By Amber Greviskes
In 2012 more than 70 million men celebrated Father’s Day in the United States, according to the Survey of Income and Program Participation. For others, however, Father’s Day is another reminder of their struggles with infertility.
About 40% of the time, infertility is caused by low sperm count, poor sperm quality, or inability to produce sperm. For many men, this can make them feel emasculated and as if they’ve let their partners down.
Those feelings can peak around Father’s Day, according to Sharon Martin, a psychotherapist in San Jose, who helps men and women experiencing infertility. “Father's Day is likely to trigger feelings of loss, sadness, hopelessness, and anger,” Martin said. “It's important to know these feelings are normal.”
There are many ways to cope, however, said Crystal Clancy, an Eagan, Minn.,-based therapist who has worked with infertile couples and individuals for almost 10 years.
Pay Attention to Signs of Anger or Irritability
These two emotions often mask depression or sadness. Men are also more likely to use alcohol to self-medicate. They may also choose to throw themselves into work or other activities.
“Men may put up a tough front when they are really hurting inside,” Clancy said. “Partners may then perceive that their husbands don't care, or that he isn't affected by the infertility due to this ‘brave face’.”
Take Care of Yourself
When you’re depressed, it’s easy to forget about sleeping, exercise, or diet. Proper sleeping habits and a nutrient-rich diet can help your body repair itself. Exercise boosts the amount of serotonin, the feel-good hormone in the brain.
Talk with Others
Many men internalize their emotions, but having the opportunity to discuss feelings with friends, support groups, or professionals can help. Others who have experienced infertility can assure those who are struggling that they are not alone.
Find a Distraction
Family and friends who know about the situation can offer support by planning a distraction to take one’s mind off Father’s Day. Be sure to allow emotions and avoid triggers that will remind men of their infertile status like places where young children are celebrating with their parents.
Celebrate Other Fathers
Try spending the day at the local golf course, which will be free of small children, or celebrating over dinner at a nice restaurant with the men who are most important to him like his father or father-in-law.
Tune Into What’s Right
Men who are struggling with infertility should really pay attention to their feelings. Some men may be incredibly excited to attend the annual Father’s Day picnic a few days before, but feel completely overwhelmed when the day of the event arrives. In a situation like this, skip the event and consider what does feel right — journaling, meditating, or another relaxing activity.