Whether you are coming through treatment with your female partner, as a single man, or undergoing treatment as a same sex couple using a surrogate, this article is for you.
Often, any conversations about fertility and treatment, can be about the experience for a woman, from causes of infertility to the physical elements of treatment, to the emotional toll that infertility and treatment can take. This can leave men feeling left out, or not sure where they ‘fit’ into treatment.
Although most of fertility treatment generally is more of a physical burden for the woman, there are still many challenges that men can face in treatment. Male fertility issues are common and can be a main cause of infertility. This can leave men to feel responsible and guilty that their loved one has to go through treatment. It may be that you need donor treatment or surrogacy as you are not able to conceive without one.
Irrespective of your situation, it can be a challenge to find your place in treatment.
Here are some tips to help you feel more part of the process, more connected into treatment and help you cope with what lies ahead:
- Attend as many sessions and appointments as you can, including the sessions that you are not mandated to attend. The medical and nursing sessions are particularly helpful so that you are fully informed about treatment. This is likely to be helpful for any partner that you are going through treatment with, as they can share the responsibility of learning about the medical processes and consider together any important questions for nursing and medical staff.
- If you are attending as a single man, think about taking a support person, so that they can be an extra pair of ears!
- It is ok for you to feel a range of feelings about infertility and treatment, from hesitation, to worry, to hope and perhaps doubt. If the fertility issue sits with you, you may feel embarrassed, and some men hold a sense of shame. Sometimes it can be frustrating to accept the need for fertility treatment, as you may watch people that you know conceiving easily.
- Avoidance of feelings has a place, but not in the long term. Sure, use those distractions to ward of feelings at times! But remember that there is great freedom in acknowledging feelings, sharing them, and learning how to manage them.
- If you are in a relationship, it is not unusual to experience different feelings and or ways of thinking about treatment. It is common for one person to focus on ‘being positive’ and the other to be more emotional and cautious about results. Take time to listen to each other without judgement, as there is room for many approaches to treatment and no way is the right or wrong way.
- If you are not sure how to support a partner, ask them! Sometimes it is easy to go into ‘fix it’ mode, making guesses about what your partner might need. You may nail it (well done if you have!), but you may not! Why not make things easier by saying something like ‘I want to be there for you, how can I do this best?’ We forget that we don’t have to automatically know what our partner needs and it is a sign of solidarity and respect to let your partner know that you are listening and responsive.
- Build a network of people that support you. Consider telling a few close and trustworthy friends/family/colleagues so that you have support ready and waiting.
- Book a supportive counselling session if you feel that speaking to someone outside of your personal and work life might be useful.
- Focus on self-care. Treatment can be a rollercoaster ride and there are likely to be some great ups and possible tough downs. Make a self-care plan for yourself which might include exercise, time out, and some fun activities.
- If you have a partner, take care of the relationship. Listen, be thoughtful about your interactions and be kind. You have an essential role in creating a calm and supportive environment.
- Remember, a man’s role in treatment is valid and essential!