How to help men cope with infertility pain

I received the following email recently from one of our Creating a Family community.

Thanks so much [for your congratulations].  We’re doing incredibly wonderfully.  I’m working from home right now lying next to [my son and wife].  It’s pure bliss.  I’m sure that the long-term infertile must make the best parents, or at least the most satisfied, since everything feels like a gift.  Even the 2 am feedings.  Well, we’re still new at this—two weeks today!–and I might take all that back later. …For all my high expectations and desperate hope, the reality is so much better than the fantasy.

Now for the backstory-He and his wife had been trying to conceive for almost 10 years.  They went through four cycles of IVF.  They talked about adoption, but couldn’t quite get comfortable.  The wrestled with using donor egg, but his wife strongly objected.  He, as with many guys, walked the line between support and longing with such grace.  He wanted kids; she wanted kids, but they couldn’t agree on the best way, and he couldn’t and wouldn’t push her too hard.  A couple of years ago, she came around to the idea of donor eggs.  They tried and failed.  They were devastated.  They tried again with another donor.  I received one tentative email saying that she was pregnant, but it was too early to really believe that it might happen.  Then came an emailed that simply said: “He is here”, followed two weeks later by the above.

Another couple that are friends had been trying for five years, when miraculously they finally conceived.  Their son was born last week.  Last month, the soon to be dad posted the following status update on Facebook: “Is it normal to get all misty eyed every time you think about your unborn kid? ‘Cause if it is, I am SUPER STINKIN’ NORMAL!” His Facebook picture showed him wearing a t-shirt saying “Fatherhood-[picture of a baby carriage]-That’s How I Roll”.  He is so happy right now that he practically glows as he shows yet another picture of his gorgeous son.

So often the focus of our support is on the infertile woman. Maybe it’s because most of us in the Creating a Family community are women, and we more readily identify with other women. Maybe it’s because many men are reticent to share their pain, so we assume it doesn’t exist.   Maybe it’s because we buy into the societal stereotype that women want children more than men.  For whatever reason, I think in general that we overlook the pain of the infertile daddies to be.

I don’t have major insight in how to be more supportive, but in my experience guys are more likely to open up about their hopes and fears to only one or two people, often only their wife. That puts a burden on their wives who are also sad and struggling to cope.  Supporting their wives, and reminding our female infertile friends that their husbands are suffering too may be the best things we can do. And if given the opportunity, reminding the guys that it’s Super Stinkin’ Normal to feel sad.

 Image credit: Alice Barigelli