I am here as a spy. Much like my predecessors, Tootsie and Mrs. Doubtfire, I am an undercover penis in Vaginaville, darting between the shadows and seeking refuge within the basements of sympathizers. The estrogen-flooded land of the female infertility blog is one that I have oft visited in plain-clothes, sporting a highly visible VISITOR badge, while reading the eloquent, heart-wrenching and wittily humorous posts of my wife and her fellow bloggers. But today, I assume the role of guest blogger and my disguise was meant only to get me past security. My intention now is to break cover and publicly declare myself “The Infertile Husband” and address my typically silent, dick-swinging brothers in-arms.
So, ladies- continue to read at your own peril. The following will abound with movie quotes, sports references and reckless disregard for your desire for us to clean-up after ourselves and wear clothes that “match.” Well, okay not really so much the thing about the clothes and the cleaning up- but I am writing this in the hopes that you can bribe* your husband into reading it after you do.
*Yes, bribe- don’t be afraid to offer sexual favors. Him reading this will, hopefully, marginally improve both of your lives.
Hello, I am B-Money. Some quick back-story on yours truly: I earned the name, B-Money, on the cruel streets of a white middle-class suburb. I am 38 and have been silently screaming in the fantastically cruel Purgatory of infertility for the past 4.5 years with my amazingly strong and resilient wife. And this is B-Money’s guide to being the husband in an infertile household.(Guys, if you’re going to skip some shit or skim this to appease your wife- #5 is the most important one and it’s short).
1) If you are not a good communicator, now would be an excellent time to start
I do not mean this in an Oprah-esque way. What I mean is- talk. Period. Be like Rex Ryan, not Bill Belichick. Even if you come off sounding like Rocky Balboa or Carl Spackler, they will appreciate the effort. Yes, I am asking you to be a big pussy and talk about your feelings, but it’s not like you have to do it at a Super Bowl party in front of a live studio audience. Nobody will know, I promise. She might tell some of her friends that you were sensitive but just blackmail her with a threat to announce that she has farted in a public place.
But seriously, you will feel better. Start small with something like “I’m tired,” then graduate to something slightly bigger like “This sucks…not being able to have babies,” and then finally, work your way up to something real like “I’m scared” or “I love you just as much as I always have.” Plus- the next time you ask her what’s wrong and she says “nothing…” you can encourage her to follow the excellent example you’ve set. You both (especially women) need to ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED . One of the biggest reasons we fight, infertile or not, is that we (especially women) get angry with our spouse for not reading our minds . Neither of you (but especially you) should be allowing the other to say “I shouldn’t have to ask, you should know!” Bullshit. (Tell her to) Ask for what you (she) need(s).
2) Become a gold medalist in the sport of forgiving
Don’t mistake the Olympic metaphor and do it once every few years though- do it a lot. And I don’t just mean forgive her- forgive yourself for not doing/saying the right thing and forgive all the fucktards that ask prying questions about why you haven’t had kids yet. Many said fucktards do not deserve forgiveness (especially the fertile assholes who smiled at each other and got pregnant) but it’s much easier than hating them.
But getting back to her specifically, keep in mind that during treatment she is pumped full of drugs that would make any sane person crazy. I have been managing clinical depression and ADHD for almost 20 years with medication and I am no stranger to what it is like to be a slave to artificially induced emotions. Most of my brothers out there have not had any experience with clinical depression and all of my brothers out there have limited first-hand experience with menstruation, so being heavily influenced by hormones/drugs is usually not a male area of expertise. Trust me on this: you just have to get it through your head that it really is not her. Now you can tell yourself this beforehand as much as you want, but she will do something irrational that you find egregiously offensive and your knee-jerk will be to retaliate. You have to learn to tell yourself this is not her, it’s the hormones while in the moment. It sounds like the gospel according to Captain Obvious, but just try it.
Another thing to keep in mind is that infertility has been likened, through legit studies, to terminal illness in terms of stress. It is one of the worst things you will ever experience. It’s not going to bring out the best in you or her. Again, this is a mantra that you will have to actively reinforce in your mind. In both cases, whether it is a ‘it’s not really her’ situation or a ‘this is the worst and doesn’t bring out the best in us’ scenario, you have to think of it like calling an audible at the line of scrimmage. For example:
The Situation- You’re both in a shitty mood after getting more bad news and although you just want to drink beers and tweak your fantasy roster and she just wants to drink pinot grigio and watch the real housewives- you both agree to get out of the house and go to the movies (3rd and long, you need to get at least into field goal range to keep the game alive- coach calls a risky play action fake with a QB scramble because their D is obviously expecting you to throw the ball down the field).
The Play- You trudge to the car and say “So where do you want to go to eat after the movie?” and she responds with “WHY DON’T YOU GO FUCK YOURSELF!?!?! I HOPE YOU DIE!!!!” remember fellas, she’s hormonal… (the defense has anticipated your coach’s thought process and is stacked against the run).
The Revised Play- “Okay, honey, that sounds terrific! I don’t know if we can still get a reservation at WHY DON’T YOU GO FUCK YOURSELF!?!?! but if not we can go and eat wherever you’d like to. Sound good?” (you say something like OMAHA! which means that you’re still gonna kinda run the play action and have the QB drop back and throw a Hail Mary).
I’m exaggerating, but you get the point…
3) Don’t gather moss
You may go through this for a long time, and you might not even get a baby out of it. These two things are mostly beyond your control, but you can control how you live your life during this time. Do things. Do things out of your comfort zone. Go out. See shows, have filthy and embarrassing sex, travel, treat yourselves to a good meal at a trendy restaurant like WHY DON’T YOU GO FUCK YOURSELF!?!?!, go hang-gliding, sponsor a starving African child…whatever- just do stuff. The worst thing you can do, whether or not your infertility ends the way you’d hoped or not, is to look back at that time in your lives and know that you crawled up into a hole and pulled a blanket over your head. Don’t let infertility steal more from you than it already has. Preserve your friendships and keep your calendar full. Whatever way it is that you wind up moving on from this, you don’t want to come out on the other side like Private Pile on the night before graduation. You are going to want to have strong friendships, an approximation of sanity, and a lack of body odor.
4) If she wants something, buy/do it for her
Obviously, stay within your financial means- don’t buy her a Keurig machine if it means that she has to give professional blowjobs and you have to be a nude model at the local community college in order to pay for it. But don’t underestimate the power of retail therapy whether it is a pair of earrings, a new car or anything in between . This is far more effective if you surprise her with a gift or at the very least take her out to buy something of her choice at a store that she likes. Don’t just say “Hey, I know…what if I buy you something, huh? What do you want?” Try to get her something you know she will appreciate- not lingerie or tickets to a sporting event. If it’s something you strongly dislike personally, you’re on the right track.
If money is in terribly short supply (which it often is during infertility)- do something for her like a massage or cook her a dinner (it doesn’t even really have to be that good-she will be tickled that you made the effort as long as you light some candles and put on some crappy music that she likes). Or…do something with her that she knows you don’t like to do, like watch one of her crappy TV shows with her and initiate a discussion about it afterwards.
Either way, you are showing her that you are thinking about her and it will go a long way. Plus, you can use it as an excuse to buy something for yourself or drag her to something only you want to do too, but if you do this you have to be willing to do double what you are asking for in return or she will see right through it. Better yet do triple to be on the safe side.
Actually, just do something for her and leave it at that.
5) Remember that you two are the only people who can fully understand what the other is going through.
Yes, she has trusted friends and family that she confides in, but you are the only person who can appreciate the full depth of how sucky it is. Talk to her, ask her how she is and most importantly- listen (see number one above). This is the most important of the five and I will reward you for reading something that your wife asked you to read by stopping here to make this slightly shorter. (If you skipped down to this last one and it’s all you read- don’t you feel guilty? You’ve only read like two short paragraphs. She’s gonna quiz you on it anyway, so just read it. I really tried to make it as painless as possible).