Men don’t like to talk about difficult stuff. Men like to be men. So men like to make light of difficult stuff. Life should come easily to men.
Then something happens and making life look easy becomes really, really hard. Or in my case, something didn’t happen; My wife and I tried to have a child. Weeks became months. Months became years. Test followed test, question followed question. Answers were non-existent. No one could tell us where the problem lay. I told a few mates. “Don’t worry,” they said, “it’ll happen if you just stop worrying.”
It didn’t. And I didn’t.
After three years we turned to IVF which I soon found out, happens to the woman. She takes the drugs, she has the scrapes, she has the scans. As the man, all I had to do was turn up at a crucial time, spend some quality time with some dirty magazines and shake hands with a cup. Easy.
Except that’s not all I had to do.
I had to Be There. I wanted to be there. Supporter in chief – absorbing the tears, the shouting – all the time trying not to break down myself. And I wanted a child. My lowest point over the last five years might have been when the first cycle failed. E left the room having been in tears in my arms for hours. I crumpled. Literally. After months of propping up hope built on hope built on hope, I fell to the floor and lay, numb, in the feotal position.
I was exhausted. I was broken. We were to jump back on the merry-go-round and do it all again. That could have been my lowest point, but actually, my lowest point came when, after a tricky week at work, one of my colleagues told me to ‘man-up’. I got up, left the room. Went home. Except that was no escape. I felt trapped. And still I didn’t talk to anyone about it. It took a lot of effort, but I didn’t want to let on. Didn’t want to seem weak. I couldn’t talk to colleagues, I couldn’t talk to friends and now, I couldn’t talk to my wife. I was drowning, clinging to distractions like a dying man.
Melodramatic? Maybe. But if you’ve come this far, I’m betting this is not unfamiliar.
Five years on, three courses of IVF and one miscarriage later, my wife has just given birth to twins. It was a long road, but we made it.
Now, when people (always) ask if twins run in the family, I say ‘Nope, they were IVF.’ And sometimes, the guys then say to me in hushed tones ‘Really? Well, y’know we’re having trouble ourselves…’
And that’s the idea for the Men’s Room. It’s a place to start the conversation. A place where it’s ok to talk about IVF and how it’s affecting you. Find out what happens, let off some steam and share your experiences. It’s the place I wished existed when I was struggling.
It’s set up for men only. Women are free to contribute, but when I looked online during our IVF, I couldn’t find a male-safe environment. So this is what I’m trying to create. IVF is really hard for men too. And it’s ok that you think so.