When I first began reading infertility blogs, I was more than a little concerned why there was such a dearth of men writing about this topic. Did it only bother women? Did their husbands even care? Or just not enough to write about it for the world to see? What did they think about their wives blogging? I know that men and women handle sub/infertility differently, and that not all can ever be accurately portrayed through written word, but I recognized this difference as just another thing to add to the pile that makes infertility so isolating. It separates even the husband and wife at their most intimate moment.
It affects both of us and we are one through the sacrament of marriage, but to say that we handle our sub-fertility differently would be an understatement. And not because one of us is doing something wrong. There is a reason women write about it, besides being more relational in general. A woman’s body is the one that is to be changed by childbirth and motherhood, while a man’s body would always stay the same regardless of their fatherhood. Since it is happening directly in my physical body, a body which was designed to do something that its not, it often feels like I am trapped in the middle of the storm, fighting a physical battle against an uncooperative body and swimming in hormones that scatter emotions without my consent. My husband, while not directly in the storm, has a front row view of it and can feel the fringe of the rain and wind. He’s so close to the storm and witnesses everything, but he escapes the torment of literally being in the storm.
To be so close to that storm, see it raging and battering their wives, and yet be powerless to stop it? I don’t know that I give my husband the credit he deserves for being strong enough to endure it.
And yet, I’m thankful he’s not trapped with me. From his more observant role, he’s able to have a better perspective on what’s really going on, he can see beyond what I can I see when I’m trapped in the dark clouds. He can see the blue skies coming in the distance, where shelter is that will help me weather the storm, and just generally accompany me to show me that I am not in the storm alone and I will not die there alone either, no matter how it looks from my angle. And for this I am thankful. It is not a fatal storm. I cannot imagine the chaos if he was trapped in this downpour with me, day in and day out. We wouldn’t be able to guide each other and we might truly loose our direction.
There were times in the beginning of this experience that he didn’t quite realize how dark those clouds were – how could he notice from where he was? The hurricane doesn’t look that bad from a distance. There are days he could use some reminding that my perspective is not so clear as his, that its not so easy for me to just ‘know’ that this storm will pass when all I see are clouds in any direction. Sometimes when the thunder is screaming and the howling wind is deafening it makes no difference what my husband says anyways. I can’t hear him through the racket. Besides, his words have no power on the storm itself. It will beat against me regardless. There are days when we just have to literally cling together and bear the brunt of it. Wait for it to pass and for the bluer skies to come. On those days that I am so tired of being beaten down and drenched that his hands and hugs are the only thing that seem to reassure me that it will be OK.
That’s when being apart is the hardest.
Fortunately, I had the chance to ask my husband a few questions and record his concise answers on paper a few months ago when we were being interviewed for a story in the CCL magazine. I’m so glad I have his responses now that we’re apart and I can’t feel his reassuring embrace during the tougher moments. I wanted to share his thoughts here, especially since the husband’s perspective in the infertility blogging world is so scarce. They’re in bullet format, nothing fancy, and I bolded the parts I liked the most.
– One difficult part of dealing with infertility is that you’re in a minority group that is not recognized in our culture. There is no acknowledgment that infertility is a privation of a good, the inherent good of children, something that should be present. This doesn’t have personal implications so much as implications for our society and where our values are at. It makes me sad that people can’t understand anymore that this is such a sad thing, unlike 500 years ago when it was probably more universally recognized. It also conceals the cross of this suffering since people don’t have the ability to understand that its suffering. There’s no empathy.
– The emotional toil comes from trying to balance how much you let go vs. how much you pursue treatment. The pain is in the uncertainty of how to act. It takes a lot to answer these questions and dig deep to see who you are and where you’ll go from here. This has helped our marriage because by being forced to address these hard to talk about topics, we’ve been forced to acknowledge, address, and accept the deep fears of possibilities that attack the foundation of marriage: 1) you might never have kids, 2) as much as you’d like to think otherwise, you are weak, your marriage covenant is vulnerable to one of the deepest attacks that can happen to a married couple, 3) you may not leave a physical legacy. Although it is hard, this makes you discuss the very foundation and principle components of what exactly makes your marriage unique and distinguish that from what is desirable, but ultimately optional.
– Infertility is a good reminder that we’re shooting for the Holy Place in Heaven, not the Hall of Fame on Earth.
– This trial has made me realize how the graces to communicate about this issue are stronger for my wife and how I need to grow in that regard. It is 110% true that infertility effects men and women differently. Every month brings about discussions that have small graces and is almost like a test when I see our relationship is suffering as a result of the different ways we handle this cross. Am I going to choose God and be inspired to change or will I ignore those graces? Making our marriage work in the small ways and the day to day life when this is hanging over our heads is the hardest part. Every moment is a challenge for me to be better than I thought I could be.
– Advice for men starting to go through this: Make yourself ponder those three points and be able to handle their consequences. You learn a lot in silence and meditation, as with other trials. Listening to your spouse rather than trying to figure them out is more important, half the time they just want to be heard. Although this cross may feel like its affecting your wife more and your wife is directing the lead on how to handle it, remember that your meditations and spiritual direction are also very important to your marriage. Don’t be afraid to offer prayerful direction to her.
There, that almost felt like a virtual hug.
What does your husband have to say about your sub/infertility? What does he do best that helps you through the storm? If you write a post about it, let me know!