A Guys guide to IF – Part 4 – the sexist truth

So you’re here…you’re sitting in front of your designated fertility god. You and your missus are finally meeting him face to face and you’re desperately relieved to find he doesn’t look the slightest bit Latin American, he’s not wearing a necklace made from the wrinkled genitalia of past patients…there’s no blood drenched altar in the corner of his consulting room…there’s no sign whatsoever of gruesome and inhuman acts…he’s just a normal, kind looking gent in a white coat who really wants to help you achieve your dream…phew.

It’s at this point that it becomes difficult for me to tell you how things are going to progress…there are too many variables, too many potential issues that you, your other half, or both of you could be experiencing for me to tell you how things will proceed from this point….so, instead of trying to do that, I’ll tell you some things that I do know…

Remember the first instalment of this guide…the post where I told you that the reason infertility was such an issue was all down to the female biological clock and their programmed need to have children? That if it wasn’t for this instinctual behaviour programmed into their psyche, that you wouldn’t be infertile – you’d just be childless. I told you it was all her fault that this is now the single biggest issue in your life – and will remain so until a suitable resolution is achieved…

Well, I’ve got news for you…not only is it the fault of the female in your life, the fact that it is now totally controlling every aspect of your life means nothing.

You’re not gonna get any sympathy, you’re not gonna get supportive messages from friends, family and colleagues who know about your situation. The chances are you’re not going to join a support group, join an infertility forum, start meeting other men struggling with IF on a regular basis for coffee and a chat. There’s this feeling that women suffer infertility and should get treatment, support and sympathy, but if it’s the guys fault, well, he’s just not man enough.

Because, not only is it their fault…everyone thinks it’s their issue…it’s a woman only problem…it’s like breast cancer…not many guys out there getting support for enduring that disease.

Now I know if you’re reading this and you’re a women, your eyes will be large saucer shapes displaying your horror at what I’ve just written, you’ll be taking in deep breathes in shock at the politically in-correctness of my claim, you’re preparing to flame me with unending angry messages, preparing to write to whoever you need to write to in order to have my blog taken down…but hear me out.

Firstly, this is a guys guide…so I’m talking to your other half…

Secondly…argue with this…

When women tell people they’re suffering with infertility, 9 times out of 10 they’ll get sympathy, a hug, a gentle pat on the back, sad bambi eyes as the person says something like “shame, that’s terrible, tell me all about it”…guys will get silence. The guy they’re telling will suddenly be unable to make eye contact, will fidget, and after about 10 seconds of excruciatingly uncomfortable silence, promptly start waffling on about their favourite sports team’s dismal performance this year. And that’s if they’re lucky!! If they’re unlucky, there’ll be comments about not being man enough, not doing it right, there’ll be offers from some bastard that he’ll take your wife somewhere and get her knocked up for you, but whatever happens, guys will look at him as if he’s somehow less of a man.

Joined any infertility forums? Many guys on there? The Cigar Room (or whatever they’ve named their guy zone – if they even have one) burning up the bandwidth with thousands of posts a day? Read many blogs? Found many guys out there talking about their battle with infertility? Nope, didn’t think so.

But that all pales into insignificance with the differences between the male and female experience when you get to talking about tests and treatment…

What do you think the general reaction would be if I suggested women actually enjoy having internal scans? They call it the ‘dildo cam’ after all…not many women own a dildo for something other than pleasure. How do you think it would go down if I asked someone on the forum if they enjoyed their examination, if they were looking forward to the stirrups? Not very well I’m sure…

But these same people who would be so horrified, will think nothing of asking the same question of a guy and his semen analysis. There’s nods and winks all round – even the nurses will have a joke. As if MSM (medically sanctioned masturbation) is somehow exciting and fun…like it’s nothing to be apprehensive about, nothing to be shy of, nothing to dread. There are snickers and smirks…next time your missus has a scan, as she comes out of the changing room afterwards, give her a nudge, and with a twinkle in your eye, ask her if she enjoyed that…and see what reaction you’ll get.

I bet it’s not a good one!

Ok, I hear some of you saying that at least with an SA, you’re generally alone, it’s just you and the sterile container, there’s no doctor prodding or poking you with phallic objects…and I get that…but that doesn’t mean us guys are looking forward to the next instalment of ‘shoot to win’.

I think a lot of women forget that for a guy to ejaculate, he has to be aroused…he has to be ‘up’ to the task at hand…The problem with this is that arousal is 90% mental and 10% blood flow…and I don’t know if any of them have been in the local andrology room of their clinic, but my experience is they’re hardly inspiring. Hell, one of the clinics in our town doesn’t even have a designated room – they make their male patients use the unisex toilet!!

Add to this the pressure of knowing what’s at stake, and that you’re going to be handing your not-so-sterile-anymore container over to someone who is then going to analyse the contents in minute detail…and then report back on their findings…like some dreadful school assignment that’s just destined to end in tears…and, if your wife is on a forum or writes a blog, she’s gonna be shouting the results from the roof top…and you just know if your count is good, your morphology will be bad, if your motility is high your quantity will be lacking…there’s bound to be something below par…because what you really need is another blow to your self-esteem!!

It’s like when you have to give your GP or nurse a urine sample…they’ve given you the container, but you’re never sure how much to hand back…you don’t want to have just a little slopping round the bottom, but will they look at you strangely if it’s filled to the brim, and what if it’s a really strong pee and smells…handing over your semen sample is like that, but amplified a million times. You take a look at the container before you unlock the door of the andrology room, desperately wishing sperm cells were big enough to be counted with the naked eye: are they deformed, are they moving, is there enough…I’m sure there was more in the container last time…damn, hope that’s not a bad sign…

Then you hand it over to the lab technician, desperately hoping they’re not going to hold it up to the light, peer in and say ‘is that all’ or something equally embarrassing.

And this is all before we get to any of the procedures…somehow no-one seems to consider any form of sperm extraction or aspiration or varicocele correction as a particularly big deal…it’s shrugged of with a snigger or two, some comment about walking like John Wayne while stifling a laugh…but any mention of the women procedures and there is sympathetic grimaces, descriptions of the correct uses of a heated beanbag, the best pain medication and well wishes for a speedy recovery.

And maybe this is all out fault. Maybe us guys have brought this down on ourselves…

As I’ve said previously, we have the sex drive and they have the mothering instinct…we are the unfeeling rocks and they are the ones with emotions. They’re the sensitive souls and we’re just insensitive.

Maybe this is why no one credits the concept that a guy might want kids just as much as his wife does. Very little thought is given to the emotional toll infertility may be taking on us. No one seems to think about the stress and the strain we may be going through…it’s like just because we’re not advertising it, it’s not there…and that’s why they can laugh at what we have to endure…hell, all we have to do is jerk off every now and again…and we probably even enjoy it…

Maybe this is why infertility is all about the woman…she’s the customer and you’re just a supplier in this equation…

We don’t talk about our feelings, our worries and concerns and as a result it’s like they’re not actually there. Maybe if we told them how scared we are of not having kids, of having a bad SA result, of the way the thought of a BFN keeps us awake at night, how seeing them in pain causes us more pain than the rest put together, then maybe, just maybe, everyone might start acknowledging that us guys are battling this infertility too.

Maybe if we spent a little less time keeping everything bottled up to protect our loved ones, they’d be able to see that we sometimes need support and encouragement too. If we were a little more open they might better understand that we have our good day’s and our bad day’s too, and that sometimes when we’re acting difficult, it’s because we’re also exhausted from being in the trenches fighting this battle, and it may help if we didn’t feel like we’re second class citizens in this sexist land of infertility.


~ by HopelesslyTTC on 04/08/2010.

12 Responses to “A Guys guide to IF – Part 4 – the sexist truth”

  1. How many men would be willing to swap treatment with their wives? Honestly, I don’t think we would have gotten very far if my husband had to undergo the 1 to 2 month hassle of an IVF protocol. I’m only speaking for myself here, but I wonder how many other women have thought the same.

    I know for a fact my husband would have been content to go from childless to childfree.

    Do men not join forums/blog because women don’t want them around or because most don’t feel the need to? I suspect it’s the latter.

    • Hi LutC – thanks for the comment.
      I hear what you’re saying, but I don’t totally agree…(surprise surprise ;-))
      I’m sure there are a few men out there who would take on the rigours of an IVF cycle if they could…I would do practically anything to stop my DW from being hurt, experiencing pain or unhappiness. Maybe my perspective is different – having been on multiple injections for over 18 months, week in week out, it feels like an IVF cycle is a pretty short timeframe…I know its a lot more stressful and intense and the meds/hormones play havoc with your bodies and minds, but us guys experience a bit of the side-effects – like secondary smoking, we get to deal with the tears, moodiness and grouchiness…we feel the excitement, the pain the heartache of a failed cycle – I know this isn’t the same, but we don’t get off scott-free.

      Maybe it’s different because I’m the problem case in our little infertility equation…I don’t know. I also think the biological driver can not be under-estimated…there’s no doubt that woman have the drive…and maybe that’s why they take on most of the responsibility…that and the nature of the conception/gestation arrangements in mammals.

      I’ve been on a fertility forum for a year now, one of the only guys on there, and been made to feel more than welcome…but I guess what I was trying to get at was that there’s this feeling that because guys don’t talk about their emotions, don’t post about the stress and strain they’re feeling as a result of IF, that they don’t have any, and I’m pretty sure that’s not the case.
      I think you’re right about guys not posting on forums because they don’t feel the need…but not in the way you mean it…I posted a while back about the ‘Men are from Mars’ viewpoint, and I do agree with it…when women are in pain, upset, stressed, etc they want to talk about it…guys don’t…when they’re feeling these things they retract, they pull back…and that’s why forums are practically 100% female…and that’s before we add in the stigma’s around IF.
      I absolutely hate the concept of the ‘pain olympics’ and aren’t trying to compare who’s going through what pain/discomfort/etc…but just think that sometimes the guys perspective is totally ignored…and like I said, maybe it’s our own fault because we don’t talk about what we’re going through enough…

      But, anyway, in summary, really…thanks for commenting!

  2. Hello Hopelessly TTC,

    I want to let you know how much I admire you for writing this blog entry. I absolutely agree with you that men do tend to be treated as second class citizens with regard to infertility (heck, men tend to be treated as second class citizens, even when they become fathers!)

    Yours is the first blog on infertility I have read, that has been written by a man. Please keep it going, because I truly believe you are a pioneer in providing this forum for other men who can relate to what you are going through…

    As a woman who has been dealing with infertility, I salute you for reminding us that men are the OTHER HALF of the infertility equation — on all levels.

    • Hi Compassionate.
      Cheers for commenting.
      So well put “…men are the OTHER HALF of the infertility equation…”…that’s exactly what I was trying to get at!!

  3. Thank you for sharing your perspective. In the ‘pain olympics’ of infertility, it seems that everyone looses. Procedures stink for men and women, and women by in large have a stronger community of folks they can talk to about their struggles with IF. I am sorry that there are not more male bloggers giving voice to the challenges of being a man who suffers with infertility, and I appreciate you sharing your story. I do think that it’s interesting that you began this blog addressed to your children and not to the outside world.

    IF is a deeply personal issue in modern society, riddled with guilt and shame, even now. It’s not fair, it’s not right, and I’m sorry that any of us have to deal with this crap.

    So please keep sharing your perspective; while I guess that much of your readership is female, many of us have spouses who are occassionally encouraged to read your comments, so in some small way your words are validating other men’s experiences. BTW, my husband just mentioned how grateful he was that our clinic allows you to bring in your sample as long as it’s been collected within 30 minutes and you keep it warm. Slightly (but only slightly) less humiliating.

  4. I love your posts! You hit the nail on the head (*ouch* No pun intended). Men are made to feel less manly, not worth it, shamed if they can’t get their wives pregnant. Yet, despite it all it is considered ‘a woman’s fault’.
    I think that so many guys shy away from support (in all ways- forums, blogs, in person) b/c these area are predominately female by default. Guys tend to congregate just as much as girls.
    Sigh. What is the answer? I wish I could change it- I know my husband would gain so much from getting online. He did a little bit when he had his surgery…but since then it has been out of sight out of mind.
    Thank you for your blog and your honest take on the situation.

  5. oh, and I know my husband would take IVF shots in a heart beat. He did the “butt cam”, testicular fileting, and tons of blood work. He doesn’t have to take shots (azoosperma), but I know if there was a treatment regime that would help him, he would be ordering the meds and sharpening needles.

  6. How very true, I’m loving this ‘series’ of blogs because it’s true. It’s so very different for the men and they’re not allowed to be vunerable! I can’t tell you how many ‘arseholes’ have offered my DH to take me for a ‘ride’ (barf) to help him out! If I’m in the vicinity I tell them I’m the reject not my DH and watch them eat their words!!!! Or I could spit fire when he’s told he’s shooting blanks! ARGHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    My heart bleeds for DH every time he has to visit the wank tank and I cringe at the thought. I sometimes think it’s worse for the guys purely because, like you say, they don’t really have an outlet or they’re not allowed to have one. Whereas we do…. So thanks for sharing and I’m thinking of printing your posts off to give to my DH to read 🙂
    Thanks for sharing, as always it’s honest and true view of what struggles we face on a daily basis!
    AGAIN – YOU NEED TO WRITE THAT BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  7. H – THANK YOU for this post, it has helped ME alot in terms of our grappling with IF. Too often it is taken for granted that only the women suffer because we are considered the emotional ones. I battle with getting Travers to open up on most topics. I love that you have opened up; I love your brutal honesty. I even read some of this out to Travers.

  8. thanks for the beautiful posts H !
    writing a book would be such a great thing …. i hope you will.
    i do not have much to say but, i am v. sorry for the things you experience and endure and can just hope that at the moment you share the fruits of your efforts, you will feel like you both have your share !!
    – when i root and think of you and hope for you; i think about both of you, “H&H” as an entity. however, when it comes to writing, i write to your other half more often, because it is easier, from woman to woman…

  9. Loved reading your Guide. I chuckled all through it, as it is SO true. It has been almost exactly like that for us up till now.
    I so wish there weren’t this stigma surrounding guys and infertility, and unfortunately we women don’t always make it easier for you guys. (jip, I did jokingly ask my Husband if he “enjoyed” giving his sample…) I also accused him of not being “in it” like I was – for his lack of showing emotion – only to hear he was trying to spare me, as he could see I was suffering. I guess we still have a little of the “cowboys don’t cry” mentality going, how sad.
    I am forwarding this blog to him now _ maybe it will inspire him to create his own!
    Good luck to you guy’s!

    • Hi Erika,
      I think for many guys, they don’t want to share their emotions and talk about the hurt they’re feeling because they see their wives suffering so much already – it would be mean to add to their worries. But I’m not sure that bottling it all up is the answer either, and that many women would prefer to know what their other halves are thinking and going through, because even if it does add to their own heartache, at least they know they’re in it together.
      Lets face it, IF is a bugger that affects us all, and can do awful things to a relationship…we just have to keep communicating.
      Thanks for commenting and best of luck now you have your results and hoping for a natural PG before you get to your specialist appointment.

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