• Husbands of The Fruitful Hollow

Infertility from a husband’s perspective

In this Year of St. Joseph and as we approach the Solemnity of St. Joseph, the Fruitful Hollow team have been thinking about holy husbands and the strength with which they lead their families. We spent some time thinking about how we discuss infertility with our husbands and imagining how the cross of infertility feels from a husband’s perspective. We want to help you dive deeper into conversation with your husband about how the journey has been affecting him. At the end of this piece is a list of questions you might like to draw from in your discussion. We have gone first and opened the discussion by posing these questions to the husbands of some of our creative team and writers and we found their responses touching and insightful.


Image created by Jenna Major.

Meet the husbands

  • Paul is a husband, father, and lover of philosophy and Theology of the Body who experienced a season of secondary infertility alongside his wife and is striving ultimately to lead his family to heaven.

  • Matt is a husband with a tender heart for his friends and family, especially his many nieces and nephews. He lovingly accompanies his wife through life's ups and downs.

  • Charlie is a computer programmer from Canada living in England, who with his wife struggles with primary infertility. He has several godchildren with whom he loves to spend his time.

  • Sean is a hardworking Texas boy and loving husband who is walking the road of primary infertility with his wife. He strives daily to pray, lead and support his beautiful wife on their journey to sainthood.

  • Andrew is a husband, uncle and coach. He and his wife have been awaiting the joy of parenthood! For almost 4 years Andrew has been leading his wife in praying for a beautiful baby they can raise in God's image.


Looking back at the journey so far

What would you say to a friend who is early on in his infertility journey?

  • Andrew: I would tell them that it’s okay to be confused about what is going on. I would encourage anyone to talk to their spouse about this confusion, and not to give up, especially early. The earlier that infertility is talked about, the earlier any potential barriers to conception can be addressed.

  • Matt: If someone tells you you’re still young and you should just wait, don’t let that stop you from looking into what could help affect change.

  • Sean: Be patient. I’d tell him you have to have patience. If you don’t, you will be angry all the time. Be patient with your wife too. If your wife undergoes fertility treatment, she won’t always be thinking like herself. When my wife is pumped with HCG or progesterone I have to give her more grace and have patience, knowing that she’s going through a lot and she doesn’t always have control over her emotions. On HCG she once cried because I didn’t order myself any food when we were in a drive thru (I wasn’t hungry). I have never seen that many tears come from one person for no reason!

  • Paul: As a man, facing infertility can definitely make you feel helpless. But the reality is that no matter what, there is hope and you’re not alone. While there are parts of this cross that we men can’t carry, something you can always do is fulfill your vocation by leading your wife in prayer, encouraging her, supporting her and communicating with her. We found through a little bit of research that our diocese actually had resources for couples struggling to conceive that we didn’t know about before; there is always support out there and God always provides.


What has been something unexpected (either positive or negative) about your infertility journey or how you’ve dealt with it?

  • Matt: Something I didn’t expect was the draining emotional and financial cost for so few answers.

  • Sean: Early on in our infertility journey when I got tested, our doctor found out that my sperm were 100% infertile due to E. Coli. That was unexpected. I had zero symptoms and we found out that if it had gone untreated it would have become a bigger issue for my overall health. My doctor was able to prescribe the correct antibiotics and the issue was resolved.

  • Andrew: There are times where it is easier than others. Throughout the work day and when my mind is occupied, I am pretty good at not allowing it to bring me down. However, there can be a downside to that. Oftentimes when you compartmentalize something for so long, you sort of forget it’s there. I have found myself doing this at times. For men, infertility can be an “out of sight, out of mind” type thing but I would challenge anyone (and myself) to not let it get completely out of sight.



Dealing with the lows

In the lowest moments of your own journey, what have you found helpful?

  • Charlie: This may seem cliché or pious but prayer helps me. There is so much in life that we cannot change, and it's only through worshipping God that the unchangeable, unmanageable or irrational parts of life start to mysteriously change or make sense. Years ago I was very impressed by some homilies I heard on the subject of St. Paul's instruction to "pray without ceasing" and the monastic tradition. Before the pandemic, I had the luxury of being able to walk to a nearby Benedictine monastery on Sunday evenings for Vespers. In winter, the chapel was very dark except for the sanctuary lamp, and the monks were hidden out of sight, singing from the transept. The Vespers I would hear them chant each week includes a psalm that has become very special to me: Psalm 112. Interestingly, J.R.R. Tolkien told his son Christopher to memorize this very psalm (in Latin!) as he was heading off to be trained as an RAF pilot during WWII. The prophet begins by telling us to pray: "Praise the Lord, ye children," for "who is as the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high?" No one. It is he alone who lifts the poor "out of the dunghill". It is he alone who makes the "barren woman to dwell in a house, the joyful mother of children".

  • Sean: Finding a quiet place to just go and pray by myself helps me too. I go into our future nursery and remind myself that everything we are going through will be worth it one day. I pray for peace, understanding and patience.

  • Matt: I’ve found it helpful having another male friend to talk to. And being able to be with my friends’ children has always given me hope.

  • Andrew: The strength of my wife helps me. She is the strongest person I know. The weight she has on her shoulders, I couldn’t begin to imagine carrying. Knowing that we are in this together allows us to be vulnerable and open with one another.


Spiritual warfare is very real when dealing with infertility. What is a lie from Satan that you find yourself having to reject often?

  • Andrew: The lie that “maybe we are not meant to be parents”.

  • Matt: That I can never outrun sins and vices of my past, and that I could never be a good father.

  • Charlie: Essentially, that nothing I do matters. That if I have no children then my line ends and I make no lasting impression during my time on earth. That God hasn't chosen me as his instrument to build his kingdom or even to help anyone else on earth. At the moment in lockdown, we can't see people anyways, so this seems doubly true. There has definitely been a taste of the Satanic for me in this past plague year.

  • Sean: Spiritual warfare in regards to infertility seems to afflict my wife more than it does me personally. It’s a very real battle for her throughout this journey. As her husband, I might not always notice it right away but when I do, I pray over her. We pray the St. Michael prayer, the Our Father and the Hail Mary. There has never been an instance when prayer with my wife hasn’t calmed her down.


How has your faith helped you carry this cross?

  • Paul: Clinging to my faith while carrying this cross, as well as other crosses, provides the reminder that I am the son of a loving creator who has a plan. Our human faculties are limited, but with eyes of faith we can look beyond the “now” and see the truth that there is a greater plan that is more than what we could have imagined for ourselves, and God is always working to accomplish that in our lives.

  • Sean: If I didn’t have faith, our marriage would be harder for both of us than it is. I take our marriage vows very seriously. It’s easier to run away than it is to fight but having that faith in God gives you the strength to get through tough times. My patience and grace come from the Lord.

  • Matt: Right now, my faith helps me embrace chastity and seek help from St. Joseph at times when I don’t even feel worthy of the journey.

  • Andrew: If I didn’t have my faith, I would be much more angry in the way I approach the world and in my interactions with others. My faith allows me to carry this cross and make sure that it does not stop me from being the husband, friend and colleague that I know God wants me to be.



Infertility and your marriage

What kind of support do you value most from your wife?

  • Andrew: I value how she always asks if I’m doing okay, even though at the time it can be a little annoying!

  • Charlie: I value her respect for my role as head of our small household, for better or for worse. We live in a time when all hierarchies, whether traditional or directly ordained by God, are being eroded and subverted. Families stand as a bastion against this, and that includes ours.

  • Matt: Sitting together and praying together for our future children is a blessing that lets us pour our hearts out when they can feel the most pained.

  • Sean: I feel like it’s more my responsibility to support her. In our case, my wife is being injected with hormones and I feel like it’s my job to be her complete support system. I’m not saying my wife’s not supportive, but I feel that when it comes to our infertility, I’m called to be the rock for her.


What have been some fruits of infertility in your marriage that you thank God for?

  • Charlie: I think there are two main ones. This experience of infertility is something that my wife and I are sharing. While in a certain way it divides us from many of our family and friends and makes us feel alone, it unites us as a couple and strengthens the bonds between us in an unexpected way. If we remain childless, I hope that at least this unity through shared experience continues to bear fruit. The other fruitful aspect of our journey has been that many of our friends and family have chosen us as godparents for their children. I have been very honoured by this. I want to pray for them always, see them grow up in virtue as Christians, and help them to resist the world, the flesh and the devil.

  • Sean: Through this process we have learned more about our bodies and how to better care for them. Our infertility has brought our marriage to different types of lows but we always communicate and work through it. It is in those moments that our marriage grows stronger.

  • Matt: I’ve definitely become more patient than I once was as a result of our experience, and it’s a daily journey to continue that growth.

  • Andrew: We are going through a challenge that affects us both. It affects us in some similar ways, but also in some different ways. This allows us to see inside each other more and provide support in ways we didn’t even know we needed to.

  • Paul: Our journey was one of secondary infertility, so going through that time definitely increased our gratitude for our son and helped us not to take a single second with him for granted. It increased our ability to trust in God by increasing our need to do so, and it gave us both deeper compassion and empathy overall for others struggling.


What is one thing you wish your wife knew or felt during the process?

  • Paul: As a natural “fixer”, it felt hard at times to be there for my wife in the ways she needed or wanted because I couldn’t simply come up with a “solution” to the “problem.” My hope was always that she felt like she could honestly share with me everything she was feeling and how it was affecting her in the day-to-day. I wanted her to feel assured that I was there to face this alongside her and that infertility was something she never needed to take the blame for, feel guilty about or shoulder alone.

  • Matt: That Satan drips lies into infertile men’s ears to deprive us of hope and even of enjoyment in being united with our wives, as well as to prevent us from feeling any degree of worth in action or deed.

  • Sean: That I love her no matter what. That I’m always going to be there for her and that she will never be alone, even if she feels like she is.

  • Andrew: That one day, we will look back at this entire journey not with disgust or despair, but with thanksgiving and hope.


 

Over to you! Topics to discuss with your husband


Looking back at our journey so far

  • What would you say to a friend who is early on in his infertility journey?

  • What has been something unexpected (either positive or negative) about our infertility journey or how you’ve dealt with it?

Dealing with the lows

  • In the lowest moments of our journey, what have you found helpful?

  • Have you experienced spiritual warfare when dealing with infertility?

  • What is a lie from Satan that you find yourself having to reject often?

  • How has your faith helped you carry this cross?

Infertility and our marriage

  • What kind of support do you value most from me?

  • What have been some fruits of infertility in our marriage that you thank God for? What is one thing you wish I knew or felt during the process?



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