The reality is infertility affects men as much as women. The statistics tell us that infertility affects 15 percent of those living in the USA, or about one of every six or seven couples, or about 7 million people. Half of them are men. Half of them are women.
The focus is primarily upon women but men feel it too.
If you ask a guy how he might feel about male infertility the same kinds of words come up over and over again:
Vulnerable, Lonely, Awkward, Invaded, Angry, Stressed, Depressed, Sad or, Lost
Men have been raised for many many years that they are to be strong, secure, confident, and are to have it all together – no matter what. Even when that “no matter what” involves having a baby.
Male Infertility can be incredibly isolating and lonely for men. Women have a tendency to have the ability to talk about their feelings. Cry when they are sad. It’s okay for women to be depressed – they have their girlfriends to talk to, sisters, aunts, or mothers. Men –not so much. You won’t catch a guy sitting at a bar talking to another guy about how his “swimmers just ain’t swimming”. Those kinds of conversations bring up all kinds of emotions – awkwardness, exposed, invaded, and embarrassed.
Everyone wants to give you advice. Do this. Do that. Relax. Give it time. You can always adopt. The list goes on and on and on.
When men see the women in their lives undergo all the drugs, needles, probs, and exams men can feel incredibly helpless because there’s nothing they can do except be at this appointment at this time. Have sex by the calendar, or temperature reading. Go to a strange place and look at adult magazines or watch porn that God knows how many others before him have watched, and then attempt to masturbate in a short period of time into a cup so a semen sample can be procured to measure his virility. The pressure can be brutal. And when you run into someone you might know at your local REI office – what do you say when they ask you what you are doing here? “Oh well, I am masturbating in the collection room – how about you?” Can we say Awkward?
Some men say they are angry with God, other fathers, themselves, or the universe. And why wouldn’t they? Along with anger is the other words that goes hand in hand – “Stress”.
Now the American Society of Reproductive Medicine says there is no substantial proof that stress can cause infertility. I am in suspended judgment about that. We see that stress is a contributor to so many diseases our bodies undergo, it damages relationships, affects marriages, creates chaos at work, causes weight gain – why wouldn’t infertility be as affected?
It’s important to acknowledge we are stressed. When we try hard not to be stressed we cause even more stress – which becomes a vicious cycle.
Male Infertility can also cause us to feel desperate, despaired and depressed – the triple D – and we aren’t talking bra size. The despair alone can just wipe a guy out. Men handle these emotions differently than women but that doesn’t mean they don’t get excited about positive pregnancy tests, or awaiting that first ultrasound, or feeling the kick of their child in the belly of the women they love. It also means that when the pregnancy test wasn’t positive or the pregnancy miscarried they feel the overwhelming sadness that women feel. So don’t hold your tears back. It’s okay to cry. It’s okay to hope. Sometimes hope it seems is all you have.
This isn’t what you signed up for is it. It’s not how it was supposed to be. When you stop and think about your life and how you wanted it to be, how you dreamed it would be or should be infertility isn’t one of those things you factored in to your life.
And that’s okay. No one grows up thinking they are going to face infertility. It’s also okay to have those “WTF” moments where you just can’t possibly wrap your mind around what’s happening and how you might be feelings.
We often self-protect which is natural. It’s called being aloof, ambivalent, or nonchalant. If we are those things we can’t be hurt. We ask ourselves – “Is this all really worth it?” “I know my partner wants this badly but do I want this as badly?” We feel guilty even thinking these thoughts. Would our partner be horrified knowing we even remotely felt this way?
Yep it’s normal. In fact, perfectly normal. It’s totally okay to think it’s all too much. It’s also okay to admit how much you want a baby and to be conflicted all at the same time.
In the end it’s okay to cry. It’s okay to laugh at those awkward times. It’s okay to be embarrassed. It’s okay to go to that dark place that you only think about but would never share with anyone.
Infertility can be the abyss of darkness. It can be an incredible time of stress. It can be isolating, lonely, and miserable. The deal with infertility is that everyone’s path or journey is different. It’s about giving yourself permission to do what you need to do to make this work for you.