In fact, if our infertility had not continued as it has, I probably would never have known how much this has pained him. In the early stages, perhaps the first year or so, I don't know if I once asked him how he was coping. I was absolutely overwhelmed and could only think how my dreams were being dashed.
The reality is that my process most likely did begin before his. Even before we knew definitely that something was wrong, I expected it. I'm the one in my body, afterall, and the problems I have, the issues that have led to our infertility, didn't appear over night. It didn't take long for me to find myself pedaling full-steam ahead when he was still using training wheels, trying to wrap his mind around our new reality.
I have learned a few things, though, and, because he and I have become better at sharing how we feel regarding this, I continue to learn. Like any struggle, this is simply what has happened with us and what has worked--for the time being, anyway--for us. I hesitate to call these "tips" for everyone, so I'll just say these are my tips to myself to keep my husband and me sane together.
- Ask him how he feels. Ask him again. And again. Then wait patiently, and wait some more. Know that sometimes I'll get a release of response, and sometimes I won't. It's the same with me, though -- sometimes I want to share a lot, sometimes I don't.
- The response of "I just feel sad" is perfectly acceptable. Sometimes there are no grand ways to explain our emotions. We know we're sad, and that's enough.
- Keep him filled in and updated on conversations I have with others. Naturally, people ask me more often than they ask him how we're doing. He can easily get out of loop, and that can be hurtful to him.
- When it's appropriate, remind others to encourage him directly, to ask him how he's doing, to recognize his pain.
- Embrace his optimism, even when I want to shut it down. Know that God may be giving him a word or understanding that, for whatever reason, I don't have. At the same time, allow him not to be the rock sometimes and give him the freedom to question and cry just like I do.
- Pray together and share Scripture that has been encouraging, even when it feels forced. And it will feel forced, at times.
- Know that we will be at different points of grief, understanding, and even excitement throughout this journey, and that's okay. It's about going through it hand-in-hand, not necessarily experiencing it the exact same way.
- Take advantage of every "outing" he wants to have, whether it's late night runs to Taco Bell or seemingly extravagant vacations. We're in this together, and our life cannot be on hold just because we don't have children. Our life is what it is, and we need to embrace it.
- Tell him why I think he will be an amazing dad someday. And tell him why he is an amazing husband today.
- Let him believe that we really are going to have the little girl he wants even when I think we'll have a boy.
I've heard of marriages being torn apart because of infertility. I can see why. It is easy for anger, blame, and resentment to quickly creep into a husband-wife relationship, especially since no pre-marital counseling ever prepares you for this. Communication is tough anyway, so trying to communicate emotions you don't even understand that well can make it nearly impossible. But with God's grace, a marriage can be strengthened by such a struggle. Love--the true, patient, selfless, sacrificial, undying love of Christ--must become the key.
There are not many resources out there specifically for or about men and infertility, but Stepping Stones does have one article that is worth reading. It is called "When a Husband Hurts" by Rev. Burton F. Wilbur, Jr. It actually is about the pain a husband felt through two miscarriages. Although it is not about infertility in general but is more about the grief of losing two babies, it is honest and helpful.