Nothing can prepare a couple for the ups and downs of infertility. While many women find support groups or resources to help navigate their journey, where does the guy in the relationship go for advice? One dad who went through it gives his tips for surviving the journey and being the rock a would-be mom needs.
You remember how it started: Everyone around you was announcing pregnancies and babies were coming out of the woodwork. After a long talk, you and your partner decided it was time to start trying for your own. It was a very exciting time: You were going to be a father! Now maybe people will start buying you gifts instead of the other way around.
When it doesn't happen the first month, you keep trying. Soon months go by. Eventually, in the midst of attending a ton of first birthday parties, you both realize you've hit the year anniversary of deciding to try. At this point, it's no longer fun, the two of you are exhausted and at your wits end. So you accompany your partner to her gynecologist to see if he can figure out the problem, but he has no answers for you and refers you to an infertility specialist.
All of the sudden you've become one of those couples facing infertility. Infertility. The problem that you always thought happened to someone else. But now you're "someone else" to everyone else. What can you do? As one half of a couple who has been through the infertility ringer, here are six ways to get through the process.
Get educated. During the IVF process, your partner will need to undergo a lot of tests, take a lot of medications, and have lots of consults with doctors. It goes without saying that the medical terminology will be coming at you fast and furious. You need to pay attention and soak it all in. Understand that a shorter-than-normal luteal phase might be bad news and egg white cervical mucus is good news.
Be the candy striper. It's important to know what medicines she is taking, the doses, and how to administer them. Often your partner will be physically or mentally unable to give herself a shot and that's when you need to step in and do the job.
Be the finance guy. It's no secret that IVF can be expensive. Maybe you will be one of the lucky couples who only need to go through one round, or one of the incredibly lucky couples whose insurance covers IVF. Whichever group you fall into, chances are that you will incur some out-of-pocket costs. We were very lucky in that insurance covered three rounds of IVF, however it took us five rounds to get pregnant. I used to joke that we should name our daughter "Could Have Been A Mercedes." You might laugh at this but it's no exaggeration: Our medical expenses from IVF were close to $50,000. The IRS allows taxpayers to deduct qualifying medical expenses over 10% of their income. (This means that if you make $50,000 a year and you have medical expenses of $12,000, you can deduct $7,000 of those expenses—$50,000 x .10 = $5,000...$12,000 - $5,000 = $7,000.) Ten percent of your income may seem like a high bar but those receipts add up. Treat every receipt like actual money because it very well might be.
Be the buffer. Infertility is a very difficult and personal struggle that no one can fully understand unless they go through it themselves. Because of this, many friends and family offer condolences or advice when it's not appropriate or even wanted. Your partner will want to respond to comments like "just relax and it will happen" with tears or possibly fists. You're going to feel the same way but it's important to stay calm, politely explain to people that these comments aren't helpful, and, if possible, try to field these comments yourself so your partner doesn't get unnecessarily upset.
Be the rock. You need to always be the one who says "I have a good feeling about this round," or "We're so lucky to live in a time when doctors can help us have a baby." Constantly tell your partner that she will be a mother, even if you might not believe it yourself, because no one else will. I won't lie to you—putting up a good front is not easy. Early on we were having difficulty producing embryos strong enough to survive the three days until they could be transferred. My wife was very upset and said "I just feel like once they put an embryo in me it will realize how much I love it and that will give it strength." She never found out that that comment made me cry until she proofread this article. That's because I was the rock.
Be a partner. Infertility treatment is a difficult process and since it is usually a hopeful couple's last resort, no one approaches the process happily. It is one of the most trying experiences of a marriage, a relationship, and a life. As men, we don't have to put up with the physical reality of fertility treatment. Because of this, we need to be the ones who hold our partner's hand after that giant HCG needle and offer our shoulder when they just need to cry it out. That's what it means to be someone's partner.