via The Baby Comedown
My wife once told me, “I do not blame you if you were to leave me to find a woman who could give you a child”. She told me this when we were in the midst of a several year struggle to have a baby through the use of medically assisted conception. We had already gone through several IUI cycles, a miscarriage, and were preparing for our first IVF. I was beside myself after hearing this statement. The truth was we both contributed to our fertility problems. I am pretty sure she meant what she said when she said it. She was being selfless and loved me (and hopefully still does) so much that she was willing to put her happiness on a shelf so I could find mine. To this day the comment shakes me and saddens me. I could not imagine a time in life where my wife would be happier in another man’s arms than my own. It is not that I am such a great catch but I know how much I love my wife and I would rather be hit by a Kansas City Portable Potty truck than to give her up. She is my every, everything. What could cause such self loathing to make a spouse think that letting go is a great option? The answer to that question is a bitch named Infertility.
Women do not ignore the fact that you are not defined by your fertility or lack thereof. For the purpose of the blog I will write in broad terms. I do not intend to offend or come off as a specialist on women’s emotions. I write of the things I have observed from both sexes in my life. A man oftentimes is driven by ego. A man’s ego more times than not is easily bruised. We men feel it is our duty to look after the fairer sex. If you say something to me about my wife in a negative fashion your day may end on a real bad not if I can make it happen. When a couple is faced with infertility and the woman has the health issue that is the culprit of the problem the man is helpless to protect her. When she has her weak moments there is no one the man can hold accountable. This is crushing for many male egos. Feeling helpless sucks. When a woman has fertility issues it will sometimes make her feel less a woman. Some women feel that when their spouse and them decide to have kids that the burden is on them. Less face it the man’s part in having babies is oftentimes relegated to doing what he likes, having sex. If he does not get her pregnant the first time he is not going to complain to get invited back to the bedroom Olympics. A woman has the responsibility of “getting” pregnant (an unfair, implied responsibility), carry the child to term, going through the pain of child birth, dealing with the body and emotion changes, and in some cases breastfeeding afterwards. Some women look forward to it. When a woman cannot get out of the gate she may feel like she is less of a woman because she cannot deliver a baby. This was the trigger my wife pulled. We had struggled and were only rewarded with pain. She did not think she was as much a woman as she wanted to be and thought I wanted her to be and she reached a low that is hard to understand if you have not been there. Feeling helpless sucks!!!
I have been a man for all 42 years of my life. I plan on being a man for the rest of my life and I have yet to meet the guy who tells me over a beer that he loves his girlfriend’s reproductive system and that is the reason he is marrying her. In my single days if I was thinking of my wife’s reproductive parts it was not to see how well the produced off spring. You marry someone because you love them and how they make you feel. You may discuss children but I doubt that fertility comes up and when it does very few men care about it. When I was twenty two I was dating a girl who was 34. She was asking me one day what I thought our future was together and told me that she was not even sure at her age if she could have kids. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to marry her but I knew I did not give a darn about her baby making abilities. Any man worth marrying will not ask for the fertility guarantee pre-nuptials. If you find one send him my way so my dogs can take a bite out of crime.
If I learned one thing in my years of marriage it is that when your wife has an emotion burned in her brain there is nothing you can do to change her mind. That does not mean you never stop trying. I ask women that battle infertility to remember some very simple things about themselves. You have friends. You probably have a friend or maybe two that would fight a pit bull to protect your honor. You have friends and family that love you because you are defined by your personality and your actions. If someone loves you (other than family) they probably did not love you the first time they meet you. They learned to love you as they learned about you. You are your actions. You are what you do for others. You are you because you were born amazing. The fact that you choose to subject yourself to the difficult task of medically assisted conception is a testament to the levels you are willing to reach to have a child. A man will not take no for an answer but keep doing the same thing with the same results. A woman will not take no for an answer but she will seek another way and reach her desired goal. My wife never took no for an answer. I did but not her. Our only fight as a married couple was whether we continued down infertility road. I was so concerned with the toll it was taking on her. She did not care because she is amazing and she won the argument and a few short months later our journey ended after our second IVF cycle gave us Emma Dae Thornhill.
We got lucky or maybe my incredible wife made our luck. During our struggles I never once thought I needed to bail out for a chance with another’s reproductive ability. I never once thought of my wife as her infertility. Her friends and our family never looked at her that way. Hell the dog never looked at her that way. The dog loved her because she fed her and petted her. She made the dog happy and as silly as it sounds that relationship is like that of humans. We define our wives, husbands, and friends as the ones that make us happy. The ones that make our life worth living. The ones we cannot wait to see a movie with. The ones that we know will not judge us but will keep us grounded when we need to be. The ones we have memories with. The ones that hold our hands on dark days. The ones we cannot live without. That is how we define people. You would never define a person for having cancer, or being blind, or being dyslexic so why would you define yourself by your fertility. As I said I know how hard it is to change a woman mind about her impressions of herself but I will not stop trying because this is one time I have no doubt that I am right. You are amazing and this too will pass. When these difficult times pass I hope they do with fulfilled dreams. Never give up on yourself.
For more information on infertility please visit the below links.
NOTE: When I was discussing with my wife what I was going to write for Resolves Blogging project again this year I told her I was not sure what to write about. I rarely find myself in this spot. Without hesitating she gave me my title and she inspired the rest. I dedicate this blog to my wife.
ABOUT THE BLOGGER:
I am Andy Thornhill. I keep a fertility blog on Word Press called “Sunshine Dreams and Hopes”. I wrote a book to my daughter about the story before her birth. It is a tribute to why I think women (my wife particularly) are amazing and it is called “The Longest Love Letter”. It is available as an E-Book for Kindle and Nook. I also have Facebook page called “Infertility News You Can Use”. I intend it to be a place where others can share their experience through blogs, news, and just supporting each other. I wish everyone the very best.
I have been asked why I write so much about infertility. People close to me know that my wife and I had a long road down a painful medically assisted conception trail before our daughter was born through IVF. Our story was not the saddest or the longest by any stretch of the imagination but it was difficult for us. For every family story you hear about loss and fertility treatment miscues you will hear another story later that trumps it in tragedy. Ours and others personal fertility stories are intimately ours and each tale is equally painful to the families involved. When my daughter was born I remember the doctors telling us we were one of the calmest couples they had seen in a long time. We were calm because even on the day our daughter was done there was a part of us too frightened to believe our journey was coming to the desired end. My wife had her tubes tied during the same appointment our daughter was born. With this act we quietly closed a chapter of our life neither of us had gambled for. We wanted to leave well enough alone and not tempt fate with another effort. We knew we were lucky and that seemed good enough at the time.
It would have been easy enough to forget all the doctor’s appointments, needles, losses, and tears that we endured in our story. Who wants to relive that stuff anyway? Shortly after my daughter was born I wrote a book about our journey a story I narrated directly to my infant daughter. I wanted her to know what a hero and inspiration her Mommy is. I wanted her to know the love we share that got her here. Heaven forbid that when my baby is an adult she has infertility issues. If she does I wanted her to know that infertility issues are not a “NO” but rather a “No Way I Will Accept NO” proposition. When I was done with the book I was emotionally exhausted and started to think about the amazing doctors, nurses, and other families I had met. When I put the book out as an E-Book I went to publicize our story and I found a slew of amazing sites like Resolve, Attain Fertility, 999 Reasons to Laugh and Infertility, and Faith N Fertility. I read comments people left on these sites about their story. The more I discovered the more insignificant my book felt in the scope of things. I could feel and understand their pain in their type alone. My wife and I did not know these places existed when our story began. My wife was on 8 months bed rest with nothing but her thoughts and fears to keep her company (and a kitten named Pancakes). We were aware of no one that could share stories, knowledge, and hope. We are both educated people but it just never occurred to us to reach out to others. I wish there were other women to hear my wife’s voice then. They were there we just did not seek them out.
I decided after finding these sites online that it means a lot to me to write about our story and how we felt. There is a big difference between writing about the book and trying to be an informal advocate. The book is our story but to advocate my recollection of our thoughts, feelings, and actions during our journey is something different all together. When reading remarks on various sites I saw that some women were so guilty that they were mad at pregnant women but that is normal. I saw how much women doubted their self and maybe even their worth. It made me realize that when our daughter was born so was a deep need to let others know it will be okay and you are not alone, you are normal to feel anger, and most of all you are very valuable as a person. The drive a family has to have a baby is one of the most inspirational stories I can think of. In the comments I found online I saw my wife. I was reminded of her tears and a level of self doubt that sometimes bordered on self loathing. If even one of my short bursts of words can help someone feel better for a minute then the time spent is well spent. I beg all families that have had success to not leave the community. If you can in any form comment from time to time on one of the pages. Offer hope to others still in the battle. You will not always say the right thing but if you keep trying you may give someone a moment of calm when they realize they are not on an island alone.
If you can I urge you to go to Resolve.ORG to read more about their Day of Advocacy in Washington DC on April 25, 2012. Go to Attain Fertility and write on the Wall of Hope. Also join a Walk Of Hope in a handful of cities this spring and summer. Dates can be found at Resolve.org. I mentioned that when we tied my wife’s tubes our journey was done. Maybe I was incorrect as we are now considering a new journey…..adoption. I love you all and best of luck.
Be warned this will not be everyone’s cup of tea. It is my humorous attempt but true story of what men face when they must go into a fertility clinic and produce a sample. It is written tongue and cheek so if you are easily offended by any kind of reference to “self-love” please stop. If you are open-minded and brave well….read on:) This is an excerpt form my book “The Longest Love Letter”
The Great Masturbation Story
I like to think God is a woman. I have this theory because if God made us in his or her image then God must be a she. I would expect God to be smart, strong, and compassionate. In most cases this description fits a woman more than a man. But sometimes I witness things in life that tells me maybe God is a man because in many ways man has it easier than women. Men rarely suffer from body image issues, in some countries and faiths they do not even consider women to be equals to men, men don’t go through the pain of birthing a child, and when it come to the biggest thing men have to do when it comes to the Process it ends out being something they have done since they were old enough to figure it out: masturbate. It really is not fair. Women have to be knocked out on medication, legs in stirrups, and have people use tools to go inside their body to pull out eggs while a man goes into a room for five minutes, loves himself and he is done. Maybe God is a woman and when it come to the Process she figures that she will just have men do what they do best: love themselves.
When it comes to masturbation and the Process, there is so much more involved than one would think. You are given the option to give your sample at the hospital or produce a sample at home and drive like a maniac to get it to the doctor’s office within thirty minutes. I found it best to do it in the doctor’s office but it was still uncomfortable. When I was in the main waiting room I loved to see the expressions on the men’s face as they came into the clinic with their little brown bag of seminal samples in a cup. These would be fathers would look a little embarrassed and were always in a rush to leave. I did this part of the Process at home once and I was lucky I did not get a ticket going to the facility. While waiting in the in the reception area I was constantly checking my watch because they had to get the sample in a certain time frame and I was paranoid they would make me wait too long and the sample would be useless and it would throw the cycle off and your Mom would have to start over with her shots.
When we were at the Jones, one of my best friends from works son was the tech I had to see to give my sample. I remember the first time I went to visit my friend’s son at the Jones I felt so funny handing by sample to a man that looked exactly like a good friend of mine that was one twisted but lovable individual. The Jones had a quiet room for the men. You were sent into the room and directed to a selection of men’s magazines for inspiration. There was even a table that they set out for you that were just the right height so you could use both hands and not have to balance a magazine while showing yourself how much you love yourself. I would never touch the magazines. The thought that these magazines were used several times a day for inspiration by several other men made my germ fearing brain go into overdrive. I thought the women in these magazines were dirty girls because they inspired so many men. I have issues, I know.
The other funny thing about this aspect of the Process is that you are given instructions on what to do. They tell you what to clean, how to clean, what to use, what not to use, and how to tie your shoes. Something that most boys discover in the bathtub when they a barely old enough to color within the lines becomes a rigorous controlled procedure. It is dangerous too; they give you a cup with sharp edges to produce the sample in. After you follow all the instructions, avoid the germ covered magazines, and get near the end of the moment you have to have the wherewithal to not cut yourself on these edges while aiming your little sample maker into the cup. Hang in there this part of the ride is almost over.
After leaving your Grandma Janet with the thought that the last person I saw before making a sample for this final IVF was her, I was making small talk with the tech as she took me to the room to fill out paperwork, get my cup, and prepare to play the one man band. The last thing this girl said to me when I walked into the room was, “after you knock this out place you cup here, I will be waiting”. She actually said knock this out. The New Hope naughty room was a little bit swankier than the Jones self love lounge. The New Hope was a little more intimate. I saw the magazines neatly placed in a rack. I noticed a popular model on the cover of one of the magazines and an odd thought crossed my mind. If I used that magazine and her as the inspiration to make the sample and a pregnancy successfully occurs can I bring a lawsuit against that model for child support? There was a radio in the room with a CD player. CD’s will be unheard of by the time you are old enough to read this. I figured the radio was there to drown out the ambient noise of the nurses and techs hustling through the halls of the New Hope. I looked to see what CD was in the player and I nearly fell out of the chair. The CD was the soundtrack to Rocky. I could not get out of my mind the idea of some guy in the naughty room doing his thing while the theme to Rocky was dancing through the air. Just before I did my part I knocked on the wall to remind your Grandma Janet know I was there.
Life is full of irony and this is not an exception. It is actually downright unfair that men get off so easy compared to women when it comes to the Process. Maybe God is a man and is looking after His own or maybe God is a women and figures she will just leave the men to do the easy work so they don’t write long whining chapters about having to masturbate. The fact that God is even mentioned in this chapter will bother many but God gave me this sense of humor so therefore God must have a sense of humor as well. This sense of humor good or bad has got me through life’s tough spots and the Process was no exception.
Men don’t ignore your feelings. Infertility for a male is just as personal as it is to a women but the difference is that men are more often likely to not face their feelings or their fears. In everyday life men can struggle with their ego. Not all but many men are very defensive if they think any aspect of their manhood is being challenged. When men become defensive they can be difficult and in some cases confrontational. Stereotypes are sometimes stereotypes because they are well-earned. Every woman who reads this blog knows at least one bullhead stereotypical not in my emotional backyard man. There is nothing wrong with this man but if you are that man the sooner you take steps to open up and explore infertility issues and its options the happier and emotionally healthier you will be. When my wife and I began our journey I felt so much better and at ease when I realized that infertility has no prejudice. Any man can have a fertility issue whether they are young, old, big, or small. In most cases you cannot prevent your infertility problem anymore that you can predict and stop an earthquake. Diet and health habits may contribute to fertility issues but it is just as possible that you were born with it just like that unsightly mole on your face. Men you may think to yourself that people may be able to see that mole but they won’t see my fertility issue. I can keep that a secret you may tell yourself. This is simply not true. Your girlfriend or wife can see it. She knows when something is wrong and that builds tension. It creates huge problems from nothing and can sometimes dissolve a marriage.
You may want to consider that the first fertility visit you make to discuss your reproductive health is a solo trip. Make sure your spouse or girlfriend is aware you are going but a solo visit to the doctor may be helpful. If you are one on one with a doctor you may ask more questions. If you feel more comfortable with a male doctor it is not sexist to make that first visit to a male doctor. If a man does not want to discuss his fertility fears with his wife he may open up to a male physician. Wanting a male doctor is no different from the woman who prefers a female gynecologist. Don’t just choose the first male doctor at random if you go this route. Make sure you have done some research on the doctor before going. When you go to the doctor lay it all out on the table. The conversation may not be comfortable. If you are asked to give a seminal sample it can be awkward. As a boy when you discovered yourself if was fun and casual and your secret but to do it in a medical environment is different. Most Facilities give you a choice of doing it (manually producing a seminal sample) at home and bringing it in to the clinic or providing you with a room at the clinic to produce a sample. There are pros and cons. If you do it at home you are against a clock to get the sample to the doctor. I took this route once. It was strange to be sitting at my desk at work and realizing it is time to go home and produce a sample in a cup. When I was taking the sample to the doctor all I could think of is what if I get in a wreck and the medics look inside my little brown lunch bag. What would they think? When I went in the doctor’s office I felt like everyone was staring at my brown bag. I have a sense of humor that laughed all that off but if I think of these things so may the next man. If you produce a sample at a doctor’s office you need to be able to relax. You may hear the sounds of the office while in your private room. Many facilities give “Inspiration” in the form of videos and magazines. Be ready to see these things. I will never forget an attractive young nurse walking me back to my private room and saying, “Let’s knock this out”. To this day I kick myself for not responding to that innocent remark. It is all harmless and it is all normal. If you think you feel awkward at this point in the game I strongly suggest going to one of your wife’s appointments. When you see firsthand what women submit themself to in a regular visit you will realize what you have to do early in the fertility journey is blue comedy at best, that is why I make light of the male aspect up to this point. Ask your doctor every question you can think of. Ask him if it is common if you have a problem. Commonality can make you feel less like you are on the Island of Misfit Toys. It is not a bad idea to take notes. Once you get home, from the doctors visit, share your information with your female companion. The more you share the easier it will be to move forward. The more you share the closer you become and a close-knit couple can kick the living hell out of infertility because they are fully informed and as comfortable with the process as they can be.
Once you have had your visit and have come to terms with the good or bad news you get you have to make sure to not ignore your companion’s feelings. If by chance the partner with the medical reason that is most contributing to infertility is the woman you have to remember this. A woman may feel like less of a woman if she cannot conceive and carry a child. Some women will view this as making them less of a person, less of a woman. At one point in time in my journey my wife said she would not blame me if I decided to divorce her for a model that she perceived as not being broken. I found this laughable and appalling but she meant it. Can you imagine that kind of low? How would you feel if your wife’s esteem sunk to a level where they felt the need to say that? I tell you this because once you decide to not ignore your feelings toward your personal male fears toward infertility you need to prepare yourself to help your wife be strong. If you have a medical issue that is contributing to conception issues you need to put on the brave face and heart so she does not have more worries. This does not mean that you clam up but quite the opposite. Doing your best to be optimistic can be infectious and can make it a little easier to get her to be an optimist that the journey will have an amazing ending. Men do not forget your feelings or her feelings. This is the most challenging times most couples face and it is your time to step up and be the man she fell in love with. Being strong does not mean being quite and sucking it up like a man. Being strong is pressing through your fears and ego to get all the knowledge you can to give your companion and you the best opportunity to become parents. Best of luck and don’t forget ladies and gentlemen you are amazing just to take the challenge.
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