Loss and Infertility: A Man's Perspective
Infertility is not only something which hurts the hearts of women as they struggle to get pregnant or carry a pregnancy to full term. The men in their lives are hit with the hard reality as well.
As someone who has experienced infertility (secondary) and watched other friends struggle with it, I have also witnessed first hand the way it effects the men in our lives. Even though it is not happening to their body personally, there is something very difficult about watching someone you love struggle in this way. Not only that, men have a longing for a child just in the way women do, so it is hard when a dream and desire is hard to make a reality.
I found a quote that sums up pretty clearly how I believe men feel going through this situation,
"As little control as women have over the process, the men in their lives have even less. Yes, they can attend visits and administer shots, but men are mostly on the sidelines trying to figure out how to help."
There is no way I myself can convey how a man truly feels to suffer in this way, so I turned to some men I know who have wrestled with this hardship. Here are their experiences:
"How does one even start when talking about miscarriages?
I remember sitting on the couch with a friend who had just experienced a miscarriage, I believe it was between our 2nd and 3rd one, both of us in silence. We didn’t talk much, just sat there, comforted by the presence of another. There are really no words in the face of something like a miscarriage, no purpose, no meaning, no life to reflect and reminisce about, there is only a loss of what could have been.
Although each person is different, the challenge of the husband is that the loss is both real and unreal at the same time. We have bonded to the idea of the child but have not yet gotten to hold them in our arms. Our wives experience a profound union with the child during pregnancy but ours is an anticipation of what is to come and then it is ripped away. Even the grief between spouses is different because the relationship is different.
So what do we do? How do we cope? How do we care for our wives in their anguish? We can only be present to one another, drawing strength from the recognition that we are not alone. And that is the beauty of the Cross and of Christ, especially this Lenten season. The Lord has drawn near in our suffering and he weeps with us. So that is where my wife and I went, we went to the cross together and we sat there in the face of tragedy and anguish, but we were not alone and that made all the difference."
"Miscarriage. I grew up knowing that miscarriages happened, that families I knew experienced them. But until my wife informed me of our own, I had no true understanding.
How to describe the pain that I had no reference for. The loss of a new life, a baby I never met. Words fail to describe it. I am a man, I know my experience is different than that of a woman who felt the changes, or felt the baby moving, but I still felt pain.
I have heard from a few men who have experienced this and a common theme is they do not know how to help. This is normal and it's okay. Men often want to fix things, and this is something we cannot fix. We want to show our wives love and support in that moment. And it can be hard to know how to go about doing so, especially when we are also in pain. You can’t fix it. But you can love your wife. You can share with her that she is not alone, show her you are also in pain, without minimizing hers.
One thing I have found to be helpful is to share the pain of our loss together and to be vulnerable with my wife. We have grown together through these hard times just as much as the good times."
"Navigating through infertility was very difficult for my wife and I, and I honestly never thought it would affect me. Trying to conceive started out as enjoyable, promising, and spontaneous for the first month or two. But after a couple of months, in order to hit my wife’s “white” baby days the best, the spontaneity inevitably led to more of a “schedule” that needed to be followed.
For months we rode a roller coaster of emotions – It started with the highest of the highs of sheer excitement during the days leading up to when we would be taking a pregnancy test and the hope of seeing a positive reading. But this was followed by the lowest of the lows when the pregnancy test came back negative.
The emotional ups and downs of that small little pregnancy test were unreal and one of the most difficult things I’ve experienced. Our mentality began to change; we quickly transitioned from “Oh, it’s probably nothing” to “Will we ever be able to become pregnant?” Every single month and negative pregnancy test that went by, led to stress, anxiety, and major doubt. We were constantly praying every night that God would help us through this difficult period. We wanted his will to be done, so we prayed asking him, if it wasn’t in his will for us to have kids, to take the desire off our hearts because it was too painful otherwise. And as a husband, I had to keep my own fears and emotions in check so I could be a rock for my wife through such a difficult time."
Reading the words of these mens experiences really brings the tragedy of infertility and loss to full circle. The sting of something wished and something lost s very real for all those involved. As I have said and as these men have said, the most import thing a couple can do in this situation is come together and walk this journey hand in hand.
To help couples walk this road I have provided some sources:
-The Fruitful Hollow is a Catholic resource and community for those who struggle with infertility. It a places for you to feel heard, find understanding, dive into Church teachings and be inspired by stories of fruitfulness in the wait.
-You can contact Jenny Ingles Director of Fertility and Life Ministries for more information
-The death of any loved one is a traumatic and complicated experience. There is a unique impact however of losing a child. Red Bird Ministries mission is to serve those who are suffering from loss.
-Stationed out of Austin, Texas, Sarah’s Hope & Abraham’s Promise was created as part of the Rabboni Institute to offer healing and support services for those struggling with infertility, pregnancy loss and for those celebrating the adoptive triad.
-Springs in the Desert accompanies those struggling with infertility by offering a place of respite and solidarity where they can know God’s love for them and discover His unique call to fruitfulness.
Firmly rooted in the anthropology, ethics and spirituality of the Catholic Church, and our shared experiences of infertility, Springs in the Desert affirms the goodness of marriage, upholds the giftedness of the child, and advocates for a broader understanding of what it means to be life-giving. By keeping our focus on Christ, not on conception, we give witness to His Divine love and mercy and the goodness of His plan for our lives.
As always we here at Groesbeck want to help couples in this journey in anyway we can. If you would like to learn more about the Creighton Model and how it could work with your situation please contact us or message one of our practitioners directly