7 years is a long time. I think that is how long Brad Pit spent in Tibet. It’s how many years lance Armstrong doped his way to the top of Le Tour. Luke Graham wrote a song about it. It’s not great.
Leigh Timmis took 7 years to ride his bike around the world.
Dude rode his bike around the world in 7 years. He thought it would take 2.
We have something in common with Leigh Timmis because 7 years ago we were both young professionals in our 20’s. Instead of planning our ride around the world, we decided to plan our baby that would change the world.
We also, like Timmis thought we would get this part over with quickly. Still considered newly weds, we happily talked about the future and how cool it would be to be the young, hip, in shape parents.
I remember one day I was in the store and I brought home a little bib/towel thing and stuffed animal and proudly told Shme that I had just bought our future child it’s first gift.
That was over 7 years ago. That stupid stuffed animal is older than many of my friends relationships, and almost all of their children.
This week is National Infertility Awareness Week. Our story has been told a number of times. If you are reading this you likely know it.
To recap for newbies though.
PCOS – Timing cycles- Sex like addicts (super fun) – Telling everyone “the goalie is pulled”, bragging about how I was a “good swimmer” growing up, and countless conversations with our friends about “what if our kids fell in love and got married.”
Medicine, tests, shots, taking needles camping, appointments, invasive procedures, crying, hugs, heartbreak. 1 optimistic follicle, more heartbreak, and now a break from all of this.
Then our friends starting having kids. So did the fringe friends, Then our friends became better friends with them… More in common I guess. Then coworkers started announcing, so did cousins. Finally siblings. People who had not even known each other when we started trying were telling us they were having kids. People who have told us they did not want kids got pregnant. Students we worked with got pregnant. One was a 12 year old girl… Tell me about Gods plan though…..
It was challenging to say the least. We cried, we made friends with people who were struggling, then they had kids too. We had arguments with friends, with family, with each other. It was (is) difficult. Relationships changed. It was confusing, it was sad.
But in the end we had each other, which for us, has always been enough. But where do I stand on the issue? Like most men, I have not said much on the topic. Men are missing from this conversation.
Men don’t talk about this stuff. This is “her” space and that sucks for a few reasons.
1. It puts almost all of the responsibility on the female.
Why can’t you get pregnant? Have you tried keeping your legs up? Have you done this silly prayer? Have you buried some stupid thing in your yard? Don’t tell me your aunt told you if you do a shot at the same time you orgasm you get a kid, that’s weird… And so on. It’s like a giant blame game.. “If you just do this”….. You get a baby….All to the woman though, none to the man over here. No one ever mentioned ANY of that to me. I never had to do anything different. Never was told to change my diet, to stop running, to drink less, to pray more, to stick my dick in a jar of pickle juice. None of that. All the
hints blame, went to Sheila
2. It means the man has no real skin in this game, and no one to talk to about it. That’s no bueno. Dudes have more than just skin in the game…. joke goes here….. Many times men are the problem. How many women were offed throughout because the man had a problem he blamed on her. We should have been aware of this a long time ago, Henry the 8th may have been Henry the aint(h). Meh – Bad joke.
3. We continue to install the “tough guy” stereotype. Of course it has to be the woman’s fault. We wouldn’t want anyone knowing that the swimmers can’t swim or the flag pole doesn’t rise. God forbid we discuss these things. Men are supposed to be vibrant sex beings who can knock a girl up anytime they don’t put a condom on. Amiright? Stop with this – It’s not always the woman, and it’s certainly not fair to allow society to continue to think it is.
But we matter when it comes to this. Sometimes we are the reason for no baby, and we should own that. Sometimes we need to be the rock for our partners if we are not the “reason”. Sometimes, we need to remind our partners as I do with my wife that we are a we. This is not a her problem. She is not broken. She is not infertile. WE are. We also aren’t. Nothing is wrong with us. We just don’t have a baby yet. Maybe we won’t.
The messaging is off here… “I am 1 in 8” is a nifty little campaign to raise awareness of infertility rates, but in reality, for us, it’s we… (For some, I understand many people choose to go it alone and raise beautiful children on their own). But we are we and that matters.
The bottom line here is that infertility is not a women’s issue. It is a human issue impacting both sexes are surprisingly high rates. There is very little talk in the community about the men involved. I hope that changes. I have never been one to be shy about tricky topics of conversation so if you have any questions – Ask me.
I do want to throw some tips out there though in case you were curious how to bring this up with people. I also wanted to point out a few things not to say and how to let someone who has struggled with infertility know that you are expecting.
- Try to not tell your friends or family in a huge group. Private is better.
- Tell them you understand it may be hard, but that this is also the most exciting time in your life. Both can exist together.
- Don’t say “God has a better plan for you” Especially if they aren’t god people. Really.
- When you tell someone, give them an out. The start of a big gathering, the holiday dinner, driving 2 hours in the car. That’s tough, and all have happened. Let them have an out, it’s not fair to put them in this situation and make them try to enjoy something for a few hours. The most caring way we were ever told was at a trail-head after a run/ride. We were so excited, full of sweaty hugs and high fives. Then we went home and cried. It’s ok to be both excited and sad.
- If they are upset it is NOT because you have a child, it’s because they do not. That pain is not about you – Please don’t make it that way.
- Don’t start talking about fostering and adoption. It’s painful, the expectation that they should just move on from this and if they REALLY wanted kids they would “just do this”. The same goes for “Just do IVF”. In addition to these options costing a small fortune, they are also very personal, so let them bring it up and don’t judge them for reasons to not do any of “those” options.
- Don’t be any less excited about your baby. That’s not fair either. Your baby is cool, and will change the world. They know that. Your baby is cute (most are anyway). If this hurts them, it’s not because of your baby, it’s a painful reminder of what they want.
- For Gods sake don’t tell them how lucky they are they don’t have kids. Please stop doing this. “At least you_____” is the worst. They want a child don’t tell them it sucks.
- Accept their quirks. I have never held a newborn. I told myself when I was a teenager that the first newborn I hold will be mine. I will hold your kid, read books, throw them in the air, teach them to fish, go for a run with them. I just won’t hold them when they are a newborn. This might seem odd to you, but is important to me. It’s one of those, “it’s not you, it’s me” things. Everyone has quirks – Try to accept them.
- Don’t stop inviting them to everything.
- But please don’t get upset if they don’t come. “Babies first (everything) is hard, amazing for you but hard. A Few can be fun, but if it’s all they see it can be painful – Worse if there are like 10 kids doing babies first and that becomes the theme of the day while the infertile couple sits there smiling along. Being pained by friend and family joy is a bad place to be and the fact that they are in pain by your joy hurts them even more. Sometimes they may not come so you can have the day you want without thinking about them. Sometimes it’s just too hard. That is OK.
- If they decide to stop treatment, not adopt, or not foster, it does NOT mean they do not want children “that bad” or are not still in pain, and are at peace with everything. It will likely never not hurt, please remember this.
So it’s awareness week- We continue to hope, all you need to do to go on the journey with us is be there and listen and hope. I’m no expert on the matter, but hopefully some of those tips above can help people in the future.
Sheila and I have not decided yet what we will do, what our next steps are. We are currently on a break from treatment and settling in to this phase of our lives. Thank you to those who have shared moments with us along the way and thank you to those who have really shown a lot of empathy in the process. It can be ugly sometimes, and we appreciate you.