For three-plus years my wife and I tried to conceive with no luck. What was once a steamy sex life turned into a torturous attempt at becoming baby-making machines. And while it nearly killed me to see my wife suffer, the process wasn't a nice dip in the pool for me either. So I feel obligated to prepare any guy who has to go through this insane, stressful, gut-wrenching process.
Consider this a guy's survival guide to the crazy infertility roller coaster. Let me start by saying "Good Luck!" and finish by saying, "Hang On!"
1. Stop "yanking your chain"
I wish I was kidding, but I'm not. Your sperm is valuable. When you're trying to have a kid, there are many protocols around timing the release of your sperm, and particularly, rules around a sperm analysis and fertility treatments. So it's a good idea just to stop for a while.
That being said, you're likely to be forced to make a deposit at some point on your infertility journey. Imagine a tiny room, '80s porn magazines, lab coats on the other side of the door making loud noises with their centrifuge, and time pressure. Warning: It's harder than you'd imagine (no pun intended).
2. Find the humor
See above. This is funny. Funny in a tragic, someone-is-holding-me-down-and torturing-me sort of way. But also remember your wife probably likes to laugh at you, so let her. She will need it. Think of this as an audition for being a comedian and your significant other is the only judge. (But don't ever laugh at her unless she laughs first.) Give her reasons to laugh at you, or at least be thoroughly amused.
3. TCOYS -- "Take Care Of Your Sperm"
Your balls, the magical (or, maybe not so magical in this case) sperm creators, need all the help they can get. What are the best ways to produce healthy sperm? According to this Mayo Clinic article, eat a healthy diet, exercise, keep 'em cool, limit alcohol, don't smoke -- both pot and cigarettes, don't do drugs and watch out for toxins. Research shows even carrying a cell phone in your pocket could impact the quality and quantity of your swimmers. Take care of your body and your sperm.
I'd suggest that you stop drinking alcohol altogether, and do this with your partner, since it's good for her to stop too. Trust me, she doesn't want you to tell her she's the perfect designated driver. This infertility shit isn't your excuse to be a jerk. She wants your kid, not for you to be a kid. Believe me, I know. I act childish all the time.
4. Don't stress
I know, tip one makes this hard -- pun slightly intended. The pressure doesn't help either. Neither does avoiding some of the TCOYS no-nos in tip three. A new research study from Ohio State University shows stress can actually impact infertility. So all those people who tell you to "just relax" or "take a vacation" may actually be imparting sound advice, though it seems like they're blowing smoke out of their ass. Friends may act like they know it all because they got pregnant the first time out of the gate. Try not to strangle them.
5. Make a plan
Sit down with your significant other and make a plan. What will you do and when? What things do you already know? Make a checklist. (You can download an infertility checklist at storkparenting.com.) Decide how much you're willing to spend and how far you'll go to have a baby. You can certainly change the plan later if you need to, but it's good to know, and agree on, just how many infertility treatments you're prepared for up front.
6. Accept that sex isn't just about sex anymore
Okay, here is the big one: Sex is no longer just sex -- it now has an end goal of a baby. Which adds ridiculous pressure to what was once one of the most splendid activities on the planet. Your partner will be tracking when she's ovulating and telling you when it is time. It's no longer a lovely, spontaneous whim. It's an imperative. Welcome to the club. Don't say later that nobody ever told you. Infertility sucks. You've been warned.
7. Hormones = horny
One happy side note to this process is your wife might be very interested in sex while she is on fertility hormones. She could suddenly be that horny girl you always wanted her to be. But don't get too excited. Unfortunately, this side effect will disappear when the hormones wear off.
8. Plan adventures and romance
Do something to make things fun while you're painfully waiting to be parents. A picnic at the park. Visit the zoo together. Write her some poetry. Bring her flowers out of the blue. Surprise her with her favorite lunch. Go on vacation. Plan a surprise around whatever she is into. Anything to break up the anxious days that are inevitable with infertility. She will appreciate the romance.
9. Ask questions
No one knows much about infertility when they begin down the road of trying to conceive, unless they happen to be a doctor, a nurse, or one of those people who reads everything. So ask. Ask your "team" -- OB, fertility doctor, acupuncturist, etc. Ask people you know who've been through it before. Or get online to ask the community of people dealing with infertility. Their answers may help you feel less helpless.
Be involved. Ask your partner questions about her appointments, and listen intently. Join her whenever you can. Pick a book or blog to follow. The more you're engaged in the process, the easier it will be for both of you.
10. Be a rock star husband
I mean this. I truly do. We all want to be better people, especially to the ones we love. Push through the "haze" of pressure to become the man you dreamed you'd be to your wife. Think of this as a great opportunity. To be better at your No. 1 job -- being a great companion. While it might be a painful journey, it's an opportunity to grow stronger together. It will help. And no matter what happens in the end, you'll come out of this better than you went in. And that should be your goal.
Follow Chris B. Miller on Twitter: www.twitter.com/chrisbmiller