Back in December I did a piece “Tips for Wives with Infertile Husbands“, it was one of my better pieces that I am hopeful people found beneficial. As a follow up I thought it would be great to do a follow up piece on the other side of things, what can a husband do to help his infertile wife. Unfortunately I don’t have the biological make up to do a piece like that so I had to seek out help.
One of the many great people I’ve connected with over the last year in the infertility community is a woman who runs a website called Baby Hopeful. She and her husband have been going through infertility for over three years. They’ve dealt with miscarriages, treatments and a whole lot of heart ache. It’s a truly heartbreaking story to follow. But they are people the infertility community looks up to for their courage, resolve and sharing so that other couples going through similar experiences can understand that they aren’t alone. It’s a great website and blog that I highly recommend people check out as well as follow her on twitter at @babyhopeful.
It is with great pleasure that I present to you her piece geared towards Husbands who have infertile wives and what they can do to be there for their wives as they navigate their infertility journey. I hope that those men who have infertile wives find this piece helpful and hope that infertile wives can share this piece with their husbands. I can’t thank her enough for her putting this AWESOME piece together and for all of the work she does through her website.
Tips for Husbands with Infertile Wives
As an infertile wife I am often so self consumed with my own woes, that everything is about me. I admit, there have been times when it hasn’t even cross my mind how hard it is for a husband to deal with an infertile wife. So I have put together a few tips based on my experiences for husbands who have infertile wives.
1.) Put yourself in their shoes
Try to imagine how you would feel if you were the reason you and your wife couldn’t have a baby. Would that make you feel like a failure? Make you feel like you were letting her down? Make you wonder if they even want to stay married to you (after all they might be able to have children with someone else)? Well, imagine that for a moment… That is exactly how she is feeling.
You need to reassure your wife that she isn’t a failure and she isn’t letting you down. Most importantly, reassure her that you will not leave her because she can’t have your children. This has crossed my mind more than once, and my husband always tells me that “he wants children with me, not anyone else. He doesn’t want to be married to someone else and that if we never have children, he will still have me and that’s the most important thing.” This is the right thing to say!
2.) Recognize the emotional and physical effects
I have had test after test; blood tests, surgery and internal investigations that have inflicted pain and have taken away my dignity. In comparison, my husband has had two blood tests and two sperm tests. I have had three miscarriages which have been painful and left me run down, tired with messed up hormones to boot. If your wife is dealing with all this, accept that she will be emotionally and physically tired. What should you do? Ask her if she is ok (often), spoil her (surprise her with flowers or a get well card, take her shopping), look after her (breakfast in bed), make her feel loved (hug her and tell her you love her… a lot). She will be feeling pretty pathetic and will need it.
2.) Think about the biological differences
I know how much men want children and I don’t want to offend men reading this (I apologize if I do), but don’t underestimate a woman’s internal desire to carry a baby; to give birth and to nurture a baby as a mother. It is the strongest, most overpowering, consuming feeling I have ever known. My biological clock (which I never knew I had until 3 years ago) has been ticking louder and louder over the last few years and I have become desperate to become a mother. I think the key for the husband is to try and understand that the desire for a child is not a completely conscious decision; it is coming from the “mother within”. There is not a lot you will be able to say to make this ok. But you need to say that you understand (even if you don’t), reassure her that you still have lots of time, but also make sure she knows you are on her side and want this baby as soon as possible too.
There have been times when I have cried my heart out literally every day; when I have been so angry I have slammed doors, stormed out of the house and thrown out insults like an obnoxious ungrateful teenager; when I haven’t laughed or smiled for weeks; when I have been a shadow of the woman my husband married. Allow your wife to let these feelings out. Be there for her, hug her, let her cry, be patient. The wife you know and love will return, even if only for brief moments at first.
4.) Don’t take it personally
Know that it’s not you your wife is angry at, it’s infertility. Anything your wife throws at you, don’t take it personally. The harsh comments aren’t directed at you (even though it will often sound like they are). We all take things out on those closest to us and in this instance the poor husband gets the short straw. The only advice I can give on this one is don’t fight back with insults or harsher comments. Bite your tongue, try to ignore what has been said, and know that your wife doesn’t mean it. I know it’s hard and it’s allowing her to take no responsibility for her words or actions. But don’t worry, she will realize this for herself and will usually apologize when she has calmed down. Deep down she will know she was wrong to act like that/say those things.
5.) Talk, but get the balance right
Women (in general) talk more than men, it’s the way they rationalize thoughts and deal with problems. An infertile wife will go over and over the same problems with her husband, trying to come up with a solution. However, with infertility the conversation may never end because there’s no quick fix. Of course a husband must listen and talk, but get the balance right and know when to have a break. On more than one occasion my husband has said to me “We’re on holiday, let’s not talk about babies for now.” Or “Let’s enjoy our meal and talk about that tomorrow”. At first this used to annoy me (because I wanted to talk about it there and then), but I soon realized that this was the best thing he could say. It meant my brain was having a rest, that we could go back to just being a normal man and wife for a while (not “man and infertile wife”). Arrange to do things you enjoy and don’t talk about babies/infertility while you do it. Believe me, distraction is a good thing, even if only temporary.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I hope it helps any men out there dealing with infertile wives. You could even ask your wives to read it too, see if they agree. They might have some more advice of their own to add.