The Easy Bit
1 in 6 couples in the UK have trouble conceiving. There is a huge amount of support available for women going through treatment but there is very little for men. This has been changing in a positive direction over the last few years and I think the sole reason for that is, men are starting to talk. There are more men talking openly about fertility treatment than ever right now, and that is a truly great thing.
My wife and I spent twelve years trying to conceive and we wrote a blog about our treatment. One of the most eye opening things about writing that blog was the shock and surprise from our mostly female readers that I was talking about what it was like for me. It made me realise that there was a great need to learn more from men about their experiences of infertility and fertility treatment so I went on to make a documentary called The Easy Bit.
Traditionally men are taught to “man up”, “soldier on” and “keep your head down, you’ll get through it” which leads to lots of repressed and undealt with emotion. This is a societal norm which is very hard to break. When my wife and I were going through treatment, everyone would ask how she was doing and I was told “look after her” or, when referring to me only having to provide a sperm sample “at least you have the easy bit”. Very few people asked me how I was and I was firmly put into the role of being the rock that supported my wife. Of course I was very happy to do this but it highlighted something. Most people didn’t even consider that I might need support. It felt like no one understood, no one realised that even though my wife was bearing the brunt of the physical treatments, I was as emotionally invested in the process as her. Thankfully things are changing.
The process of fertility treatment is very isolating for men. The majority of the treatment involves the female partner and the men are often just regarded as bystanders in the room, and sometimes even seen as a nuisance getting in the way. There were appointments where I personally didn’t feel welcome, like I was an intrusion to be tolerated rather than part of the process. I wanted to reflect that in the film. I wanted to take the men away from the home environment and their partners but do it in a visually interesting way. There has been some great research done at Leeds Beckett University that found men don’t really seek professional support but rely more on peer to peer.
Unfortunately with something like infertility it is very hard to find other men who are openly talking about it. I felt that by having the men talk directly into the camera it would feel more like peer to peer support rather than a traditional interview. It also had the added bonus that because the men were talking to an inanimate camera they didn’t feel the embarrassment or shame that people often feel when talking face to face about personal subjects. I sat at a 90 degree angle to them so they would only make eye contact with me when they were ready.
The main goal of the film is to help men realize they are not alone, that it is ok to feel the way they do and it is ok to talk about it. Hopefully it will help to encourage conversations not only between men and their partners but also clinics, charities and governing bodies will get involved more to increase the support for men. One of the best places for men to start looking for support is the private facebook group which offers peer to peer support. You can find it here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/mensfertilitysupport
The Easy Bit is available on Amazon Prime and Vimeo on Demand.