Have you ever wanted something, dreamed and hoped for years that it would happen, and then one day found out that it might not be possible?

That's how I felt after learning that my wife and I were infertile and might not be able to have children due to mixed issues between both of us. 1 in 8 couples struggles with infertility, so statistically it shouldn’t have been so surprising to me, but it still was.

Mark Manson puts it well in his new book on hope:

“The opposite of happiness is hopelessness, an endless gray horizon of resignation and indifference. It’s the belief that everything is falling apart, so why do anything at all?. Hopelessness is the root of anxiety, mental illness, and depression. It is the source of all misery.”
-Mark Manson: Everything Is F*Cked: A Book About Hope

As a young kid, I was indoctrinated to think that you get married and have a family. Easy peasy! We were never taught about what actually goes into having a family—the biology of it, at least.

One of the hardest parts of this whole experience for me wasn’t only the infertility issues, the stress, and the sadness, but it was the pressures of our community. I come from a Jewish family and consider myself Modern Orthodox. When people get married, there is a cultural pressure to have a child within the first 2-3 years of marriage. People are constantly looking, judging, worrying, and analyzing whether or not you are expecting.

A lot of the religious ceremonies, holidays, synagogue, and rituals are based around families and children, which causes more pressure on top of the stresses of infertility. To be honest, most people aren’t actively trying to be mean or judgy, but it happens.

It was crushing, heart-wrenching, and difficult to swallow that we couldn’t get pregnant the old fashioned way. But if you know my wife and me, we are both determined, driven and positive people, so we pressed on.

We went to a fertility doctor, and it was recommended that we start IVF. We had no idea what that actually meant, but it gave us a glimpse of faith and hope. After all of the prayers, crying, late-night talks, and worry, we could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. What could go wrong?

From the beginning stages of our infertility journey there was a lot of guilt for both my wife and I. For me, it was my feelings as a man that I couldn’t perform my “duties” as a husband. For my wife, it was the feeling that her purpose as a woman could not be fulfilled if she couldn’t become a mother. We both struggled together.

As a therapist, I have seen many couples and individuals who have struggled through infertility. It can break your spirit, and it can destroy all of your hope for a family and a promising future. It can cause depression, and it can impact your relationship with your spouse. Infertility can either split you apart or bring you together, and I’m happy to say that my wife and I came together. We became stronger, got closer, and learned to rely on each other for support. We became each other’s rock, support, and confidant.

Still, my wife and I had very different ways of processing the information. My wife turned to friends, social media support groups, and other outlets because they helped her realize that there were others out there struggling with the same things. It helped her feel more normal and less alone.

I, on the other hand, didn’t have the support I needed. Many men decide not to share their struggles because they don’t want to admit they are emotional and struggling. They are afraid to seem vulnerable or weak. But the constant between both males and females dealing with infertility is, the topic is taboo, stigmatized, and intimate. The constant is, it sucks and is super hard no matter what gender you are.

Dealing with infertility was a whirlwind of emotions and feelings, ups and downs, but we had hope and we held on tight to our dream of having a family throughout all the doctor's appointments, shots, and procedures.

My wife doesn’t like shots, so I gave her the IVF injections every night. I was there to hold her hand throughout the process. It wasn’t simple or easy to watch, and we had no idea how the drugs would impact her. It was also extremely expensive, which added stress to an already difficult situation.

Be the expert in you.

Take the Quiz

After months of waiting, my wife got a call that our first IVF attempt had failed. I had no idea how to react to hearing this news. I was speechless and confused about how to cope on my own while also being there for my wife. I felt alone even though we were going through it together.

At that point, we were flustered and thrown off course, but we went back to the doctor, and he suggested genetic testing. We went through the same process all over again, and this time it worked! I can’t explain to you the pure joy and fear we felt at that moment.

As a male and as a therapist I have noticed one main constant when it comes to the struggle of infertility and that is fear—fear of not having your dreams come true, fear of letting your loved ones down, fear of letting yourself down, fear of the unknown, and fear of judgment.

I would say the best thing you can do during this time is to get the support you need—whether that means leaning on family, friends, strangers on social media, or therapy—and do it as early as possible to help process the emotions and pain that infertility can cause.

Eli Weinstein, LMSW is a therapist who has worked in a psych hospital and an intense outpatient clinic, and currently works in a community clinic in Queens, NY. Eli created ELIvation to help those struggling with their mental health and add extra inspiration and motivation into peoples’ everyday lives. Eli has gone through his own struggles with anxiety, ADHD, and men’s issues (being a new dad, body image issues, relationships, and general self-esteem/confidence). His main goal is to help people on their journey to add support, care, empathy, expertise, and insight. He also runs events, seminars, and individual coaching on topics from mental health awareness, public speaking coaching, relationship coaching, and confidence-boosting.