You Take the Good, You Take the Bad…

This week has been a roller coaster for me, in more ways than one. It began with the awesomeness that is NANOG (#57). I spoke on security issues in sensor networks in the security track (not many questions, but did get some positive feedback from another fellow who runs a large sensor network offering, so I think it was well-received). A highlight was of course seeing Ren & Joe, old friends long missed:

20130209-203212.jpg along with many other awesome folks: Lee, Tony, Paul, Patrick, Jason, Warren, Blaine – it’s like getting the band back together. There is the literal roller coaster – SeaWorld’s Manta was open to us one night, although paired with beer that could have been bad but happily wasn’t.

The restaurants in Orlando are a LOT better than they used to be: I remember getting hate mail from giving a bad review to a previous lousy place. Happily, both Cohen’s Deli and Orlando Kosher on Wheels (schwarma) are quite good (we had ~25 NANOGers go to KoW).

A great conference (duh: anytime there’s 500 people smarter than me I can learn from, I’m thrilled). But of course, time moves on, and folks were happy to tell me about their kids, and that’s what brings me to the other half of the roller coaster.

Infertility sucks. And I mean really sucks. Sarah wrote beautifully about it – I will never equal her eloquence – but I suspect that my experience is a little bit different than hers in this as we stumble down the path together. For one, I’m older, and as much as maternal age is what all of the doctors care about, I really, really feel my age sometimes, and it can be quite disconcerting.

There are support groups for women dealing with infertility, but to my knowledge nothing for men – in fact, the groups explicitly exclude men, as though men have nothing to do with this (!) or might not be hurting along with women. I find myself noting unpleasant passages in prayer (eg psalm 29 “Hashem lamabul yashav” – “God was enthroned at the flood”) and the like, and l looking at blessings with an ironic detachment (“you will live to see your children’s children” – ps 126, brings a “yeah, right”).

I feel an existential loneliness – an abandonment by God – that pains me in ways I can’t even put into words. I am still here, and I still cling to the mitzvot, as they are all I have to frame life and try to follow God’s will. I desperately want to do the right thing, and I try to discern what that is, but lately I feel like I’m shrouded in opacity, blind to the transcendent. And it hurts.

So I muddle along, riding the roller coaster. Hey look: Sarah made an awesome meatloaf! Along with a great Elvi Rioja! Yay! Ooh- lots of extremely cute children at lunch- sigh. Such is my sinusoidal existence right now.


About thegameiam
I'm a network engineer, musician, and Orthodox Jew who opines on things which cross my path.

8 Responses to You Take the Good, You Take the Bad…

  1. Foxfier says:

    I think the exclusion feeling is partly because… pardon the indelicacy… a guy’s side is simpler to identify if it’s not working, so women feel like it’s all our fault. (I know, there’s the defective cell issue and stuff, but emotion isn’t logical.)

    You probably don’t really want to hear something like this right now, but… thank you for talking about the pain of not being able to have kids. I’m pregnant with #3, and my husband is activated to an out-of-state school, and I’m quite sure everything is going to go wrong etc etc etc.

    I keep feeling overwhelmed; the honesty with which you share your pain helps me remember what an incredible blessing it is that, at thirty, I don’t have a serious problem having children with my husband.

    On a cultural note, it also smashes the late-night fears that my husband doesn’t really want kids, which– on examination– is based on pop culture saying kids are girl things.

    • thegameiam says:

      Simpler medically- perhaps, but only if I look at this as a “his vs. hers” problem, which I do not: it’s our problem.

      Regardless which one of us is at any given time getting an unpleasantly intrusive test or procedure, we’re wholly in it together. It hurts both of us, and it isn’t something which can be blamed on one or the other (and seriously, it isn’t like I’m trying to have kids with some other woman, or her with some other man) – it’s just the condition of life in which we find ourselves today.

      I’d like very much for that condition to change.

      • Foxfier says:

        A good view of it, though it doesn’t do much to beat the stupid out of emotions…

        I’d like your situation to change as well; I’ll be praying for you both.

  2. Sarah says:

    I am so glad that you write about the male perspective on infertility. As your partner, I see how it affects you as much as it affects me, although sometimes in different ways. In addition to men’s grief about losing, in the case of miscarriage, or not conceiving the babies they want, I think men also feel protective of their wives. It is a tough place to be, and I am so grateful that you view this as our problem, not yours or my problem alone.

  3. Thank you so much David for sharing this. We are davening for you and Sarah to put this chapter of struggle behind you very soon, but meanwhile, we are also very sympathetic. I really understand ,from experience, what you were saying about wincing at so many Jewish moments that include or reference children (in my case it is the plural form that is the issue).
    I thought you might want to know that has an online support forum for men. They are a frummy organization which I have found helpful periodically over the years.

  4. JZ says:

    Yes. The only book I’ve seen on the topic is _What to expect when she’s not expecting_, which is female-centered and a bit negative.

  5. Efrat says:

    While I understand your wish for emotional support, I would not be comfortable in a support group that included men who are not my husband. The pg/infant loss group that I participated in was women only and the leaders offered to do a session with the husbands. None of our spouses wanted it, nor had the spouses of the previous groups.
    Interestingly, below is the link for a support service in Jerusalem for couples facing infertility. As the director notes, they have services available for the husbands, yet almost none take advantage of it. I guess all of this is to say that your wishes are laudable, but that you are the exception and not the rule.
    Wishing your bracha, happiness and marital bliss.

    • thegameiam says:

      Ms Hain said that two men “independently” contacted her- that’s not quite where I am.

      There really are not resources for men in the US: following the various breadcrumbs leads to lots of dizzying medical information, but no actual emotional resources (other than individual or couples therapy).

      I’m curious though: why would you have been uncomfortable in a group where the other women’s husbands were present?

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