When The Decision on Fatherhood Is Taken Away From You

This story originally appeared on the Gents Cafe Newsletter. You can subscribe here.

Modern times, especially in Western culture, offer a great deal of freedom when it comes to significant life choices. We have the option to follow the beaten path, or choose a life of adventure and enjoy the journey as we please. If fortune is on our side, we can choose what we study, where we work, live, who, or if, we marry. We can also decide if we want children or not.

But what if this particular decision wasn’t ours to make?

At the age of 30, I felt I’m in my prime. I blitzed through my twenties. Got my degrees, secured a career, was healthy and fit, met the woman of my life, proposed and got married. I very much envisioned my life following these classic milestones, and looked forward to each and every one of them. I always thought I would become a father one day.

At the age of 30, I learned that I might never be able to have biological children. The diagnosis was infertility. It was one of these surreal moments in life when you feel your soul leave your body and look at the scene from a third person’s perspective. After the initial numbness subsided and my ears stopped ringing, multiple questions started spinning in my head. Why? Why me? How? I’m healthy, no? The truth is that nothing can prepare you for this feeling. I’ve never felt more alone in this world, because I was under the impression that no one around me understood what I was going through. 

And I was going through a lot. I felt emasculated, purposeless, angry, betrayed by my own body. My insecurity went through the roof. Looking up things on the Internet didn’t help either. The load of medical articles I found didn’t really give me any comfort. I noticed no one really talked about infertility from first-hand experience. I started getting triggered by people in my neighbourhood, friends or family, who got to have children without any issues. Social media became a painful experience because all I could see were baby showers and pictures of newborns. 

Initially, I was hesitant to talk openly to my family, so every time I saw them and they asked “When are the babies coming”, I didn’t know what to say or had to excuse myself, because I was trying to fight back tears. I cried, because I found my childhood toy, which I preserved for my future kid to play with one day. Money was getting tight, because the procedures were incredibly expensive. I started to feel desperate and ashamed. 

By that time I knew I had to switch to my task mode. Our only tangible option for biological children was an IVF procedure, so we decided to throw everything we had into the process and hope for the best. Unfortunately, we only had one chance, and it didn’t work out. We discussed this possibility earlier, so we arrived at our destination somewhat prepared. The decision was to embrace life without children. 

I decided to share my story online and build a space for people affected by infertility. The feeling of loneliness was probably the hardest to overcome for me, and I wanted to give other people some comfort – by telling my tale and providing support to anyone in need of it. I opened up on my personal Instagram account and created a blog to describe the whole journey. Since then I got the chance to help dozens of men and women come to terms with infertility. 

If you, or someone you know struggle with infertility, please understand that you’re not alone. The statistics are brutal – almost 18% of the entire global population is affected by this condition. Your emotions are valid and you should never feel ashamed or inferior. Remember that infertility is not a one-sided verdict, but an illness, which can be cured.

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