Father’s Day isn’t a joyous occasion for everyone. For one in six Canadians who struggle with infertility, it can be a painful reminder of a seemingly never-ending journey to fatherhood.
Daren Herbert, 40, and his 39-year-old wife Joanne have been trying to make a baby since 2008.
The most challenging part of their journey has been watching everyone around them “pop out babies,” and fielding questions like “what are you waiting for?” while being reminded that they’re “not getting any younger.”
“It starts to get draining,” Herbert says. “It starts to gnaw on me as well.”
He realizes people don’t mean any ill-will with what they probably assume is normal small talk. But it can be hurtful nonetheless.
He’s admittedly let the comments get the best of him at times, snapping back with his own questions, like: “Why do you want to know? Do you want to be up in my wife’s ovaries and my testes like that?”
Over time, he’s learned to deal with the prying with more grace. He tells people they’re “working on it,” and even have science and the provincial government involved.
That’s usually enough to shift the conversation off the topic. Sometimes, though, it draws questions of more substance about the whole process.
WATCH: Six months ago, the province of Ontario launched a program to help infertile couples, by funding in vitro fertilization. Caryn Lieberman follows one family on its journey to grow.
“Initially in the beginning stages,” Herbert explains, “We’d have sex like normal people.”
At first, the two assumed their inability to conceive was due to years of birth control build up in Joanne’s system (for the record, experts say that doesn’t actually affect fertility).
When they finally saw a specialist, a battery of tests and long waits for results showed the culprit to be the often under-discussed topic of male infertility.
Potential causes of male fertility problems, according to specialists, can be low testosterone levels, a low sperm count or even sperm that’s abnormal.
In Herbert’s case, there just wasn’t enough of it. So the couple got a line of credit and signed up for in vitro fertilization.
Thousands of dollars later, there was still no baby — despite all kinds of lifestyle changes like taking vitamins, cutting out hot yoga and chemicals in their toiletries, doing meditation and joining support groups.
The Ontario couple is now on round two of IVF, which will be partially funded by the Ontario government.
“The hope is this time it will be successful,” Herbert said. “I’m ready now. Bring it.”
If it doesn’t work out, he and his wife are open to adoption.
Until then, he hopes people will be more sensitive to the issue of infertility and will stop asking couples if they’re going to have a baby.
“You have no idea what people are going through.”