Earlier this week I had the opportunity to speak to a group of businesspeople on the topic of blogging. Given the personal subject matter of my blog, I was a little nervous as to how it would be received. It’s one thing to talk about this topic to an audience who understands this experience, but something else altogether to speak to an unknown group of men and women.
As it turned out, they were a generous and accommodating group and were genuinely interested in learning about this topic. And of course, I was happy to share.
What surprised me most of all, though, is that it was the men in the group who sought me out after my presentation to tell me their personal stories and to discuss the issues they’d clearly not had the opportunity to talk about before. Our conversations really opened my eyes.
Several of you have commented in the past that your partner/spouse doesn’t seem to be feeling the same depth of loss, doesn’t want to talk about it, or doesn’t seem supportive of your process. From talking to these men, I realized that many men don’t know who to talk to, don’t know how to talk to someone, or don’t even realize that they can or should talk to someone about their loss. And if there are few resources out there for we women to find an understanding community, there are even fewer resources for men.
I’ll be honest that the male psyche is still something of a mystery to me and I wouldn’t dream of trying to write about this topic from a man’s point-of-view, but I’d really like to understand more. I would love to hear from men about some of the issues they’ve faced when children aren’t part of their future. I’d love to hear how they’ve dealt with coming-to-terms with not being a father. Who have they talked to? What do they wish their spouse/partner/family/friends had said or done that would have helped?
If you’re a man lurking around this blog, thinking that it’s only for women, I’d love to hear from you. If your spouse/partner/brother/friend is dealing with being childfree-not-by-choice and would love to have an outlet, please encourage him to get in touch. I’d love to be able to publish some guest posts from men, or even an (anonymous) interview, and I think the women in this community, as well as the men who are quietly looking for help, would really benefit from hearing the man’s point-of-view.
You can contact me through the About Lisa page or directly at editor [at] lifewithoutbaby [dot] com. I look forward to hearing from you.
I am so glad to see you providing this type of support to men. My husband did not have infertility — our inability to have children is caused by my poor egg quality. When we were trying to conceive, he acted like he didn’t care if we ever got pregnant. He was always saying to me, if it happens it happens, if it doesn’t it doesn’t, try not to worry about it so much. I always perceived his comments to mean he didn’t care about having children and that I was going through all this hope, pain, dissapointment and despair alone. We stopped “trying” about 6 years ago and have moved on to a life without children and have recently started talking about the pain of what we went through when I was going through infertility treatment. He told me he was pretending not to care so that I wouldn’t feel so bad. He thought it would make me feel worse if he showed how much he wanted it to too because I was the reason we couldn’t have a baby. He was really surprised to find out how alone and depressed I felt through the whole process. I thinkthe only reason we started talking about this openly was because last year, we went to an event with our friends who have children, and we saw all the kids are from 9 to 12 and know each other well. When we got home, my husband cried because it made him physically see all that we missed out on. He told me he didn’t really understand the pain I was going through until that moment and realized he really wasn’t there for me when I was going through infertility treatment, and apologized for it. I really hope that other men reach out to your site as a resource and are helped by it.
I almost hate to comment here because I hope the space can be filled by some male voices. My husband has been of the “I don’t want to talk about it” or “do anything about it” variety. He told me he was tested long ago and that the outcome apparently was not good, but he did not wish to undergo a new SA test. That was that. He did not want to try IVF because of the roller coaster of emotions it was likely to throw us into, and he did not want to try IUI with donor sperm. Sometimes seeing my frustration, he said different things to me, but then balked or changed his mind, or didn’t follow through even in discussing it. We has said he is interested in adoption, but we never carried through with it. He is 58 now, so I am pretty sure that limits our options as far as adoption is concerned. I finished a PhD and now have student loans, but no full time job. Cannot find one in the city we live in. And I feel it is most important for me to feel financially secure and independent. Not having a living income of my own and not being able to do anything about our childlessness had left me feeling vulnerable and helpless, and needless to say with extreme anxiety. The thing is my husband is generally very generous and supportive. This whole issue regarding our infertility/childlessness has been the absolute exception.
I discuss most of what you are asking about in my blog ivfmale.wordpress.com about going through the IVF process from the male point of view. My commitment to being open and honest forced me to make several posts I was really reluctant about, but I’m proud that I did.
My take on why it appears the male partner doesn’t express his loss to the other one comes down to how he views his role in the relationship. Society tells us men should be strong and fearless. When the loss occurs, we feel it just the same. But we perceive our role as being the anchor, to be the strong one in the partnership, and so we bury those emotions thinking that is our role. I also think it might be an instinctive defense mechanism to push the fear and loss aside in troubled times in order to survive. If your best friend was killed while hunting you had to ignore those feelings or you would be next.
Men are afraid that by showing what they are feeling will cause more pain for the woman, which it does. As my wife can attest too. But if we hold those emotions in the woman is hurt because they think we don’t understand their devastation. I’m not sure which is the right way or the wrong way to act. I’m just trying to explain the perspective of the other side. The reason you got so many responses from men about not knowing who to talk to comes down to our insecurity about showing emotions of fear and loss. We don’t know who is “safe” to talk to about these feelings. By safe I mean someone we won’t upset and also will not judge us as weak for having them.
guys, I’m not even sure it comes easier to us women. We might have it easier to find a woman friend’s shoulder to lean on and whine to her and even let the tears flow, one, two, three times. But going through infertility means that the tears may flow for months and years and even the best friend will at a shockingly early time say things like “why don’t you just (fill in: “try another round of IVF/adopt/go to the sperm bank/divorce that guy/learn to live with it/concentrate on your career/etc…..and by the way, have I told you that little Kevin got his first tooth now?”). All of which hurts us and we will also stop talking to those women friends.
So you’re not alone, and please, talk to your wives/partners.
When I was going through infertility I didn’t tell a soul. I was surrounded by women who had children so easily and at any age. Not only did I think they wouldn’t understand, I couldn’t talk about it without crying. A lot of people see me as a very strong person, privately and as a lawyer, and I didn’t want to show weakness. I’m a lot like a guy in that way. And like Elena, the few times I tried to talk to people, I was met with some sympathy at first which quickly turned into impatience and I received comments like, what did you expect at your age, why did you wait so long, if you really wanted a child you would have adopted, why don’t you just buy a donor egg, etc. Infertility is a very hard subject to talk about for everyone. In my relationship, I think the problem was that I held everything in to try and be strong and felt horrible about myself, and my husband held everything in and I felt horrible about him too. I’m glad we are past it and I don’t know if there is any easy solution for getting through it.
By no means am I saying this journey is harder for men. It’s not. Please don’t think I don’t recognize how much harder the if journey is for the woman partner. With all the friends having kids and all the ignorant advice you get from friends who don’t know any better.
I’m just saying sometimes you need us to be the rock and be strong. Sometimes you need sympathy, understanding and sensitivity. Sometimes we guess wrong. And sometimes we don’t know why we aren’t affected by something we should be. (I think this is instinctive.)
This is one of those counter intuitive effects. Where the man opening up and showing his emotion causes the woman to hurt more seeing us hurting. When in fact it is helping the grieving process for both of you. Unless the male understands this, he is likely just going to hold the emotions inside thinking he is helping you.
Thanks for posting here. I’ve been following your blog since you posted a comment here last week. It seems, though, that you and your wife communicate well. My husband is older and though he has lived in the U.S. for decades, he comes from a non-Western culture, which is more reserved about these issues. That might be why speaking about it, even with me, is more difficult. In my case, I think it is probably better for me/for us, that my dh did not focused on our infertility/childless status as much as I did. My problem, however, is that it was very difficult for me to get him to communicate with me about it at all, at least initially. He held back a lot, and that left me feeling alone and frustrated.
😆 My wife would say we don’t communicate well. She tells me I turn into a wall she is talking too. But I try. That was also one of the reasons I started the blog. To help communicate with her the feelings I had trouble with speaking out loud.
I didn’t perceive what you said to mean the journey for men is harder. I know it’s hard on everyone. When I was going through infertility, I was so upset and angry that there was nothing anyone could say to make me feel better. When I look back at it, I do think that if my husband was more openly upset it probably would have made me feel worse. Because back then, everything made me feel worse. It’s just a tough place to be. I love my husband for trying to do what he thought was right. He didn’t hold anything against me, so how could I hold a grudge against him.
I read your blog about your IVF attempt and I really felt your pain. I really appreciated your perspective – helped me see myself through my husband’s eyes. I hope it gives you some comfort.
Thanks for reading it and for your sympathy.
The blog does bring comfort knowing I’m not alone and getting these feelings off my chest.
You bring up an interesting point about your husband trying to do the right thing and you feeling it would have made you feel worse if he opened up. That’s why I initially said I didn’t think there is a right or wrong way to act, because every woman is different.