Disclaimer: We all have our own journeys, and everyone is impacted in their own way. My story won’t ever belong to someone else, but I hope it can help further the acceptance and willingness to speak about one’s life, mental health, and find a supportive community who listen and care.
On December 23rd 2021, I found out that I can’t have kids.
When I found out, I was talking to my doctor on the phone while sitting in my car in the parking lot at work. I was devastated, I called my wife, and I cried. I had to immediately leave work, but not before crying at my supervisor’s desk, who was incredibly supportive. I was not okay, and I think that’s understandable.
When I left work, it was around lunch time and I decided to just wander around a grocery store until I felt like my mind was clear enough to drive. I ended up at a very specific grocery store that I haven’t been to in years. I used to shop there with my mom, who incidentally also had fertility problems. As I wandered around, thoughts of my mom in my mind, I couldn’t believe I had chosen this spot to explore. Faced with this horrible news, the only person I wanted to talk to about it isn’t alive anymore, and now all I was doing was feeling worse…..but also somehow better. I guess it was a weird way of feeling closer to my mom.
As I left, I had a long drive to get to the city where I was going to just hang out at the library where my wife works. I decided to take the back roads all the way so I could avoid as much traffic as possible. But then my head was in such a fog that I missed a turn and actually ended up at the border crossing…..like almost right at the gate. Thank goodness the border was mostly closed and there was no traffic, because I totally made some crazy maneuvers to get myself out of there, at one point going the wrong way on a one way road, and then cutting into another lane with people entering Canada. I was terrified, thinking that my mind is absolutely NOT in the right place to dealing with border guards right now.
Once I got that deviation out of the way, I then was able to peacefully make my way to the library. My wife found me a place to sit, and I sat there and I coloured a very detailed Mandala for over 2 hours.
I felt like I had suffered a small mental breakdown. I didn’t think, I didn’t speak. I just sat there and coloured this intricate piece of artwork and let my brain slowly come back together. I think the last time my brain truly broke in this similar way was when my mom died. It’s a very rare thing for sad emotions to deeply penetrate my being, and it takes something really big to do so in this way.
I didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t really know how to function.
The next day was looming for me, knowing that we had plans to stay over at Andrea’s parents house for Christmas. I knew I would have to say something, because there’s no way I could keep this in for very long. I was hurting and suffering a lot and needed them to know.
So on Christmas Eve, I waited until I couldn’t wait any longer. I hadn’t wanted to ruin the evening, so I kept it in as long as I could, but was silently sad the whole time. Eventually I blurted out what was going on in our life and caused many tears and deep discussion for the rest of the night. I am thankful to have such support in my life as they listened and consoled us, while obviously being heartbroken themselves as well.
We were able to enjoy Christmas without us feeling like we had ruined the holiday completely. But I also knew this was only the beginning, and I really hadn’t processed anything yet.
I felt pressure from within myself to tell people about it, but I also knew that wouldn’t be a good idea when I hadn’t given myself time to deal with anything. Since I didn’t know anything about what I was about to deal with, and didn’t know who to talk to, I made a post in an online forum to talk with a wide variety of fathers. They were all very supportive, and I learned a lot just from whomever was willing to share their experiences. All were unique, and none identical to mine, but it was extremely helpful to get a small handle on things. It was like a small but important stepping stone.
After I felt like my head had stopped spinning, my wife and I just started talking with one another about what options we might want to explore. I’m a pretty open person, so I don’t think the initial discussions were too difficult. My wife said maybe it’s because of my interesting life and the unique experience of fatherhood that I lived through as a child, leading me to be more willing to accept other options.
As I work my way through this journey, I will write more and more about what I am doing, how I am feeling, and how this is impacting me. I was very frustrated in the beginning that there’s so few resources out there for men. I mean, most guys don’t ever talk about their feelings, and even less talk about their fertility.
To be honest, when I started searching, almost everything I found focused on women’s fertility or was built around the mom community. I’m glad that exists, but it’s also really hard to feel like I belong in a space where I clearly don’t fit. As a person who cares very little about gender norms, it’s examples like this that really highlight how separate things can be, depending on the issue. This left me feeling rather alone.
I don’t like that and I don’t wish that on anyone. As such, I am going to do what I always do and just write. I’ll put it out there for all to see and hope I help someone along the way.
Thanks for listening. Please feel free to ask questions or reach out.