Shooting Blanks: A husband's perspective on infertility
Infertility is one of the most gut-wrenching and emotionally draining experiences known to man (and woman) kind — and finding ways to deal while learning to still live a satisfying existence can be a difficult task.
Many different things can cause infertility, but no matter the cause, it leaves everyone asking the same question.
What did I do wrong?
There is an unspoken order to life and certain events are supposed to unfold in a fairly consistent manner. After elementary school and Jr. High, we all move on to our high school years with an eye toward the future and begin to plot out what is important and what is expected.
The all-American youngster begins to envision a life trajectory that looks something like this:
Graduate high school
Choose a college
Choose a career path
Search for a spouse
Marry your sweetheart
Find a job
Have kids and live happily ever after
Life can go off course at any point along the way, but one of the hardest trials to deal with is checking off each and every one of those items on your list one at a time, and then just waiting and waiting for that last one. Whether it's an awkward exchange with old ladies at church or a Sunday dinner at grandma's house, trying to explain why you haven't had children yet to anyone and everyone who is suddenly an expert on the topic, gets old pretty quick.
After eight years of trying to conceive, my wife and I are resigned to the fact that it will likely take extraordinary (and expensive) measures to have a child of our own naturally. Adoption has always been an option but has yet to feel like the right thing to do (and trust me, there is no shortage of people asking us if we have thought about it).
How to communicate
One of the biggest stumbling blocks between couples can be finding ways to communicate feelings and expectations. Whether it’s justified or not, men are stereotyped as being poor communicators and sometimes it really is for good reason.
Say it out loud
We may not say it out loud (and probably won’t); we may not seek help emotionally (honestly, the odds of that happening are slim to none); and we, for sure, never want to admit that we just might be shooting blanks. But we feel it all. If you are honest and open, communication not only becomes easier but more fun as well.
One day at a doctor's appointment for my wife, I got to talking with a friend of mine, Steve Ruiz who is a physician's assistant, about his own struggles with infertility. It was the first time I had a conversation with anyone other than my wife about some of the funny things we have encountered over the years. It might sound cliché but sometimes laughter truly is the best medicine.
Learn to laugh
Guys, it's tough to admit you are wrong or don't have all the answers, but once you let down your guard and show your wife you are hurting too, a bond is formed and finding ways to laugh becomes exponentially easier.
Finding a way to laugh (at yourself most of the time) and having a sense of humor has been the key to maintaining strength in my marriage. Guys tend to keep to themselves when it comes to topics like this, but the power and importance of opening up and communicating with your loved ones cannot be overstated.
Learn to enjoy her texts and phone calls all day
Most married men know exactly what I'm talking about. Our wives loveto instant message, text, Facebook and call pretty much every hour on the hour. If there is tension at home, this ends up wearing on you, but if you are able to find ways to look forward to her communications, she will notice and the sincerity actually means a lot to her.
How to cope
The hopes and dreams of newlywed couples vary, the timing of life events do as well. When those hopes and dreams begin to slip away it takes a lot of work to stay strong.
Re-examining expectations can be depressing but with patience and love, unity is possible. If a natural-born child is out of the question, adoption is a more than viable way of creating a family.
It might sound cheesy, but serving others can help to fill the void. When you think about it, parenthood is the ultimate outlet for service so the natural way to feed that need is to turn outward and focus on serving the people you are closest to.
Most of all, just laugh.
Of course having children (even just one child) would be like winning the lottery, but as long as your spouse is your best friend and you can laugh together no matter what — you've won the jackpot.