Shaun was one of the lads – he didn’t want anyone to know about his infertility – but his fertility journey changed him and he started a support group @knackered_knackers on Instagram to get men talking. Here he talks about how partners can support men through infertility.
Shaun says: “Psychologically, producing sperm samples can be very hard. The rooms for undertaking the task are often not the most comfortable of environments. It is an unnatural environment. This adds more pressure onto a situation that is already a mental burden on the man, as a lot can hang on the result of the analysis.
“There’s a chance that the results will have a bigger implication on his life than any other medical test he’s ever had before, and he will be thinking of this going into the room.
“As a man facing infertility, I needed support from my wife. Support I never knew I’d need when we became a couple, and certainly not support she ever expected she’d have to give.
“It is tough for partners to know how to support a man with infertility so here are my top tips.”
How to support a male partner with knackered knackers
Love him – the most important thing is to love him. It might sound obvious, but your partner will be wrestling with feelings of guilt for putting you through this. He will be questioning his role as a man and as a husband. Reassure him that you are with him for who he is, not what he can provide – i.e. sperm. Let him know that your relationship is not at risk because of this.
Don’t blame him – he hasn’t asked to have been dealt this hand, and now he needs your help and compassion more than ever to get through it.
Have patience – as the partner, you will need patience. Perhaps more patience than you knew you had. He will be dealing with many different factors, mentally and/or physically (following operations etc) – sometimes both at the same time.
Pace yourself – there is no timetable for coming to terms with infertility, and you may often both be in different phases of coming to terms with it. For example, you may have reached a stage of acceptance, and are keen to progress your treatment, whereas he may still be grieving the loss of his genetics. There are layers to the healing process, and everyone navigates them at their own pace.
Reassure him – that patience will also be invaluable if things don’t go exactly to plan during fertility treatments – which unfortunately can often be the case. This can relate to circumstances such as your partner being unable to provide a sperm sample – which happened to me. If something like this does happen, just be patient and sympathetic. Reassure him that he can just go back another time, when he’s had a chance to calm down and become more comfortable with it. Tell him that no matter what the result is, you will deal with it together, as a couple.
Give a gentle nudge – you may feel that he should speak to someone, but he will only do this when he’s ready. It took me a lot of time to talk to anyone. My wife recognised this, and she didn’t push me, as she knew I wasn’t ready. Your partner may find it easier to speak to other men in the same situation, rather than friends who haven’t experienced infertility. Give him gentle nudges in the direction of support resources for male infertility, for which there is fortunately now a burgeoning number of for the subject.
Just listen – you may not know the right things to say, but if your partner starts talking, just be willing to listen. And never underestimate the power of a hug.
Invest in your relationship – remember that you’re a couple, and don’t let the fertility struggle define your relationship. Take the time to do things you enjoy, which will help take your mind off the stress and upset of trying to conceive.
Take care of yourself – lastly, remember to look after yourself too. It’s still a strain on you, and if you get burnt out with the situation you won’t be able to provide as much support to your partner. You can’t serve others from an empty vessel.”
Visit Shaun’s Instagram: @knackered_knackers