Infertility: Five Things Husbands Need to Know

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.”

Laozi

Deeply loving a woman going through struggles with infertility can be quite different than many men may have thought. The way those women need to be loved, deeply loved, can look so different than before the stork flew right over your home and on to the neighbor’s front porch.

Husbands may think if they hug her, stick by her, and sprinkle an “I love you” occasionally in days that seem tough, all will be well. Unfortunately, these men may soon learn that the way they have always supported, and deeply loved, their wife no longer feels the same to her. This is not to say that we don’t appreciate those loving ways, just that we may need something more for we are no longer the same.

So while Marc Sedaka offered “Ten Things Not to Say to your Fertility Challenged Wife,” I offer “Five Things Husbands Need to Know” while on the fertility journey with their wife.

Five Things Husbands Need to Know:

  1. For many women, the deepest part of our identity, the core of our belief in our self and our worth, lies in our womb. Many of us don’t realize this to be the case until we are told this essential part or our being is somehow broken, less than perfect. In losing that part of ourselves, our self-esteem can plummet (whether we show it on the outside or not). Please remember that just because we put on a strong face, it doesn’t mean we aren’t crumbling on the inside.
  2. The loss of our natural ability to conceive, without intervention or effort, can create an underlying, insidious, devilish whisper in our ear that the essence of our femininity is lost. We can feel the proverbial bloom is off the rose, our sparkle has faded, and our sexual desirability has flown away. What we need from you is to hear we are still beautiful, to have our hiney’s smacked when we walk by you in the kitchen, and to see in your eyes what we have lost in ourselves–the perspective that we are sexy and desirable. If you too reject us, it can be like Mohammed Ali has punched us in the gut.
  3. Hormones are no longer our friends. They go up, they go down, we feel flushed, we stop sleeping through the night, and we swing between bursting into tears and raging as though a sage brush caught on fire. No matter how we might want to “control” this, we can’t. This too adds to our diminishing self-esteem, for some days we don’t even recognize ourselves. Please don’t point this out; we already know its happening.
  4. Having this empty well of desire, so biologically driven, to become a mother creates tremendous pressure on women. For some, the lingering possibility of adoption provides some solace–knowing that at least if our bodies continue to betray us we may still one day become a mother. While we understand that our partners may not feel the same way, we hope that they will understand that taking away that last option puts all of the enormous weight and pressure on our shoulders. This weight we carry like a gigantic boulder up a mountain as steep as Everest. We want there to be space for you too, however this boulder sits squarely on our backs each month as we obsessively take our temperature, pop supplement after supplement, read every book we can find, and turn our bodies inside out grasping for any last hope left. Know that this is a heavy, heavy burden to carry–our entire hope for motherhood planted squarely in our failure.
  5. Loving our husbands so deeply gives us the courage to keep going. This love also leaves us tremendously vulnerable to your silence. We know that it can be hard for husbands to talk about fertility challenges, yet when you talk with us, hear us, share your thoughts and feelings, we can feel your deep love for us, and this is what gives us the strength to keep going. We understand that your silence can be loving, not wanting to say the wrong thing, yet in hearing your voice we feel we are not alone, we feel the strength of being deeply loved in a way we may not be able to love ourselves in this space of our lives.

Every woman is different, some may feel these things, and others may not. No text book answer exists as to how we each need to be loved. I simply offer the five glimpses above so the men who love women on such an arduous journey as infertility may see those things of which we do not speak, and know those places in us that are the most tender and that can be wounded with the lightest touch of a feather, or the hardest strike of a stone.

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