So you want to be a dad?
When conception difficulties are in the way, many folks immediately jump to the wrong conclusion–that the man is “shooting blanks.” Such words strike humiliation in the hearts of most men. This is not only insensitive, it also results in many men side-stepping the crucial diagnostic phase. The fact is that, of those cases of infertility which will have a diagnosed cause, virtually half are resulting from male-factor issues.
Participating in a semen analysis should be one of the very first steps taken by couples who are having trouble conceiving. This simple (albeit embarrassing) test can disclose information that is essential to proper treatment.
In order to be a fully supportive partner in the diagnostic/treatment journey, a semen analysis is just the beginning of a man’s to-do list.
If a man’s analysis turns out to be within “normal” parameters, the couple’s resulting sense of relief will most likely be tempered by concerns about other possible causes of their infertility. Unfortunately, many men may take their relief at being “normal” as license to sit back and let the woman become the only infertility patient. The woman partner may have already been through a few diagnostic procedures, or she may have waited to learn the results of the man’s analysis. Either way, it will be easy from here on in their journey for the woman to feel like a human guinea pig while her partner looks idly on.
Since infertility can prove to be the biggest test for many marriages, men are better served by continuing their level of participation (or increasing their level if they weren’t already very involved) even after a normal semen analysis.
Some ways to get or stay involved in the process are:
- Offer to assist with or take charge of the scheduling of future treatment appointments. The key word here is “offer.”
- Think of the fertility specialist as your own physician, not just your partner’s doctor.
- Offer to attend appointments with her.
- Ask the specialist about any upcoming tests, procedures, or drugs that your partner will undergo. Will it be painful? How can you assist her before, during, and after the procedure? Are there expected side effects?
- Assist your partner with researching the Internet and literature about causes, diagnosis, and treatment of infertility.
- When she’s feeling particularly down, help your partner remember the good things about your life together, but don’t invalidate her sadness.
- Take off the “Mr. Fix it” hat when discussing how your partner feels. Many women like to just be heard without hearing your take on a solution.
In short, practice the “art of being there,” a skill which will be priceless during your parenting days.
The old days of men feeling like they’ve done their “duty” by simply fertilizing an egg are gone. Decades of child development research tell us that an active father’s presence is more important than ever before realized, and fortunately, most men are up to the call. To ensure that your relationship is well prepared for eventual parenthood, follow through the infertility journey with your partner, all the way.
You’ll be a better father for it.