Sheridan Voysey is a writer, speaker, and broadcaster, regularly contributing to the BBC and other international networks. His latest book is The Making of Us: Who We Can Become When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned (Thomas Nelson, 2019).
“Hi, Sheridan. I hope you don’t mind me, a complete stranger, contacting you, but I can’t talk to my family or friends about this.”
“I am a church youth worker, and my wife just showed me your book. I hope you don’t mind me asking, but could we meet? I feel so lost.”
“I can’t think of anyone to turn to. I feel embarrassed and ashamed.”
Brad, Neil, and Simon (as I’ll call the men who reached out to me with these introductions) weren’t contacting me to confess some secret sin or addiction. The burden they carry is childlessness. For Brad and his wife, six years of trying to conceive had produced only heartache. For youth worker Neil, multiple failed in vitro fertilization (IVF) rounds left him questioning his faith. And Simon feels responsible for the agony his wife feels with every period and negative pregnancy test. With infertility rates rising, these men are not alone in their situation. But they are isolated.
A recent study from Leeds Beckett University confirms that infertility can negatively impact a man’s mental health, self-esteem, relationships, career, and finances. With masculinity in our culture tied so closely to raising children and infertility often viewed as a “women’s issue,” men in this situation often face the crisis alone—even in their churches.
We can help them.
For 10 years, my wife, Merryn, and I tried to start a family. Our journey included special diets, healing prayer, rounds of IVF, and a year of assessment as potential adoptive parents followed by an agonizing two-year wait for our hoped-for adoptive child. We pursued our dream with all the energy we had, but it never materialized. Exhausted from a decade in the infertility wilderness, we brought our dream to an end on Christmas Day 2010 after doctors had told us, just days before, that our final IVF round had been successful. They’d been wrong.
I shudder when I recall the isolation of those years. I didn’t want to talk about our infertility—it was a large, dark topic I preferred to ignore rather than face, and I couldn’t think of anyone to open up to who would have any idea what I was experiencing. My feelings grew deep and complex.
Those feelings included guilt. As I watched my wife’s face contort in pain as the needle extracted the eggs for an IVF round, or as I held her as she sobbed when her hopes were dashed yet again, I felt guilt that I was the biological reason she couldn’t have what she desperately wanted. I felt sadness too, especially when I saw fathers playing with their giggling sons or watched proud dads walk their veiled daughters down the aisle. And there was jealousy and confusion. When news reports came of neglected children or another infertile couple announced their “miracle” pregnancy, I wondered why the abusive folks got the kid or why God answered others’ prayers but not mine.
While Merryn and I didn’t get the happy ending we wanted, we have seen our wilderness transformed into something redemptive. Prompted by a friend, I wrote a book about our experience called Resurrection Year, then followed it up with The Making of Us, a book exploring who we can become when life doesn’t go as planned. I started speaking at conferences on redeeming broken dreams. The media—fascinated by a man talking about a “women’s” topic—started calling. As a result, men like Brad, Neil, and Simon started reaching out to me.
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Source: Christianity Today