Monday, November 17, 2014

3 (of 4) An Inarticulate Bunch of Neanderthals. Why I'll Do Movember Every Year

Part Three: 'An Inarticulate Bunch of Neanderthals'

If you're reading this, the bottom line is that I want you to sponsor me for Movember. To raise awareness of men's fertility.

After the first round of IVF failed in May 2013, we had to consider what next. I discovered that a lot of people have more than one round. I was still hopeful. Although numbers had moved in the right direction, I was still having a crisis of masculinity.

Even before the first round, I kept thinking to myself that it would work. This particular life challenge would be over and could get on with Fatherhood. I'm a man - that's what I was meant to be doing. It is my purpose and destiny.

I wanted a valid reason to come into work tired. I wanted to be woken up by a baby's frustrated cry. I wanted to pass on my genes - all my grandparents lived past 80. Three into their 90s.

It's all about me dammit. I want life to go my way.*

So, we thought about it carefully - and chose to go for another round. There was no actual explanation for an embryo not implanting - but we thought it would definitely be worth another go.

Over July and August, Davina did it all again. I did my bit. We had all the visits to the clinic. The injections, breaking, measuring, disposing, checking.

And hoping.

And getting the news.

That it didn't work.


I remember really really really thinking it would work. And on finding out it didn't, numbness settling in.

We had a follow up meeting with the head of the clinic. Davina could barely sit in the room. I had set aside feelings to listen as the woman spoke of 'unexplained fertility' and 'it's difficult to know why' and 'we understand that it must be hard' and all the other nice things they're trained/ expected/ wanting to say.

I then remember being at home and eating a whole tub of Ben and Jerry's in about half-an-hour.**

As we started to communicate with those close to us, both Davina and I realised there was only so far we could go by ourselves. Counselling was the next step - recommended to me by Lyndsey (my sister) amongst others. So we did. Davina's workplace is enlightened enough to offer counselling services. I took advantage of the free session the clinic offered.

It was useful to be able to examine what I was thinking, how I was feeling and what I was doing. It was less about finding answers and more about asking decent questions to open something up.

I also found limited support on web forums. They made me feel less isolated. Fertility Friends and the Infertility Network were two I discovered. However, I've only posted on there two or three times.

I wrote something describing my situation - requesting a male viewpoint. What I got was 'I'm not a man but...' or 'My OH (other half) hasn't said anything like that, but I think...'

Now, over the years, I have trained, explored, challenged and pushed myself to open up deeper and more effective levels of communication. I am able to describe how I feel. I can get to the heart of what's going on for me very quickly.

But are most men really an inarticulate bunch of neanderthals?*** It would seem so. There is so much support for women. And so little for men.

IMHO there are a certain pressures 'society' puts on men to be a particular way. Of course 'society' puts all sorts of pressures on women and people in general too. But the silence is stifling around particular issues surrounding men.

My feelings come in waves: pain, regret, rage - smallest thing can set me off - seeing a colleague’s car with a baby seat, watching a young family go shopping, or making space on the tube for a woman with a 'baby on board' badge.

I’ve learned to ride the waves rather than attempt to shove it down.

It's not about a voice for the voiceless. It's articulating the inarticulate and emoting the emotionless. We want to talk. We are capable of communicating. I have male friends who are utterly amazing: the conversation will move seamlessly from an in-depth discussion about Star Wars, to debating the vagaries of the financial system, on to some terrible teasing and ending with us being able to say how much we love each other.

I'm not alone.

I build and maintain a brilliant support network of family and friends. They know who they are, what to say and how to say it. And even when they don't - the message gets through. I'm so grateful.

We can communicate.

But awareness needs raising.

So sponsor me!

Thanks for reading.

Click here for Part Four: A Very Fixed Idea of What It Means To Be A Man

* Throwing my toys out of the pram.
** Hey - I don't drink alcohol or smoke - but sugar is a drug.
*** Or maybe women are just far more self-aware and able to communicate?

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