Men and IVF – We Need to Talk
I recently saw a tweet from the Huffington Post UK with the headline, ‘Male Infertility Most Common Reason For IVF Treatment, UK Audit Reveals’.
— HuffPost UK Parents (@HuffPoUKParents) March 19, 2018
At first I was surprised because it’s such a common issue and I thought I was alone.
When we found out that the main reason my wife and I could not naturally have children was my low motility count, I was ashamed. We discussed it at length, and while she told me many times that it wasn’t my fault, it is something that weighs heavily on my thoughts.
As soon as the doctor gave me the results I went through the stages of ambivalence, to disbelief, to guilt. Slowly, through many long conversations with my wife and the IVF specialists, I came to accept the realisation that something was wrong with me.
I think it would have been easier to take if it was something that was wrong with just me, and didn’t affect my family. It’s just the emotional and financial ripples that start from me and have touched so many. From having awkward conversations, to leaning on family for financial assistance, for which we’ll always be grateful.
Being part of the group that is the largest reason to need IVF should be reassuring. It’s not just me that is the cause of our incredibly long, expensive and tortuously emotional journey to have our darling daughter and give her a sibling.
But it doesn’t really help. Nobody is talking about this, especially men to each other. So let’s talk.
Our position as supportive and loving husbands or partners hasn’t changed. We need to be there, right by their side as you both go through one of the hardest times in your life. Putting your futures in the hands of the doctors at the fertility clinics is hard. It feels like you’re being rendered useless. Except this isn’t really true. Your partner, wife, potential co-parent is just as scared as you are. This is a shared journey.
I spoke with a fellow father, Jeremy Hylen. He told me “My wife and I got married later in life and she was nearing the end of safe pregnancy range. While we could have waited and possibly gotten pregnant, our doc thought we would have better luck with IVF.
The process was hard on both of us. Complications came and my wife lost an ovary, but she got pregnant first try. We lost that one at 12 weeks. Tried again and succeeded.
Beyond my brother-in-law, what helped the most was other guys I talked with telling me about their experiences. No one mentioned it until after the miscarriage.
I think that too many guys are embarrassed to talk about it. It would have been easier to know of some folks who had been there before.”
Jeremy is the parent of an always busy 4 year old, pastor at a UCC church, and co-founder of breweryfinder.org.
This is your time to open up every possible line of communication. Put the two of you first before anyone else. Your health and sanity has to be of complete priority through the checkups, appointments, injections, invasive procedures, and conversations about your finances.
While it may seem bleak, there is good news. Medical advancements in the fertility field have never been better. The article goes on to say that treatments are now 85% more likely to succeed than when records began in 1991. The doctors and clinics know what they’re doing. All we have to do is support each other and keep our heads up until we get through the other side, whether the IVF treatment works, or in some heartbreaking cases, it doesn’t.
Going into the fourth attempt, I can share that failure is something you have to brace yourself for. We were incredibly lucky to have the treatment work on the first time, but then fail on the second and third tries.
Throughout our journey, the doctors at Olive Fertility in Vancouver, BC have been incredible. They’re industry-leading and reassuring. What’s truly interesting though is the number of other couples in the waiting room. At busy times, there isn’t a seat to be had. They’re all waiting for appointments with the nurses to go through their options, picking up their medication, having one of many blood samples taken, or to have an incredibly-time sensitive procedure that could change their lives.
As men, we can talk openly about our side of this, together. But where? Leave a comment below if there should be a Facebook group, or would you prefer a private chat group? This is your chance to help lead the change. If you’d prefer to join a support group, here’s a great list.
Coming up on April 22nd is National Infertility Awareness Week and it’s the perfect time to have an open dialogue about this. Here’s the NIAW Facebook page and the Find a Support Group tool for the US.
For us here in Canada, head over to Family Matters Canada. “Fertility Matters Canada (FMC) is the national organization that empowers Canadians to help reach their reproductive health goals by providing support, awareness, information and education; and promoting equal access to fertility treatments. We are Canada’s fertility resource.”
You can give them a call at 1 800 263-2929 (toll free).
This was a hard blog to write, but I’m being real and honest. My guys are lazy. Anyone else want to put a hand up and say “Mine too”?