One for the boys, Two important truths …

Being Strong Graphic

Hi folks – Eric here again. As we’ve mentioned, Cathy and I had discussed doing a project / blog like this together, specifically because even among the few online communities and support discussions we did find, the male perspective was almost entirely absent. So at least for this week, let me speak not just as a man, but once again to the men. For those couples where either the female or both parties have issues contributing to the challenges of getting pregnant, I’m going to tell you two very important things I learned along the way. (For couples where the root cause is solely with the gentleman, I’ll discuss that in another post.) Ready, boys? Important Truth #1 Infertility stinks for the guys too, for reasons ranging from the emotional and familial pressures I’ve touched on before, to the icky and awkward parts of the process, to the inability to “gripe to your buddies” the way you might about a sore knee or a crabby mother-in-law. The usual “strong, silent type” and “stiff upper lip” stereotypes notwithstanding, believe me when I tell you, this stuff (meaning, infertility) is hard. It’s hard emotionally. It’s uncomfortable socially. It’s even kind of lousy in pragmatic ways you might never anticipate, like when you have to arrange your work, family and travel schedules around the unalterable timing of shots and tests and visits to the doctor. Also – be prepared, fellas – trying to get pregnant still involves trying the old-fashioned way, but it gets to be a lot less fun than usual when it feels like you’re scheduling it based on a thermometer, ovulation test kits, the Old Farmer’s Almanac and a stopwatch. This stuff is just emotionally and physically exhausting sometimes, and you should know that. And as we’ve said before, it’s OK to be upset. To feel it’s not fair. To struggle with regret, guilt, shame or confusion, all of which can be natural reactions. Know that, like most things, the hard parts pass, and the journey strengthens each of us, and teaches us about ourselves, our partners and our relationships, but know going in that it will have its very difficult days. All of which brings me to Important Truth #2… Despite everything I just said, however bad it is for you, it’s worse for her. Having just spent the last five minutes saying “Hey! Don’t forget about us guys! It’s hard on us too, you know!” I will now tell you that (again, assuming she or both of you have contributing factors) it’s harder on your partner still. Why is that? Where do I begin… It’s harder for them socially, and in ways you may never have really given any thought to. Want a simple example? Ok, so you’re a man without children. Some men won’t notice, others won’t care, a few may tell you you’re “lucky” if they’re dealing with the challenges of parenting that day. (By the way, being told you’re lucky because you can’t have the very thing you’re trying so hard to achieve – exactly the kind of utterly clueless and insensitive thing you should be prepared to hear from strangers and oblivious friends. See “Udder Etiquette” for further discussion.) But be a married woman without children and you can practically hear the whispers and feel the eyes on you from behind. “What’s wrong with her?” “Are there problems in the marriage?” “Doesn’t her man want her?” Even if these things aren’t really being whispered, they will still be part of what she may think or feel or be worried about. They’ve got it a lot tougher procedurally too. We get tested yes, poked and prodded a bit, perhaps give a bit of blood and, ummm… other fluids. Now compare that to the stabbing, injecting, mood swings, hormone surges, inserting things, extracting things, inserting other things, and other endless indignities our partners go through. Here’s another thing – try as we might to control or avoid negative feelings (especially about our partners, of course) blame and guilt and wrestling with whose “fault it is”, these feelings are real. And frankly, unless you literally have a zero sperm count, you’ve got the upper hand here again as the male half of the equation. There are procedures from TESE and TESA (Google ‘em if you really want to know, but be warned even reading about them may make you squirm) to ICSI that can address all kinds of boy problems. If you’ve got even a few viable swimmers tucked away someplace, it is medically possible to get in there, find ‘em, yank ‘em out and manually select and insert a single handsome, speedy, hand-picked sperm into an egg. (Is modern science not a miracle?!) The biological issues on the lady side are in many ways far more numerous, more subtle, more intractable and more emotionally complex. For both your partner’s sake and your own, I myself at least found it extremely helpful to realize, accept, acknowledge and completely embrace this seeming contradiction. Yes, this is all hard as a man, you should know that going in, and you have every right to feel upset about what’s happening. It stinks and you should be OK that you feel that way. But whatever you’re going through, understand it really is even harder on her. Do all you can to be there for your partner, and if you can, vent or complain or yell and scream to anyone you can other than her. She’s dealing with all the stuff you are, and a whole lot more. So find a friend, a relative, the wonderful staff here at Conceive Hospital. If none of that seems right to you or you can’t find someone on that list, come talk to us on the blog. Cathy and I will be here for you… – Eric


  1. You just made me cry, E. Been there, done it, bought the T shirt. You can never underestimate the emotional toll that it takes on you both. The only way to get through it is to communicate and be honest xxx

  2. It’s very hard going for all involved. We were lucky, millions aren’t, your blog is great and I enjoy reading it.

    I did start calling the ‘gentleman’s room’ the wankorium. You have to laugh sometimes 🙂

  3. Thank you for sharing your story with all of us, Eric! You and Cathy are so amazing and I know this was such a difficult time for you both and that there is still pain there today. Big hugs to you and Cath.


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