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The Fertile Chick: For the Men!

Nicole The Fertile Chick

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dreamstime_m_5005851When people talk about TTC, and infertility as a whole, a whole lot more emphasis is laid on women…how we feel, how we’re coping, how we’re being treated, how the world is treating us. It’s pretty much all about us. We often tend to forget about the feelings of these men journeying along with us.

When we were TTC, my husband was very supportive. But he was also annoyingly optimistic and even sometimes blasé about the whole thing. Till the very end, he never could understand my fear, my panic, or my frustration. He couldn’t understand why we just couldn’t relax and go with the flow. He didn’t see the need for us to put ourselves through so much stress, for something he was sure would happen in the end. And I know a lot of other women with spouses like that. Some have said we’re the lucky ones, but many would beg to differ. When your spouse isn’t on the same level of urgency as you, and tells you things like “It doesn’t matter if we have sex today or not” when you are smack in the middle of your fertile window, you don’t quite feel so lucky.

And then there are the TTC women whose husbands are the exact opposite; closely monitoring and micro managing their cycles, diet, meds, etc., sometimes even more closely than they would. These are the men who are dead serious about the best time and positions for conception, the men who have become Dr. Google’s best patients, the men who will stop at nothing until the baby comes. Some people would also call women with partners like this lucky…but do they agree? Not so much. “Nicole, he is driving me crazy! All I want is just to take a break…to have a breather! But he wants us to cycle again right away!” was the lamentation of a TTC friend of mine, a few short weeks after their failed IVF cycle. So no, she wasn’t feeling that lucky to have one of this rare breed of men…because they are a rare breed. Of all the TTC women I know, this class of men make up probably about 10%.

I won’t even talk about that other class of men, the men that are unsupportive and emotionally/verbally abusive partners. The men who derive pleasure in taunting their spouses about their infertility, calling them names and issuing ultimatums at the drop of a hat. No, not today. Discussing this group of men, which unfortunately makes up a growing percentage of TTC men, is a separate topic entirely.

But why do our men react to infertility differently than we do? Why are they often unwilling to even talk about it? I read something online that alluded to the fact that, unlike women, men are not reminded on a monthly basis of their fertility, or lack thereof, thus making them appear less sensitive and distressed by the TTC journey. I also read about how the fact that men typically get diagnosed further down the line (with their wives diagnosed a lot earlier in the TTC journey), and also because their own diagnostic procedures are not as invasive or complicated (any woman who has had to endure a transvaginal scan or hysteroscopy can attest to this!), it makes them even further removed. But I don’t quite agree with this though. Regardless of how ‘easy’ it might be for the men to just pour semen into a cup, a diagnosis of infertility is just as, if not even more, harrowing than when it is the women who get the verdict.

For me, I think it is a cultural thing. Our men are expected to be the strong ones…the ones who don’t break…the Mr. Fix-Its. Our culture expects men to be strong in the face of adversity, and for a lot of men, strength requires emotional detachment. This explains why some of our spouses are a little too ‘rational’ and ‘optimistic’ about the process, why some of them would rather give you a brief hug and a cuddle, rather than cry along with you.

This theory of mine was further enhanced at the recent BeiBei Haven Pregnancy & Baby Loss Awareness Seminar, when one of the speakers talked about how strong her husband was, not only during their TTC process, but even after the painful loss of their pregnancy. She said he remained her solid rock through it all. She had no idea of the pain he was bottling in until a friend of hers went to her house unannounced, shortly after their miscarriage, and found her husband wailing like a baby, the floodgates of his suppressed emotions opened.  At first I felt so sorry for this man, and all other men who have had to bottle their emotions in order to show their partners strength. But I realized that in my own TTC days, I too had been dependent on that strength. Would I have liked it if both my husband and I would be in tears every time my period showed up? Would I have preferred it if we had both been crippled with devastation after the failure of our first IVF cycle? I’d like to say I would, but the truth is having him be the strong one was a huge relief for me.

But now, in hindsight, I can’t help but think it might have been tad a selfish.

Though it might be hard, I think TTC women need to take a step back sometimes. Step out of your own emotions and focus on the emotions of your partner, even if he is forming strong dude. Ask him about his emotional needs, instead of assuming. And if he brushes off your question (as many of our men would), hone your listening ear to pick up on his verbal and, more importantly, his non-verbal communication. Understand that men tend to process their emotions through activities like work, projects, sports, etc., so give him the space to do whatever he needs to manage the stress. If being blasé and optimistic is his own coping mechanism, learn how to accept it. But most importantly, let him know that he doesn’t need to act the tough guy, and that if he ever feels the need to express his emotions…his sadness, disappointment, grief…you’ll be there to support him.

It’s not easy, but in the end, it’s about realizing we’re in this together!

Baby dust to all!

Photo Credit: Monkey Business Images | Dreamstime.com

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.

13 Comments

  1. Anon

    November 18, 2016 at 2:04 pm

    “For me, I think it is a cultural thing. Our men are expected to be the strong ones…the ones who don’t break…the Mr. Fix-Its.” This is a reach for a culture where the man can just “be” himself (good or bad), flaws and all. But it’s up to the woman to be strong, to tolerate the man, bear the burden of offensive in laws, TTC, adultery etc.

    Please

    I get that you’re trying so hard to not step on toes, but let’s be honest. Infertility is almost always seen as the woman’s fault. The Nigerian woman is blamed for everything (except money, the one thing Nigerian men are supposed to bring), and the men are relatively passive no matter how they care because it’s always conditioned as the female “problem”. Most prayers, church crusades about TTC are about barren women. Even Africa Magic movies are about barren women. Although 40% infertility is from the male side, even you failed to address that. Even you made it seem like it’s the woman’s “pathology”. What you should have written about as the TTC woman with a voice (BN reaches a vast audience) is that it’s not always the woman’s fault, and we should learn to incorporate the man into the issue more. Of course it affects the man because it’s HIS family and his wife, so why is him breaking down in tears a surprise? Isn’t he a real person? In trying so hard to play safe, you actually didn’t leave any real points.

    • Nuna

      November 18, 2016 at 3:11 pm

      OMG You completely misinterpreted what she was trying to say

    • Anon

      November 18, 2016 at 3:23 pm

      I didn’t. It was about the different ways in which men react, and why they are expected to be so “strong”. However, they aren’t expected to be so strong, they are “permitted” however, to be just as they want. A man being strong is just one of the many ways he can be allowed to “be”, she did mention the other types e.g. The nosy ones, the abusive ones etc. These are the real issues underlying what she was saying and I was slightly unsettled to see that she was careful to not skim the surface. She could have added that sometimes it’s the woman that should be the “strong” one because it’s the man’s fault, and many times it secretly is but it’s still the man that everyone cares about and applauds for being “there”

    • Well done Anon

      November 18, 2016 at 7:20 pm

      Seems like you are just learning that women like to rant and will take any opportunity to do so. Well done Anon.

    • Well done Anon

      November 18, 2016 at 7:41 pm

      Some women

    • Xoxo

      November 18, 2016 at 3:25 pm

      As far as I’m concerned you hit the nail right on the head. My thoughts exactly.
      I normally enjoy your articles Nicole but on this one I think you’re way off.

  2. Toyin

    November 18, 2016 at 2:44 pm

    It is all fundamental, cultural and whatnot put together in one pod. From personal experience, I was being strong for two and had to be strong for her while she was down, Nonetheless, it all came exploding out in the parking lot when we saw a couple going in for childbirth with the guy holding her hospital bag and she pacing slowly. Boy, I burst out crying that it was my wife consoling me and drove us home. Men have our ways of dealing with grief and anxiety.

  3. penelopeia

    November 18, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    For me, I do not know what category I should put my husband. We tried for 2 and half years before I got pregnant with my first. One year later I told Mr. let’s start TTC, he says no, wait, baby is only 1 year, what’s the rush, etc etc. Two years later he wants to try but he has, wait for it, OLIGOSPERMIA, sperms do not even wiggle, oddly shaped sperm-heads and all.. Doctor said i ovulate perfectly and on time, now I have to nurse my husband’s sperm to life; encourage him to takes his meds, exercise and all. I don’t know how his reaction will be if the tables turned

  4. adaeze

    November 18, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    My husband needs to hear this…We have been married for a year and some months…Getting pregnant has been a real struggle! From having thrush every single damp month to scratching my va jayjay like a house on fire! Every treatment has been to no avail…Fluconazole…to Canesten…etc. No relief. Using a new gynaecologist now,I hope it yields positive results.
    It has been a very lonely and depressing journey. My husband doesn’t seem as worried as I am..He feels that God will do it at the right time..He says I complain about the issue too much and that I should just rest and let nature take its course.

    It’s very hard trying to be sane sometimes; the ‘endless’ questions/statements …’when are you guys gonna have kids’,’ your face is fat,has it happened’?, ‘You don’t want to tell me abi,? Womb watchers everywhere! I just tire. I can’t even change my bbm dp in peace ! (Anyway, I have resolved to leave social media till it happens)

    Sometimes,I try to live my life,be happy and stop comparism with some other people who got knocked up sharp sharp. Even close friends only tell you they are pregnant when they are about seven months gone! Lol. IT IS WELL

    True story…..

    • Lady

      November 18, 2016 at 5:21 pm

      Hi Adaeze, I had the same problem but it has stopped after a year of struggling. Firstly, pls check for a UTI. that could be the reason for the whole struggle. I used Augmentin as recommended by my Doctor and it went away. I still use Canesten around the joy stick area just to be on the safe side (I know I don’t need it but once bitten…..) and I make sure its clean all the time. Also, I do not sit down on any toilets and I try to drink alot of water and stay away form sugar and finally I do not use tissue but baby wipes as its kinder to the sick around that area.
      I feel totally fine now and I am currently finally TTCing. I hope this helps you.

    • Lady t

      November 18, 2016 at 5:55 pm

      Hi Ada,

      I have had the same issue for about a year and when ever I would go for a HVS it would always yield no growth mind you i was using all the insertables and creams. I was so frustrated and tired. I finally took a UTI test and it came back positive. I used Augmentin as recommed by my doctor and I haven’t has an episode since.

      I personally stopped taking all the anti-trush drugs cos I was just tired. I started taking more water, and I use baby wipes instead of tissue paper as per my doctor’s recommendation. Also, I wear free panties like no g-string and stuff like that. Finally, I try to stay away from sugar and I try to keep down there as clean as possible at all time. I hope this helps.

  5. adaeze

    November 18, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    *damn

  6. tunmi

    November 18, 2016 at 5:14 pm

    The men should write in. It’s not helpful to make assumptions on their behalf

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