By Keiko Zoll
That ticking sound: women reading this post know exactly what I’m talking about – the incessant ticking from deep within our wombs that seems all the more louder when dealing with infertility. Sometimes our ticking biological clocks seem to drown out everything else around us. But we have to remember, we’re just one half of the trying-to-conceive equation. And men have biological clocks, too.
So often men get lost in the infertility shuffle. Society often assumes that infertility is a “female” problem, but as we infertility patients know, it’s male-factor related in one-third of all cases. Even so, regardless of with whom the root causes of infertility reside within a couple, infertility does not discriminate emotionally between men and women. How that emotional impact is felt and is shown may look a little different between women and men, but the fact that infertility cuts deep remains the same.
That’s what can make Father’s Day exceptionally painful for our male counterparts.
For women facing infertility and Mother’s Day, we often hear sentiments of pity couched in hope: “Oh sweetie, maybe next year will be your year.” For men, elements of machismo find their way into Father’s Day sentiments from Now Days to hopeful Someday Days: “You’re lucky you don’t have kids” or “Here, you want mine?”
These sentiments, however well intentioned, obfuscate the very real and very valid pain men who are experiencing infertility may be feeling during these emotionally-charged holidays. And when men’s emotions are kept within a socially rigid dynamic, finding ways to express this pain can be even harder. For many men, admitting feelings of pain, grief and guilt – even to their own partners – is a sign of weakness.
And so for a lot of men experiencing infertility – who want nothing more than to be Fathers, Papas, Dads and Daddies – they feel forgotten come that third Sunday in June.
I’ve been incredibly humbled by the messages of support and hope I received from friends and family this past Mother’s Day. And of course, my husband went above and beyond to be there for me as my rock. This coming Sunday, I honor him and his desires to be a father.
Here’s how I won’t forget my own partner this Father’s Day and how I honor the infertility journey we share together:
Give him an emotional avenue. If he wants to talk about how he feels about how our cycle is going, where we’re headed, where we’ve been – I say it up front that he’s welcome to talk about. I also respect if he doesn’t want to talk about it either. I merely give him the space to open up if he so chooses. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my journey, it’s that having a safe space and designated times to either talk or not talk about our infertility journey so far is vital to the health of our marriage.
Get away from the Hallmark hype. My husband is hardly the tie/golf/handyman/beer stereotype that you see in most Father’s Day cards. (Okay, well maybe the beer part, but that’s because he homebrews his own beer.) I know that he’ll have a lot more to offer as a father someday than what the media and Hallmark cards would have you believe about fatherhood. This Father’s Day, we’re heading out to the wilderness for a weekend of camping, away from all the hype. Not only does it reinforce this safe emotional avenue for him if he wants to talk about it, it provides an even safer space to get away from any painful triggers that Sunday.
Celebrate all of his awesomeness. I’m lucky to be married to a pretty amazing guy. For everyone reading this, I know you feel the exact same way about your own partner. And we all know the little idiosyncrasies about our partners that we love about them, that still make us laugh, swoon and smile when we think they’re not looking. Some guys might like cards. Some guys even like flowers. My guy? He like gadgets. Everyone is different and we all know what makes our guys tick, so celebrate all those things you love about him. Commandeer Father’s Day into a day you show and tell your partner just how much you love them. Think of it like Valentine’s Day in the summer.
No matter how you choose to celebrate or acknowledge Father’s Day this year – or choose not to – it’s important to remember that there are Someday Dads out there, too.
Here’s to my husband.
And here’s to your partners and husbands. Here’s to all the Someday Dads: we won’t forget you.