The Empty Room: A Man’s Journey to IVF

The Empty Room: A Man's Journey to IVF | Twin Cities Moms Blog

After two frustrating, but transformational years trying to have a baby, my wife and I have just begun IVF. The best we’ve felt in those two years has come through rescuing a sweet little pup we named Ruby. She was 15 minutes from being put down, and now her every breath is a comforting reminder.

Because maybe we haven’t created a life yet. Not yet. But we saved one. And that’s purpose we can take away from this admittedly dark time in our lives.

When we started trying, we both assumed we’d be pregnant in the first months. We had just gotten married and life overflowed with optimism.

Who expects they’ll have problems?

We all come into the world these innocent little beings, and we just accept that of course we’re here in the world. When you’re little and running around, you don’t think that it’s a miracle I exist at all.

You just step along the path until you’re saying words and going to school and experiencing your first kiss and first job, and along the way, for me anyway, I just always knew someday I wanted kids.

Someday, of course, always someday.

That’s how the conversation goes.

“Do you want kids?”

“Oh, not now. Someday.”

Because of course, someday, if you want, when you’re ready, you’ll be a parent when you decide to be. We all assume we have control of that, so we say with naive confidence, “I hope they get your eyes,” or “I’m thinking a Spring baby.”

And then finally, everything is right.

So you decide it’s really time to start trying, and that distant someday becomes tonight, and tonight becomes the very moment you’re living and breathing.

And you’re in that moment, truly alive with the wild optimism thinking, here we go, this is a beautiful new chapter in our lives. We’re ready. How wonderful. I love you so much. How lucky we’re going to be to bring this beautiful little life into the world. Our lives will be so filled with purpose.

You don’t think for a second, maybe one morning, every month for the next two years, we’ll feel devastated.

The Empty Room: A Man's Journey to IVF | Twin Cities Moms Blog

And along the way, we’ll read all the articles and try all the things. Eat healthier. Drink less. Lose weight. Try more often and learn exactly the right times.

Then people will start to say…

“Just relax, it’ll happen. I had a friend who…”

At first, you’ll think maybe they’re right and maybe we’re stressing too much and that’s why it’s not happening. So you stress about not stressing. You get a mantra and start meditating. She starts acupuncture and disgusting herbal tea, and you go through these truly hopeful months where you really believe it will happen.

But it doesn’t, and then you hear it again.

“Enjoy your freedom while you can.”
“You want one of my kids?”
“You’re lucky you still have…”

Now when you hear those things you just think, please just stop.

Sadly, it’s you who stops talking, except to a few people, and those people mostly just listen.

But everyone wants to see cute baby pictures.

No one wants to hear that instead of adorable pictures in your dining room, you have expensive fertility drugs filled with empty hope. Instead of being sleep deprived from a constant howling infant, you lie awake thinking about the silent empty room that waits for them.

Then everyone around you is either still indulging in themselves or they’re busy in the parenting life you can’t reach. And you’re stuck in the middle, feeling like a stranger in both worlds.

So here I sit in the rocking chair in the empty room. And I wonder why I keep trying so hard to be happy. Because just as I cannot force myself to grieve when I am joyful, I cannot make myself happy when I am depressed.

So I have decided, I accept that this is a dark period in my life, and I’m going to learn everything I can from it. If pain persists tomorrow and the day after, I will find purpose for the grief, to build empathy for others, and to deepen my gratitude for someday when we become parents—however it may occur.

If I could stop wanting to be a dad, the pain might relent. But I cannot stop myself from wanting to be a dad. So I am choosing to thank the struggle for teaching me that life isn’t about finding happiness in the end. It’s about finding meaning in the middle.

C’mon, Ruby, it’s bedtime.


Paul Feiner is a writer, editor, and digital marketer from Minneapolis. He is a loving husband, a runner, a sports trivia footnote, and hopeful future father who wants to tell a story no one is telling: a man’s perspective on finding meaning through dealing with unexplained infertility.

6 COMMENTS

  1. I will never forget the tears my husband had when are two attempts at IVF failed. I’ll never forget holding on to each sobbing at the negative results and the failed development of any embryos on the second. I’ll never forget the call from our RE telling us that chances of having my own biological child were very slim. I’ll never forget my husband holding me as I screamed and screamed and apologized to him for my shitty eggs. He told me he didn’t care, he loved me and we would find away to have a family. I’ll never forget the call I got to make telling him we were matched to an egg donor. I’ll never forget jumping in the shower fully clothed with the positive pregnancy test in my hand. Looking back over the our 5 year journey removed from my own sadness and despair I’m so thankful I went through my dark time with him. It was so hard on him too but he helped hold me up and never let me sink in my despair for to long or to deep. He is truly amazing and he was such a rock for me. Our daughter is so blessed to have him as a father.

    Good luck to you and your wife and Ruby. Our dog was adopted during our journey and he was our savior and kept light and happiness in our life. He is also a great big brother.

    • It’s funny how you thank the pain, Kathy. I wouldn’t trade it, hard though it was. Thanks for sharing your beautiful memories, and congratulations to you and your husband for surviving and growing stronger as a result.

  2. I love your story! It made me tear up. My husband and I are going through the same thing, 2 years of frustration and counting. Every couple and every story is filled with ups and downs and hopes and depression. Some may say just do IVF, like it’s as easy as flick of a finger. It’s funny and truly amazing how we all felt the same way earlier on – we’re going to be parents when we are ready. I know exactly what you have gone through, as I wanted an October baby for us, 2 years ago, lol. In the meantime, we have to learn to find happiness with our partners and in our day to day life. I told my husband yesterday, yes we can’t get pregnant, yet, but we can’t let that take away the other good parts of our wonderful life. Don’t give up hope. One way or another, we will be parents one day.

  3. Much love. My husband and I went through the same pain for five years, tried science to get pregnant, and eventuallywere told we would probably never get pregnant. Well by some miracle we got pregnant on our own. The five years of pain taught me a wonderful lesson in just letting go but when you are in it, it is a hard lesson to learn. I wish you luck. Hold onto one another because no matter how much you try to explain to others the pain you feel, no one will understand and love you more than your partner.

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