Hi everybody. Eric here, and this week I thought I’d share an experience, and some interesting data from this past week.
So in thinking about my post for this week, I realized that a lot of what I write is based on my own feelings and experiences about struggling to have children, and what that experience is like, particularly for the male partners going through it.
I’ve also said a few times that I’m here, and I do this, in case I can be of help to any of you fellas out there, and specifically that my participation was driven by the seeming lack of public male voices on the topic. What I hadn’t done as much was seek out, or compare my experiences to, those of other men going through the same struggles.
I mean, there’s no question the guys are out there who have lived with these challenges. There’s no question many of them are scared or depressed or broken hearted about struggling to, or being unable to, have kids. I know. I’ve met some of them, we’ve talked about, we’ve bonded over the “how much it sucks” factor. But those are few and far between and I had to find them one-on-one through personal friendships.
So that got me thinking – where would I look for them? Where would I go to talk to them? What if, on my worst days, I wanted to talk to someone I knew would understand and actually want to listen? So I did what any modern earth-dweller did. I asked Google.
I started with a simple query, intentionally broad, to see what the Internets had to say. I typed in “Male Infertility Support Group”. That sent me down a fascinating rabbit hole of interesting, and somewhat depressing, data. So let me start with what came up in the results.
First, relevance to my actual interest in support for infertile guys, not the science, or doctors, or biology of male infertility, dropped to nil in less than ten results. Assuming that Google is half as smart as their billions would indicate, that’s a pretty good data point on just how much not-talking-about-this is going on.
Now of course, Google used my location in the Washington D.C. area to tailor my results, and your experience will differ some, but since Google is pretty smart, at least first link did indeed seem to be quite on-target. It was an article on the Web site Resolve.org (the National Infertility Association here in the US) entitled “Men and Emotions.” It was good. I liked it. You can read it here if you like. What struck me hardest though, (and yeah, it was hard) were two things.
- It was one of only two results to my original query that I felt were useful male perspectives (not support groups mind you, my original query) that I felt were intelligent and worthwhile. The other by the way is a much less clinical, but, at least for me, emotionally harder and well-written piece in the Washington Post. Two worthwhile results in all of Google? And neither actually on my real question? Wow. Bummer.
- It contained the following statement near the end – “Some men turn to support groups to reach out to others for emotional comfort.”
OK, that’s pretty interesting, and was the topic of my original query. I mean, I’ve been on this blog talking about how hard this has been for years now. Maybe I might someday wanna get me some of that emotional-comfort stuff. So where are these support groups for guys who can’t have kids?
I’ll give you hard data in a moment, but for now, let me just start with a summation of my more directed search-engine inquiries into “Male Infertility Support Group Washington DC” and “Male Infertility Support Group Northern Virginia”. Here’s the short short version of what I found.
Like that’s even a thing. Come on. Guys? Talking about infertility? And feelings? Yeah. Right.
I’ll save you a bit of the depressing details but here’s some data, and I promise I am going somewhere with this. Here’s what else I found:
- In a city of 650K people and a metro area of six million, there are no such groups, at least as far as Google knows.
- There is one regularly-scheduled infertility support group I could find in the city of DC. It’s run by women, for women.
- There are five support groups in Northern Virginia.
- Two of the five are women only.
- One is solely focused on supporting those who are shifting from IVF to adoption.
- Two are open to “women or couples”.
For, by and about the boys? Zip. Zilch. Nada. Now, in fairness, I did find some forums on DailyStrength.org, a site dedicated to helping people with many kinds of illnesses and health challenges.
Their infertility area? 708 members. Woo hoo! Male members? 30. Oh. Recent posts? One. In the last two years.
You see where I’m going with this. It’s just not out there.
Now, I know this is probably mostly our own fault. We don’t talk about this stuff. And I think a lot of guys think that guys don’t want to talk about this stuff. But I think they’re wrong. I think it’s a mistaken conspiracy of silence among people who all think the other guy doesn’t want to talk about it.
I’m not sure I can help a whole lot, I’m just one guy on a Web site. But I will tell you this. I’m a dude. Being infertile sucks. And I’m gonna keep talking about it, and I for one am not ashamed to say I’d really like some other guys I could talk to. So, speak up, I’ll be here.
This post is also available in: Arabic