thinking about. You may need to push a little. If you are not the guy that asks about her feelings you may need to gently make sure you are not asking the dinner question. “The Dinner Question” is when one spouse asks the other spouse what they want for dinner and they answer “I don’t care” The dinner question often leads to arguments because neither in the couple want to make a choice. With the “The Dinner Question” in mind when you ask her the what she thinking about question after appointments and she says “nothing” press on with by letting her know you care about how she feels. You care if she is hating herself. You care if she is scared. You care is she worried about money. You are her rock and you want her to know it. You need to be careful and understand when it is time to stand down too. Sometimes she does not want to talk and maybe during these moments just remind her you are there when she is ready to open up. I am not suggesting that if you are the big macho “pick things up, put them down guy” that you suddenly turn into an emo-teenager pondering the attributes of love but I am suggesting that you step it up and leave no doubt in her mind that she made the right choice in you when whether you want to admit it or not she always had options before she married you. Some women will get to the point of depression that they will think their husband should leave them because by not being able to produce a child that its only fair they let their husband out of the union so he can find a “real women”. Think about this for a minute. She may love you so much and hate herself so much that she would rather you leave and secure the dream of having children with another woman. That is the equivalent of the hero in the action movie facing certain death and telling you to leave so you can live your life.
When a pregnancy does not take it can be hard. You have gone to appointments, got your hope up, taken meds, endured shots and blood tests, and probably missed work only to have nothing to show in return. When these events unfold ask her if she wants to get away for a weekend. Have a infertility free weekend. Make the weekend about both of you. You like baseball and she likes a guilt free shopping trip then spend the morning with her in her favorite store and share a drink together at the ball park at night. Be careful not to make the entire weekend only about her because this could give her guilt because it looks too obvious. After my wife and I had a hard cycle I took her to see her Pittsburgh Steelers. The only thing we talked about that weekend was that I wanted her to remember it was a pre-season game at the opponents field so go easy on yelling at the other teams fans so I did not get beat up.
When you are at the appointment ask questions. Two sets of ears are better than one. I suggest that to call back the order to your doctor. What I mean by this is that it is not a bad idea to repeat to the doctor exactly what you and your wife are supposed to do after the appoint. A good example would be, “So doctor I need to give her one shot of drug x in the morning and drug y at night?” Make yourself aware of what is going on in your lives. Go to these appointments if she will let you. I will never forget the first appointment I had with my wife. I was very uncharitable as they put her feet in the stirrups then I remembered how much more uncomfortable she must be.
Lets also address the elephant in the room. What if you are the party with the infertility issue? In my marriage it was both of us. You will have appointments of your own. You may have questions you think are dumb but there is not a such thing as a dumb question. Ask your doctor questions no matter how silly it sounds. Are tight underwear an issue? Does diet affect fertility? Is infertility hereditary? Ask them all. If you do not feel comfortable asking your doctor questions go to reputable websites and search out information. You cannot ask enough questions.
There may come a time when the battle is no longer worth the effort. You will not often see on blogs about infertility awareness accepting it may not happen. I have seen couples push themselves to financial ruin and divorce. If you are reaching the point where money is an issue and you have exhausted all outlets then set down with your spouse and decide TOGETHER what to do. If you or your spouse cannot handle the emotional stress that infertility WILL put you through talk about it. She may have wanted to stop a while back but did not because she thought you wanted to press on. Your ability to have a child is not worth losing your marriage or finances. What ever you do I wish you luck. I have seen the battle and was very lucky. I love you all in your endeavors to have the child you want but the one thing I leave you with is always make sure you tell them you love them.
Please go to RESOLVE.ORG for help and advocacy.