Why men need to get real about having kids
Movember Men’s Health special, part 2
There is an old saying amongst farmers breeding cattle: “if the cows won’t calf, then change your bull.” The fact is that often the reason a couple cannot conceive a child is due to the ‘Him’ factors. In a previous post, I wrote about the various physiological reasons behind low fertility in men: low sperm count, poor motility (the ability of the sperm to move to its target quickly and efficiently), poor morphology (the shape of the sperm), clumping of sperm, anti-sperm antibodies, and so on and so forth. But there are also reasons that lie outside of the realm of physiology, but which will nonetheless have a profound impact on sperm production.
Do men want kids?
As a former natural fertility practitioner I often found myself needing to ask men the question, “do you want a baby?” And more often the not, the answer is a short, vague sentence of non-committal, non-specific words that sound more like a politician evading a tough question.
Men don’t have the same maternal drive for children like many women do. Their drive is different — it is more about protecting and providing when it comes to those they love dearly. Even with the men who gave me those vague, non-specific answers, it was clear that they would love and cherish any child that was in their care; many of them already had children, and I could see the strong connection between father and child when I saw them together. It was awesome!
The vague, non-specific answer is usually more linked to a possible internal dialogue that men will always have in these situations: “how will I protect/provide?” Arguably, it could be said that the question is not so much “how will I…?”, but “will I be able to…?” It appears to me to be a crisis of confidence.
Men will often appear to be pragmatic and unemotional in these instances because they are ‘crunching the numbers’ internally:
“How much will this cost…?”
“Will I need to work more hours…?”
“But we’re barely scraping through as it is…”
I can’t afford to do it
And lose that girl of mine
— Fleetwood Mac
The stress and worry of providing for a family in today’s modern world can be overwhelming if you look at the infinite minutiae of detail. A lot of the issues surrounding stress in these types of situations is likely because we can’t see the forest for the trees.
Other times — and usually in cases of first-time fathers — the issues can run deeper:
“What kind of father will I be?”
“How will I cope with being a parent?”
“How will I cope with my life being turned completely upside-down?”
Many (but not all) men don’t have strong father role-models, and so the doubts are inevitably tied in with questions of comparison between them and their fathers. Or maybe they believe that they could never be as good a dad as so-and-so.
Or maybe, as in some cases, they genuinely don’t want to be fathers, and genuinely don’t want to have children. This can cause a problem when their partner/wife is going through the fertility game, and demanding that they be part of it.
And I’m too tired to care about it
Can’t you see this in my face
The emphasis on coping
Can’t you see this in my face, my face
Make it real
In any situation, men need to be completely honest with themselves and their partner. Authenticity is the key. Non-committal, non-specific answers to the question “do you want to have a baby” will just not cut it — you are not being true to yourself, or to your partner.
If you are not authentic about fathering a child, how will you make those small yet nagging changes in your lifestyle, such as cutting out alcohol and coffee, taking herbs/supplements, changing your diet, attending treatment sessions, etc?
I saw it many times: the men need to come for treatment due to diagnosed sperm issues, but do not. Their partners would ask, “why is he not turning up for appointments?” It could be perceived as passive-aggressive behaviour, and it is not fair on the women who are often being asked to jump through many incredible hoops.
As a practitioner, it was heart-breaking to see this dynamic, because ultimately it appears that HE did not want a baby, and SHE desperately did. Sometimes the only solution to that fertility problem is to — as the farmers say — “change the bull”!
The key word here is “change”. Leaving is only going to be an answer if HE emphatically says “no!” to children. Better that a woman knows now, rather than being left to be a single parent — so guys, keep that in mind when you avoid being honest and authentic with her about the fact that you don’t want kids (or more of them).
However if the problem is the doubt or lack of confidence surrounding parent/fatherhood, then something can be done about it. The bull can indeed be ‘changed’. These issue will never truly leave once baby is born. The she’ll-be-right-mate attitude won’t work when you are feeling stressed, depressed, tired and feeling overwhelmed. Better to deal with your emotional baggage now, before the roller-coaster ride truly begins, than later.
All the times that I cried, keeping all the things I knew inside,
It’s hard, but it’s harder to ignore it
— Cat Stevens
So how to deal with it?
All these doubts, feelings, thoughts, stressors — they will have an affect on your physiological health, and will affect the way your body produces sperm. Unlike women, men don’t have a finite number of sperm cells; we keep producing until the day we die (more often than not).
Having doubts will unconsciously lead us to wear tight jocks, drink lots of alcohol, keep our mobile phones in our pockets, drink too much coffee, etc. But these habits will also lead us to damage the rest of our bodies, which can of course have more serious and far-reaching implications down the track.
In Chinese Medicine, there is a concept called constraint/stagnation. Qi is meant to flow freely through the body, bringing with it vital nutrients to support and sustain all aspects of organic functioning. Qi flow can become constrained for a number of reasons, the most important being our emotions: emotional imbalance (those emotions which are counter-productive for us) can prevent the free-flow of Qi — indeed, emotions in this context can be viewed as particular expressions of Qi movement.
How many times have you ever heard someone describing themselves as “feeling stuck”?
When you feel this way, can you truly express yourself authentically to your partner?
Will your body be able to function if normal physiological functioning is constrained in this manner?
Will you be able to think clearly?
Will you be able to find creative solutions to problems?
To a certain extent, this state of constraint creates a kind of closed feedback loop — negative thoughts and reactions are swimming around your mind, building road blocks and reasons why you can’t do something….
In the context of having a child, the question that is never asked, and so never answered is “are you afraid of being a father?”
All the road blocks, all the other questions and doubts are preventing you from addressing the core issue in this context.
It is definitely a good idea to explore this issue and talk about it with someone – maybe your best friend, another male who has had kids, or an older male. Perhaps seeing an experienced NLP practitioner could also help to unwind those unconscious knots and help bring about some clarity. Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine is also very good at dealing with both the physiological issues, as well as helping to move that constrained Qi. Men find it easier to talk with other men about these issues, which is why seeing a male practitioner can also be advisable.
Either way, the ‘bull’ needs to change — and there’s no better time than now.