When your husband is infertile

Infertility is still a topic that many find difficult to discuss, especially when it's the man who can't reproduce

We all set up certain goals for ourselves. Whether it is buying your first property, having children or climbing the corporate ladder, these goals are what drive us . So when these plans do not materialise, it can be quite devastating.

When Rhandzu Tshivhasi (*34) married her husband over a decade ago, she thought that they would at least have a child in the first few years of their marriage. But things didn’t pan out quite the way she had dreamed  it would. The couple who have been married for the past 14 years, realised that there was something wrong, three years after they got married.

“We started trying to conceive soon after we got married, but three years later we still did not have a child,” she says. Seeing that they were both young, the couple decided to consult doctors to see if there was a problem,” said Tshivhasi.

Even though doctors told them that it was impossible for them to have a child as her husband’s sperm cells were dead, her husband still had hope. “We tried everything, but one of the doctors told us that it would take a miracle for us to conceive,” she says.

Till this day, she still battles to accept that she will never have a child. “Whenever I see a friend or one of my sisters having a child, I still have difficulties dealing with that. It’s not that I’m not happy for them, it’s just that the yearning to become a mom. I take days crying and just asking God why not me,” she says.

One of the things she has learned through her experience is that when a couple cannot have a child, people always assume it’s the woman with the problem. Even in her situation, people often think that she is the one who is infertile.

But while it is painful to have people assume she is infertile, she still feels the need to protect her husband.

“When a man is infertile he is looked down upon. You find that other men actually laugh at him like it’s his fault, but it’s not,” she says. She adds that when people ask why she still has no child, she’s always ready to say she has a problem conceiving.

She goes further on to explain that one of the other issues is that families also don’t know how to deal with the issue.

“Our families are not even traditionalists, they are modern, but it is difficult for them to talk about the issue. Yes, we pray about it, but you have to cope with it on your own. We face each day as it comes,” she says.

She adds that the way her husband is so hurt, he doesn’t even want to talk about the subject. While other couples in similar situations opt for adoption, Tshivasi says her husband is a traditionalist and adoption is not an option he wants to consider.

“I’ve actually mentioned it to him. My husband is a true black man. He says he doesn’t think he would love that child. Although I’m maternal and I know I would take care of the child, but he is not comfortable with it,” she says.

She hopes that he will change his mind in the future.

While the wound of being infertile never heals, Tshivasi believes that one learns to live with it.

Psychologist Hlengiwe Lwane says couples who are dealing with infertility have to support each other. She says that everyone deals with infertility differently. “It can become emotionally taxing for the couple and for the individual. It can become overwhelming,” she says.

She adds that people start asking themselves questions, such as Why me? “Couples end up being angry at the world, angry at themselves, this is why couples tend to break-up at this stage of anger,” she says.

She advises that couples stick together, and work together to find the best solutions to deal with infertility.

She also believes that family support is also quite crucial when a couple finds out they can’t conceive. Lwane says that couples should also not be afraid to speak frank about infertility to their families, as that allows them to take control of the situation.

*Names have been changed