When the word infertility is mentioned in a conversation, you can bet that if there are any men in the room they will shrink away or change the subject. Men can be rubbish at facing their fears and confronting the reality of their situation. But one reason could be men are generally forgotten when it comes to the ‘journey’ of IVF as the woman appears to do all the hard work.
So, we always find it refreshing that a man is happy to talk about the struggle he has been through with his partner. Meet Cain Newton, who started a blog when he and ‘Mrs N’, as he calls his wife, realised they would struggle to have children.
It has been three years nine months since my wife and I started the ‘baby’ journey. I decided to write this with aims of supporting other couples – specifically men – as I want men to know it is okay to talk. It would also give time for reflection on how strong my wife and I are, despite being the hardest journey I have had in my life – and that includes two heart operations.
I first met ‘Mrs N’ in August 2007 on the party island of Ibiza, I was drawn to her looks, smile and fun personality. We had a summer romance, we did the long distance relationship for five years before finally deciding to move in together. During those five years we had the usual relationship ups and downs, we talked about our future and how she wanted three kids (I wanted two), what car we would have (I am a car fan) and assumed just how easy that would be…how wrong we were. We moved into a family ready home in 2013, I was 33-years-old, Mrs N was 28-years-old.
The journey begins
January 2015 arrived, we were both excited at the thought of being parents by Christmas, we discussed which room we would decorate and even discussed baby names – all normal things to be excited about right? We waited for my wife to ‘be ready’ and it never happened, oh well we thought, maybe it’s just a one off and she would ‘be ready’ in February. Neither of us had any concerns at this point and we were both confident that it would happen.
Mrs N often likes to book a summer holiday in January so it gave us both something to look forward to, this year we decided we wouldn’t book anything abroad but maybe look at something in England – I mean it was obvious she would be pregnant and the flying and hot climate would not be good for her or the baby.
February, March, April, May all passed without luck, we then decided to see the GP to work out what’s going on. The GP was reassuring, I got sent for tests (which all came back ok) and Mrs N was prescribed Clomid. After a few months there’s still no luck with Mrs N, our optimistic thoughts were starting to be replaced by fear, what if we are never able to have kids? What happens next?
It was during this time Mrs N started to be affected by what was going on. Whether that was the initial dose of Clomid I was not sure at this point, but her smiley, fun attitude to life was replaced with an anxious, frustrated woman who started to focus on what was wrong in life rather than focussing on the positives.
How did I deal with this?
I have always been a career focussed person and my way out of dealing with struggles was to focus on my career by working long hours, but I would still get home at 7pm to provide a shoulder for my wife. People may be shocked with this attitude but this was not because I did not want to deal with the situation – I loved Mrs N more than anything – I just didn’t know how to.
After being together for eight years this was a side I had never seen before, I thought I knew Mrs N inside out and I was struggling myself.
We went back to the GP after a few months and the GP prescribed a higher dose of Clomid which I was concerned about and made this clear – we were both desperate to have kids but I felt my wife’s health was suffering. We went ahead after being reassured again, he even made a point of confirming couples in the village who had used Clomid had got the desired results. This was music to our ears and there was hope again. During this higher dose of Clomid my wife’s outlook on life deteriorated (this is when I knew her change in behaviour was down to the Clomid).
When we didn’t see the desired results I felt that I was becoming a punch bag, which as her husband I was happy to be. She was hurting more than anything and I knew that her ability to not provide a child for me or her parents hurt her more than anything in the world, and I had to support her.
It was at this point my mental state deteriorated. My anxiety worsened, I had no one who I could really talk to about it. I needed to unload my thoughts. I just had to remain positive for my wife, I mean, what else was I to do?
I knew she spoke to a couple of her close friends, but they could only give so much advice without being in the situation we were – I know this helped her somewhat and I was grateful for this.
Hope and IVF
2016 arrived and we were finally referred to the hospital for further tests and eventually approved to go down the IVF route. That thing called hope was back again and Mrs N being the ‘researcher’ in the relationship gave me optimism that our dream could really come true. By this point it had been more than 18 months since we were married, our friends had started to get pregnant, we were starting to get questions from friends, work colleagues and neighbours. Plans for kids yet? Surely it won’t be long? Our standard response which became our go-to phrase was ‘we are enjoying life’.
Don’t get me wrong, on reflection we were enjoying ourselves, holidays, nights away, good food, but there was a massive hole in our life that needed filling, every time we were asked that question it hurt us like hell – but what could we do?
We also didn’t want to tell people that we were going through IVF, was this because of a perceived stigma or was it due to embarrassment?
I’m not sure, but we battled on just like we had done over the past 14 months – that’s what we did and who we are as a couple.
We arrived at the IVF clinic with optimism
The doctor was clear and made the process just about understandable (we would become accustomed to the jargon as time went on) and buoyed by the research Mrs N had done and the fact we informed close friends what we were about to do, life felt okay again.
We were straight into the flow of it, a good number of eggs were collected. I remember on the day of egg collection my job (apart from the obvious) was to go and collect a packet of cookies from the shop – it was never forgotten by those nurses at the clinic.
The waiting over the weekend to find out whether the embryos had moved to the blastocyst stage was nerve racking to say the least. Saying that, we had the call and all looked good and before we knew it embryo transfer was done and the dreaded two-week wait began.
Unfortunately Mrs N took a turn for the worst and suffered from over hyper stimulation syndrome (OHSS) which meant she was admitted to hospital days after fainting during the night. While in hospital we found out that the embryo had stuck and we’d hit the jackpot, albeit an anti-climax as Mrs N was not in a good way and was in hospital. She spent five nights in hospital I think, its a blur, before being allowed home.
We didn’t really celebrate the fact she was pregnant due to her being in hospital, but as soon as she was out we told our close friends and family. Everyone was elated, Mrs N’s smile was back and the positivity coming from both of us was high – life was good again.
Part two will be published next week, in which Cain talks about the rocky road of IVF and how the couple supported each other through the rollercoaster of emotions.
Does you partner or husband hide their feelings or bury their head? Show them this blog and get them talking about their feelings.
Don’t forget to head to our Men’s Room for more stories from a male perspective.