Thank you to Jeff at Carry The Quiver for this honest, inspirational and insightful piece. They are doing amazing work. Be sure to check them out!
It’s been too long, Quiverers. I apologize for the silence in between posts. Life has been absolutely crazy for me as I started a new job the first of the year. It’s been a great change as it has allowed me to spend more time with my family and more time working on my non-profit work. With our recent adoption, I’ve been learning how two juggle two kids instead of one. I’m not very good at it. To say that having two kids has been an adjustment for me is a severe understatement. I now know why God didn’t answer our prayers when my wife and I prayed for multiples when we found out she was pregnant after our last round of IVF. I wouldn’t have survived. I’ve also been navigating the waters of what it looks like to integrate our adopted Son’s birth family into our family. Something I have absolutely no experience with, but it has been incredibly rewarding. Tired of listening to my excuses?
Ok, so the real reason is that I’ve been debating whether or not to write what I’m about to write. I was sort of hoping that one of our followers would cover this topic before I could get to it myself. But that didn’t happen. It’s not an easy thing to talk about, especially for guys. I know this from personal experience, but I recently had some guy friends of mine going through infertility validate the realness of this bi-product of the process. Anyways, I hope that this will help someone, guy or girl. Even if its just knowing that someone else feels, or has felt exactly how you do right now. I’m a firm believer that if one person has experienced something, there has to be someone else out there who has as well. I want to share about how the infertility process affects intimacy. It’s been six years and it still rears it’s ugly head in the those potentially intimate moments.
Let me start by saying that I’m not here to point fingers of blame at the wife or husband. We all process differently. Honestly, I don’t know that there is anything that either of us could have done differently. If you’re reading this right now, and you have some great insight or tips for our readers, please share! Some of your know from my previous posts that my wife and I tried getting pregnant naturally for about two years before we even explored the possibility that it may never work. After those two years, it was about two to three years of IUIs & IVF’s. Before you know anything is wrong, the trying part is the fun part. You mutually agree to start trying and just assume it’s going to happen. Not much pressure, you just kind of do your thing and hope that two weeks later you’ll see two pink lines on a stick. That didn’t happen for us. Next you start planning what use to be spontaneous times of intimacy around around ovulation cycles. Still nothing.
The process becomes more robotic and more scheduled. It becomes more about the result than the romance. When intimacy is so tied to failure, it quickly becomes a casualty of the journey. Four, five, six nights in a row, every month with the same result. I became so consumed by what seemed to be the only reason for intimacy, creating a life. Its not a bad reason. But when it’s the only reason it becomes taxing. If you’re dude and you’re reading this, you might be thinking “Taxing? You’re crazy man, I’d do anything to have sex that may days in a row”. Before we struggled with infertility, I probably would have said the same thing! But you can slowly lower your high fives and fist pounds because that “manly drive” is all but wiped away.
I remember dreading those times of the month. It doesn’t matter if the obstacle of starting your family is caused by male or female factor infertility. As the husband you become so defined by what you cannot give your wife. You look at yourself as the one responsible for pulling the trigger, but missing the mark every single time. You may be thinking “Why weren’t you doing it outside of those ovulation cycles? At least then you’d know it wasn’t baby-making time?” At first we tried. But as we began to get more results back from the clinic, we saw low sperm counts and terrible motility. Then the off days became the rest days. Your significant other starts wanting you to save the good stuff for the 9th inning. When ovulation time comes around again, coach puts you back in the game and you’re supposed to hit a walk-off homer.
For couples fighting this battle, love making and baby making are not the same thing anymore. Sounds crazy? It’s not. I think before this happened, I truly did believe in the stereotypes that men only care about the sex part and not the being close, love’y, intimate part of the physical relationship. Maybe I was one of those guys? In my eyes though, that stereotype was quickly shattered as I longed for closeness without expectation.
Let me take a break from all the gory details for a second. Please know that I’m not sharing all of this above so that you’ll feel bad for me. Wait, wait, wait…I’m also not assuming that you should feel bad for me. This is just one side of the story that is not often talked about. Amy will chime in somewhere down the road with what she was walking through in parallel to me. I’me excited for her to share on QTQ very soon.
Anyways! Back to it. The next part of the ride felt like the nail in the coffin. As we began the IVF process, those “it takes two to tango” moments morphed into weekly solo visits to the clinic to leave behind “samples”. Talk about feeling uncomfortable, humiliating, and robotic. I mean, you’re walking into a room and come out a little bit lighter a few minutes later. All the Doctors, Nurses, and Janitors know exactly why you’re there. But you try to convince yourself that maybe they don’t. Making eye contact is the worst part! Every male patient on the premises is looks like they’re counting their toes. The two year old in you comes out, “If I can’t see them, they can’t see me. Just keep your head down and you’re all good, Jeff”. It was hard. I hated it. You begin to wonder where the lines are drawn. Whats worth it and whats not?. I became very disillusioned with sex at all. I really wanted nothing to do with it anymore.
It’s been almost five years since we crested this mountain. As I said a bit earlier, it still impacts our marriage. Even a hug or kiss brings back memories and feelings. But let me leave you with this small piece of advice. Men, keep love alive. Fight for closeness. Fight for communication. Through the infertility journey, work together to redefine intimacy. Be spontaneous in the other areas of your life. Surprise dinners, dates, and conversations. Show patience in how you respond, but definitely respond. DO YOU HEAR ME? Share your feelings. These are all things the current Jeff wishes he could share with the Jeff of the past. As Amy and I still process and work through the past, as well as our current state of still being infertile, I promise to share what I learn along the way.
Keep on keeping on.