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Husband: What to expect when she's not expecting

By Marc Sedaka, Special to CNN
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When baby-making fails
  • Sedaka shares important things to remember when your wife is going through infertility
  • Communicate openly and often to make sure both of you want to go through this
  • Sedaka: "By being a willing participant, you're actually being a bigger man"
  • Infertility is a "we" and "us" issue, not "she" and "her"

Editor's note: TV and film comedy writer Marc Sedaka is also the author of "What He Can Expect When She's Not Expecting: How to Support Your Wife, Save Your Marriage, and Conquer Infertility!" The Sedakas have twin daughters and a son.

(CNN) -- "Hey, did I tell you my old girlfriend's pregnant?"

It doesn't take a genius to know that you probably shouldn't share that information with your wife. But it takes an absolute moron to share it with a wife who's spent the past six years of her life trying to get pregnant.

Allow me to introduce myself. I'm a moron. Or at least, I used to be.

For almost seven years, I stumbled, flopped, backpedaled and apologized while my wife went from one failed infertility procedure to another.

It's not that I didn't care. It's just that I didn't know ... what to do, how to act, who to be. And, amazingly, there wasn't that much information out there to help me.

So now that I'm on the other side of all this (and the father of three beautiful children), let me share with you the five most important things to remember when your wife is going through infertility.

1) Communicate.

Marc, Amanda, Charlotte, 
Michael and  Samantha Sedaka.
Marc, Amanda, Charlotte, Michael and Samantha Sedaka.

Yes, you've heard it all before. Communication is a vital component of any marriage. But never so much as when you're in the throes of infertility.

From the first twinge of concern to the last IVF treatment, you have to make sure your voice is heard, and make sure hers is heard as well.

First off, confirm that you both want the same things before you so much as step into a fertility doctor's waiting room.

You might think it best to keep your opinions to yourself right now, but believe me, it's a lot better to air those concerns before you invest all this time, money and energy than after.

No wife wants to hear that you never really wanted kids when she just had a painful steel probe stuck up her ... well, you get the point.

And don't assume that your wife is going to initiate all these discussions, either. In fact, this might be the only time in your marriage when she's even more closed off than you are.

This is because many women consider infertility to be a shameful topic. And, because of it, there's a good chance your wife is feeling scared, embarrassed and inadequate.

So it's up to you to assume that these feelings exist and keep those lines of communication open. You can't know how to help her unless you know what she needs.

2) Empathize.

Don't just sympathize, empathize. The last thing your wife wants right now is pity.

In my own case, I used to get my wife flowers after every failed IVF (we had nine), and after maybe the fifth or sixth, she finally confessed that the flowers weren't making her feel better.

In fact, they were just a sad reminder of how she had failed. Pity flowers, as it were.

Now, maybe your wife loves flowers. Maybe she'll find the gesture endearing.

But if you have to put your money into something, better to put it into something that celebrates your successful marriage (let's say a romantic dinner at your wife's favorite restaurant) rather than mourn the temporary failure to conceive children.

3) Set unbreakable goals. Be willing to break them.

Conviction is great. A single-minded purpose is great. But you have to be willing to shift gears as the situation warrants, and you have to make sure your wife is willing to do so, as well.

I cannot stress enough that infertility is a process. And yesterday's "never in a million years" may easily become tomorrow's "I want it more than anything."

So, for example, when you feel like shouting "I'll never adopt!" consider altering that to a more open-minded "I'm not ready to adopt."

Your point will still be heard, your priorities will still be addressed, but you'll save yourselves heaps of stress and aggravation should your wife be of a different mindset right now.

4) Put your machismo aside.

We're men. We never admit wrongdoing. We never ask for directions. And we never surrender to anything that may emasculate us, embarrass us or otherwise jeopardize our prized masculinity. All well and good.

But not in the world of infertility. Don't want to take the semen analysis test? Too bad. Feel uncomfortable discussing your personal life with the nosy doctor? Get over it. Infertility is demoralizing, invasive and messy. That's just the way it is. Sorry.

The bottom line is -- and you know it's true -- you're just going to wind up doing all the stuff anyway, so are you really helping anybody by putting up a stink? Probably not.

Plus, as hard as this might be to believe, by being a willing participant, you're actually being a bigger man.

5) Share the burden

Remember when you walked down the aisle and said all those words about better or worse and sickness and health? Well, nowhere are those words more fitting than when you're going through infertility.

There is no "she is infertile." There is no "her last test failed." It is "we," and it is "us." Probably more than any other time in your marriage, your wife needs her partner now. An equal, split-down-the-middle, 50/50 partner.

One who is as willing to share the credit as he is to share the blame. Anything less is unacceptable. Anything less, and you're not even worthy of her.

Remember these points, and never forget them. Put them on stone tablets if you have to. They may very well save your marriage.

And this is coming from a guy who knows.

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