When we read about infertility struggles, it is often framed from a woman’s perspective.
It’s important to clarify that men also struggle. Although it may look different to how women grapple with the journey, men are also affected. I have seen it first hand.
Often, there is an underwritten belief that the men are the strong ones. They are there to support us as we go through the fertility treatment. But, what happens when the men are the ones that need the fertility treatment? What happens when the fertility issues having nothing to do with our bodies and everything to do with theirs?
When male factor issues are the cause for infertility, it is common for men to feel like a failure. Self-blame is probably the most common symptom that is experienced and it can feel very emasculating. My role as a fertility counsellor is helping couples normalize the process, understand their options and understand each other better.
I will never forget *Peter. Peter came to see me after struggling with infertility for eight years. Peter had azoospermia, a medical condition where there is no sperm found in the semen. Peter and his wife did several rounds of In Vitro Fertilization, all of which failed, at which point they decided to pursue donor sperm.
On their first in uterine insemination (iui) with donor sperm, they got a positive pregnancy result. Peter had all kinds of mixed feelings. He expressed feeling both happy and sad. He described it as a “mixed bag.” He shared how this success seemed to really validate his insufficiencies. Peter was thrilled that they were going to finally have a baby, but he felt disempowered through the process.
This allowed us to go deeper in our counselling and explore what it felt like to be disempowered.
Peter and I met regularly for eight months. We met every second week until the birth of his daughter Abigail. When Abigail was born, he brought her for a visit to my office. He was over the moon and many of his feelings of disempowerment seemed to turn into something greater. As Peter stepped into the bigger picture of his life, his own feelings of deficiency dissipated. He was now a father, and a parent. His narrative changed.
Peter is now one of our “Fertility Friends” offering support to other men going through fertility treatment. If you are a male and struggling with infertility, Peter is happy to speak with you.
Amira is a fertility counsellor in Toronto, Ontario. She works with individuals and couples who are struggling with infertility. Amira facilitates the Mind-Body Fertility Group at Mt. Sinai Hospital.
She is also a mother of three miracles.
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“The moment you doubt whether you can fly, you cease for ever to be able to do it.”
~ *Peter Pan (Peter’s name has obviously been changed to protect his confidentiality.)