By Tom Sanders on 6 April, 2017
These days most people know someone who has undertaken the In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) process at least once. In fact, our doctor told me one in six couples in Australia will experience infertility. My wife and I have been through the process twice. Fortunately, we have been successful on both occasions. There are many more couples not as lucky as us who continue going through multiple IVF rounds in the hope of building a family. While most of the process is about the bloke's partner (rightly so), there is very little advice available to us blokes and how we can best manage the experience.
Throughout both times, I have taken notes of ideas that I found helped me/us in the process. Here are my 5 tips for any bloke going through, or about to go through, their own IVF journey.
There are countless steps in the IVF process. Even before you start, tests need to be done to identify where the infertility is coming from before you can find a baseline and move forward. Supporting your partner is vital, so take the time to understand the steps and learn the lingo. Talking to doctors and nurses and asking questions will help build this knowledge. Use this knowledge to help your partner make decisions along the way.
It's your partner's body that is going to experience the IVF process and all its side effects. So, control what you can. If possible, months before you start the process start treating your body like the temple it should be (not the temple you claim it to be). This also shows your partner you're in it with her and doing all you can. This includes taking good vitamins, reducing or stopping alcohol/smoking, healthy clean eating, acupuncture, and exercise. The benefit to all this is you'll feel tip top and will be physically and mentally ready to start the process.
Your partner is going to be taking artificial hormones increasing your chances of getting pregnant. These hormones may also increase her mood swings. Added to the stress of the whole process are financial costs, friends naturally getting pregnant around you and asking questions like 'when are you having kids?'. You have to step up the support for your partner. You have one job in the IVF process, so devote the other time and effort in to supporting your partner. Do things like cook dinners, clean the house, lend her your ear and anything that makes her life easier.
Constant check-ins about what your partner finds easy and hard can help focus your attention. For example, my partner was not fussed about the surgery part, but became stressed when we saw our doctor rush in to the room finishing her sandwich, frantically washing her hands and muttering something about lunch on the run, all before seeing us. You pay a lot of money for the process. Don't feel the doctors 'owe' you something, they are there because they like their job. As my wife threw me daggering looks, I knew this is not what she wanted and was looking to me to fix it. A gentle reminder to the doctor about how a calm environment helps you both manage better helped get the point across.
Yeah sure easy. Much of my experience was about managing expectations. Once you finally come to the realisation that a petri dish baby is where you and your partner are at, you already feel behind the ball. So naturally you level off your expectations, your partner loses faith in her body and you don't allow yourself to get excited. This was particularly hard as I'm a naturally positive person. The blow of having no viable eggs at the end of the process, after all your hard work and forking out thousands of dollars is crushing. This is where positive thinking, mind-body connection stuff kicks in. You need it. Whether it's another bloke to just hear you out, getting acupuncture or meditating - DO IT. What's the harm? It may not be the answer, but can form part of a solution to keep you going.
Telling friends that my wife and I have a bun in the oven is a fun experience, particularly as this article will be the first time the majority of our friends find this out (surprise!). I hope that anyone who wants to build a family gets the experience. If you have to use the IVF process like us, wear it like a badge, be happy that a team of really smart scientists are working hard to make it all come true, enjoy the personal journey and good luck!