PARENTS

How One Man Learned To Open Up And Accept His Infertility

"Infertility doesn't go away. We are still struggling with growing our family."

11/28/2017 12:29 EST | Updated 11/28/2017 12:29 EST
Ian McCausland Photography
Jon Waldman giving a TEDx Winnipeg Talk on infertility.

Name and partner's name: Jon and Elana Waldman

Occupation: Marketing specialist and four-time author

Age: 38

City: Winnipeg, Man.

Years trying to have a baby: Six

When the "dad gene" kicked in: Really, it was from the time I was a kid. My first cousin [once removed] was born when I was a preteen and we saw her quite often. I just always liked the idea of adding to that group of family members.

Jon Waldman
Jon, Elana and their dog Mercer in Victoria, B.C.

The infertility diagnosis: We tried unsuccessfully to have a baby for a couple years (including having a miscarriage) before we got deep into fertility treatments. We were diagnosed soon after our miscarriage, which took place just over a year into trying to conceive. We weren't surprised by the miscarriage as much, because miscarriages [are] somewhat common, but we didn't know how deep we were in infertility struggles.

The reaction: Because our infertility was labelled as unexplained, I just remember feeling angry. Certainly, there was a panic as to what we do [next].

Jon Waldman
"One of the (few) ways I could relax during our deep infertility struggle — paddleboarding at Winnipeg Beach."

The plan B: For myself, I worked on my diet, cutting out some foods particularly around "trying to conceive" times, as well as taking extra things like goji berries [which are known to help with male infertility].

The worst, by far, was maca root, a substance that is said to have positive fertility and sex drive effects. There were two options: pills and powder. Powder being cheaper, I went with that, particularly after being told by a salesperson at a natural foods store that she ate a spoonful every day. I don't know how she did that, since it basically congealed on contact with any liquid (including saliva).

After a separate procedure and still having trouble conceiving, our process went like this:

  • Acupuncture (to start and carried through subsequent procedures)
  • Fertility drugs
  • IUI (which we did just to see if it would work by chance)
  • IVF

We also started to investigate adoption opportunities, but ultimately it was IVF that gave us the result we wanted — a baby girl. To be clear, though, infertility doesn't go away. We are still struggling with growing our family.

Jon Waldman
An ultrasound image of the couple's daughter, Kaia.

The biggest challenges: I don't think there is any one challenge greater than others. Relationship is affected, financially you're hit hard and, overall, you're just drained emotionally. I became depressed and went on medication for quite some time [and went] through therapy as I tried to cope with my feeling of inadequacy.

Our relationships with friends who had kids [changed too]. It really hit hard. There were times where we just didn't want to go to birthday parties for new kids because it was too painful for us to celebrate something we couldn't hold ourselves.

To be clear, infertility doesn't go away. We are still struggling with growing our family.

The bright side: I think the biggest high point came in our journey to Victoria, B.C. My wife and I [are] both big fans of road trips, having gone on many car-based vacations with our families as kids. We had always said we wanted to do one together, so when we knew we were going to have to leave Winnipeg for a month for our IVF procedure, there was only one way we were going to do it. We packed up our small hatchback to the brim with clothes, food and our dog and set out on a true adventure west. Stopping along the way in the likes of Canmore and Kicking Horse Pass [in Alberta] was incredible, while the time spent in Victoria was unparalleled and was the relaxing environment we needed.

Jon Waldman
The view from the couple's car on the drive back to Winnipeg after their IVF procedure.

How their relationship changed: It's exposed us to each other in ways that most couples don't go through. Admittedly, it took me way too long to open up about my feelings and fears, but I'm glad I did. It's never easy for a partner to cry in front of their significant other and admitting you need help, but it's a conversation starter and it exposes you more and, in turn, brings an unparalleled level of openness and honesty.

It's never easy for a partner to cry in front of their significant other ... but it's a conversation starter and it exposes you more.

How they coped: Infertility doesn't stop when you have one, two, or however many kids you have with assisted production. It's traumatizing — it stays with you for life akin to PTSD. How we cope is speaking out and helping others.

At first, we were very private with our infertility struggles, but thanks to an incredible support group in the form of Fertility Matters Canada, we found the strength to talk about our situation outside of our family and friend group. Whether I'm telling our story through media presentations, such as my TEDx Talks, or the two of us are meeting with couples or talking online with those suffering, we do it together.

Jon Waldman
Jon holding Kaia for the first time.

Reaction to conceiving their baby: Overjoyed to say the least. We got the call shortly after passing through Vancouver on the way back [to Winnipeg, after undergoing IVF]. We knew we had to pull over to celebrate so we found the closest rest stop and called family and a couple close friends who were big parts of our journey. At the same time though, we were extremely cautious, given that we had gone through a miscarriage previously.

Meeting their daughter for the first time: My daughter was born July 3, 2015, a couple weeks early. It felt incredible to hold her — that everything we went through was indeed worth it. Everything changes in that moment. Your mentality and outlook on how your life goes from here on in.

Samantha Bracken Photography
Kaia's first birthday.

Why we need to talk about infertility: I think the one story that sticks in my mind before our daughter was born was a happenstance run-in with an old classmate on the streets of Winnipeg. She asked me if I had kids, and I basically glossed over and said, "Not yet." The response was along the lines of "You'd better catch up!" (in a polite, jesting manner of course).

It's these remarks that fuel me to talk. Innocent conversation does more damage than you can imagine. No one (hopefully) would disrespect someone by blatantly calling out their infertility; it's in the haze of naivety that hurt comes. What I want more than anything is for those types of remarks to utterly disappear from Canadian, American and international lexicon. There is no "catching up." There is only pushing through what stands in front of you.

Jon Waldman
Jon and Kaia in September 2017.

What he wants other couples to know: Talk. It sounds so cliché in the face of any marriage advice being communication, but the natural instinct is to shut down. It's so important to fight that feeling and open up. It's also equally important to listen and watch for cues when your partner is ready to talk about options.

Infertility from the male perspective: Ultimately, each male — as is the case for each female and couple — reacts differently to infertility struggles and, as such, the proper way to deal with infertility, as a guy, is unique. Having said this, though, the only way to overcome obstacles is to approach them. Open up, explore your options until you find what's right for you.

Final thoughts: I'd add that I am available to talk with anyone who is going through struggles. Social links to connect with me are here: Twitter and Instagram.

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