Think you’re a tough guy? Three things men should know going into IVF

Howdy folks, Eric here again. This week I’m feeling a bit “practical pig” and thought I might zero in on the kind of stuff I like. Bullet lists. Practical advice. News you can use. I also realized that I have not spoken in quite some time to guys who are at the start of the infertility process. Just because Cathy and I have been writing here a long time, I think I sometimes forget that some readers may just be joining us.

So in that vein, (you’ll see why that’s funny in a minute) I chose this week’s topic after a peculiar confluence of events. Cathy and I spent a couple of days talking over supper about a variety of the emotional impacts during, and from, our IVF experience. Then she went away on a weekend trip and I spent several days flying solo, completely immersed in preparation for and participation in a day-long Jiu Jitsu seminar. (Getting bent, twisted and generally beaten up by people half my age is, for some inexplicable reason, how I choose to spend my free time.)

So what comes out of the mental stewpot when I spend two days talking about IVF and two days hanging out with lots of tough dudes who punch, throw and wrench each other’s joints until the pain becomes severe enough to “tap out” and admit defeat? This juxtaposition of emotional and physical discomfort gave me the realization that the latter is in any many ways easier to endure, or at least far more familiar to many of us boys, than the former.

Even assuming everything goes swimmingly well, here are some potentially new and challenging discomforts you’re likely to face. So gut up fellas, and get ready to (emotionally) take the punches.

  1. You’re probably going to have to inflict pain on someone you love – In nearly every instance I’m aware of except natural-cycle IVF, your wife/partner is likely to need a lengthy series of injections in the weeks prior to each IVF attempt. In our case, this involved a very fine .5 ml injection into the front of the belly that Cathy could do herself. OK, so far so good.

Then there was the one that looked, at the time, like the type of needle I figured they use to stab a rhino in the butt when they need it asleep so they can move it around the game preserve. And that one? That one she can’t do herself. So get ready to say sorry a lot, because it’s gonna be your job to jam that sucker in there. Regularly. And hesitating or half-hearted effort likely means you have to do it twice, so buck up, and get ready to hurt someone you love, a lot, for the greater cause. (See now why my “in that vein” joke was funny? OK, it was a little funny. OK, not really. But hey, you gotta try to bring the funny when you’re stabbing someone you love in the butt.)

  1. All kinds of strangers will be up in your very personal business – As I discussed previously, you have a very important contribution (literally) to make to this process. And lots of people you’ve never met before are gonna be all up in your face about that awkward, highly (hiiiiiighly) personal part of the process.   Think getting banged up in boxing or football or rugby is uncomfortable? Nothin’ compared to that awkward conversation with the 60 year-old Welsh nurse with the little cup and the magazine.
  2. You will – and this one’s important guys – never really “get it” no matter what you do – Now I may catch some flak for this one. But I’ve been through every part of the process. And in my case, I’ve been through the aftermath when it never worked out. And I’m telling you this for sure. You can be the best husband ever. You can be as understanding and empathetic and kind and committed and caring as any saint. And you can want that child with all your heart and soul. But there are some aspects of this process – the fears, the joys, the what-if’s and might-have-been’s – that go with every single round, every single step, and every single egg that’s consumed in the process that you will not get if you don’t have ovaries.

Don’t get me wrong fellas. We dudes can feel incredible emotions, good and bad, and see all the pending risks, joys and fears of upcoming fatherhood with all our hearts. I’ve felt them, and I’ve written about them. Right here, in fact.

But believe me when I tell you that without a uterus, there are some parts of this you just won’t relate to fully, won’t feel the way she does. Those moments, when she says to you, or you feel inside, that “you can’t really understand what she’s going through” may just be the toughest moments of all. In those moments, she needs you to be there, to be her rock, to accept and absorb her pain or fear or worry and don’t try to convince her you understand. You don’t.

But in that moment, understanding isn’t your job. Supporting her is. So don’t compare notes, don’t tell her you feel the same way, don’t focus on your own hurts or fears. Not in that moment. Accept and know that she’s right. You can’t really understand what she’s feeling, and that’s probably going to hurt the most. But that’s the job. Man up, and take the punch.

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