Five years ago, my wife and I embarked upon a journey to parenthood. After battling infertility due to my wife’s endometriosis, we took a plunge together into the IVF (in vitro fertilization) process. We became pregnant and were so happy. Then, my wife got very sick. Unbeknownst to us, the doctor had perforated her bowel during the implant and transferred e.coli into her ovary.
My wife became deathly ill and went septic. She had to receive major blood transfusions to stay alive. During this, we lost our baby and she had to have a full hysterectomy—at the age of 29. We spent months living in a hospital as she lay in intensive care, with monitors all over her and a ventilator to help her breath. Thankfully and miraculously, according to the doctors, my wife recovered. It has been another long journey, this time to recovery.
That experience was one of the hardest moments in my life as a husband, hopeful father-to-be, and as a man. I felt completely out of control, helpless, and useless. That is something many of us men are not familiar with. In our relationships, we are used to being the provider, comforter, protector, and defender. Her knight in shining armor. Being confronted with a situation like this challenged that mindset.
Difficult moments come for all of us. Getting through the dark times reassures us we can get through anything. Here is what I did to get through the worst time in my life.
I allowed myself to let go of control.
Being vulnerable feels scary to many of us as men. It almost goes against our very fiber. Instinct tells us to survive and to not put ourselves in a place where we can lose control or be susceptible to danger. The moment I stopped trying to gain control of a situation I couldn’t control, the stress of not being in control lessened. Coming to the realization that there was nothing I could do to change the situation–except be there for and with my wife–brought me to a state of peace. When I went with the flow, I didn’t gain control of the situation but I gained control over myself.
I became in tune with my emotions
From childhood, many of us are told that “boys and men don’t cry.” We grow up with a mindset that we are not to express our emotions. When emotions are bottled up for too long, the lid busts open. Waiting until the point of explosion can lead to very bad decisions. While we fight against expressing our true feelings, we can become tunnel-visioned. Without seeing the full scope of the scenario, we begin to see things as one-sided. By getting in tune with my emotions and allowing myself to feel and not fight them, I could open my mind to the fullness of what was at hand. I could be more logical and proactive rather than reacting.
I reached out for help.
As a man, everything inside of me was telling me to ride the emotional rollercoaster alone. This was not the answer. The truly “manly” thing to do was to talk to close friends of mine about the stresses and fears I was dealing with instead of bottling them up and trying to deal with them alone. It took strength to open up to them and be completely transparent about where I was at the time mentally and emotionally. But the reward was great. I immediately felt a huge relief, as if a weight was lifted off of me. I realized that by trying to be what I thought was “strong,” I was putting myself through much unnecessary heartache and stress.
I’ve been able to use these approaches in other issues that have come up since that scary time. I have been able to get through. Not knowing how to constructively address an issue, and not having actionable steps to approach it, can be destructive and do more harm. But the situation is not the problem. It’s the undeveloped man within us that is the problem.
By learning to let go of control, getting in tune with my emotions, and allowing myself to reach out for support, I overcame one of the worst situations that I’ve ever had to live through. In the process, I became a better man.