Thursday, March 4, 2010

Supporting Your Spouse on the Fertility Journey

I recently came across a blog post in which a woman who is enduring fertility issues was infuriated at her husband because he wanted to buy an expensive gadget for his car, not getting that they needed to save for infertility treatment. “He just doesn’t get it!” she repeated throughout.

I hear her pain and frustration, and I understand her husband’s woes too. Fertility issues have the potential to squash the life right out of a relationship. Dealing with infertility can be so challenging on many levels—emotional, financial, physical—and as Dr. Alice Domar points out in her book, Conquering Infertility, what makes matters worse is that women and men handle it differently. She writes, “…even though our sensibilities and roles are far different than those of our ancestors, women are still biologically and neurochemically hardwired to want babies in ways that men simply are not.” That says a lot right there! And can explain why we can get so obsessed on the baby trail, so emotional, while our male partners don’t fully understanding the depth of our obsession or emotion.

Although men may seem not to take the whole thing as seriously as their wives do, Domar’s research shows they do feel the pain and they do care; they just react differently than women. Which is why it’s so important to TALK and stay open during this process! Support groups and counseling can also help!

It’s also good to keep in mind that men can feel totally frustrated and completely helpless in their ability to make us feel better. They want so much to help, to do something, but feel there's not much they can do.

With that in mind, I wanted to share something personal my husband wrote: his tips for supporting your wife on a fertility diet, and on the journey in general. Things men can actually do to make a difference. So, from  Pierre’s male perspective:
  • I changed both my diet and lifestyle to support whatever fertility decision was made. It’s too hard for her to do all this if the partner is not doing the same things. I feel it is OK, though, to cheat a little on the fertility diet when eating out, if it is necessary to keep your sanity.
  • Try not to complain too much when you are tired of the fertility diet and all the overhead it brings. Just pretend that it’s OK, not a big deal, which is true considering all that she has to go through in order to become pregnant. The guy’s job is pretty easy!
  • Don’t think about the price of the all-organic groceries. Keep in mind that it’s nothing compared to what a kid will cost over the next 20 years. Even the treatments, herbs, acupuncture and other expenses do not add up to the price of raising and educating a child. Anyway, do you really need that new car or a bigger TV ?
  • Do the grocery shopping and prepare the food. It’s something you can do.
  • Avoid creating added stress or arguments. Not only is the fear of not succeeding always present, but also all the dietary and lifestyle restrictions, plus time-consuming fertility activities, can make life very difficult emotionally. All the hard work you are doing can be spoiled by stupid arguments and unnecessarily stress.
  • When you can’t stand it anymore, when you’d really like a cold beer or a particular cheese-laden dish at your favorite restaurant, or you’re simply tired of the whole journey, just push a little harder and know that once the child gets here (or shows up in your wife’s belly), you will be able to have anything you want again. This is just temporary. Your wife will be so grateful for all the support you provided, and that is a priceless reward. You did it together, and it will make your relationship much stronger.
  • All the sex is great. However make sure you don’t let it become an obligation. She is always looking at the calendar and when it’s time, you better be ready, because she’ll be asking for it. She’ll probably tell you about the date a few days in advance, just to make sure you’re aware of it. It may be annoying, and even lower your desire to have sex, but hey, sex is always good, and even if you are not in the mood, try not to show it.
  • Tell her that she is pretty (because she is) and be nice (bring flowers, give her kisses). All these things contribute toward making her happy, which in turn can encourage success. She has to be in an environment (and emotional state)  that will help us reach our goal: becoming pregnant. And for me, the faster the better. Of course never let her feel pressured by time. But the more you help, the faster it will happen, and the faster you’ll be able to go back to your previous diet and enjoy some of the foods you couldn’t have while on the “fertility diet”.