Mens feelings are often overlooked, in fertility discussions generally, and on special occasions like Father's Day. Men may not always show their emotions as readily as women, which means their emotions and upset is not always recognised or acknowledged. They don't have the same support networks as women, and are many feel they have to be a rock for their partner.
It's ok to feel sad, it's really normal, so don't feel that you have to hide it. I understand that this day is really tough, so I wanted to offer some advice on coping through Father's Day, but also on coping in general through IVF. You don't have to suffer in silence, your feelings are valid and you deserve support.
Avoid social media
Unfortunately Father's Day is one of the days of the year where social media is full of posts and pictures, so maybe have a day off scrolling Instagram and Facebook to protect yourself. By the time you log back on the posts should be old news.
Spend time as a couple
Celebrate your own Dad
It’s the perfect day to focus on your own dad and making him feel special. Maybe arrange to do something with your Dad/Father-in-law ( a socially distanced visit in the garden or a walk somewhere), I’m sure they would love spending time with you and the focus being on them.
If you don’t have a close relationship with your dads, they don’t live locally or sadly they are not around anymore, you could have a day as a couple, celebrating your relationship and having some time alone together. Plan in a trip or something you’ve wanted to do for a while so that it is a nice day for you.
You could do something to celebrate and remember them. Maybe think about what you used to love to do together, light a candle, spend some time thinking about them in a happy way and celebrate the time you had with them.
Spend the day doing things you enjoy
Use the opportunity to spend the day doing something you enjoy, that will make you smile and will act as a bit of a distraction through the day. I know during this time it is harder to do some of the things that we enjoy (with pubs, gyms and other social venues closed still), so think about what you can do within the current guidelines.
You may or may not have spoken to friends about what you are going through or how are you feeling, and either is completely fine, it's about whatever is right for you. Today could be the perfect opportunity to to acknowledge to yourself (and others) how you are feeling about infertility and the emotional impact. You could talk to your partner, a family member or a friend (who are likely to be more understanding than you may think).
You could also speak to a fertility counsellor that can support you or join a fertility support group. I have put the link to my support group below, and also to a male only support group that you could join.
Be kind to yourself
Allow yourself to feel however you feel, don’t beat yourself up over feeling sad/jealous/angry, it’s ok and perfectly normal to feel these things. Just acknowledge it and do things that make you feel good. It’s so important to remember that you are not alone in how you are feeling.
Coping Through IVF
We can’t get away from the fact that most of the pain of treatment is felt by women (physically and emotionally), but it is often forgotten that men experience emotional stress, they have to watch their partner go through the gruelling process of IVF, have to go through invasive procedures and they also long for the family they want to create.
Many men feel hopeless at times during fertility treatment as there is nothing they can physically do to take the pain and stress off their wife. They empathise with how their wife is feeling, but they may also feel overwhelmed by the depth of their wife’s emotion and pain.
Men and women deal with the stress of infertility in very different ways, and it is important to remember that no way is right or wrong. Each person processes their pain in a way that works for them, and it’s important to find what works for you. Communication is so important in couples struggling with fertility, and honesty and openness can save marriages.
Supporting your partner through IVF is so important, but it’s also really important to look after yourself through the process and get the support you need.
There are lots of ways to help cope with infertility and IVF.....
Infertility can make you feel out of control of your life and your future, and then when you go through IVF it can feel like the process is out of your control, with all the timings, hospital visits and medications. However, there are things that you can control, so you feel that you still have some say in the process:
Lifestyle – you can make sure you are eating healthily, avoiding alcohol, reducing/stopping caffeine. These things are important for your body to be in the optimum state for sperm production, but you will also feel better in yourself.
Mindset – you may feel that you don’t have any control over how you feel, but you do have full control. You can make a choice to be in the right mindset for going through treatment and supporting your partner. It’s not easy, but there are people that can help if you need it.
Practical – although a lot of the process is out of your control, control the things you can – research treatment so you can ask informed questions, research add on treatments, so you are clear on what you do/don’t want, organise logistics and plan treats around procedures to give you both something to look forward to. It is good to take control of what you can - you then know in your own mind that you have done everything in your power to make it happen.
Its normal to feel that you need to be a rock for your partner and that you can’t show your emotions, but it’s important that you address your feelings and have a way to cope.
Everyone copes differently, and there is no right or wrong way, it’s just important to have an outlet for your feelings:
You may find it difficult to talk about what you are going through and how you are feeling, but it’s important that your feelings are heard and that you can talk through how it is all making you feel. There are lots of options for people you can talk to – either someone you know (friend, family, partner) a fertility professional (Counsellor, fertility Coach) or a support group where it is more anonymous. You can join my Facebook support group ‘TTC Support UK’ and there is also a male only Facebook group you could join for peer support. The links for both are at the bottom of this blog.
Infertility and going through treatment can make you put plans you have on hold. Write a list of things you’ve always wanted to do and achieve and create a plan to start doing some of them. There may be time and money constraints around treatment, but it will give you a sense of achievement and something to focus on outside of treatment. You could also plan in some shared goals and work on them with your partner. It may be something you’ve been putting off (like house renovations etc), visiting a certain country on holiday or trying out a new restaurant.
Plan in things that you enjoy, so that infertility isn’t your only focus - gym, exercise, walking, reading, computer games, seeing friends. It will give you an outlet for any frustrations and anger, and a welcome distraction from treatment.
It’s really important to remember why you are together as a couple and spend quality time together. You need this, so you don’t feel the focus is only on having a baby and that you’re only needed for your swimmers/sperm. Spending time together gives you chance to talk openly if you want to about how you are both feeling and anything about treatment.
Make time to do things together as a couple where you can focus on your relationship. Book a date night or a weekend to just relax together. You can keep the costs down if you are watching the pennies, find places that are free and have some day trips together, the most important thing is spending time together.
Also set time limits for how long you talk about the treatment and infertility, so your conversations don’t just revolve around trying for a baby. This can add to the stress and pressure in the relationship. Also set times when you don’t discuss it – for example if you’re out for a meal, so it gives you time to focus on the other good things in your life and each other.
Remember to look after yourself and get the support you need, you will be better able to support your partner through treatment and both be in a better state as a couple to cope on this journey.
If you would like more support from other men who are in a similar situation, there is a male only Facebook group you can join on the link below.
If you would like more support through your journey, you can join my free Facebook support group TTC Support UK by clicking the link below.