Celebrating Father's Day When You Are Infertile

Dear Toni--

My wife and I have been married almost four years and had been trying to conceive for some time when we consulted a fertility specialist. It turns out that I cannot father a child. Since then we have been discussing our options and trying to decide which ones if any are right for us, while we also assess just how much we want to be parents. Ironically I think I want it more than Susan does, even though she tells me she is on board with whatever we decide to do.

It's clear to me that I have been grieving the fact that I will never have a biological child. Just thinking this makes me feel selfish and then I doubt the kind of father I would be were we to become parents. Yet, the desire is there and it doesn't really ever go away.

However it is Father's Day that seems to trigger the most negative feelings. I dread every year well in advance of the date. Many of my friends already have or are expecting kids and it was so easy for them. I feel resentment and jealousy and then feel like a jerk because of it. I really am happy for them and when we are asked to share their Father?s Day celebrations, I want to go, but I'm not sure how to act or what to say. I always offer congratulations and heap praise on their little ones, but wonder if they are aware that inside I am struggling with conflicted feelings.

Susan is fine if we join in but is just open to doing something by ourselves. Her parents live far away and my dad is deceased, so it would probably just be the two of us. That feels almost worse to me as it's kind of lonely and everywhere around us are reminders of what I feel I will never truly have.

I'm assuming that we are not the only couple who has experienced this and that you have probably had experience working with infertile couples. Therefore I would appreciate any of your thoughts, tips, insights and even some direction on how we should proceed on a path to parenthood.
--Infertile Man on Father's Day

Dear Infertile Man on Father's Day,

Let me begin by saying I am sorry for your loss. This is indeed a major loss and with that comes grief, which includes anger among the stages you will need to move through in order to achieve acceptance. By acceptance I don't mean the contentment that comes with not caring either way, but an acceptance of a new normal which in your case is having children who don't share your genetics. It's clear that you have moved through the shock and denial and are going back and forth between the anger and bargaining stages. I sense some depression in there as well, which tells me you have made some real progress, though it may not feel that way to you, especially when Father's Day rolls around. I'd like to offer you a way to avoid this pain altogether, but there is none, which I'm guessing you are well aware of.

Therefore, it's important to begin by reminding yourself that grieving takes time. If you deal constructively with it by acknowledging and expressing your feelings and needs, getting support and taking care of yourself--you will eventually get to acceptance. Along the way, your feelings and desires will waiver and it is not the ideal time to make any final decisions as these would be attempts to put a Band-Aid on the pain. Therefore, you and Susan are handling it well by exploring options, sharing your feelings, and continuing to try to stay engaged with friends/family/others as you heal and become ready to take those next steps. You will know when the time has come--there are no specific measures for this, it will be about a sense of readiness that you will feel.

When you know you are ready you will have already explored those options and come to some preliminary conclusions about which ones if any, might be the right ones for you. Having done this work will help you to decide that either parenthood is not for you or will point you towards the best path you can take to become parents.

I also think it's useful and important to mention here that when you become a parent, by whatever means, your child is very much your child, without reservation. It might help you to join a support group for couples working towards adoption or to get references from an agency or Doctor who can connect you with parents of adopted kids who could share their experience and how it has worked out for them. The reason this is so useful is that it would help you to sort out your grief over infertility from the grief that comes when you believe you will never have the experience of being a parent. These are very different and you don't have to suffer both. All those wonderful parenting experiences you see your friends having can be yours as well--you will just get there another way. But this will only happen when and if you know this is the right choice for you and Susan.

(from June 2015)

Want to read other columns on this subject?

"Second Wife and playing Second Fiddle"
List of more
"Relationship Challenges"

"Wants the Picket Fence Now"


Toni Coleman, LCSW
Phone: 703-847-1768


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