There are a many myths when it comes to infertility. First is that it's a female problem, despite research showing that 1/3 of infertile couples have male fertility issues. Another myth is that men don't hurt from infertility, despite there being a number of men who are vocal about their infertility. There are more myths but we would be here all day if I did. However, I am a myth breaker when it comes to the concepts mentioned above.
To start I have a rare genetic disorder that makes it impossible to conceive a child. The simplest way to put it is that I'm incapable of producing any swimmers. The condition is so rare that there is little research on it. Second I have a strong desire to become a parent. I'm not saying all men don't want to parent but I know some men who had no desire to parent when they were younger. And lastly I have been open about my infertility with family, friends and even some work colleagues. Whereas some men maybe embarrassed about their infertility and feel like less of a man, I don't. My infertility doesn't define who I am.
What has surprised me about coming out to other men is the support rather than ribbing I've received. My male friends have been incredibly supportive. One particular friend I have come out to has been dealing with his own grief in the last year. His grief is that he is a cancer survivor. This past June he, his wife and their children came to visit my wife and I for the weekend. Although we had chatted and texted this was the first time we had seen each other since we were both diagnosed with our conditions.
At one point during their visit we had a chance to speak one on one. It was while I was grilling dinner where we both opened up to each other. Typically when we get together its football talk as he is a big Vikings fan and I'm a big Giants fan. But this time we spoke about things in our lives that are causing emotional pain. My friend explained at the challenges he's faced with radiation therapy and even though he's cancer free there is still a small chance it could come back. Despite the physical impact it's had on him it's the emotional fear that his cancer could come back that scares him. I opened up to him on what my condition was and how much it killed me not to be able to become a dad. I explained to him that I had been in therapy at that time for five months. We both listened to one another and opened up in a way that you don't normally think men would.
After that conversation I began to think that my grief and what I was dealing with was minor compared to something as serious as cancer. Sure infertility sucks but the thought of a having a life threatening condition and the fear that its something that's always going to be there is not something I'd trade for. It put my world in perspective that things could be worse.
Still there were aspects of his situation I identify with. My infertility will always be with me. Even if I become a parent someday, it will not cure my infertility. The grief of infertility will always be with me just as the fear of cancer will always be with my friend. Both of our lives will never be the same. We both don't have the same spring in our steps that we used too. But we are both learning to cope and opening up is part of the coping process.
Read more on Greg's blog - A Few Pieces Missing From Normalcy – An Infertile Man's Perspective as he chronicles his infertility journey.
FOLLOW Greg on TWITTER @gsmwc02