To become a parent, there are three primary factors in play. The egg and uterus from a woman and sperm from a man. The egg and uterus work together and any medical condition that may affect one will influence the other.
The participation of man and woman in the act of childbirth isn’t a simple 33% to 66%. There is so much more.
If that math wasn’t mind boggling enough, women also have an upper age limit of forty-five, which men do not have. Sperm has a life span of three days, whereas a woman’s cycle is around every thirty days. A woman can give one egg per month whereas forty million sperm are produced every three days.
While childbirth is a science, the point here is that a man always knew that he would be waiting outside the labour room for a child and it’s the woman’s job to carry and deliver the baby. When things don’t work out, almost forty to sixty percent of the IVF cycles demand an egg donor but only a fraction require a sperm donor. If there are issues with the uterus, a surrogate mother may be required to offer her womb.
The pressure on women far exceeds that of men. The emotional and psychological questions of not being able to contribute their eggs or even carry a child can lead to a feeling for emptiness. A feeling of being incomplete. And this is when a man must step up and step in.
While it is difficult for men to comprehend the nitty gritty of what women go through emotionally and physically, it is important for them to be present and be there for their partners.
In my many years of experience, more often than not, it is the women that come alone for the treatment. Husbands present themselves on the day of the Egg Pick-up and splash their sperm in a cup. Men participate out of denial, women do it hoping they will complete themselves and their families.
The war of psychology and sex continues.
Men must accept that they play only a small part in childbirth and that while the complications may at times be from the women’s side, their emotional support, physical presence and understanding is a step towards making the process more bearable.
Women must be allowed to take decisions regarding the IVF and Surrogacy process. Over the course of a normal pregnancy, for a man to become a father he must seek his partners permission and consent. That must not change because it’s gone from an intimate process to a medical procedure. They must accept that the process will take time and she needs space to take informed decisions regarding her body without the added pressures of her husband and society.
They must be present and attend all consultations and even be open to the idea that adoption is a very real option if IVF and/or surrogacy doesn’t work.
Men must remember, for a woman to become a mother, she needs five minutes from a man. The average time taken to donate sperm. For a man to have a child, he needs two women over a period of a year. One to donate her eggs and another to carry the pregnancy for nine months. They must respect that while they do play a role in making a pregnancy happen, it is a minuscule part and women don’t really need much from a man. What they really need is their partners support, a hand to hold, care and unconditional love. She can do the rest twice as much.
Dr. Sudhir Ajja is the co-founder of Zoi Fertility and former head of Surrogacy India, a specialized organization offering comprehensive services for IVF, surrogacy and egg donation.