by Steven Shimshak
There is a range of ways that men encounter the struggle of a fertility journey. For some, male fertility struggles are experienced when one’s reproductive ability is challenged. For others, as in my case, I grappled with how to emotionally support my wife through the fertility process. As someone who always wanted to be a dad, it was also difficult to persevere during an indefinite and prolonged family-building journey. Though our individual circumstances may differ, when you are struggling to grow your family, Father’s Day can be painful and isolating.
For me, the hardest part of Father’s Day was visiting Facebook and seeing friends, classmates and former campers celebrating Father’s Day; becoming a parent seemed to come so easily to them. In particular, I recall when my wife Becca shared with me that two of our closest friends had announced that they were expecting a child. They were so thoughtful and strategic when they informed us – who told whom, at what time etc – and yet it still was very hard information to receive. My wife continued to want to curse the world for being so unfair. Here we were in our situation, and just by observing our friends’ lives move forward, my wife was in pain. How could I comfort her? How could I assure her that we would find a way to build our family when even my own certainty about it was faltering?
As we took our next steps on our journey around that time, our hearts were a little heavier knowing not only were we not expecting a child at that time but that also our friend circle was about to change and we weren’t able to evolve with it. In time, I realized that the best thing I could do for myself and my wife was to actively cherish the life we had built together.
Looking back at this now, and I wish I had a group of men — or even just one man — to whom I could open up about these conflicting feelings. We don’t need to face this day alone. Let’s begin a new chapter for our community by opening the dialogue for men to talk openly about fertility journeys.
Many of us experience feelings of isolation or shame at some point along our journey. I encourage you to watch the excerpt below from TRYmester: Jewish Fertility Journeys Out Loud, which expresses one man’s struggle to build a family and his sense of shame around the issue because procreation is often associated with masculinity. The role is played by my dear friend Shawn Shafner.