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I have written a little bit about how difficult Mother’s Day can be for women struggling with infertility. On the morning of Father’s Day, however, a question hit me square in the chest:
What is Father’s Day like for the men who are struggling with infertility?
I don’t actually have the answer. I am not a man. What’s more, I am sure that the experience is different for each man – just as the experience of infertility is different for each woman. What I do know, however, is that infertility is a problem that is experienced by BOTH parents, but we just don’t hear as much about men.
The sources of infertility are 1/3 from women, 1/3 from men, and 1/3 unknown or unspecified. Even that isn’t what I’m talking about right now, however. Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter what the cause is, the results for a couple are the same regardless of the medical source.
I think that our society thinks a lot more about how hard infertility is for a woman, and not nearly as much about how hard in can be for a man. Our society often treats women as though being a mother is not only a birthright but, often, a requirement. The problems with that idea are numerous, but the one positive side effect of this antiquated notion is, for me, that people tend to be pretty sympathetic to my experience and feelings about it as a woman.
I don’t know if this is the case for men. I certainly haven’t seen it as much with/for John. Maybe he wouldn’t even want the attention that sympathy would require. I know that he feels like his primary role is to support me as I go through the tests, medications, and injections. I know that he works hard to support me when my emotions go all over the place as well as when I experience a side effect that makes me ill. He is very supportive, understanding, and kind, and I am grateful for that… but it occurs to me, especially today, that it is hard for him too.
I’m not just talking about how difficult I must be to live with when I am moody, or even how much slack he has to pick up around here when I get sick or overwhelmed. I’m talking about how hard it must be to want to be a dad but not be able to.
I feel for him, and for all of the men going through this. I think that we all should take some time to think about that. Also, if you know a man who is part of a couple trying to conceive, adopt, or find a surrogate, try to take the time to let them know that you’re willing to listen if they ever want to talk (or have a drink, watch a sporting event, play a game, or stare at a fire, or whatever else seems appropriate for your friendship.) One of John’s friends did the exact right thing for John when he found out we were having a hard time – he just told him he was sorry, he hopes that it will get better, and to let him know if he ever wanted to talk… and then they just went about their work day.
Most of all, let’s remember that Father’s Day can be just as hard for men dealing with infertility as Mother's Day is for women.
Do you have a story about what it is like to be a man coping with infertility? Are you a partner who has seen the man in your life work through these issues? Please share your experiences in the comments.
This post was originally published on June 15, 2014 on the blog "I Try: The Additive Property of Happiness". See the original post here.