Not only was I depressed, but I felt less masculine. Here's what helped me and my wife.
Early in our marriage, I talked my wife into using contraception. I didn’t understand the reprecussions of that choice until it was over.
The doctors did not warn us about the long-term effects of contraception. Some modes of contraception act like a poison to a woman’s ability to conceive, others throw a woman’s body into a haywire, manipulating their hormones and ultimately confusing the body.
When I approached my wife and told her that I wanted to stop using contraception, there was no moral conviction that caused me to make that decision. I simply thought I was ready to be a father. Little did I know, it would be months before we could conceive.
See, the hormones affected by contraception take time to get back to where they need to be in order to be healthy, let alone conceive as they were meant to do. Like anything that passes through our bodies that counter natural cycles, they take time to recover.
By no means did we expect to conceive right away, but as time wore on, I began to feel the pain inside my heart. Depression was nothing new to me. As a young boy I was put on Ritalin, which made me feel like I was never in control of myself. Later, in my teenage years, my behavior changed frequently. I grew incredibly apathetic to everything, not wanting to participate in team sports, never wanting to complete schoolwork, and oh boy, a very low self-esteem. Those who knew me would never have guessed though – I was always seen as the class clown, life of the group, and never to turn down a dare or a good time.
But it was an act. For so long I had felt like I had to be a certain person, as if, if I did not act a certain way I would not have friends and my parents would be disappointed in me. I was then stuck on the anti-depressant Welbutrin, but, I’ve always had a will of my own and no matter the level of dosage, it didn’t work.
When my wife and I wouldn’t conceive, those feelings came back. In a rational state I understood that things were taking so long because of the hormone issue. But in my head, and on my always-self-convicting shoulders, I told myself that it was my fault. First, for forcing her to ruin her body. But primarily, because my body was not performing as it was “supposed to.”
As a man, egotistical or not, I wanted to be able to give my wife what she wanted when she wanted it. After so many times of “trying”, and the stereotypical jokes of “practice makes perfect,” the reality of non-performance set in and I felt like less of a man. Suddenly all those episodes of Friends where Chandler Bing couldn’t conceive weren’t as funny.
I was depressed. Sex was less enjoyable because I felt like it was not complete until a certain objective was met. To me, I was less masculine. Stress was high. Most of all, my social interaction was tainted by my inability to conceive.
People around me would ask, “Is she pregnant yet?” “I have these clothes I need to get rid of.” “Maybe you just weren’t meant to have kids.” “Keep trying.”
I can only imagine what a woman feels like when they cannot become a mother with their own body, but as a man I can tell you that infertility is no game. Real men want children too, we want to be fathers, and as husbands we’ve got to be together with our wives on the issue of infertility. For me, it came in time. Here are some ways I suggest couples can help keep their marriages strong during infertility:
Talk. Discuss everything, but stay positive. And men, lead the conversation, your wife needs you to be strong.
– As a practical step, get with a
FertilityCare practitioner, who can help and guide you through this hardship in your life. They provide direction, remedy, and support for you and your marriage.
Don’t blame yourself. Blame leads to guilt and the last thing you need is a finger pointed, especially your own.
Keep hope fresh in your minds. The second best way you can support each other is to lift up hope, knowing that like a sword, your marriage will grow strong and sharp through pressure and fire.
Pray. Include God the Father, Son, and Hole Spirit on your concerns. He already knows and shares in your suffering. Pray together and often. Like sex, make it a concerted effort to do it regularly. After all, sexual intercourse is the direct reflection of the love between the Father and the Son, whereby their mutual love literally process the Holy Spirit, which is why our creed reads “I believe in the Holy Spirit …who proceeds from the Father and the Son”.
Those are my thoughts and suggestions on infertility for men, and couples as well. Feel free to share your suggestions or less in the comments.
Shaun McAfee blogs at ShaunMcAfee.com. Currently he is pursuing a Masters in Dogmatic Theology with Holy Apostles College and Seminary where he also serves as the Social Media Director. He also works for Patrick Madrid’s Envoy Institute as the Social Media Administrator. A convert to Catholicism, he loves learning, explaining, sharing, and defending the faith. He is married and has two boys named Gabriel and Tristan. They live in Omaha, NE.