THIS BLOG ENTRY IS WRITTEN TONGUE AND CHEEK. SOME PORTIONS ARE WRITTEN IN A SARCASTIC MANNER THAT IS NOT MEANT TO BE TAKEN SERIOUSLY BUT RATHER TO ILLUSTRATE SOME OF THE MUNDANE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE PERSONAL AND MEDICAL EXPERIENCES SOME COUPLES ENDURE WITH THE MEDICALLY ASSISTED CONCEPTION METHODS OFTEN PRACTICED TODAY. IF YOU FIND NO SENSE OF HUMOR AT ALL IN THE INFERTILITY JOURNEY YOU MAY WANT TO STOP READING HOWEVER IF YOU HAVE FOUND WAYS TO LAUGH FROM TIME TO TIME AT THIS HORRIBLE EXPERIENCE READ ON……..
It has been nearly nine years since my wife and I began a very emotional journey to have a child. I do not know what I expected of the experience before it began. I simply do not believe I gave it a thought. I think I pretty well went into it blindly thinking we would follow the doctors directions and in no time at all would be parents. I also thought my wife and I only had to cut off the birth control to have a baby naturally. I am not a caveman but when it came to the statistics, commonality, and knowledge of infertility my butt had not even seen the invention of the wheel yet. Our experience began at the Jones Institute in Norfolk, Virginia. We never had the success we yearned for there but they are a wonderful institution. I can remember our first meeting with a doctor there. I was sitting next to my wife as the doctor used word after word that meant nothing to my ears and brain. I am not a dumb man (I like to believe this anyway) but big medical words are pig Latin gibberish to me. My wife, however, is a pharmacist and could dumb down the conversation for me. By using monosyllabic words and shadow puppets she made cave-brain understand what was thought to be wrong and how we were planning to treat it. I decided early on that I wanted to be completely involved in every aspect of the journey so I attended my wife’s first gynecological visit.
When we arrived for the appointment I was confronted with the make egos worst nightmare, a good-looking, young, nice make doctor. Whether it was true or not this guy was “Mcdreamy” in my memory and his looks were only the beginning of my egos assault. The doctor was explaining what he could about the tests that my wife had taken and what he knew about her history and afterwards he began to conduct a physical evaluation. I had not really thought too much about the fact that I was going to be in the room while Mcdreamy was going to “explore” my wife. I got a little antsy as her feet went into the stirrups and he went in for an evaluation. What was I thinking by coming to this visit?!?!? As soon as I got all “guy goofy” I began to get into it….not in a dirty way. The doctor was explaining to me everything he was doing and suddenly I was fascinated with how crazy amazing the female reproductive system is. The idea that a woman’s body can take the seminal fluid a man produces and turn it into a child blows my mind. Of course I knew the capabilities of a female reproductive system before that day but I had never really been confronted with accepting how incredible the concept is. A woman can make a child in nine months and most men have “house projects” that are five years in the making. I had gone somewhere a man rarely goes, the lady doctor room but I was a better man for it.
Another place where men suffer great humiliation is when they are expected to admit they know how to do something that they would never talk about and that would be masturbation. My first experiences with this strange aspect of assisted conception was educational but before I tell that story I need to tell another one. When we started out at the Jones I was working with a guy who was unique to say the least. He looked like a heavy weight version of Herman Munster. He was a great guy but he was different. His son worked at the Jones and he would tell me stories about the room I was going to go into to produce my “sample”. The description was a complete horror show to this germaphobe. Now I turn the story back to my first medically self-loving experience. I get to the Jones and when I approach the medical personnel that is going to guide me through the procedure and it is the spitting image of my Herman Munster friend it is in fact his son. It is very strange being given directions on such a simple act. It did not go like this but it sort of felt like this.
“Mr. T when you go into the room there will be supplies to help you with your pervy little task. (I hate when they use the word little) There will be nudie books ( I am not touching those, how many times are the used a day) and even a video (like I really want Herman Munster to hear that through the door) if that is your preferred method of reaching the desired result. There is also a convenient stand for you to place your supplies so you can get two hands fully into the action even though it is doubtful you will need two hands. Even though your sick little ass already knows what you are doing in there this is still a medical function so you need to follow a couple of rules. You need to wash your hands before the event and damn sure wash them afterwards because I don’t want your little swimmers anywhere except inside my bullet proof specimen cup. Speaking of the cup, do yourself a favor and have it open before you start your sprint to embarrassment. Get all of your stuff in the cup and not on the floors or walls. I will be out here waiting for you just outside the door with a stop watch and killing the next couple minutes on my cell phone talking to my friends about you. When this is done do not look me in the eyes. I will processing your stuff to get the dumb, broken ones out since your are not capable of a healthy batch of specimen. Now have at it…..”
These are the words this guy heard but that is just the beginning of your emasculation. You will return to your wife and say nothing about what you just did in the private room unless you are me and I shared every twisted detail with my wife. While we wait for Herman to do his part I can share other funny and odd things that occur around this event. The event I am describing was my first medical attempt but there would be several more. We did not stay at the Jones and when we went to New Hope I decided I would try to do it at home and bring the evidence to them. The problem with this method is you are given a time frame to get things to the doctor. It is a lunch hour you will not forget. Once you finish you get in your car in a “thirty minutes or the pizza is free style” you rush to your doctor where you will sit on the waiting room with a brown bag of embarrassment. When I finally gave the bag to the lady at the desk I swear she smirked at me and told me you really have more time than we give you but we want to make sure we get it quickly. Can you imagine getting in a car wreck and being knocked unconscience only for the cops to find that in your car? The very last time I had to go through the procedure I was sitting with my mother in law when my name was called. While I was walking away from her I turned around and told her I wanted to take her in before the event. I love her but now she has to live with that thought. The nurse actually told me before I went into the room “lets knock this out”….she was cute and I was wondering if there was a new method I was not aware of. When I went in that room they had a boom box to drown out your racket. What CD was in the player you may ask? It was “Eye of the Tiger” of course (true story). I always wanted to be a screamer in that room to give them something to talk about but I never picked up the nerve. I return us back to the first time and the waiting room. When the specimen is processed you get escorted to a room with your wife. A doctor comes in with a strange apparatus that has a small tube hanging off the end of it. They put your specimen in the apparatus and then Doctor McDreamy goes in to “place” the specimen where your dysfunctional self cannot. He is hitting her baby spot right in front of you. Of course what he is really doing is place the specimen in the place it needs to be to give you a chance at parenthood. I do love Doctor McDreamy’s efforts. Once the doctor leaves you and your wife have to hang out in the room while things settle. What do you talk about after this kind of evening? Survivor? It’s hard being a man!!!!!
Everything I wrote is true and my experience but let me make something crystal clear for you. The woman has is twenty times harder than the average man when it comes to medically assisted conception. The mans ego may take a hit and he will be challenged as he watches the specter of infertility kick your ass while he is helpless to defend you. I will take the masturbation experience over multiple people poking you with a speculum and judging your fertility over the course of several years. Many women view their fertility as a core tenet of their womanhood and feel less of a woman when it is a struggle to get pregnant. That last statement kills me. My wife is my hero. We were lucky and after many years had a baby. Women make life move forward. Women make life worth living. Women bring balance to life and my wife is the very air I breath. Any man who thinks he has it hard to do the things I illustrate above (okay thankfully there were no drawings) is not worth his salt. I hope you all reach your dream and believe me it is not impossible. I cannot tell you how many false starts we had and how many disappointments we suffered. For all of our pain, prior to a successful IVF cycle, there are couples that had it a million times worse. Stay strong, love each other, and keep the flames of hope alive. Having a sense of humor from time to time helps.
I wrote a book about our experiences called “The Longest Love Letter”. I discovered that writing is an excellent way to clear your head and share your experience. By sharing your experience I think it makes a community that feels isolated from time to time feel smaller and closer. If you get the chance google blogs on infertility and you will find out how not alone you are. “Where The Bleep Is Our Stork” is a great place to start. The author ,Theresa ,is heroically open and bold in her entries. She will make you laugh and cry but most of it will seem so very familiar. Infertility is not the end of a dream, my friends, it is simply a roadblock that you can clear. Like most things worth having sometimes you have to fight for them. I truly love you all and wish you the best. Please feel free to ask me and my wife questions if you like. My wife is brilliant and not only has she walked in most of your steps she is a pharmacist and can give advice on meds. I posted links below for you to use as needed.
Where The Bleep Is Our Stork
Andy Thornhill Facebook (warning for those sensitive to the matter my page has many pictures of my daughter, my wife can be contacted through me here by private message)
“The Longest Love Letter” can be found as an E-Book on Barnes and Noble and Kindle