"Men Take Action": Step Off the Hamster Wheel (Male Stereotype #2 That Makes Infertility Hard!)
I'm excited to share part 2 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.
The stereotype/belief for today: "Men take action and fix things."
During our second IVF pregnancy (which ended in a miscarriage), this idea was a real pain in the butt for me. How did it show up for me? Enter our friend Dr. Google. During that pregnancy, I went Google-crazy trying to read every study and piece of research I could get my hands on about topics that had to do with our situation: thyroid issues, Hashimoto's, diminished ovarian reserve, AMH levels, and on and on and on. I felt like if I was just proactive and kept reading, maybe I'd find that magical piece of information we could bring to the IVF clinic and say "AHA! HERE'S THE SECRET! This study says if we take vitamin X in conjunction with treatment Y, we'll be guaranteed success!"
Of course, nothing is that easy with infertility. It's also important to note here that taking action and fixing things (as in my case) doesn't always require a hammer or wrench. In the case of infertility of course, those tools are uh...of course not very useful. Nevertheless, consider these common messages/questions/reactions that we men (and women too of course) so often hear from ourselves and others :
"So what are you gonna DO about it?"
"Isn't there anything you could do?"
"Are you sure you've tried everything?"
"You just have to keep at it. Keep working."
"You gotta commit. Take action."
If you're going through infertility, I'm sure you've already had a lot of action. Probably months and months, if not years, of "action" trying to get pregnant. And it hasn't worked yet.
So why is this stereotype such a problem? The reality of infertility is that a lot of time is spent waiting, and there's very little you can do to have any major effect on the outcome. Are there things you can do to improve your chances? Sure. Should you advocate for yourself and ask questions to ensure your treatment leaves no stone unturned? Of course. But if you and your partner live a reasonably healthy lifestyle, enlist the help of a knowledgeable fertility clinic, and speak up and ask questions to advocate for yourselves, you've done most of the important work to give you the best shot possible. Being stuck on the "hamster wheel" worrying about what other things you should be doing will just stress you out more.
This can be really hard for us to accept--men and women! We live in a time where almost everything seems to have an easily Google-able solution.
So what are some ways to tackle this belief and be more supportive of yourself and your partner when you're smack in the middle of an IVF cycle and feel that urge like you need to be more active and ready to fix something?
I have two suggestions--both of which really helped me.
Suggestion 1: Do some deep breathing/meditation to help let go.
Sometimes when we get in "fix it" mode we really just need to quiet our brain down to stop it from saying "WHAT ELSE CAN WE DO? GO FIGURE THIS OUT!"
Deep breathing and meditation can really help. Don't overcomplicate this--and I highly recommend using an app like Calm if you're new to meditation.
Simply notice when you're getting revved up about feeling like you want/need to do more, and see if you can take ten deep breaths or do a 5 minute meditation. The point is just to get your brain off the hamster wheel.
Suggestion 2: Try a mantra (I know it sounds woo-woo, but bear with me).
I get it, this might sound wacky. But again, when we're in "fix-it" mode, we need to quiet our brain down--or change what it's saying. A mantra can help.
Again, keep this simple. A mantra is just something you say to yourself. It can be a simple gentle reminder or something you stop and say to yourself 5 times.
Try these out to stop the "hamster wheel" of feeling like you need to take action/fix things:
"I trust that we're already doing everything we can."
"I notice I'm feeling anxious. It's ok to let go and relax."
"I give myself permission to let go."
I hope these suggestions help you become a more supportive partner--and that they help you support yourself too!