A few days ago, my friend Katie Kelley allowed me to share her story about how delayed fertility has impacted her. Today, her husband David is sharing his perspective on their struggle. If you are currently walking this same path, it is important to note how this struggle not only affects wives, but husbands as well. I pray that you are blessed as you read David’s story.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve dreamed of being a father. But then, I’ve had a lot of dreams. Some of them I’ve lived, as I was fortunate enough to travel and play music for a living for the better part of five years, and others I will only ever play out in my dreams as I will never be a professional baseball player at this point in my life! One dream, however, that I wholeheartedly believe I will achieve one day is the aforementioned dream of fatherhood. I was so lucky to have grown up in a home where my parents truly loved each other and have happily been married for what will be 36 years in February. My father also set a wonderful example of how a man should love his children and in turn has inspired me to grow up and be like him; a loving husband and a genuinely great dad. It seems as if it is one of the few things in my life that I was made for, that I believe that I have what it takes to face the challenge head on and excel, but haven’t quite been able to make it happen yet. For a 34 year old man like me…that’s scary! You see, I have always said that I wanted to have kids at a bit of a younger age because I didn’t want to be one of those dads that was 50 years old with a child in high school. My plan was to be a 50 year old dad who has since retired, sent his kids off to college and is setting off to travel the world with his beautiful wife, ready for the next adventure. If you do the math, plans have definitely changed…
If you read Katie’s post a few days ago about our fertility journey (and I highly recommend that you do if you haven’t already) then you know that our story is one of hope and healing. But the road has been long and it’s been a struggle. She was so brave as she gave you a glimpse into her heart and soul as we’ve been walking out our story. Around the time that she was writing her story for her blog, she asked me if I’d be willing to write out my perspective and experiences and share them with the world. Now, I’m not one to usually bat an eye at an opportunity like this as I love to write, but this assignment in particular has been one that I’ve been wrestling with for a few days. Why? Because it’s something that I have been extremely private about in personal and professional circles, and suddenly I’ve committed to sharing with the world my struggle and my experience and how I’ve grown during this process. Now, here I am, writing this out, because I believe that this road that I’m walking is one that a great deal of other men walk too. And most of the time, those guys are walking side by side with their wife, trying to be strong and longing to be understood and noticed just like their significant other. Guys, it’s a lonely place, and not for the faint of heart. It’s a place where you, as a man, often feel overlooked by your peers because most people think about infertility as being a problem with her, not you. Often times it can feel like nobody recognizes that you too are a part of this journey. But fellas, I see you, and this one’s for you! I hope you find encouragement and strength in the words that follow.
When Katie and I got married, our plan was to give ourselves about a year to just be us and experience life as a married couple before we started trying for a baby. It seemed like a great plan! We never sat down and mapped everything out so that we had something tangible to point to and say, “Today is the day! Let’s make a baby!” We believed that we would just know when it felt right that it was time to start trying. I’ll never forget the day! We were both in our friends’ wedding, literally almost a year to the day after our own, enjoying the reception, having a glass of wine, and taking a break from the greatness that was unfolding on the dance floor (the bride and groom are both phenomenal dancers, almost like a young Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers). Katie was looking extra fine this evening, and I just had this overwhelming urge to tell her that I was ready. So…I did. I don’t think she took me seriously at first, but I couldn’t have been more sincere in my sharing of how I felt. Thus begins the journey.
For the first couple of months, everything seemed perfectly normal. I figured that we were just missing the mark by the slightest of margins each month. When the next few months rolled around and we realized that she wasn’t pregnant yet, it became a bit more frustrating, but we both remained optimistic that it would happen soon. Six months passed and still nothing. A year passes and still…nothing! With each passing month, I see the stress and the weight of the situation starting to take it’s toll on Katie. “You need to be strong for her!” I thought with every tear she cried. “You’ve got to be her rock! You can’t allow her to carry this burden! You’ve got to remind her every day that our time is coming! It’s going to happen!” All of these thoughts began to creep in and control my emotions, and I began to internalize and suppress the sadness and the frustrations that I was feeling. I started to believe that it wasn’t okay for me to grieve because Katie was grieving, and I needed to be her shoulder to cry on. Little did I know that what I was doing was causing more harm than good.
One of the hardest lessons that I have ever had to learn in my entire life occurred about 8 months ago. You see, while I wasn’t allowing myself to show emotion because I felt like I had to be “strong” for my wife, she was beginning to believe that the struggle wasn’t real for me like it was for her. Because I wasn’t grieving with her, or crying with her, or even visually pissed off about the situation with her, in her mind, what was becoming real to her- because it was what she was seeing from me- was that I wasn’t in this like she was. She felt like it didn’t bother me like it bothered her, and our marriage began to suffer because of it! I was so worried about bearing a burden that wasn’t mine to bear, that I became numb to all the feelings and emotions that were being buried under this tough guy facade that I was putting on. My “strength” was becoming my demise! My “encouraging words” were becoming less and less meaningful to her. Thankfully, Katie is bold enough to call me out when she sees something that she feels is uncharacteristic of me. She began to recognize that this gentle dude that she married was trying to be a tough guy that didn’t seem to care too much about the process. I’m so glad that she did! The Lord uses Katie in so many ways to kick me in the butt and make me realize that I’m being dumb. This one particular night, about 8 months ago, was one that I’ll never forget. We had just gotten home from a day out, and I could tell that something had been on Katie’s mind. Before I could ask her what was troubling her, she looks at me and begins to pour her heart out about how she was viewing my actions and how it made her feel. As she began telling me that she felt so alone on this journey that we were supposed to be walking out together, and she didn’t understand how I could be so stoic in the midst of one of the hardest seasons of our lives, the Lord began to reveal to me a very important truth. He said, “You don’t have to be strong for her…I am her strength, just as I am yours! Katie needs you to meet her where she is, and walk with her. Let me carry the two of you, together, through this. It isn’t your burden to bear. Trust me!” In that moment, I lost it! Over a years worth of pinned up stress and sadness and pain and despair started pouring out, and I cried! Uncontrollably! I cried as if it were my job! And it hurt like hell, but at the same time it was so therapeutic. It was like I had suddenly become a real person again. I felt like myself for the first time in months. Prior to “the cry” I had become a bit of a zombie, hopelessly wandering through each day without any idea as to what I was doing. I felt human again! I felt connected with my wife again! And she felt like she had her husband back. The important takeaway from this is that we as humans, often try to carry things that are too heavy for us to handle. For a little while, we can usually remain strong and carry it a fair distance, but without the strength and endurance of the Father, we falter and break down all the while focusing on the burden, and not the prize. Katie is my prize, and I missed out on quality of life with her for so long, because I was focused on the burden. A burden that isn’t mine to bear.
Guys, if I can wish upon you one takeaway from this post, it’s this. Be okay with being real. Be okay with showing emotion. It isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of maturity! I referred to myself in the last paragraph as being a gentle dude, and I’m ok with that. Ya know why? Because the truth of gentleness is that it’s controlled strength. Picture a lion and it’s cub playing together. That lion is strong and powerful and in any moment could crush that little cub with one paw. But, it has the ability to control itself and be gentle, understanding what it’s capable of doing in an instant. Gentleness is attributed to real masculinity…don’t be afraid of it. And most importantly, don’t be afraid to be open and vulnerable with your wives. “Tough guy syndrome” will cause men to put up a front and act like they’ve got it all together. It’s important to understand that vulnerability with your wife breeds intimacy with her, and in times of adversity, relationship and intimacy are far more important to the longevity of your marriage that any amount of “being strong for her” will be. I trust that you understand what I’m saying.
It’s been two years this month since we started trying for a baby…two of the hardest years of my life. After reading Katie’s blog post the other day, a buddy of mine at work asked me how I was able to walk into work everyday with a smile on my face. That question challenged me to reflect on the last two years, and my conclusion is this. I find joy from the Lord in the midst of our circumstances because through this process, especially the last few months, I’ve realized that our relationship has deepened, our hope has been restored, and our little life is beautiful!
“I will exalt you, Lord, for you rescued me. Lord my God, I cried to you for help, and you restored my health. You brought me up from the grave. You kept me from falling into the pit of death. Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones! Praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.”
“The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.”
Much Love to you all!
David Kelley is a musician and a devoted follower of Jesus Christ. He and his wife, Katie, live in Knoxville, TN. His story was originally posted on his wife’s blog, The Untamed Wildflowers.