Surviving the fertility journey 5 ways you can support someone from a partners perspectiveJul 01, 2023
Surviving the Fertility Journey…5 Ways You Can Support Someone – From a Partner’s Perspective (by Roger, my husband)
I’ve been searching for a quote to start this piece, largely to make me seem intelligent and for you to want to read further. However, two things have happened. One is I haven’t found a quote I like (damn you internet) and the other is that I realised it’s the rest of the article (not the introduction!) that will make you decide if this was worth your precious time and attention.
I’m Roger, Jen’s husband. Jen refers to me within our journey quite often – and occasionally crops me out of photos as my outfit doesn’t match her branding (just kidding, sort of 😊). I love the work Jen does, I couldn’t be prouder of how she has fought to understand our story. I love that now she can distill what she learnt in a way that can give meaning and hope to so many others. This type of meaning and hope is something we sought for a number of years.
One thing we have spoken about lately is the fact that it’s a shared journey. The partner of the person who is trying to get pregnant also goes through a rollercoaster of emotions. The goal is the same but the journey and learning curve is somewhat different. Jen is incredibly connected to her emotions and so very capable of articulating how she feels. I’m told that I am ‘ok with emotions…for a man.’ However, while I may no longer sound it, I was born and raised in the north of England and so let’s say this is not my forte!
This journey has meant I had to work to understand how Jen was feeling, how I was feeling, the impact of my actions and reactions on her, and vice versa. It’s a fragile time trying to conceive. I won’t recount our journey – Jen has done that beautifully in a way that brought so many memories back to me. But having reflected quite deeply (I’m British, ‘quite’ means ‘very’) here are some things that became clear to me through our fertility struggles – some things sunk in quickly, others took a long time to surface. I won’t call them ‘tips’, but rather ‘thoughts’ for you to consider.
Share the load
Gosh this one is important. Jen’s commitment to conceiving overwhelmed me at times. Her attention to detail, willingness to try things and the ‘sacrifices’ and changes she made were immense. Be it quitting coffee and alcohol, to wearing blue light-blocking glasses (that one took me a while to get), seeking out the right nutritional and supplement support, the way she dealt with the invasiveness of the regime, the ‘2 week wait’– the list goes on and on. I wanted to make lifestyle changes too, for two clear reasons.
- To remove all obstacles possible to us conceiving. Women take the lead on enabling fertility in my experience, but the overall health of the man is a huge part of fertility.
- To show that we were in it together, one unit committed to achieving something we badly wanted. I quit alcohol, left behind my beloved deodorants and aftershaves (more full of nasty things for hormones than I could ever imagine), drank lots of water…but not from a plastic bottle (drinking water was more of a challenge for me than it really should have been!) and took up Yoga…which was initially terrifying for a concrete-legged former footballer. The point is to recognise all your partner is doing to make this happen and do everything you can to be a part of the solution.
Compassion over Optimism
I’m a born optimist. I believe that whichever route I take in life is the best one. I always have a positive word to say (or at least I usually do) but my absolute belief that everything will work out can be grating (I’ve learnt) and frankly not all that useful.
Saying ‘it’ll be ok’ and ‘I’m sure we’ll get there’ soon felt unproductive and like hot air. Not only for Jen but, increasingly, to me. I realised over time that instead of questionable platitudes, it was better to tackle the situation for what it was – something that felt difficult, often unfair and always too long- for both of us. This isn’t about not being hopeful, always be hopeful and be positive when the moment calls for it – but live in the moment and accept the emotions of the situation with your loved one rather than trying to skip to a future facing generic statement because it feels progressive to you.
You’ll want to offer solutions. Don’t.
Yep, I’m a man…I really like suggesting solutions to things…it’s like a strange DNA flaw. It’s also the verbal equivalent of nails on a chalkboard at time during fertility challenges. I realised I did it because I wanted some control over a situation that often felt outside of our control. It was also not what Jen needed. When she opened up to me on how she was feeling at various points it was to connect, to feel close to one another and to remove some weight from her mind. It took me some time to absorb that. Me trying to ‘fix’ things wasn’t the best way to be supportive and was more about my needs than hers. Over time I learnt to listen, question and understand…and yes, I still occasionally offered a (bad) solution.
Look after yourself
The health and the wellbeing of the person physically trying to become pregnant is not only incredibly important, it often becomes a singular focus. I so wanted to be there and ‘look after’ Jen in any way I could. But this meant that I forgot to allow myself time to consider that the pain of the journey had a serious impact on me, too. Jen’s needs were paramount, but if I couldn’t give a good version of myself, then I wasn’t helping things. We would take it in turns to have afternoons to ourselves, I would walk by a beach, talk to my parents, see a friend, sit down in a café and stare at a wall – whatever helped at that time. I got better over time at recognising when I needed to create a diversion for myself and saw the evidence of how it made me a better and more supportive partner.
Always be kind
Fertility struggles aren’t a journey people chose. It’s stressful, difficult and challenging. Remembering that you love each other and you’re on the same team even when you’re feeling at your lowest is when you really prove you have each other’s backs. A moment of kindness can be life affirming and reinforce your relationship in so many ways.
‘Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow’
(that was Albert Einstein, the internet finally came through for me!)…wishing you the best.
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