I'm excited to share the final in my series on stereotypes/beliefs about men that can make infertility especially challenging. My original post explains why I wanted to write about this important topic.
Today I'll be looking at this common belief: "Men don't ask for help; it shows weakness." Now certainly this belief doesn't just apply to men--everyone finds it hard to ask for help. Just think how common it is to experience something like the following scenarios, all of which reinforce the idea that needing help is a sign of weakness:
Hesitating to ask for help at work for fear of being seen as incompetent/losing face with a boss.
Not wanting to ask advice about a problem because you're worried what someone might think about you.
Not knowing how to go about a particular home project or repair and feeling "less manly" because you can't fix it yourself.
These are just a few small examples, but the point is real: we can all be hesitant about asking for help, especially when we're asking for help with something we feel we "should" be able to do ourselves.
Infertility ticks all of these boxes, which makes this so hard. We grow up thinking that having babies is just something that happens with ease, seldom realizing that it can be very difficult for some people. Struggling to conceive also really pushes our buttons around feeling "weak" or "less manly"--it's common to internalize those feelings that you're somehow inadequate.
So why is this such a harmful belief? Because reaching out for help is one of the most important things you can do to make your infertility journey easier!
As I've said before, infertility can be really lonely. When we first started sharing our infertility struggles with a few select family and friends, it was VERY hard to open up. But guess what happened? Sharing the problem somehow made it feel less imposing. It wasn't just our issue anymore--we had other people who could offer a kind word and keep us in their thoughts...and we even found a few other folks who were struggling with infertility (or who had been in our shoes before). So--as hard as it can be to overcome this idea, it's worth it.
So--how do you do this? Here are two easy tips to reach out for help, in a way that I promise will feel easy. Reaching out DOES NOT have to be a big, scary, formal, stilted interaction. So try these tips to help you reach out.
Tip #1: Reach out to a friend/family member through a normal activity--it doesn't have to be a super formal event!
What does this look like? Well, if you want to share what's going on with a friend, pick something you usually do with them--a round of golf, hitting a brewery, and focus mainly on enjoying as you typically do. You don't have to make things a big formal, uncomfortable event--in fact, picking a comfortable setting is better!
Tip #2: Plan what you'll say in advance--it doesn't have to be a big dramatic reveal!
The scariest part of sharing what you're going through can be actually just saying the words out loud that "we're having trouble conceiving." But again, this doesn't have to be super dramatic.
Plan what you'll say in advance to get more comfortable. Try something like:
"So we're thinking of starting a family soon. I'm excited about it, but we've been trying for a while without any luck."
"I heard (insert friend/acquaintance name here) just had a baby. That's great. We'd really like to have kids too. We've been trying for a while, but nothing yet. We might check with a doctor just to make sure all looks ok."
Sound a little less scary? Well, if you're reading this and feeling like reaching out for help is just too much to bear, you're not alone. It isn't easy. My challenge to you is to pick at least one person to share it with (hey, you can even email me at email@example.com--I'll be a listening ear!). Then, see how you feel. I can almost guarantee that you'll feel better--and braver.