Keegan Prue shares his struggles in starting a family so other men will feel less alone

— Photo by Katherine Wright
Keegan Prue with his wife, Olivia Cohen-Prue, and their daughter, Eliza Anne Cohen-Prue.


ALTAMONT — “You’re not alone,” says Keegan Prue to couples who are trying to have a child but can’t.

The most important first step, he says, “is just reach out to somebody.”

Prue and his wife, Olivia Cohen-Prue, struggled to start a family for five years — including three cycles of in vitro fertilization and two miscarriages — before their daughter, Eliza, was born.

To cope with the anxiety, Prue did massive amounts of research, and he wrote. The writing — a way to process what he was going through — was cathartic, Prue says in this week’s Enterprise podcast.

He has now turned that research and writing into a book, “The IVF Dad,” which will be available through Amazon in July.

Infertility is not rare; it affects one in eight couples, Prue said, and resources are plentiful. What is rare is information about IVF by and for men, he says.

Prue directs that advice — to reach out — to men. “I know how scary it can feel. I know how hard it can be, but it will make the journey easier,” he says.

In his book, as in the podcast, he gives out his own email address — The — so any man can reach him.

Prue’s book is radical in that he is fighting against ingrained cultural stereotypes that real men don’t share their pain with others and that they are not good at caring for themselves.

“Fertility treatment is something that can be very isolating and lonely,” he says, convinced the reason its prevalence isn’t widely known is because people don’t talk about it. “People obviously feel a lot of shame around infertility,” he says.

Having children is widely taken for granted in our society, Prue says. “High school health class was really just learning how not to get pregnant,” he says, while very little information is offered on what to know about getting pregnant.

Prue hopes the information in his book will empower the men who read it and make them feel less isolated and lonely. “My dream,” he writes in his book, “is to build a community of men experiencing infertility who feel knowledgeable and well-equipped to tread the path ahead with strength and a burly, strapping, manly dose of sensitivity.”

Prue says he wishes he could wave a magic wand and change the cultural rigidity that can make men feel trapped. He believes his book can be a building block toward that change.

In his book, Prue lists common messages men hear from the media and society, ranging from “boys don’t cry” to “guys fix things.” The list also includes: “A real guy can ‘get his wife pregnant’ without any trouble.”

Issues with sperm, he writes, can make a man feel he’s not “manly” or not cut out to be a father.

Prue proposes an alternative list, which he encourages the men reading his book to repeat until those beliefs feel natural. These include: “Truly strong people reach out for help when they need it” and “I get to define what it means to be a great father.”

Prue’s book draws from “three buckets”  he says. One bucket is information, describing the acronyms and medical terminology someone needs to navigate the IVF process, meant to empower his readers.

The second bucket is “the mental health piece …. what are the things you might be feeling throughout this process and what are ways that you can support yourself while you’re going through it and also support your partner.”

The final and most important bucket is the narrative of Prue’s own journey, which is woven throughout the book and pulls the reader along.

“Stories are the way that we learn best from others,” says Prue.

Prue feels fortunate to have been raised by a father who didn’t fit many of the stereotypes for men. “My father was very involved from the start of our lives,” he said.

People who know Prue’s father and have seen Prue with Eliza — for instance, helping his daughter up the steps to a slide at the playground — have said, “Boy, you look exactly like your father did when you were that age.” Prue concludes, “That obviously set me up very well.”

One of the hard things for Prue, he said, was dealing with the stereotype that men take action and fix things.

“There are often no clear answers,” he says of infertility. “And even really sophisticated treatments like IVF do not guarantee success.” 

The success rate, he said, is 40 to 60 percent and each IVF cycle can cost up to $20,000 or more. Consequently, a portion of proceeds from his book sales will go to “foundations who make grants to families who have lower resources to pay for fertility treatments,” Prue said.

He launched his writing on the subject with a letter to the Enterprise editor in October 2019 about health-care coverage for IVF. After the letter was published, Elizabeth Floyd Mair, who was an Enterprise reporter at the time, wrote a story about the pain and hopes of the couple’s journey to create a family.

Prue recalled how, after that story ran, he was walking his dog in Altamont and a neighbor shared a similar story. Soon after, Prue received an email from a stranger in Los Angeles who had found the Enterprise story online and was going through something similar; the Los Angeles man appreciated the openness of the Altamont couple.

Prue thinks the “anonymous setting” of social media allows some men to share more easily.

“One of the big things authors engage in today is social media ….,” said Prue. “And one of the things about infertility is there is a very, very large community of people going through infertility on social media, and that’s a helpful way to connect, [which] I think can be more open.”

Prue believes that all he and his wife went through in conceiving a child has made them better parents.

“We went through the hardest part, just getting to that point of being parents,” he said. “And so I think it makes us both more patient in the hard moments and also more mindful of really just trying to enjoy all the really wonderful, joyful moments of parenting.”

They will get to extend those moments in October, when their second child is due. The yet-to-be-born baby was created from an embryo that was frozen in their first round of IVF, saving painful parts of the process, Prue notes.

The author ends where he bagan, urging men who are dealing with infertility to “share the problem.”

“It will feel like it’s not just yours anymore ….,” Prue concludes. “It will make the journey easier.”


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