Where do I possibly begin? So much is documented and provided for and by women- dedicated blogs, books, talk shows, and support groups. Hollywood has even recently taken a shot at fertility issues (Baby Mama, Up and Glee to name a few). The male voice is often silent in the whole scenario, yet we are the other half.
I can start by saying that I cannot possibly speak for every man who has worked through infertility. And this mainly because we haven’t even received a formal medical diagnosis for why we can’t biologically create a child- ‘unexplained infertility’…thanks, Captain Obvious. I can, however, sympathize with the countless number of men who have suffered alongside their women, often in silence. We are, afterall, pillars of strength in our relationships and marriages. I hope that they will know that they are not alone- no man is an island.
As with any addiction or problem, the first step is admitting that you have one. Well, for the longest time, I wouldn’t. Jess wouldn’t either. We just crossed our fingers (and toes), fervently prayed to God, and waited eagerly. Months went by and the eagerness turned to anxiety. I stood by Jess as we fielded all of the “well have you tried…?” wives-tales and fertility folklore. We read books. Drank funky tea. Wore loose fitting clothes (yeah, a valid recommendation). Paraphrasing Oswald Chambers says in My Utmost For His Highest, we listened to all of the advice and commentary that was “aiding us to our death beds.” Shortly after we started “trying” to have a baby, others started becoming successful. The first batch of pregnancies was met with adulation- we were absolutely ecstatic for friends and family members. Then began Round 2…
For Jess, Round 2 was a time of devastation. Each month that we received a negative indicator, and others received another positive, destroyed her. Hours were spent sobbing with me, the “pillar”, holding my trembling, fetal-position wife. Absolutely no pun intended. At first I would just let her cry. And when she was ready, listen. Eventually I tried to put a positive spin on it, or tried to lend some heavenly perspective (with my minor in Bible and Theology, and all that jazz). All the while, I was working really hard not to internalize her pain, or recognize my own. I like to think of myself as a fairly strong guy, you know. Stoic, even, at times.
All of the pent up emotion and pain came to a breaking point when a random pregnancy in our circle of peers hit our radar. I am not proud of my initial reaction, but remember it vividly. I actually said to myself, “Are you SERIOUS!? REALLY?! That’s how it is?!” (with a few expletives thrown in to spice up the rebuttal). Now I had a problem…with God. Ding, ding, ding. End of Round 2.
Man of Many Sorrows
So began the phase of anger and self-loathing. I began dreading the few days before finding out whether we had conceived or not, and spent the days immediately after in a fog of disbelief, dejection, and fury. So, I began to lash out at God. My prayers were no longer, “Please, Lord…,” and, “…if it be Your will.” They became prayers that I don’t feel fit to print, but similarly echoed the prayers of Job in the Old Testament (again with some expletives thrown in to spice it up). Actually, the way Job spoke to God in many places would have been considered irreverent, like cursing. So, in that case, just like Job.
I pled with God, basing most of my case on how we had faithfully been serving, worshipping, and loving Him. I reminded him that we had paid our taxes, tithed regularly, and loved our beagles like humans. I boastfully reminded Him of how we were founding members of our church, and that I had not murdered anyone- a few things that ranked pretty high on my righteousness scale. Just like Job, God let me vent. He took all of the venom and fire that came from my mouth and mind. He withstood the blows of disrespect and dissent that I hurled, that I often shared with close friends and family.
Eventually, like my wife, I found myself in a heap. Weeping. God tended to me like He does with all of His children who are out of line, like he did Job- with a stern, yet compassionate reprimand. He listened while I whined and wailed, then took of the gloves:
Then the Lord spoke to Job (and Jay) out of the storm. He said:
“Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
– Job 38: 2-3
I knew I was in for a whoopin’- I had heard that tone from my earthly father, and I knew it meant business. I was reminded that I wasn’t the one who told the water where to draw its’ line in the sand, or the sun when to rise and set. I wasn’t the one who numbered the stars in the skies or the hairs on my very own head. I was reminded that he prompted the geese to migrate, and the falcon to hunt. That he clothed the grass in splendor. I was essentially reminded that “I brought you into this world, and I can take you out of it.” We all know that our parents reprimand us for our own good. That the whooping hurts them more than it hurts us. And it usually does.
For My Own Good
The reprimand would have been hard to swallow had it not been for the feeling of purpose that I was left with for the future. I was reminded that there was a plan that was much bigger than me. That He would tend to Jess and me just like he does to the sparrow in the field. The future is not yet here, but I am reminded daily of the promise. I see it in the eyes of my students. I feel it in the pudgy fingers of our friends’ babies. I hear it in the giggling voices of children at recess. Most of all I sense it in my heart.
Months and years have passed since I have come to grips with our lot in life. By no means has it become any easier. I still hope and pray. I still count the days (Jess doesn’t know that yet). We still cry…often. But the tears are of hope and of a promise. A longing that will be fulfilled.
Some little lamb will be ours to tend to some day. And, goodness, it WILL be loved.