Love and Marriage, Waiting for Baby Bird

Q & A: The Infertility Husband Tells All

Recently, at one of my infertility support group meetings (The Nest), my husband braved a room full of hormonal and emotionally charged women to answer any and all of their questions.  He opened up his heart as he shared the good, the bad, and the ugly side of infertility from a husband’s perspective.  We laughed, we cried, but most of all, we all learned a lot about the differences between a men and women in regards to this struggle.  And afterwards, he was gracious enough to pen his responses on paper.  But because he discusses “boxes” quite often in his answers, I suggest you first read this post that we wrote together called, “Men Are Like Waffles {and why this matters to women dealing with infertility}.”  If not?  The answers he gives might just leave you with more questions….and more confused looks.

The Infertility Husband Tells All

 1.  Do you ever feel like throwing in the towel? If so, when does this feeling usually happen?

Not on the idea of having a child. I see that day in my future. Even before I believed that it was God’s will for my wife to be healed of anything keeping her from conceiving a child, I had a gut feeling that we would eventually a child. However, I have on the other hand felt like throwing in the towel on trying to support my wife because most times my heart wants to do many things for her, but my brain says they’re stupid and she won’t like it. Therefore, I end up doing nothing at all and I know this in turn hurts her more. And as a result of my lack of efforts in supporting her and being sensitive to her needs, I feel like a failure of a husband and I just want to quit. Quit trying and quit thinking about trying. Because if I were honest, even trying to come up with ways that I think might support her is exhausting. In retrospect though, I know that I should still make the attempt and still make the effort even if I believe that she will think it is stupid.

Husband Tip:  If you see a negative pregnancy test in the trash can upon returning home from work, immediately leave the house and come back with her favorite candy bar and soda. Or maybe even some flowers and a card.

2.  What have you been most afraid of throughout this process?

First, I believe that every fear is rooted in lie.The worst lie that I’ve let deceive me is that I might lose my wife, my best friend, along the way. Through the process, our relationship had at one point whittled to where I thought all was lost and scattered. I thought it was completely broken, shattered, and ruined. I thought that I had lost her entirely.

Only one other fear comes to mind. It started as we were driving home from our IVF treatment. The whole process was overwhelming and I thought for a moment, that if this doesn’t work out, then I guess we won’t be having kids. I said before that my gut feeling was that we would have kids eventually, but that feeling or emotion changed (as emotions do). This was before I believed the truth that God wants our bodies to be healed of diseases and sicknesses. Before I knew this, that lie broke my gut feeling down and made me feel hopeless, but now that lie doesn’t bother me because I know the truth – God wants our bodies to be whole and complete, lacking nothing.

3.  Most days I don’t think I can go more than two minutes without thinking about something baby or fertility related. How often do you (and do you think most men) think about having children and being a father?

Umm…probably very little <<head rolls down>> – Well, probably less than once a week. The infertility box is just not a box that we men keep open. We can’t figure it out, so our minds don’t keep it open. We open other boxes where we succeed or have fun in – i.e. work, food, hobbies (and each one has it’s own box), sex, relax, sleep, cleaning…

There’s even a box for “When I’m a Dad”. It’s different from my infertility box. The infertility box is a box that has a problem that I can’t figure out. The “When I’m a Dad” box is a fun and joyful box that is fun to fill. For me, it all relates to fun activities or objects such as fishing poles so we can fish together, hunting blinds so hunt without him scaring all the deer, little baseball gloves and footballs so we can play catch – You get the point… I’ll be honest, cribs and other baby decorations for the walls never make me open my daddy box and think, “Man, I can’t wait to decorate his room with all that…stuff”. But hey, you talk about it as much as you want, because if that’s what you like, then that’s what you like. Just don’t get mad at me if I don’t have the same reaction as you.

4.  How do you feel when a friend or family member announces their pregnancy? My husband says it doesn’t bother him at all, almost as though he is indifferent. Do you think this is true or is he putting on a front?

This has changed over time. Prior to knowing about infertility, it was more like, “Oh wow, you got a kiddo coming? ‘Your life is gonna be different!’– ok, next subject, where are we eating lunch?”

Now when I hear about someone getting pregnant, I wonder if they struggled. I’m genuinely happy for the couple regardless. Sometimes, I know the couple was struggling with infertility and I get really excited when I hear the news because it’s a testimony of how God redeems.

But I’ll be honest. Sometimes, fear and jealously slips-in and makes me wonder, “why not me?” It’s the Me-Monster. The me that only cares about me. In those moments, I’m not upset that I don’t have my own baby, I’m upset that my wife doesn’t have her baby.

I question, “When is she going to get her opportunity to announce that she’s pregnant?!”. In those moments, I often feel like something was just stolen from her or she got skipped while waiting in line.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy for the couple that got pregnant, but I get jealous and envious on the inside. This is something that I would never share with my wife. The main reason as to why I don’t share these thoughts with her is because deep down I know they’re not from God. And just because a thought goes through my head, doesn’t mean it’s my thought. I have to guard my heart from letting thoughts like that get planted and rooted. The only thing that grows from thoughts like that is hopelessness, bitterness towards people, and ultimately bitterness towards God.

5.  How can we support the men in our lives while we fight this battle as a couple?

Forgive him and let go of the offenses that you have against your husband (sometimes by what you thought was a lack of concern on his part). Remember that his mind is wired to operate with boxes. When we can’t solve the issue and it hurts him, then the mind will have a tendency to close these boxes and open up other boxes where we find joy or experience success (hobbies or work).

Many times, those unresolved boxes get shelved way back in the back. In other words, we build walls around issues that we can’t resolve immediately. I’m not saying it’s right; I’m just saying it’s just what happens.

The Holy Spirit works in a man by breaking down those walls and getting into his closed boxes. God can reveal truths to us that allow us to renew the thoughts that are in those boxes. – i.e. When a man has an opened infertility box, it’s frustrates him that he can’t just solve the problem. In these moments of defeat, he will feel like a failure. His mind won’t keep dwelling in this box, and continue to stay in a place of feeling like a failure. His mind will close the box and move on. The Holy Spirit can help a man reopen that box, and change what he thought “that his wife has a 2% chance of getting pregnant” to “your wife can be healed and will have the same chance of getting pregnant as any other women”. The Holy Spirit says “with God, all things are possible”. God wants to help the man renew his infertility box and go from being hopeless to hopeful.

So, don’t get mad, take offense, or keep trying to force your husband’s infertility box open. As an alternative, open up boxes that you know he likes and finds success in; boxes that your husband loves. Show him that infertility doesn’t control your lives and daily conversations. He doesn’t want you to make it all about him, he just wants the old you back when you didn’t think about infertility all the time.

What a man doesn’t understand is that infertility is a noodle in your mind, not a box. The infertility noodle touches and influences everything for you. There needs to be a mutual understanding between the both of you because as a woman, you can’t avoid talking about infertility, or make a vow to not talk about it because it will cause inner turmoil for you. You have to talk about it!

So, it would be better to confide with another friend that understands how you operate (aka, another woman). But don’t forget, that your husband wants to support you through infertility, so don’t avoid all conversations about infertility, just limit them to ones where he might find success by offering a shoulder lean on or cry on (that’s ok).

6.  What can wives say or do to help our husbands open up about their feelings willingly instead of making them feel as though they are in a therapy session? Or should I just stay quiet and wait for him to bring it up?

Guys want to be seen as your unwavering support. Sharing our feelings in such a way that would make us feel like we’re jeopardizing our strength only makes us feel weaker. I’m not saying it’s right in every situation; it’s just the way we’re wired. That’s why the mind closes boxes automatically when we can’t resolve the issue for you. If we can figure it out, it shows our strengths. We actually love to talk about and hang out in boxes where we find success.

When we feel pressed to open a box that we don’t want to open, especially in a conversation with our wife, we experience inner turmoil because we feel defeated for not be able to resolve the issue. We don’t understand that you’ve got noodles and you just want to talk your feelings out.

7.  How do you lift your wife up on the days that are hardest for her?

I’m not sure I do much at all. This question identifies my parallel to my wife’s struggle with infertility. Many women feel like they’re not good enough, or inadequate, dysfunctional, or ill-equipped when they don’t become pregnant month after month. Although my wife may have moments where she may feel useless, I know these things aren’t true for her.

Ironic as it may be, I feel completely useless to my wife most of the time. I want to write a note or give encouragement in spoken words, but it just comes out sounding stupid and lame (inadequate). Most of the time I feel ill-equipped, as if God forgot to add the piece that thinks about all the awesome things to do for your wife when he created me (I know that’s not true, just another lie). But, no matter how many times I fail and fall apart from being unreliable, I still don’t feel like I ever improve. I beg God to help me show my wife how much I love her and how much she means to me but month after month, I’m convinced that I came up short.

8.  What has been the hardest part of the infertility journey for you?

My lack of support and understanding and learning how to help my wife has been the hardest part for me. This includes seeing her cry, finding negative pregnancy test in the trash can, and watching other people have babies without her.

9.  Do you feel a personal responsibility to stay strong? Does this make it harder for you to cope with your own feelings and struggles?

Oh yeah. I definitely feel like I have a responsibility to be unshakable. As men, we want to be solid fort that our wives take refuge in from the storm.  I can’t say that owning that responsibility makes coping harder for us. It’s just the way we are. I think of coping as pushing through negative stuff, always moving forward even through difficulty. I’m making a point to define cope because the man’s compartmental way of thinking makes it possible for us to isolate issues to the point where we don’t have to cope. i.e. – For women, you got noodles so everything affects everything, but for a man, he only has to “cope” when the box with issues is open. Since we don’t hang out with those boxes open, there’s no need to cope. It’s not an issue, because the box isn’t open.

10.  How did you feel when your wife went through treatments, medications, and tests?

It was gut wrenching. I felt a sense of unfairness. – “Why does my wife have to go through this?” I’d rather bear all the weight and make it easier for my wife (but I can’t). Some days I felt “this is crazy! – what are we doing?” just because it was so overwhelming.

11.  Do you ever feel like a failure as a husband and a man?

Sometimes I do when my wife is crying or upset (no matter what the issue is) and I can’t find the words or actions that will bring a smile to her face. Other times, I realize that she just wants a shoulder to cry on. If I keep my mouth shut and she accepts my shoulder to cry on, I feel like a hero.

12.  How do you stay so positive? Is it just a front in public and in private you break down?

There are no fronts, just boxes. Sure, I cry in private. The truth is boxes are better at isolating issues than noodles. I’ll explain in a minute. First, let me give you my personal story.

When we first found out that we had infertility problems, I had a gut feeling that we would eventually have children one day. So, if you looked in my infertility box (which I normally keep closed and on the shelf) then you would find that I was “positive” about having a baby one day. And as long as that box was closed and on the shelf, then I wasn’t thinking about it, so my positive resolution never changed. Occasionally I would peak in, and I still felt positive so I closed it and moved on. In time, as we pursued IVF and other means, the infertility box kept getting opened up routinely until one day a lie came to mind while the infertility box was opened. The lie was the thought that “maybe we weren’t going to have kids” – and that positive attitude changed immediately because I had nothing but a gut feeling to fall back on. Well, feelings (emotions) change and I didn’t feel positive anymore. But praise God that he was speaking to me during these times and he gave me a revelation that has changed my life. The revelation that not only did God want to forgive me of my sins, but he also wanted to heal me of all diseases. The same faith that believed that he had forgiven me of my inherent and past sins was the same faith needed to believe that he wanted me healthy and free of all sickness and disease. When I believed this truth, I put it in my fertility box and stood on it as opposed to that gut feeling.

So now that I have God’s truth in my box, you would think that I would keep it open. Nope, it’s kinda like the romantic box. Just because I don’t do romantic things or tell me wife that “I love her” doesn’t mean that I don’t love her any less. I just don’t open the romantic box as much as I should. – BUT, I should open it and tell her every day that I love her and she means the most to me. It’s the same way with the infertility box. Now that I have solid truth that God wants me whole, I need to open that infertility box everyday and proclaim the truth that God wants my wife completely healed and whole. Her body was created to procreate.

Okay, I saved what you wanted to hear for the end. Do I breakdown sometimes. Yes, but it’s probably very different from what you think. Yes, I cry but for brief moments. Your husband probably does as well, but don’t expect him to show it. As men, we feel like we need to be the unshakable positive rock for you to lean on. That’s our way of supporting you.

13.  Should I try to get my husband to talk about his feelings or wait until he brings it up?

No, I wouldn’t push your husband to talk about infertility. Remember that if men are forced to communicate about an issue we can’t resolve; it begins to make us feel defeated because we can’t solve the issue for you.

Even when we “feel” positive or know God’s truth about infertility, we’ll struggle because we think that will you think like us and so we will try to convince you to get your infertility box in order by telling you “it’ll be okay”. The thinking is that we want you to find the peace that we have when our infertility box is closed and on the shelf.

Unfortunately your mind doesn’t work that like. Your noodles are all over the place and you need to talk them straight. Eventually, we’ll realize that we’re not solving the problem and we’ll begin to feel defeated. Once we start feeling defeated, our minds will automatically start closing the box.

But don’t take this as we don’t want to talk about infertility because we want to support you. We want to be your hero.

14.  I have always wondered why stress or timed intercourse affected a man in the bedroom. Can you explain?

Yeah… if you understand the compartmentalized way that a guy’s mind works, then this should be pretty easy.

First, we men normally like to operate in one box at a time. It keeps things simpler. We’re focused. The “bedroom” that you allude to is the Sex box for a man (no, not that kinda sex box people!). If it’s game time and I’m in the sex box, then I don’t want any other boxes open, especially the infertility box. I mean you would think that they would go together, but they don’t! Since men only like operate in one box, the more we start opening up the infertility box in our mind, the more we get out of the Sex box.

15.  What goes through your mind the second you see a negative test in the trash can?

Disappointment. My heart breaks for my wife’s heart. Sometimes I immediately want to go find her and comfort her to make sure she’s okay. Other times, I get angry and frustrated that it’s not “our” month. I try not to soak in that pity for long because I realize that it only leads to thoughts that will steal joy and hope.

16.  Do you ever confide in anyone else about your struggles and feelings surrounding your infertility journey?

Yeah I do confide with others, but I live a pretty public life in regards to infertility since my wife writes a blog about it.

Mostly I openly talk about the generics of infertility and healing as opposed to confiding with other men on the personal struggles and hurts with infertility. It is very difficult for a man to confide with other men because infertility is not a regular subject in most men circles. Because we generally only like to be in one box at a time, you generally won’t find us in a boat fishing (note that we’re in our fishing box) talking about infertility.

The main reason is because we’re both out there in our fishing box! To actually talk about infertility would be kinda weird, because we would have to get out of our fishing box and into an infertility box. And if we did that, the fishing poles would just become awkward.  Besides, not all guys have an infertility box nor do they know how to solve those issues. So, why would I want to open a box that I can’t resolve only to talk about it with another man who has to open his infertility box that he can’t resolve either – it would be a mess!

Actually, I have participated in small groups with other men where the floor was open to discuss issues that happen in life. In these moments, the purpose for being there was to open boxes where we as men struggle so that we could find support through each other. In these environments, I have found support, and peace from confiding with other men in groups and one-on-one.

Thank you for giving me the privilege to answer your questions. Obviously they’re my answers, and so I don’t expect every husband to think or react in the same manner that I have.  But at the same time, I believe there are husband’s who can relate to some of the thoughts that I have expressed. In addition, it’s my hope that this post will give some of you insight to the way your husband’s might think and process infertility.  And as you continue on this journey, I want you to just keep reminding yourself that you are not in it alone, and that he loves and wants to support you more than you know.


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