Make Her Feel Safe During Infertility

The other night Lisa and I were in the middle of a fight when she pointed to a portrait we had taken right before our six year infertility journey ended with the birth of Elliana.

It is a black and white picture of Lisa in all of her pregnant glory. I am holding her and kissing her gently on the cheek while she smiles and stares off in a pending motherhood state of happiness.

Lisa tells me the guy in that photo made her feel safe. She believes he would have done anything to make sure she continued to feel safe.

My wife is no withering daisy. On the contrary, she is a strong willed independent woman who can do anything she sets her mind to.

That doesn’t mean she doesn’t want to be taken care of.   Lauren Jacobs summed up this need perfectly: “The…need to see a man’s ability to be selfless and take care of others at the outset of a relationship comes…from a woman’s desire to seek someone whom she can imagine taking care of her while she is pregnant, in labor, recovering from delivery, nursing, weaning and/or unfortunately, sometimes going through the emotional and physical pain of miscarriages or infertility issues. (Read the whole Huffington Post article here.)

While I am happy Lisa has fond memories of me taking care of her during our infertility issues, perhaps twelve years of motherhood and some twists and turns along the paths in our lives have helped her forget the moments that guy was not quite the man she holds with such high regard in that photo.

Infertility altered something inside of me. There were moments of despair and desolation that I had never experienced in our married life. My inability to get Lisa pregnant tested my faith in God, my faith in the power of love, and my faith in myself.

Up until that fateful sperm test more than eighteen years ago it seemed like I could always find a way to provide whatever Lisa needed. I had always been able to take some kind of action whether it meant getting a higher paid job, more education, or moving someplace nicer to satisfy the desires of our hearts.

But I couldn’t put a baby in Lisa’s womb, no matter how hard I tried. Watching her hope swoon at the beginning of a cycle, ebb when the first signs of failure appear, and then evaporate when the negative results arrived tore something inside of me that has never quite healed.

There were moments in those darkest nights when I would hear her muffled cries in the night, or see her hands cradle a bloated empty belly where a handful of embryos recently resided. I silently prayed she would find someone else.

Someone who could provide her with the baby she yearned for with every fiber of her soul. If I couldn’t provide her with the bliss of motherhood, I prayed God would help her find that person. And that He would give me the strength to live the rest of my life with a broken heart.

God never answered those prayers.

Instead He kept helping me find ways to beat impossible physical, emotional and financial odds to finally get our soulbaby.

It surprises me to see Lisa reference that man in our pregnancy photo with such fond, loving deference.

On many occasions, sometimes for days on end, I was in a perpetual state of panic and doubt.

I was working a salaried job because I hated everything about sales. My income was limited.

Our expenses with infertility forced me to start doing something I hated: sales.

It was uncomfortable. It was awkward and I wasn’t very good at it at first. But I persisted and before long I was able to pay for those cycles without using credit cards.   At least for a while.

By the time we got to our sixth year, I faced my worst infertility fear: we needed to go cross country to a top fertility clinic if we were going to have the best chance of having our baby.

Lisa hadn’t worked for six years, and my income had hit a plateau. I would have to max out our home equity credit line. Have to miss three weeks of work. Have to max out credit cards.

I look back on those decisions and I find it ironic that Lisa felt safe with that man.

I honestly felt like I was enabling a gambling addiction. The IUIs had been painful enough, but spending a few hundred extra a month for a pull on the infertility slot machine didn’t bother me (much).

Then the few hundred monthly turned to a few thousand monthly and the anxiety kicked in. Lisa’s growing despair and seeming obsession didn’t help. How could I subsidize the cost of treatment that was doing so much emotional and physical damage to the woman of my dreams, all for less than 25% chance of success best case at the clinic we were going to?

The answer is simple: Lisa’s feeling of safety never had anything to do with me providing financially for her.

Her perception that I would never stop trying—that would I would do anything to get us to that day is what made her feel safe. It didn’t matter if it was messy, and if I had those moments of doubts and frustration.

Even more important, I didn’t just try, I took action. “Do or Do Not, There is No Try” epitomizes the reason we succeeded. We kept taking action—different action, adapting to every failure to regroup and strategize for the next cycle.

She felt safe because she could see from my actions that I wouldn’t give up. Maybe the results fell short sometimes, but my actions spoke louder than my words.

I held her hand at every consult. I went to almost every single doctor’s appointment. I made welcome home signs for embryos so they felt wanted. I held Lisa’s heaving body when the sobs wracked her during negative pregnancy test, miscarriages, and our social circle filled with babies that weren’t ours.

I held her in those dark nights, prayed for peace in those moments of losses, believed in our strength to continue forward, and kept visualizing us holding a child in our arms even when that reality felt so distant.

Then on one rainy day in October in 2002, that vision became reality.

There will be days as a man in the infertility walk where you truly will not know what to do. There are several things you can do, and they are sure to work every time.

Tell you love her. Listen to her pain and let her get it out.   Let your shoulders be the soft place for her tears to fall.

You may not be able to give her the baby she wants just yet.

But you can give her the assurance that she’s not alone and you’re right there with her through every second, minute, hour, day, and year on your path to your soulbaby.

You can make her feel safe amid the storm.

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