I just saw a challenging patient. The wife had ovarian failure, and one of the treatment options we offered them was donor egg IVF. Her husband was quite comfortable with this option, but she flatly refused.
He just could not understand why she was being so stubborn. Isn't this a sensible option ? If she does not have her own eggs, what's wrong with borrowing someone else's ? What's the big deal - it's just an egg after all ! This way she will get to experience the pregnancy and will be able to bond with the baby. Since I am willing to pay for this expensive treatment, why is she objecting ? It will be our own baby - and no one else will know we have used donor eggs, so why is she refusing ?
I often see this dilemma, where the husband and wife cannot see eye to eye as to what treatment option they should select. It is true that men are from Mars and women are from Venus. He was using a purely logical approach, just like most men adopt, because they think of themselves as being problem solvers. Fix the problem, find a solution and move on !
However, women are equally smart and can figure out the solution using the same logic. They really do not need this kind of assistance, because they are capable of figuring it out for themselves.
What wives need from husbands is empathy and a shoulder to cry on. Not being able to have a baby with her own eggs was a major disaster for her. It was the loss of a dream - the death of a hope. However, her husband could not understand this and this upset her even more ! If he's so smart, why can't he understand the pain I am going through ? This means they kept on talking at cross-purposes and going around in circles without ever getting anywhere.
He needed to understand her stance by borrowing her perspective. He then needed to explain to her that he understood what her feelings were and could sympathise with what she was going through. He needed to talk to her about all her fears - both expressed and unexpressed. These included the following:
Will I be able to love a child who was born with donor eggs ?
What if the child does not look like us ?
Will I be able to be a good mom ?
She felt responsible for bringing up the baby and felt she needed answers to there key questions before she could agree. She felt her husband was being very immature , short-sighted and goal- focussed. Her worries were far more subtle.
It is true that women are far more complex than men - and the sooner we realise this, the better. ( I have been married for nearly 25 years and it took me a long time to figure this out, but I am happy to share my learning !) When women say No, they are not just being pig-headed, but often being far-sighted, because they are much better at anticipating problems. Most men prefer taking a - We'll fix it when we get to it approach, which many women find uncomfortable, because this involves a live baby whom they are bringing into the world !
I asked him a simple question. What if you had to use donor sperm ? What would your feelings be ?
Realisation finally dawned on him ! He could now appreciate some of the complex feelings his wife was having to struggle with. I don't know what they will finally decide, but I am sure they will have a more fruitful discussion now !