Monthly Archives: March 2012

Infertility: Men and Communication

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LOVE.

     When you are going through the trials and tribulations of the medically assisted pregnancy many of you will face challenges you never imagined. You may be questioned by friends and family. There will be days you want to express what you are going through but realize you know no one that understands your position. You may feel alone even in your own marriage because your husband or you choose to not discuss the fertility journey you are on. Maybe one of you thinks the other does not want to hear their personal fears. You are very likely wrong because as a man I was concerned and sometimes scared that I would not be a father but what concerned me most was how my wife was holding up. I wanted to be in touch with what the process was doing to her. Most of us men are dumb and do not know how to start the “How are you doing on this family endeavor we are challenged with” conversation. Men want to defend their loves but infertility is invisible and not even Superman can fight what he can’t see. As a wife or a girlfriend how many times have you asked your man “why didn’t you tell me?” or “what’s on your mind?” It is no different going through infertility. Communication is paramount for the infertile couple. This is not the time to be the tough guy man of few words because it may be tearing your wife apart not knowing what is going on in your mind. Men must not forget that women want to protect them too and it may give them relieve to know that their husband is scared for them or he has unanswered questions.

      Men need to be involved in the process.  They need to be the other set of ears at the doctor’s appointment. When my wife and I went through the process I was full of questions but sometimes I heard the things my wife did not hear and that was valuable because I could catch what she missed. She missed very little. One of the hardest things I did in the beginning of our process was to go to a gynecological visit at the fertility clinic. The doctor was a striking handsome man and my wife was in the standard medically accepted position but I quickly put my insecurities behind me once he began to talk and I began to understand what we were up against. If you are a man reading this blog then talk to your wife about both of your fears and thoughts. If you are a women reading this tell him if you need him to communicate more during this time. Tell him to read this blog. The challenges you face will be a little easier if you have a strong core of communication.

     Let’s face it a man is probably not hanging out with his boys talking about his low sperm count but he may be able to have that talk with you. My opinion is that it is very important to have a voice during these times and know who will listen to that voice. Some of us men have few words but we love you women and we are capable of finding them when should.

     I wrote earlier about the doubts you may have during the process and the challenges. When a friend tells you it’s “Gods will” every time a cycle fails not knowing how much that hurts and frustrates you need a to vent these emotions so they do not feed self doubt. When cycles are stopped before they even start or a cycle fails to produce a pregnancy you must find a way to understand the truth, “it is not your fault and you are not a failure”. I was told maybe God did not think I should be a parent but I turned that into God wants me to show Her how bad I want to be a parent. You can turn most everything around if you try hard enough. Most everyone can beat infertility with medical help but you do not have to do it alone. Talk your friends, talk to your spouse, talk to your clergy (if appropriate), and go to Attain Fertility or Resolve for advocacy, answered questions, and support. Arm yourself with support and knowledge and your self-doubt may lessen. Women who take this fight on are inspirational and testaments to what every good person parent or not can be. You put yourself out there in a way many may never understand. I firmly believe your husband’s want to know why they are drying the tears that may fall.

        Life is so very short. Even if you live to be a hundred the best days of your life are only a blink in times eyes. The time span the average woman has to become pregnant is even shorter. When you struggle with fertility your time span seems even smaller because you have to eat up so much time going to doctors, getting medications, timing out your assisted conception schedules, and your regular life events. The average age of a first time father is 31 (in 2011). I was 39 in 2008 when my in-vitro daughter was born. If you are planning to go through the process please arm yourself with information and a support system. Even though time is always of the essence nearly anything is possible so never give up on yourself.

     April is a big month for the infertility community. April 22 to 28 is National Infertility Awareness Week. Go to Resolve.org and read up on the legal issues that infertile families face, the financial issues they face, learn about new bills like the Family Act that could give financial relief to families going through assisted conception procedures by offering them a tax break, and most importantly of all find other families that are fighting your fight. Connect with like challenged families through their blogs. I promise the more you read the more you will not feel alone and you may find that there is a stranger out their brave enough to share the story that could very well be yours. I hope these things can help. Attain Fertility is a great site to visit as well. I wish you all good luck and love one another.

About the blogger:

My name is Andy Thornhill and I have also written an Ebook on my family’s journey called “The Longest Love Letter”. It is available for the Kindle and Nook. Please feel free to contact me through this blog page or on Infertility News You Can Use my Facebook infertility page.

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Infertility: Drugs, Rock and Roll, and Making Babies

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GUITAR

Rock and Roll and baby making are a natural match. If a rock singer is not singing about drinking and smoking he is singing about making love to fat bottomed girls making his rocking world go round. But what if the rock and roll fans are in the thirties, they don’t drink, and they use needles and drugs alright but the drugs are fertility in nature?  In 2007 that was my wife and I.

We were in the middle of an IVF cycle. While ramping up for egg retrieval and implants I was giving my wife the usual battery of fertility injections. I was more protective than the usual husband of my wife during the fertility cycle but I knew she needed a break from the monotony of doctors appointments and self-doubt. A good old-fashioned Poison hair rock concert was the ticket literally. My wife loves hair rock and Poison is her favorite. We scored great seats front row center and were ready to take a three-hour vacation from our fertility torture.

As luck would have it we would have to do a scheduled injection at 9 PM. I have been to hundreds of concerts and worked hundreds more as venue security over the years so I knew that there was a strong chance that Poison, as the headliner, would hit the stage nearly at the exact time of the injection. I called the venue a few days before the show and explained I needed to bring in refrigerated medications and needles into the venue. They explained that they would keep the meds back stage for us and we could go to a certain gate to get access to them when we needed them.

On the way to the concert we saw Cee Cee Deville, Poisons guitarist jogging only a mile or so from the venue. We pulled to the side of the road and asked for a quick picture. He rudely said no. In retrospect I rudely stopped him from his personal break from a grueling tour. I did not see it that way at the moment and like an asshole I called him an asshole. As we pulled away I suddenly realized that we were front row center and if he saw and recognized me he could make my life miserable. Did I possibly ruin my wifes escape for a photo-op and pride?

The first couple acts were awesome, even if it is was hair rock (smile)!!! If you have ever had front row seats at a concert you know that sometimes people still rush the stage and you can end out standing behind several people trying to see the show. Poison was no exception to this rule but we secured our spot on the barricade, with unobstructed  view, but Poison was moments from getting to the stage and we were also moments from needle and fertility time. I explained to my wife that when we gave up our spots on the front row barricade we would probably not get them back. She said no one will screw with a women on fertility meds. I said I guess we will see.

I always wanted to have that backstage taking drugs at a rock show story but it didn’t read like this in my fantasy. We made it backstage to a medical room were we were given privacy to give to unclothe my wife enough for her shot. That is another rock and roll fantasy, undressing a beautiful women backstage. I got the undressing part and the beautiful women part but a damn needle would break up the moment.  I kept telling my wife that I hoped the concert would not start as I was plunging the needle because I did not want to be startled while plunging the needle but as fate would have it nearly at the exact time I plunged the needle a loud explosion went off and I thankfully did not stab my wife with the needle.

We made it back to the stage and as expected there were two young women in the spot we had occupied only a few short minutes ago. Before I had a chance to stop my wife she walked straight up to these poor unsuspecting girls, tapped them on the shoulder and told them they were in her spot. My wife must have had her angry fertility drug filled eyes on because the girls parted from the barricade like the red sea. The girls looked at me passively to let me in and I nervously looked around for their boyfriends who were not there. I told the girls to stay in front of me. I did not have the heart to take their spot.  My wife, the two girls, and I all ended out on the front of the barricade and we actually laughed and talked with them during the show. You may want to know about Cee Cee Deville?  He played in front of us several times only feet and away and I snapped pictures like crazy and he either did not see me or decided to let me off the hook. The show was fantastic and a great diversion.

I learned to not mess with a determined, fertility drug filled woman. I also learned Rock and Roll can sooth the soul even if it is Poison. I hope this was a good diversion for you. It is a true story from my families journey to an eventually successful child-birth. I wish you all the best of luck and keep up your fight and your spirits and long live rock and roll.

Infertility: Does This Sound Familiar?

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Clorful Hearts

The Fortune family is a married couple in Norfolk, Virginia. They have been together since high school and married each other when they were both 20. The husband joined the Navy and spent the first several years of their marriage under deployment. Over his Navy career he spent months on end away from his wife defending our country and learning skills he would one day use in the private sector. He completed two tours of duty and after several months in this tough economy he found a job in the civilian world. While he was in the Navy his wife took a job with a local retailer and worked her way up to management. She stayed loyal to her husband while he was overseas and fantasized of the day they would have a child. They had planned to hold off until he was out of the Navy and they had both developed careers for themselves. Now both of them are near 30 and the time was right for them to have a baby. After a year and a half of trying they came to a stunning realization, they may have fertility issues. Another few months pass as they make appointments with doctors to figure out what could be the root of their problem and they are told they will need medical help to conceive a child. The clinic starts them off with the comparatively inexpensive route of intrauterine insemination.  They go two rounds of this and the doctor decides the best option may be IVF. The Fortunes make nearly $52,000 dollars a year, have minimal debt, and have managed to save a bit of money over the year but the average IVF can cost upwards of $20,000 for one cycle. They can get some relief with insurance paying for some meds but they are still nervous to move forward. They are talking to some friends one evening about the fact they are considering getting a loan for the procedure. The friend callously yet innocently asks the couple how they think they can afford a child if they cannot come up with the money for an IVF. The family is devastated by the remark and begins to have serious doubts as their biological clocks tick on…..if they had a little more financial help they might find the confidence to give IVF a try.

The Fortune family is a factitious family but the scenario is very common. They did all the right things in their life. They chose to get careers started before starting a family, thinking that the hard part was behind them once they began careers. Their income is close to the National Median income for a married American couple. The comment made to them is not uncommon. The truth is that most families with or without children would struggle with coughing up $20,000 in one lump sum. This does not mean they could not afford to have a child. The Fortune family may have been a little more likely to give IVF a try if there was a tax break involved.

The Family Act is a bill before our federal government now that could give relief for families like the Fortunes. Below is a synopsis from Resolve.org:

Key provisions of the House and Senate bill:

       The Family Act covers the out-of-pocket costs associated with in vitro fertilization (IVF) including diagnostic tests, laboratory charges, professional charges, and medications for IVF.

       The Family Act covers the out-of-pocket costs of fertility preservation procedures if the man or woman is diagnosed with cancer and the cancer treatment or disease itself may result in infertility.

       The Family Act has a cost sharing provision allowing 50% of all applicable medical expenses to be  covered up to a lifetime maximum of $13,360. You would need to have out-of-pocket costs totaling $26,720 to claim the entire credit in your lifetime.

       If you do not owe taxes in a particular year, do not owe enough taxes to use the whole credit, or do not reach the max amount in one tax year, it carries over to the next year for a max of five years after the first year you use the credit. 

       The Family Act is available to couples filing jointly with adjusted gross incomes of less than $222,520, but the credit is smaller for those earning between $182,500 and $222,520. 

I am a father of an IVF child. We did several rounds of IUI and a couple IVF cycles before we got lucky. I am a veteran of the emotional rollercoaster. Our first IVF was covered under insurance but our second one was not. My wife is my hero. We were fortunate enough to have afforded the bills associated with that cycle but it was I was always conscious of how it would affect my wife had it not worked. We would have benefited from a bill like the Family Act.

Go to Resolve.org to get information on the Family Act and get links there on the bills progress. On April 26, 2012 Resolve will be hosting an Advocacy Day in Washington DC in support of the Family Act. Please consider becoming an advocate. We need to educate our elected officials about the science of assisted conception and the impact is has on people who need medical help to have children. If you cannot go to DC write a letter to your states House and Senate members. Resolve.org has links to help you reach out. If you have a blog shake all the trees you can with your words and thoughts. Attain Fertility has great information constantly flowing on the Family Act as well. I have created my own page on Facebook called “Fertility News You can Use”. I am trying to make my Facebook page a sounding board for veterans of and present members of the infertility process. I invite everyone to post stories and news links there for all to share. I wish you all the best in your journey.

About the blogger:

My name is Andy Thornhill and I have also written an Ebook on my family’s journey called “The Longest Love Letter”. It is available for the Kindle and Nook. Please feel free to contact me through this blog page or on Infertility News You Can Use.