Picturing Infertility: A Man's Point of View

In this digital age pictures are everywhere.  We have those “old school” cameras (some even still use film), digital SLRs, small pocket cameras, cell phones, iPads…it seems every device has a camera.  These cameras are constantly capturing images of life and helping us share them through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or whatever new social media channel may crop up next.  It’s a constant barrage of “look at life” in a manner only still images can provide.  Still images are great for catching that instant, that frozen moment but they do so without context.  No audio to help the viewer orient themselves, no sequence of images to show what happened right before or right after that perfect moment. In the absence of these, the viewer is left to define the context themselves, building a perception of reality. 

Take a look at the image above.  What a beautiful moment in time.  It’s an image of a beautiful barn housing the celebration of a joyous event in the lives of two young adults who just exchanged wedding vows as they begin a new life together.  Looking at this moment in time from this perspective you would naturally form the view of a reality that is quiet, serene, and perfect.  Now depending on your own unique life experiences this image will invoke an emotional response.  Maybe thoughts of “how beautiful”, “how blessed are those in the image”, “oh how I’d love to be at that party”, or “why can’t I have an experience like that?”  Without information to define the context we formulate our own, and based on our current reality this context is accompanied by a unique emotional response to the image and those in it. 

As the photographer of this image I had the privilege to be in that moment and can view the image in its actual context.  The image was captured about two hours after the area was inundated by torrential rainfall, and tormented by damaging straight-line winds that toppled trees, damaged houses and knocked out power to the area for hours (including this barn that was without power when the image was taken).  What you don’t see is a flooded dirt road leading to that barn that was becoming nearly impassable for the cars attempting to make it to this celebration.  You don’t know that Courtney and I contemplated turning back from attending based on the weather, the road and the fact that we felt sure our car would get stuck in the red clay soup that had formed. 

Now take a look at this image.  What do you see?  A happy father and mother with their beautiful little girl.  A beautiful picture simply capturing a moment in the happy life of an All-American family.  What emotional response comes as you see this instant in time?  Over the years my response to these type of pictures on Facebook, Twitter or wherever was something like “Lucky them”, or “I wonder if they realize how good they have it”, and even “why can’t I have that?”  Those were my responses based on my experience and where I was in the journey of life.  Again, looking at the context the picture doesn't provide I made up my own. 

What I didn't see from this picture was the two young engineers who met each other, got married, built a house and planned the perfect life together.  The 5-year plan that led to starting their family of 2.5 kids after they had their 5 years to enjoy life together.  What I didn't see is how that plan didn't pan out and 5 years turned into 8, with the additional 3 being filled with struggle, strain and a continual rise and fall of emotions for both the young man and his loving wife.  I didn't see the countless doctor visits filled with lukewarm news of hope and harsh realities.  I didn't see the tests, procedures and clinical “encounters” that were the foundation of moving that picture from a couple of 2 to a family of 3.  The image doesn't show the pain of hearing “with another partner each of you may be able to procreate but together it’s just not going to happen without some help.”  It’s impossible to see the failed attempts of prescription drugs and prescribed “procreation attempts,” followed by an unsuccessful IUI and ultimately 3 rounds of IVF.  The camera can’t capture the feeling of helplessness the man experienced the morning they went to see the first heartbeat and were told instead that they’d “lose their baby.”  Those pictures didn't show me the pain the man experienced watching his wife try to grasp for hope amid a miscarriage and a D&C procedure.  Two more rounds of drugs, 15,000 miles on the road to doctor’s offices in a single year, and something that is supposed to be a natural part of life becoming highly clinical.  An image can’t show you the 9 months of waiting for the other shoe to drop amid a parade of good news and blessings and how the joy of those times are tempered by that. 

Given the context what story does that picture tell now?  What is the theme of latest chapter stroked by God’s pen for this family?  It’s a couple that has grown closer through an experience that tears many apart.  It’s a family that is run by a little girl who is full of life and truly is the epitome of God’s gift of life.  A family that will forever be reminded of the struggle each time someone sees their moment in time and says “what a beautiful little girl, what a perfect family…when are you going to have more?”  But being reminded of that struggle is not a bad thing at all.  It’s a constant reminder of the gift of life, the sovereignty of our God and how we are executing His plan…not ours.  As a man who’s lived through infertility and not being able to naturally do the one thing that you should be able to naturally do, I see my experience as a blessing.  It makes me cherish my daughter even more, it keeps me humble as the patriarch of a beautiful family and reminds me every day to take the opportunity to tell my story in the interest of helping others who may be viewing those images and formulating the same false reality.  Through the burden a blessing has been born.  Sometimes God needs to lead with a storm to provide the peace and build character.  Moses’ story in Numbers 11 is a fantastic reminder that God is and will always be with us.      

I hope that during Men’s Health month sharing the context of these images and their actual reality will help others in their walk toward God’s plan for their lives. 

A Nuclear Engineer by education and the grace of God, Rob splits the atom for a living and educates others about the same as a hobby.  A perfectionist to the degree 0.2% short of a fault, Rob enjoys landscaping, building things with his hands and being a pretty decent husband and father.  75% lover and 25% fighter, he’s a good guy to know and a hard guy to forget.  As a humble but motivated introvert, he enjoyed writing his bio the least of all.  


It's not just women that long to hold a child and celebrate a day set aside to honor parenthood. Men most definitely long for those moments too. As we approach Father's Day, we look forward to celebrating the day with joy but not without the memories of all those years we were both in a season of longing and waiting. I am honored to bring to you a story I have been longing to share with you for some time... our story through infertility from my husband's point of view. It is our prayer that his words bring encouragement to those who are still waiting and true gratitude for the blessings in your life to those of you looking forward to this upcoming holiday. You are not alone. 

To the Childless Father on Father's Day

The scene is familiar. It has happened year after year. You sit there in the congregation or with other family members while all the fathers are recognized. Maybe they are asked to stand and everyone applauds. Yet you must remain seated. Again. You hang your head slightly yet try not to let it show. Or you scroll through social media and see all of your friends and family post pictures with their children on Father’s Day with the cute homemade gifts made just for them by little hands. But you have nothing to share of your own. Again. You think no one notices. But He sees you. God sees you. And He wants to whisper what a great miracle He has in store. You can’t see it or begin to comprehend it but it is coming. 

Even the childless mothers are starting to receive much more sensitivity on the subject. Maybe it’s because women talk more in general and are finally able to share their feelings on infertility without feeling as shameful. Yet there is nothing to be ashamed of. But you – the childless father – still go year after year without anyone realizing that Father’s Day is equally as painful for you as Mother’s Day is for the childless mother. The fact is that you hurt too. You ache to have children just as much. You may not show it in the same way, or at all, but you still long to be a father just as much as the woman does to be a mother.

You may be thinking, “well you are a woman and you really have no idea how I feel.”  That is true.  I am a woman and I admit it is very hard to know how my own husband feels much of the time because he reacts to things much differently than I do.  We were designed that way on purpose.  But I am a woman who was diagnosed with unexplained infertility, and the wife of a man who was diagnosed with infertility.  We traveled the painful path together.  We cried for one another on Mother’s Day and on Father’s Day.  We understood each other’s hurt, as well as how the other reacted to that hurt.

My husband doesn’t outwardly show his feelings like I do.  And I would venture to guess that can be said for 99.9% of you. What I think society tends to forget though, is that just because it can’t be “seen” doesn’t make it not so. And often it is those “unseen” things that are leaving the greatest wounds. Infertility is one of those especially for men because so often manhood is tied to the ability to conceive children.

On this Father’s Day, I want you to know that you are not alone. You may be fighting back tears and wanting to stay strong for your wife or significant other. But what she needs is for you to share that with her. Let her carry some of that grief. Keep the lines of communication open and lean on each other during these tough days. And please know that you are also not alone among men. There are thousands of others out there just like you. And likely someone you know and are close to.

Lastly, it may seem as though your day will never come when little feet come barreling into the bed with you screaming “Happy Father’s Day!!!” It felt that way for my husband too. It was several years after our diagnosis before he was blessed with those words from his child. But it did happen and he never lost hope that it would. Hope and faith is the only thing that will make any of this ever make sense. And one day, when you are looking into the eyes of your child, you will finally understand the purpose of all the pain and it will instantly be washed away by the miracle that took place.


It's not just women that long to hold a child and celebrate a day set aside to honor parenthood. Men most definitely long for those moments too. As we approach Father's Day, we look forward to celebrating the day with joy but not without the memories of all those years we were both in a season of longing and waiting. I am honored to bring to you a story I have been longing to share with you for some time... our story through infertility from my husband's point of view. It is our prayer that his words bring encouragement to those who are still waiting and true gratitude for the blessings in your life to those of you looking forward to this upcoming holiday. You are not alone. 

Polycistic What??? His Diagnosis Paved the Way

What was thought to be “just” a kidney stone was just a few minutes later a “diagnosis.” The doctor performed an ultrasound of my husband’s kidneys and instead of what he thought his whole life to be healthy kidneys actually turned out to be what appeared as a cluster of grapes all over them. He in fact had polycystic kidney disease (PKD), a hereditary condition that they thought had skipped him. His grandfather, aunt, and uncle had all been diagnosed and have now since passed away due to complications with the disease. I admit that I had no clue about the disease, what it was, what it led to, or what it meant for our future. But I knew by the concern in his eyes that it wasn’t what either of us wanted to hear.

So what does any good, supportive wife do? She Googles it of course. Can I just say that this is a TERRIBLE idea. Google doctors will have you dying in a matter of seconds. Never go there. Just don’t. Trust me. I was devastated. The way that they talked his kidneys were about to shut down any minute and he would need a transplant with any chance of survival. See what I mean? I was scared out of my mind.

But what is PKD? Very few people even know it exists and unless you have complications, there is a chance just as with polycystic ovaries, that you could have it. As it turns out it can be very common. It is a chronic condition and as of right now there is no cure. Here is the official definition from the PKD Foundation:

PKD is an inherited disorder in which clusters of cysts develop primarily within your kidneys. Cysts are noncancerous round sacs containing water-like fluid. The cysts vary in size and, as they accumulate more fluid, they can grow very large.


Although kidneys usually are the most severely affected organs, polycystic kidney disease can cause cysts to develop in your liver and elsewhere in your body. The disease causes a variety of serious complications.


A common complication of polycystic kidney disease is high blood pressure. Kidney failure is another common problem for people with polycystic kidney disease.


Polycystic kidney disease varies greatly in its severity, and some complications are preventable. Lifestyle changes and medical treatments may help reduce damage to your kidneys from complications, such as high blood pressure.
— PKD Foundation

We somehow managed to get into a study just in time with Emory University which happens to have some of the best nephrologists in the country. Who am I kidding? It didn’t “just happen.” God led us there. Although the study didn’t really make any major strides in my husband’s disease, it has given him access to one of the leading nephrologists in the nation where he is now a full time patient. 

We learned more and more, and felt confident that his kidney functions were perfectly fine and with medication it appeared as though he would have no major complications from the disease. Then, in early 2008 – in the middle of trying to conceive a child – there was a major complication and my husband was in and out of the hospital for a month. He had a cyst rupture inside one of his kidneys and he began to pass blood and was in excruciating pain for weeks. He lost a tremendous amount of weight and was extremely sick. The concern of what this meant began to rise.

The reality of the severity of the disease hit my husband hard. This was genetic and he began to question if continuing to try to conceive a child was what he wanted to do, knowing that he could in fact be passing along this life threatening disease to another generation. It was that week lying in a hospital bed together that the subject of adoption first entered our marriage. I always had a particular heart for orphan care, after having biological children. But this was different and this was the moment that God began to open our hearts in a real way.

Well after a few months and when life was back to normal, we were over the scare and decided we would continue to try our plan for conceiving a child. We would talk about this “other stuff” later. More and more months went by and more and more negative pregnancy tests were tossed in the garbage along with tear stained Kleenexes. It just wasn’t happening. After several other tests for us both, that is when we were given the dual infertility diagnosis. It turns out that what we didn’t know and the one thing that Google didn’t mention is that PKD could under the right circumstances cause complications in conceiving children.  

If you’ve read our Adoption Journey then you know what happens next. God brought back to life that heart for adoption and made it a reality. It was the best thing that ever happened to us. Was in painful getting there? Absolutely. But we would do it over again a million times to receive the precious miracle of a child that we did. 

As for my husband’s health, he has had no further complications. We honestly believe that was God’s way of paving the road to adoption for us. We often forget that he is even walking around with a “disease.” We are grateful for the health he has been given so far, the lack of further complications, and we are prayerful for the future. 

To learn more about PKD, visit www.pkdfoundation.org


It's not just women that long to hold a child and celebrate a day set aside to honor parenthood. Men most definitely long for those moments too. As we approach Father's Day, we look forward to celebrating the day with joy but not without the memories of all those years we were both in a season of longing and waiting. I am honored to bring to you a story I have been longing to share with you for some time... our story through infertility from my husband's point of view. It is our prayer that his words bring encouragement to those who are still waiting and true gratitude for the blessings in your life to those of you looking forward to this upcoming holiday. You are not alone.