Day One: Finding Purpose in the Waiting
Day Two: Lies Women Believe About Infertility
Day Three: Infertility Resources
Today I’ve asked my sweet husband to share a little bit about infertility from the husband’s perspective. I’ll warn you: it’s kind of long. And very raw. But it is important to spread awareness about infertility from a guy’s perspective.
Here at A Royal Daughter, you mostly hear about infertility from a female perspective. I’m not much of a writer and I don’t spend a lot of time on the blogging side of the internet. But I’m here today to try to explain a little bit what it’s like dealing with infertility from a male perspective.
First I have to admit that I have no idea how other men have dealt with infertility. Honestly, I’ve never looked into it. I have no idea if men have written books or blogged about the struggle with infertility. I don’t really deal with it by learning about others or talking about it much. I pretty much just by talk with Amanda, and sometimes my parents and my sister. Most of my family, close friends, and colleagues know about it, but we don’t talk about it. Why is that? I have no idea. It’s part of who I am. I’m an introvert and I don’t derive a great deal of psychological satisfaction from baring my soul. Instead, I deal with stress and struggle primarily by working. I don’t want to talk about it. I just work out my frustration through physical labor. It’s one of the many benefits of having a farm!
In our family I’m the primary breadwinner and infertility definitely causes some financial stress. Being infertile is really, really cheap. You save all kinds of money on pregnancy, delivery, 18 years of extra food, clothing, sports, etc., plus no college fund! On the other hand, trying to treat infertility gets expensive! Not a little expensive. Really expensive. Ranging from down payment on a new car to buy a whole new car kind of expensive! That brings some extra stress and frustration in the pocketbook.
It’s frustrating to fork over tons of money and still not be pregnant. Most people get pregnant for free. At worst it costs a nice dinner or a couple of nights at a bed and breakfast (or a case of beer, for those who are into big surprises). Then there’s us. We’ve spent lots of money trying to get pregnant. And it’s hard to watch the savings be depleted. It’s difficult to watch the financial goals we’ve worked towards for many years slip out of reach. It’s hard to not get resentful and frustrated.
We’re not rich. Not even close. I chose a career based on job satisfaction not financial compensation. I get paid a decent salary, enough to live comfortably and raise a couple of kids. But it’s a long, long way from six figures. It’s not the kind of salary that allows us to fork over a few grand every month on infertility treatments. Thankfully God has always provided for us. He has always come through for us and has graciously used some people to majorly help us. But that doesn’t mean the stress isn’t there every month.
One of my greatest struggles is trying not to project my frustrations with infertility onto other people. It’s a temptation to resent those who do have children. I graduated from college a decade ago. Since then most of my college friends have married and started families. That’s great. I’m happy for them. I’d really like to join them in the daily struggles and joys of raising children. But I can’t. And that’s hard. Even though I have a beautiful wife, a great career, and a lovely farm, I’m still tempted to envy those who have something I want so much. It’s tough to keep those kinds of feelings under control. That I do it at all is a result of God’s grace.
I also struggle with the uncertainty that comes with infertility. It’s impossible to plan anything. That’s hard on me because I’m a planner. I always want to know where we’re going and when we expect to get there. Shortly after we got married I figured out a plan for when we should buy cars. According to the plan, in 2013 we should buy a car. That was an ideal year, as we expected to have two children by then and could be deciding whether we were preparing for a third (need a minivan) or thought two was enough (SUV or sedan will do). So now what am I supposed to buy? Of course it’s all a moo point now (It’s like a cow’s opinion. It just doesn’t matter. It’s moo). Most of the money for a new car went for fertility treatments anyway. So the old Taurus (with no heat) rides on.
It’s not just big things that are hard to plan. I have no idea when our summer vacation might be, or even if there will be one. I can plan the next two weeks, but everything after that is unknown. It’s hard to plan even basic things, like my work schedule (although I have a very generous boss), much less things that are months away. Months ago I planned to spend this week with my Grandpa. I have the week off and it seemed like an ideal time to go visit him. His health isn’t the best and there won’t be many more chances to visit him. But I can’t, because we have a treatment today. That’s just the way it goes, with things both little and small. That kind of constant uncertainty makes it hard to keep my grip. It feels like I’m in an indefinite holding pattern. Most of my life is on hold until we get pregnant. Meanwhile the weeks, months, and years are flying by. And I don’t know what to do.
Everyone who’s struggled with infertility knows that it doesn’t feel fair compared to other couples. Less known is that infertility treatments aren’t fair within the couple either. Not even close. Pretty much everything falls on the woman. The man is mostly a spectator in all this. The woman takes all kinds of hormone altering drugs and gets to feel her ovaries swelling and working overtime. Then her body gets invaded. A lot. She has to do all the vaginal ultrasounds, inseminations, egg extractions, and embryo implantations. It all looks at least terribly uncomfortable, if not plain old painful. At least that’s what I interpret from the bone-crushing grip Amanda occasionally has. That’s my job. To hold her hand (I know this is really impressing all the ladies).
Actually, I do have one other job. I’m the sperm provider. It’s a tough gig. It means no sex for a few critical days and then I have to provide a sperm sample. And yes, that is just as awkward as they depict it on TV. But a few minutes of awkwardness is nothing compared to what the woman has to do. It’s not fair and it’s no fun watching Amanda go through all this. Nor is there anything I can do to make it any better for her. Except try to be an understanding and helpful husband.
Being understanding is important. Pretty much everybody knows that pregnancy really, really messes with a woman’s hormones. The stories are legendary. But nobody warns you that infertility treatments cause much the same thing. The only way for the doctor to do what he wants to do is to artificially make the hormones do what he wants them to do. And he wants them to do a lot of things. There are some side effects. And those are compounded by the monthly emotional turmoil of infertility. Revealing more here is potentially life threatening, so that’s all I will say. But there are a few surprises along the way.
So how am I dealing with infertility? Having written it all out, I’d say that I’m not handling it all that well. Here is the part where as a minister I know I should insert some kind of spiritual insight or lesson. Unfortunately I’m keenly aware that in the midst of pain and frustration insights often sound like platitudes and lessons seem judgmental. So instead I’m going outside. There’s work to do. And sweat is a salve for raw emotions.