My fertility support intake form asks, “Why are you here today?” Women usually get right to the point and write, “To improve my fertility so that I can get pregnant.” Interestingly, men or women partners often write, “So that my wife (or partner) can reduce her stress about having a baby and be happier.” They almost never write, “So my wife can get pregnant” or “So my wife can conceive.”
This funny cartoon references the peculiar mating habits of the Praying Mantis in which the female sometimes eats the male during or after sex. Referred to as sexual cannibalism, it fortunately only happens about a fourth of the time and only in some of the subspecies. The exact reason for this ritual is debated by bugologists and includes the fact that males’ thrusts become more vigorous after she bites his head as well as the fact that he becomes a source of nutrition and sustenance for the hundreds of larvae that will be fertilized. These stick-like bugs with bent legs were considered supernatural by Ancient Greek, Egyptian and Assyrian cultures, and were a symbol of courage and fearlessness in ancient Chinese poetry.
The implied humor here is that the female mantis seems to be more interested in getting her bookshelves built than she is in sex. Many times a similar sentiment has been shared by my patients who say that,” My husband thinks I only desire him so that I can have a baby.” Women often admit feeling guilty about this, which is added on top of their hormone and tension-induced irritability.
A male praying mantis can turn its head 180 degrees to scan for danger and has two large eyes and three small ones giving it stereo vision. My patients’ partners are generally not green with five eyes, but I am really touched by how nurturing they are. Like my nurse-practitioner patient who carefully packs a lunch for her doctor’s wife who works long hours. And the teacher’s husband who goes to every fertility appointment and takes copious notes so no information is overlooked. And my heart went out to a husband who called me recently from work to say, “I’ve never seen her this sad. I’m really worried.”
Kudos to all of the courageous partners who support my patients through fertility treatments, IVF, and miscarriage in an effort to build a family. They supply everything from sex on demand (when the smiley face or line appears) to the sustenance and emotional support needed to keep going forward on the family-building journey. I don’t know about the female praying mantises, but I know my patients appreciate their mates.