I sat in our living room during a power outage and listened to Tara tell her sister Becky the tale of our infertility. I could see Becky’s concerned face on the other side of the sectional couch at the edge of the light thrown out from a small camp lantern on the coffee table, but I found it more comfortable to stare at my feet while Tara explained that my sperm lack the protein necessary to penetrate the egg. Becky was one of the first people we shared our situation with and I was still a little embarrassed about the details which we had only recently gotten closure on after a year of failed attempts at conception and several months of doctor visits and tests.
It is impossible, or at least statistically unlikely, for me to naturally father a child. The primordial basis for my existence is nonexistent. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised—I was never one for the ape-like assertions of male dominance or cat calls, and perhaps the inability to get a sperm into an egg is indicative of my complete and utter ineptitude at basketball. Damn you, Darwin.
Fortunately, society has advanced from chest thumping and there is a procedure called Invitro Fertilization (IVF) with Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI) for men like me, where IVF removes the entire opposing field from the court and ICSI is Michael Jordan whom I pass the ball to and puts it into the hoop in an amazing slam dunk all while wearing comfortable, tag-less underwear.
As I proofread that last passage, it occurs to me that the literalist may assume Michael Joran will be fathering our child. No. MJ, in this case, is a sort of syringe capable of grabbing a single sperm from a petri dish and injecting it into a single egg in a new petri dish.
As Tara completed our story and Becky gently berated us for not telling her sooner, it occurred to us that she did have a point. And in the weeks that followed, as we shared with more of our family and close friends, we realized that nothing but positive things came from it. On one level, it allowed us to reconnect with those dear to us whom we kept our struggle secret from for so long. But on a much bigger scale, it allowed us to connect with others that were also silently enduring and share laughs, hugs, and tears.
Society has brainwashed us into thinking that it is not appropriate to discuss baby making. Couples happily announce they are expecting, but the details of how they got there are glossed over and unmentioned aside from a euphemistic joke or two from the more free-spirited friends and family. Even the timing of the announcement is regimented: Not before the 2nd trimester, minimizing the risk of an unpleasant miscarriage announcement.
We talk about sex, even going as far to share notes with close friends, but we limit these conversations to the enjoyment of sex and try not to think about its actual purpose. Consider the contrast between “Dude, my wife and I had the best sex last night!” and “Dude, my wife and I had the best unprotected sex last night!”
I’m going to break the walls down. My wife and I had unprotected sex for a year and a half. The quality was superb, but no baby. 18 holes of golf and not a single sunk putt. We have not conquered infertility and we never truly will. But today we had science on our side. They pulled 11 eggs from Tara’s ovaries while I went into a special room and delivered millions of sperm to an unsuspecting cup. Now, as I write this, there are 11 embryos developing in petri dishes up at the hospital. They will grow there for 9 1/2 months at which point we’ll go pick out or favorite ones and take them home.
We don’t know if this will work. In fact there’s a 30% chance it won’t, but life is too short to wait for victorious status updates, and the internet is way to saturated with people appearing much more super human than they actually are. I have been trying to write this for seven months. My latest draft, scribbled in a leather-bound journal that I bought specifically for this purpose, is a maze of x-outs and insertions. It doesn’t have to be pretty, and in fact it really isn’t. After 3 long weeks of dreaming 40% twins, 70% one, 30% nothing, we will know, and for the first time in forever, may go to an actual OBGYN. Kenobi.
If you are going through this, you CAN talk about it. Each and every one of us is surrounded by friends and family capable of more love and support than we’d have ever imagined. Broaching such a topic can be awkward, but it is not more awkward than conveying to family why you need your own room on a family vacation without telling them that it’s that time of the month. Lastly, be strong and remember that for every five couples boasting about pregnancy on FB, there is another one exactly like you, wondering why it hasn’t happened yet, but sure as hell loving the ride.
Day of Retrieval (Pre-Sedation)
One thought on “Sex, Drugs & Infertility”
Andrew and Tara. I truly miss you guys. Thanks for sharing your story. You will be in my prayers. I will text or call soon to invite you over for dinner.