[to paraphrase the song…. ]
When it comes to answering such a question there are certain challenges. Much focus from health services, the media etc has been on female fertility matters and treatments. In more recent times, science at least has highlighted the numbers of men having difficulty with conception. Researchers though have sometimes found men reluctant to come forward with their stories.
Between the two genders the balance of fertility problems is about 50/50. But is the experience similar for both?
There may be some shared feelings around such issues as body shame and a sense of failure to provide or achieve. And seeing your Significant Other suffer physically or emotionally will of course evoke the very human response of helplessness.
But is there a difference in the level or type of social exclusion experienced by both genders? Mothers are still the main care givers in most households and much of their activity, especially socialising, happens around the child’s needs and activities, and very often with other mothers. This can be a very painful and draining environment to be in if you want a child of your own and can eventually mean being largely avoided. Are childless women excluded more often from their friends than childless men??
Another area of difference between the sexes that has been identified in a scientific paper [reference below] is in communication, in particular regarding infertility. Whereas women often seek out other women to discuss their situation, gain support and advice, infertile men were much less likely to strike up a conversation on the topic with male friends. A kind of ‘silent knowing’ by those around these men means that there is no ‘need’ to be explicit. That might cause others to feel awkward or risk ridicule from those who do not know how best to respond.
And there the vicious cycle continues on. If we stay hidden…..silent….., and all for valid human reasons, how will anyone know how to help, support or even understand us.
My hope is that this Conference is another opportunity for us to start with ourselves and maybe then chip away at the rest of society, increasing understanding and compassion.
[ “It’s like taking a bit of your masculinity away from you”: towards a theoretical understanding of man’s experience of infertility. Alan Dolan et al. Sociology of Health and Illness. Vol xx No xx 2017 ISSN 0141-9889, pp, 1-15