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Nicole the Fertile Chick: Infertility & the Male Ego

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There are few things in life as fragile as the male ego. Men like to think they are strong and virile…and what bigger attack on their virility is any suggestion of infertility. This is absolutely unheard of and unacceptable to most of them. But alas, for many couples, this is the reality.

I remember the tug of war it took to get my husband to go for a semen analysis examination. It was all fine and good when I was the one submitting myself for one test after the other, but after a while, I could no longer hold it off. My initial tactic was confrontational. I came down hard on him to at least participate in our quest to know why we were finding it difficult to conceive. Epic fail.
That yielded absolutely no result. Then I tried the guilt trip. Constantly in tears, asking him why he was intent on making me an object of riddle. He was touched enough to console me and assure me this wasn’t so, but he wasn’t moved enough to subject himself for any examination. It wasn’t until I finally realized that I had to massage his ego that I finally got him to the hospital. I had to master the art of toasting. I filled his ears and head with sweet nothings of how virile he was, how I was sure there was absolutely nothing wrong with him, how this was merely something to get off the checklist, etc., before he eventually decided to do it. Thank God his results came out fine.

I thought I was the only one who had this problem, until my friends in the same situation shared their own experience. Almost all of them had to fight hell and high water to get their men to just get checked already! For those whose husband’s results weren’t good, most of them had to deal with the additional task of patching shattered egos. Their husbands spiraled into a wave of irrational behavior, some of them went into denial, some demanded 2nd, 3rd, and even 4th opinions, and some just resorted to direct attacks on their spouses. It was usually at this point that the wives would hear about how many women their husbands had supposedly impregnated in the past, so how could it possibly be them? Without a doubt, from the cases I have seen, male infertility is an even bigger threat to a marriage than female infertility.

I know too many couples that, when the general belief was that their infertility was the female partner’s fault, the male partner would be all sugar and cream, supportive and stoic. But the minute the finger of blame was turned the other way, Prince Charming would turn to a raging, defensive beast, vicious, attacking, and even philandering…anything to prove to the world that he was still as virile as any man could be.

But there are always some exceptions to the rule. I know a couple whom, upon receiving the news of the male partner’s low sperm count and motility, after a brief period of grieving over this news, the husband became even more proactive than his wife, overhauling his lifestyle by cutting out smoking, drinking, exercising more, taking necessary vitamins, researching all their options, etc. From being a passive partner in the fertility quest, he became the more aggressive one. Thankfully it paid off for them.

I think women are just stronger, and built to absorb a lot more. Whilst we might be physically weaker (though not in all cases ☺), we can definitely withstand much more. How many men can take the monthly heartbreak of a failed cycle, go through the invasive rigors of fertility tests and treatment, not to mention the psychological torment from some friends and family? Not many. Their egg like egos would shatter at the very first crack.

That said, I also know some women who have been downright mean about it. A friend of mine, who used to cry endlessly when she thought the fault was hers, started using her husband’s infertility as a missile every time they had an argument. This same person, who almost obsessively craved her husband’s support when the cause of their infertility was unknown, became the partner that thought she could do better. Many-a-time, she mused loudly about whether she should leave the relationship, as she was still young and fruitful. And to save her own face, she made sure everyone knew who the root cause of their infertility was. Needless to say, their marriage did not last.

But let’s not write men off completely. They sure know how to rise to the occasion when the need arises. There’s no better cheerleader than a good husband. Even though we women carry the weight of the cross, a good spouse sure knows how to help ease the load. And when the battle is over, and you are blessed with a pregnancy, you can’t get better foot rubs and massages than from the proud Daddy-to-be.

As women, we just need to be aware of these fragile egos, and know how best to stroke them. That has proven to the best way to keep peace in the home, and to make the (in)fertility journey more bearable.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Monkey Business Images

Nicole is a woman in her late 30s, with a passion for all things fertility related. She suffered infertility for the first 3 years of her marriage, and found it extremely isolating. After she had her kids, she started The Fertile Chick (www.thefertilechickonline.com) to create a community and happy-place for all women, in various stages of the fertility journey.

8 Comments

  1. Tess

    December 1, 2014 at 9:27 am

    Their refusal is unbelievable , I jumped from one hospital to another doing tests (and re-test) all over the place,taking fertility drugs, (i took one that bloated me so bad i could not wear shoes or jewelries)…and the doctor said ‘let your hubby do a sperm analysis’,i said ‘oh no worries,thats not a problem at all,he will even do it tomorrow’. And the Doc smiled and said, no let him abstain for a while,so i got home and offhandedly told him,his refusal was a shock.he suggested instead that i finish all the tests that can be done and then we can be sure the problem is his,i nearly died. I was screaming what sort of insensitivity is this biko.I complain about how uncomfortable these tests are and you are asking me to do more instead of just dropping your sperm,its not like they will examine your ‘privates’, After pleennnnnty talk,he agreed.

  2. prynced

    December 1, 2014 at 11:38 am

    A friend also suffered infertility for 3 yrs and the heat her inlaws caused was not easy at all although the hubby helped to defend her against his family openly, he too was secretly adding to the heat behind closed doors. At a point she had to go get checked and did all manner of painful fertility test bt the husband refused to go with her and so he was so inquisitive about knowing what the result would be. My friend’s result wasn’t too good bt as a sharp babe, she told her hubby the doc invited him for his test too and den he will address both of them of the results as a couple. Le hub didn’t have any choice bt to go for the test and his result wasn’t too clean also, bt thanks to God who works in mysterious way, they now have a little angel without the IVF which was prescribed to them as the only solution.

  3. fertile

    December 1, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    Funny enough my husband didn’t need any prodding and fuss o. He followed me for his semen analysis last month. Am going for hsg this week. Hopefully this month is my month ooooooo

  4. AAsh

    December 2, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    Took over 6months to convince my husband with plenty talk-talk oooooo……………..I wish all those trying to conceive the best of luck..

  5. Omawunmi

    December 2, 2014 at 9:55 pm

    I found out I was pregnant the day my husband was scheduled for his analysis. My husband was very proactive about conceiving. I had always known I didn’t ovulate every month and was on the third nand final month of clomid. A new doctor scheduled me for hsg on a Wednesday but wanted my husband to come in Saturday before me. He was so ready to go. He even insisted we had sec everyday even if we were quarreling. It was serious business. Ttc is difficult and I hope you all get pregnant soon. Don’t give up.

  6. Omawunmi

    December 2, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    *sex

  7. Mrs_Sassy

    December 21, 2014 at 10:40 am

    I absolutely adore your posts Nicole, and I find them uplifting as I read your struggles that have become my own in the past 6 months. I’m discovering laughter amidst my tears of frustration, hurt and isolation. Thank you for writing such heartfelt posts. God bless you.

  8. Alex

    June 29, 2016 at 9:06 pm

    Apples to oranges comparison regarding women’s strength and mans “lack of”. Women fear most never becoming a mother. This is what they fear and grieve. Extreme cases of baby rabies have resulted in females cutting fetuses from the bellies of other women. For men, infertility itself is the issue. Baby, not so much.

    So, you can compare male infertility to being told that you as a woman will never be able to carry a child to term, and you cannot adopt. You may babysit, but no more than that. This is what shatters a woman’s spirit. No fragile ego needed.

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