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  • Writer's pictureSteven Miller

Mens' Perinatal Mental Health

When you think of infertility or pregnancy loss, you often think of women first. Nothing is wrong with this; however, there is a piece of the puzzle that usually does not get the support they need when going through these issues. Men are often overlooked and, at times, considered to be the silent partner through fertility treatments. Men aren’t necessarily aware of infertility until they are face-to-face with it. This unawareness was the case for me, at least. My wife and I struggled for seven years before we were successful in using IVF. At the beginning of this journey, I thought getting pregnant just happened. That was what I was taught in sex education. How many of us have been told, “You can have sex once and get pregnant.”  It left me with the idea that getting pregnant would be super easy. Little did I know that I would have male infertility. 

 

I was in shock when I found out that I was “the cause” of our infertility. I put the cause in quotes because, in reality, none of us caused infertility. However, many of us feel that we are the barrier to our partner’s becoming a mother. Something they have dreamed about for many years. We did everything in order: first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in the baby carriage. There were times when I would ask my wife to divorce me so that she could get pregnant naturally by someone else. My wife always reassured me that she did not marry me for my sperm. The guilt that I felt, though, was tremendous. Despite us both having infertility issues, I would put more weight on my problem. 


When I would search online to figure out what was the “normal” reaction to infertility for men, there was nothing. There was a plethora of information on male factor infertility, which is excellent information to have, but I was struggling emotionally. I searched continuously to make sense of what I was going through. Even through our endeavors of going through IVF, no one on the medical team stopped to ask me how I was doing. I felt isolated and finally dared to ask for help. I went to therapy, which was somewhat helpful, but the therapist did not have extensive knowledge about infertility. What helped me was when my pastor at the time connected me with a guy from our church who had gone through IVF. I then joined his Bible study and could connect further with someone who understood what I was going through.

  

Fast forward to a clinic in Missouri that was 5 hours from our house, and after four rounds of egg banking, we ended up with seven embryos. However, only two were considered normal. We transferred one of the embryos, and it did not take. The failed transfer was the darkest and lowest part of the infertility journey. I had stopped caring about anything, and it was the first time I put alcohol in my coffee. We knew the chances of the first transfer working were small, but we were hopeful. After taking the next month to do further, we decided to transfer two embryos, one that was considered genetically normal and one that was low mosaic. In March of 2018, we finally got pregnant with twin boys.  

A couple of years later, I started the part-time MSW program at UW-Madison, with the encouragement of one of my best supervisors. When I started the program, the director said, “Often students come into this program knowing what they want to do with their MSW, and often change to something different.”  It got me thinking about what I would change to. I was listening to my favorite band, Umphrey’s McGee when the song “Nemo” started playing.

  

“So be demanding when no one is listening. You’ll always find an ear. Set in motion what your life is missing. You will always find a need.”

Then, I started writing down on a piece of paper everything that I wanted to accomplish in the infertility space. The number one thing was starting a nonprofit for men experiencing infertility. So when Daniel Landau asked me to join the nonprofit Men’s Helpline, which focuses on providing support to men experiencing infertility or miscarriage, it was a dream come true. Sometimes, giving back helps you make sense of what you have been through. 





Are you a male partner seeking support? Find resources here.


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