6 Tips for Supporting Your Partner Through Infertility
By Daniel Hodgdon
Going through infertility is something I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. You watch your partner being poked, prodded, pumped with hormones, and experience a roller-coaster of emotions on almost a daily basis. Then there is the emotional burden you put on yourself because you feel helpless. My wife Kristyn and I went through fertility treatments for over a year, and it was the hardest time of both of our lives.
Recently, we were talking about our fertility journey and it dawned on us that going through that experience affected and changed both of us deeply, and ultimately made us stronger as a couple. Since Kristyn often writes about her experience on her blog, I thought others might benefit from reading an article about navigating infertility from the partner’s perspective. I hope this provides some insight and humor into the shitty life experience that ultimately led to some of the happiest moments of our lives.
Since we started dating 9 years ago, Kristyn and I always knew we eventually wanted to have a family, so finding out that we couldn’t conceive a baby “naturally” was a tough pill for us to swallow. After Kristyn’s PCOS diagnosis, I remember thinking, “What did we do wrong?” or “What can I do to help?” I can’t say I did everything right back then, but hindsight is 20/20, so I thought I’d offer some tips for how to help support your partner during this difficult time:
1. Always tell your wife or partner that she is beautiful.
Simple gestures such as flowers or an “I love you” are a must when your significant other is down in the dumps. Infertility can be a long process, and the little things can go a long way.
2. Change your lifestyle.
I’m not saying you have to become Tony Horton or an extreme cross fitter, all I’m saying is it wouldn’t hurt to start doing simple things daily to become a healthier version of yourself. It’s good for your partner to see you being proactive, plus it’s good for your reproductive health! During fertility treatments, Kristyn and I walked our puppy more instead of just sitting in front of the TV. We started cutting out certain foods and ate a healthier, more fertility-friendly diet. We also ate pineapple after every IUI or IVF transfer because it supposedly helps with implantation. Hey, whatever works, right?!
3. Offer your unending support, because that is what your wife or partner needs right now.
Do the dishes, make the bed, cook dinner, and go to all of the doctor’s appointments you can make. BE THERE. I can’t stress this enough. You wouldn’t believe how many times I would see women in the doctor’s office alone without the support of their significant others. No one should have to go through infertility alone. You are a team, so act like it.
4. Prepare yourself to be a human punching bag of emotion.
Listen. Everyone goes through shit in life. Life’s hard. I love my wife to death, but there were days when she was hormonal and would let me have it for no reason at all. My approach was that I took everything with a grain of salt and tried to be positive for her. I wasn’t the one getting stuck with needles almost daily. The least I could do was be the best support system I could be when she needed it most.
Let your wife or partner know that this is difficult for you, too. Infertility affects different people in different ways. She could be having a good day while you are having a bad one. Always let her know. It will strengthen your relationship in the long run.
6. Patience…and Coffee.
When you go through infertility, you have doctors’ appointments ALL THE TIME. Our fertility doctor’s office was a 30 minute drive from our house, so we would have to wake up extra early several times a week, go to an appointment, and then hop on a train to work. It was exhausting. So my best advice is to always be prepared….with coffee.
I also found that being patient, as hard as it was sometimes, helped put Kristyn at ease. Often times it will seem like the process is one step forward, two steps back, but every month you will get closer to the end goal. Trust your doctors, stop comparing your situation to others’, and try to stay calm.
Of course, this is just my perspective, but I hope these tips shed some light on how you can be a better partner during infertility. Everyone’s journey is different, but what I do know is that there is a light at the end of the tunnel for almost everyone.
After a year of doctors’ appointments, shots, and negative pregnancy tests, Kristyn and I did IVF last year and it was successful. We now have 7 month old boy/girl twins at home and I couldn’t imagine our lives any different. Although it was a long difficult road, our infertility journey made us more resilient as a couple and definitely prepared us for the chaos of life with twins, so it was all worth it in the end.