Telling others about my fertility issues: Is it helpful and how should I do it?

Pushed for time? The short answer is yes, but unless you’re talking to a counsellor or someone with similar personal experience, you need to think about who and how…

My lovely wife was born to be a mother and ‘my problem’ was preventing this – serving me with guilt, inadequacy and deep self-loathing. Meanwhile, everyone else was getting pregnant and I said nothing about how I felt. Actually, I did tell someone, then his partner fell pregnant. When I congratulated him, which was not easy for me, he said he was just relieved to learn he was ‘fully-functional’ – words that were to haunt me for a long time.

And so I kept quiet hoping things would improve, but hope is never a strategy. We then went to a fertility clinic open day. I was quietly excited about meeting other men who totally understand, but I felt mortified when none of them wanted to talk. I never felt so alone.

Our fertility journey continued, as did my silence. It was only close to our 2nd ICSI cycle that I started to talk. Still haunted by the fully-functional comment, I really thought about who I could to open up to. I couldn’t tell my wife as I saw how this was affecting her. I learned that people who weren’t particularly interested in things that they hadn’t experienced themselves and people who demanded our help with their own struggles were of little use when seeking support for infertility. I also considered who could be trying for a baby or potentially fall pregnant by accident… and gave them a miss.

This process of elimination lead me to one of my oldest friends. He and his wife had long since had their children and didn’t want more. I hinted at how infertility was affecting me on an emotional level and he replied saying he didn’t understand what I was going through, but he would be there to listen. If I wanted to walk up a mountain with him to shout and swear, that was totally cool and there would be no judgement.

Just hearing those words had a profoundly positive impact on me and I started to feel more comfortable talking about how our fertility issues – and me being infertile – were affecting me. Around the same time, changes taking place in our county (UK) put access to publicly funded IVF treatment at risk. I took exception to this and lobbied for treatment equality which meant talking to the media, but I didn’t anticipate the positive effect talking about infertility would have on me. It was like a massive weight was lifted from my shoulders, I started to feel much better and this gave me the confidence to take my friend up on his very kind offer – leading to further stress relief.

Fast forward to today, I am pleased a lot has changed because when I looked, I found zero support for men. I craved talking to others with similar life experiences, but this is a now reality for men going through infertility. These days you don’t have to look far to find other men who understand and are happy to listen and offer you support. Take it from me, this is hugely beneficial and helped me to better support my wife.

Looking back, I know there were times I could have benefitted from counselling, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Since our fertility journey ended, I have had counselling because I wanted to feel better about the demands placed on us when we were least able to deliver them. This helped me work through my feelings of anger about that and feelings guilt for our infertility, so my message to you is simple; if you’re suffering in silence, it can be possible to relieve some of that stress by talking about it, and help is now available from people who understand the hugely distressing life event of infertility, and such men will never judge you.