Dads, or men who want to be dads, are often forgotten members of the infertility community. In our online community, 92% of our active members are female. Conversations between us run from grief over a yet-another-unwanted monthly cycle to frustration with the slow process of infertility treatment to miscarriage losses. As a result, conversations between women are full of common ground. In that space, we usually find the emotional support we are seeking. This is not the case for our male partners.

Why are Men the Forgotten Ones of Infertility?

Processing Intangible Loss

While we’ve made some ground, our culture generally still does not encourage men to show grief. It’s a rare male friendship that gives space for expressions of grief or loss, especially when that loss is not tangible or quantifiable. For example, the death of a spouse or a stillborn baby is easier to recognize as a loss. The death of a dream, the inability to create life with your partner, or a miscarriage are much less concrete – and challenging for anyone to process. However, these intangible griefs seem particularly difficult for men in our culture. Encouraging the men in your life to share their stories is a great start to letting them know you are ready to hear their losses and grief too.

Being the ”Strong One”

Many men who want to be dads feel as if they must be strong for their wives or female partners. Again, this is a societal influence, but it’s no less real and challenging to overcome. When an IVF cycle fails or pregnancy is lost, men want to be the shoulders their wives can cry on and the rock that offers support.

Having a solid support network is vital while building a family. However, both partners deserve a space in which they do not have to be the strong one who is okay. Do you have a network where you and your male friends or your partner feel safe to not have it all together and “be strong” for others?

Ignoring (or Silencing) the Pain

Culturally, we still have societal stereotypes that paint men as reluctant to share their pain with friends or partners. When men who want to be dads don’t give voice to their struggles, it becomes all-too-too easy to pretend the pain does not exist. Silencing the grief allows men to keep ignoring it – and the cycles of the stereotypes, isolation, and suffering, continue. When you know a man in your life has faced the grief of infertility, listen for the struggle. Be willing to hear it and not try to fix it for him.

Who Supports the Men Who Want to be Dads?

So often, the focus of support is on the infertile woman. Again, most of us active in the infertility community are women. But on whose shoulders do our male partners cry? Are we women aware of men’s lack of support as they walk through the infertility journey with their partners?

Many guys are more likely to be open about their pain, fears, or hopes with a smaller circle of one or two people. Sometimes, they only share candidly with their wife or partner, which places an additional burden on their wives, who are also sad and struggling to cope. When we are in relationships with couples struggling through infertility, we must support both women and men. Sometimes, that support looks like reminding our female friends that their male partners are suffering too.

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Men of Infertility, We See You

Father’s Day is this weekend. To the men who want to be dads, we offer this poem. Please share it with others this week so that these “forgotten ones” will feel seen, honored, and remembered this Sunday.

A Father’s Grief

by Eileen Knight Hagemeister

It must be very difficult
To be a man in grief.
Since “men don’t cry” and “men are strong”
No tears can bring relief.

It must be very difficult
To stand up to the test.
And field calls and visitors
So that she can get some rest.

They always ask if she’s alright
And what she’s going through.
But seldom take his hand and ask,
“My friend, how are you?”

He hears her cry in the night
And thinks his heart will break.
And dries her tears and comforts her
But “stays strong” for her sake.

It must be very difficult
To start each day anew.
And try to be so very brave-
He lost his baby too.

Do you have a man who wants to be a dad? Does he feel forgotten in this struggle to create your family? Tell us about him in the comments!

Image Credits: Steven Pisano; Cristian Ungureanu; Guiseppe Milo