Is there a Male Side to Infertility? A Man’s Pain

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We all have a dream of a family when we are kids, and how we will achieve of it.  The number of kids we will raise to be better than us.  It is one thing every couple discusses as a relationship moves towards marriage.  However we don’t dream of infertility, an issue afflicting more than you think.  Our family deals with it, and when I read articles and posts about it, they almost always come from a female perspective.  So does the male side even matter?  YES!

My wife and I had a whirlwind relationship, and we knew early on we wanted our perfect family.  We discussed kids, we knew we were going to be a great parenting team.  Like everyone else we figured it would come.  We had reason to be concerned because there was some genetic precursors.  After trying for 6 months, with no results, our first concerns came up.  By nine months we decided to lie to our doctor and add three months.  Him being aware of a family history of premature ovarian failure, he was happy to refer us early.  Quickly we discovered we suffer from severely decreased ovarian reserve.  Since then we have been through multiple treatments.

Our first treatment was a tough experience.  I know that my wife is the one who took the needles and really I didn’t have to do much, but it was tough.  My wife cried every time we had to do the injectable drugs.  I would stand there and rub her back, or offer support, heartbroken I couldn’t make her feel better.  She formed bruises and we dealt with hormonal changes that were really tough.  And at the end of it all we had to cancel out just prior to retrieval.  Not enough production to justify it.  So we bailed out and moved to IUI as to take make the best out of a tough situation.

Our next two IVF attempts ended similarly, both with slightly different drug therapies.  One included our use of Dr. Google.  We discovered DHEA in that run, turned out the miracle drug did nothing but make for bad skin and worse hormonal swings.  The only attempt we had go to transfer was without result as well.  We are entering a new program now, one that has us flying across the continent to another country.  Their results are better.

Here is the thing, I listen to my wife the whole time.  I am here for her every step of the way.  In fact I am blown away by how strong she is.  But there is little help for men.  This is a tough experience but most of the articles, literature and posts out there, focus on the pain of the woman.  It isolates men’s pain and alienates them from the process.  After all, our part is fill a cup and smile.  The thing is it isn’t that easy.  We are expected to put our pain aside because we aren’t the one with the needles and hormones.  But I don’t think that most men are able to sit out the pain.

I want to take some time once and a while to share my experience with infertility.  Maybe some of the pain and maybe some of the lighter side of it.  Mostly, I am not he best communicator because it is hard to explain the way I feel while my wife stabs herself with a heavy gauge needle for the 300 time, with tears in her eyes.

While this experience has made our relationship strong, it has brought me to the lowest I have ever felt and it has really changed my view of the future.  The worst pain coming a year ago.  At the end of July 2013 my wife came home with lottery tickets.  She made me scratch them, no dice.  Then she placed a positive pregnancy test in front of me.  This was outside of treatment, this was just a very incredibly lucky moment.  Four years of trying had not yielded any positive results.  Two days later Tiana called me from work, she was having bleeding issues.  We went to the doctor and he said that we should go with it, “bleeding can happen in a healthy pregnancy”.  By the end of that night the symptoms had become severe enough both of us knew.  We didn’t admit it but I think we both knew.  A few days later the bleeding stopped and a test confirmed our worst nightmare.  For a very short period of time we were happy but the pain was much worse.  I had never been that angry and sad at the same time.  We both cried until the tears ran dry, then we cried some more.  Our child would be around 3 months old right now if we had success.  This fathers day passed and all I could do is absorb the disappointment of a family dream crushed.  I stopped imagining our future family after the bad news a year ago.  I have a tough time imagining my future at all now.  I find it hard to find purpose when we have failed to achieve something we had put so much stock in.  Hopefully we will have our family sooner than later but to be honest hope left this man long ago.  Sure the physical portion of this affects my wife exclusively, but the pain is something we both carry.  The tears in my wife’s eyes eat me alive, it is my job to make her happy and protect her.  But I cannot protect her from this pain and I can’t make it better.

Every couple experience the pain of infertility.  All too often we ignore the pain of the men in these situations.  Why?  Because there isn’t a physical component? Maybe.  Maybe because it is cultural for men to suck it up.  However I don’t have it in me to suck it up, I am not tough enough to suck it up!

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