Infertility’s “Astonishing” Effect on Fathers

“Men are spending more time with their kids.  Young dads are  now spending more time each day with children than mothers between the ages of 29 and 42 are.  Which is staggering! Astonishingly, married men are now feeling more torn over balancing work and family than their wives are.  Norms have shifted.  Taking care of a child is now part of what it means to be a father.”                                                                                       – Newsweek, 4/19/10

This breathless report on the “astonishing” and “staggering” news that men are becoming involved fathers is most interesting for what it doesn’t mention.  Concurrent with the rise in involved fatherhood, the U.S. is experiencing a steady rise in infertility.  It’s getting harder to get pregnant.  Not for everyone, but for at least 1-in-every-8 couples of childbearing age (possibly, many more).

At the risk of sounding Pollyanna, if infertility results in fathers with a deeper gratitude for the opportunity to parent, I think it’s a blessing.  Not to pick on the guys; I’d say the same thing about us becoming mothers.  A thankful heart is an appropriate response to receiving a much-desired gift from God.  If He converts our gratitude into motivation to be “astonishingly” committed parents, even better.

I’ve seen this happen repeatedly in the infertility groups I’ve led.

“Does infertility teach you something?” asked Mike, formerly a member of the group and now the father of two boys.  “Yeah.  If it takes this much effort to have a child, you cherish them more.  If it takes longer to get pregnant, you appreciate it more than if you had a baby the first time you tried.”

Brent,  a father for three months, agrees.  “I had a life plan.  But now, I don’t feel the rush on the career side.  It doesn’t bother me.  If it happens, it happens.  I’m not going to force it.  I’m focused on being a father.”

In my experience, infertile couples go on to become incredible parents — whether by conception or adoption.  Not only are they deeply grateful for their child(ren), they are also deeply committed to stewarding them in the best possible way.  I believe that commitment is what God’s after.

Sometimes, the commitment is tested.

James, the father of twin girls, says, “Not having children seemed like the hardest thing.  But then, we had one kid who needed heart surgery and they  thought the other kid might have Down’s Syndrome….”  Difficult as it was — “We only had five minutes to enjoy becoming parents!” — James and his wife faced their new challenges head-on, and they continue to work as full partners raising their incredible girls.

That was our experience, too.  Our daughter required open heart surgery when she was just four-weeks-old.  Our son was born prematurely a week before I was (mis)diagnosed with a rare form of cancer and began chemo.  Of course, we recoiled at the thought of more suffering, hard on the heels of infertility.  But my husband had that “astonishing, staggering” commitment Newsweek talks about — so did I — to our children, and to each other.

Not that we would have wished for it, but the challenges of infertility prepared us — individually, and as a couple — for what would follow.  With faith in each other and trust in God’s purposefulness, we got through it all.

That’s one of the great blessings of the infertility journey:  You and your spouse discover strength, passion and a depth of commitment you never knew you had.  And, as best I can tell, they last a lifetime.  As does the desire to continue to grow in the faith that sustained you.

That may be part of how God’s setting the stage for your future — as a parent, as part of a forged-solid relationship, and as a believer whose faith has been tested, renewed, and proven.  May it be so.

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For more resources and cause for hope, visit PregnantWithHope.com

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