Most conversations surrounding the emotions of infertility focus on the woman. This may be understandable because, after all, we are usually the ones going through the treatment, but what about our partners? How does infertility affect the men who are on the journey with us?
We found this video recently, in which John shares his experiences of infertility and the evolving emotions of pain. He shares in a raw way but I found it so interesting and curious that he ends by rejecting the notion that he’s being brave doing so. Rather, he admits to a selfish hope that speaking his grief, naming his pain will give him the gift of seeing past the shadows of the grief to fully embrace seeing his daughter borne out of the painful path of infertility.
Heartache At The Coffee Shop
In the early days of their infertility journey, moving about their everyday life was painful. Being faced daily with the reality of their infertility could easily ruin his whole day. After all,
Babies are everywhere. They are bouncing, babbling and dropping their binkies.
Oh, how right he is! What infertile person hasn’t railed against the presence of babies everywhere we look! Their presence is seen by the men in our lives as well.
John is able to draw similarities of his pain at being childless to the pain of others.
Being infertile is like being single on Valentine’s Day, maybe all year long. I thought about how some single people might feel seeing kissing, caressing, and cuddling couples all day long, perhaps all year long.
Often that heartache would come to the surface when he was at the coffee shop, at the store, on the street corner, everywhere that babies bounce, babble, and drop their binkies. We women who bear the heartache of infertility can certainly resonate with that grief hitting us in the every day groove of life.
Delayed Longing, Shared Pain
Many couples struggling with infertility can be damaged and even destroyed by the pervasive pain. It’s easy to see how. Dreams that take a long time to happen leave a heart wounded and sick. But delayed longing and shared pain can strengthen a couple too. It takes an intentional mindset to lay aside the temptation to lash out or lay blame. But choosing to do so can unite a couple to face the disease together.
Despite this disparity in our health conditions, she’s not infertile, I’m not infertile. We’re a pair, the two of us, we are one flesh. WE are infertile.
I loved John’s thoughts on one small advantage of having waited so long to become a dad. He realized that he had plenty of time to think through his “Daddy Policies” which include always saying “yes” to buying books.
Lack of Intimacy
His frustration at the lack of intimacy inherent to fertility treatment showed up in his disparaging references to regular appointments with the black vinyl couch to do “what men do.” The picture conjured by his description of that “dispiriting room” is one familiar to many men who struggle with infertility.
As is his frustration over the “luck” of those who get pregnant with no planning and no intention to do so, in the back seat of a car.
Oh, how I longed to be so unlucky.
An Unwelcome House Guest
After extensive treatment and the subsequent birth of his baby girl, John finds himself at the heights of joy. I loved the language he used to describe his feelings — he is consumed by her. Until the shadows of grief show up again, like an unwelcome houseguest.
John and his wife eventually pursued treatment again. They discovered this time they were expecting twins from their “frozen tots.” One moment he and his wife are in the parking lot of their fertility specialist’s office reveling at the joyful moment they heard one baby’s heartbeat. But in the very next bittersweet breath, they mourn the fact that one baby had passed away:
Our baby died, one didn’t make it. He died. She died. Does a shadow have a gender?
Naming the Shadow
That haunting question, “does a shadow have a gender?” encompasses the unresolved nature of grief and the journey through the emotions of infertility. Even though they’ve gone on to build their family and revel in the joy of their child, the shadowy what if’s are still there. Set to ring the doorbell and just stroll right into their life at any given moment.
The shadow of his grief has faded in the light of his beautiful daughter. But as many who have walked the hard road of infertility can attest, that shadow never really goes away and so he names it. He names all that pain and longing for what it is. He calls it out and learns how to live with it.