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Archive for May, 2009

When pregnancy happens to someone else

Baby on Board

I’ve noticed a common theme in reading other infertility blogs (written mostly by women) over the past weeks and months: a keen awareness of, and emotional reaction toward, other women’s pregnancies.

Obviously, there are the shared congratulations and excitement when a fellow member of the infertile sisterhood trips the BFP light fantastic.

That’s not what I’m talking about…

No, I’m talking about the—often emotional—reaction to pregnancies by seemingly uber-fertile sisters, cousins, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. Or, more generally, any “bitch with a bun in the oven” shopping at stores like Babies ‘r Us, Pottery Barn Kids, or Pea in the Pod.

That’s what I’m talking about…

In terms of emotion, I’ve read reports of everything from depression to jealousy to anger. (Anger: especially in the case of said mother-to-be handing out well-intentioned, but dumb-as-fuck advice). That said, the overarching theme seems to be a poignant sense of “why not me” and the enveloping sadness associated with that emptiness.

A little closer to home…

L and I have never talked about this particular aspect of infertility.

But, it got me to thinking: does she have a similar reaction?

I was now curious. So, I explained my observations to her the other night.

She confirmed a similar set of feelings:

She sort of shrugged. “Yeah. It makes me sad. It’s sort of like when I was young and other girls had boyfriends before me. I’m not unhappy about their happiness. I just want my happiness too. I think: when will it be my turn?”

My perspective as a man…

I can’t say I share a similar response—or really any response—to other pregnancies or childbirths. I try to look interested and act pleased. Heck, sometimes, I genuinely am happy for them or really do think “it’s the cutest baby ever!”

But, I mostly don’t give a shit.

Maybe it’s because I’m less exposed to this sort of thing as a man? No, I don’t think so. For example, at my office, I recently had three co-workers go on paternity leave for their birth of their children. We also have at least six more “blessed events” slated through the remainder of the summer. I’ve looked at ultrasound pictures (mostly alien-like). I’ve seen the baby pictures (mostly cute). I’ve not touched any bellies—because I think that’s just creepy. But, suffice it to say, I am fully aware.

Yet, I really just don’t give a shit.

Are most men (in infertile couples) like this: blissfully unconcerned?

Is this a fundamental difference between women and men?

Am I crazy?

I have no data points. So, I’m left wondering.

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How old is “too old” for IVF?

Have you seen this news story? A 66-year old British woman, who conceived through IVF, recently gave birth to a healthy baby boy. She sought the IVF treatment in the Ukraine, because British infertility clinics refuse to treat women over the age of 50.

It seems to me that the British clinics have it roughly right.

I’ve heard of cases in which an older woman serves as a surrogate for a younger couple, such as a mother doing it for her daughter. That’s a generous and loving gift. This isn’t one of those situations.

No, this is a single divorcee who, at the age of 66, has become a mother for the first time. Statistically speaking, she’s unlikely to live to see her child reach adulthood. Obviously, bad things can happen to any parent. But, to set out on a course that will likely result in your child not having a parent by age 10 or 12 just seems selfish and irresponsible.

I’m sympathetic to anyone who wants a child but has been unable to conceive.

However, simply wanting a child is not always sufficient justification for having one.

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One week to go for IVF cycle #1 results

Today was L’s one-week, post-transfer follow-up to have her progesterone level checked. Everything checked out fine (desired range 20-100, her score: 52). As such, we’ll continue with the PIO shots at the current dosage for at least another week.

Next Friday is the “big day” when we find out the results of this IVF cycle.

The waiting (thus far) hasn’t been too bad. I think the poor fertilization rates were enough of a slap of reality to ensure that we didn’t spend these two weeks in a state of optimistic, hyper-anticipation. On balance, this is probably a good thing… and really our odds are, statistically speaking, reasonably good (perhaps 35-40% for a singleton and 10% for twins). That’s much better than the 0% we faced while regimentally fucking during the TTC year(s).

And, since we’re signed up in a shared risk program through IVF cycle #3, there’s not a lot of drama about “where to go from here” should we have a negative outcome. The first cycle was (thus far) easily bearable for us. The plan of action is in place. The money has already been spent or allocated for future rounds of drugs.

Given all of that, we remain neutral in our expectation. A positive result would be a wonderful surprise. A negative result (I hope) won’t be devastating.

Of course, this is probably just how I approach life: “an optimist will tell you the glass is half-full; the pessimist, half-empty; and the engineer [me] will tell you the glass is twice the size it needs to be.”

My biggest concern, should we face a negative outcome next week, is that L doesn’t become too distraught or disappointed by the news. For me, that’s probably the hardest part of all of this: seeing her at the “low points.” I suspect—though I have nearly zero empirical evidence outside of my own experience—that most husbands/partners feel this same way.

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Gordon Ramsay: It takes real bollocks…

Gordon Ramsay & The F Word Low Sperm Count Campaign

Earlier this year, I broke my leg while (attempting) to walk on an icy sidewalk. Note: this is not a good activity for a native Floridian with relatively poor balance. Anyway, I spent six weeks in a cast and on crutches.

During this time, I watched a lot of television (a rarity for me). And, since I’m a bit of a foodie, I was drawn to culinary shows, including those with celebrity chefs. This is when I discovered Gordon Ramsay, a British chef best known in the States for his Hell’s Kitchen and Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares series. However, over in the UK, he also has a series called the F Word (Ramsay’s notorious for his use of profanity, especially my beloved expletive, fuck — clearly one of the reasons that I like him).

However, the main reason why I like Ramsay is that he openly discussed his low sperm count on the F Word. And, he encouraged other male celebrity guests to do the same. The F Word also featured an investigative segment on the effects of diet on male fertility and launched a “Low Sperm Count Campaign” (here is Zita West’s recommended diet for improving male fertility).

How cool is that?

Ramsay’s wife also had female fertility issues, specifically polycystic ovary syndrome.

According to an article in The Times, they’ve had three children through IVF: a single on their 3rd attempt, followed by twins on their next attempt. Somewhat miraculously, their fourth child (youngest daughter) was conceived naturally.

As an outspoken advocate for men and infertility, I’m making Gordon Ramsay the first winner of the (hopefully soon to be cherished) Adventures in Fatherland “Golden Specimen Cup” Award.

This August, L and I plan to be back in London. As it happens, it will coincide with our 12th wedding anniversary, which we plan to celebrate at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant.

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Men & Infertility

As I’ve mentioned previously, one of my goals for this blog—as we chart our course through “Infertilityland” and beyond—is to add a male voice to discussions of these topics and to encourage other men to participate likewise. In particular, I’m interested in going beyond issues of “male factor” infertility, which is somewhat but not adequately covered. Rather, I’d like to explore more the role of men in cases of “female factor” infertility too.

Just say “no” to gendered infertility…

Why? Well, I don’t really believe in the concept of a gendered infertility.

That’s not to say that I’m some sort of scientific wacko without a shred of basic medical knowledge. In clinical terms, I understand that “male” or “female” factor infertility (along with a more specific diagnosis) is important to conducting an appropriate treatment course. So, yes, in that sense I believe in gendered infertility.

But, in emotional terms, I see little benefit in gendering the infertility in a relationship.

As a couple, we’re infertile. We’ve gotten into this together; we’ll get through it together.

Of course, together doesn’t mean that we start by sharing the same thoughts, fears, or perspectives. No, I think together means building a shared understanding and then executing on those plans to achieve a goal. I’ve always believed that, in the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking together in the same direction.”

To that end, I’m trying to chronicle my journey. In doing so, I hope to help other guys in going to the optometrist, and I hope that someone will be there to help my put my contacts back in if (or when) they pop out along the way too.

Talking to men about infertility…

Here’s an article on talking to your partner about infertility. I thought it did a pretty good job of addressing some of the concerns a “prototypical man” might have when initially facing the prospect of infertility.

I know it raised some of the issues—such as the possibility of having to perform in the collection room—that initially worried me.

This man walks into an infertility clinic…

Here’s another issue bought up in the above article that resonated with me:

I sometimes feel, especially at the infertility clinic, that I’m not a real “partner” in the process of infertility treatment. Mind you, it’s not the big things… just little things.

For example, our clinic doesn’t have a chair in the exam rooms for men to sit in – just the doctor’s wheeled stool. So, I wait… standing until I’m/we’re ushered off to somewhere else. A minor annoyance, yes, but it was a huge pain in the ass when I broke my leg earlier this year.

Sometimes, the staff at the clinic doesn’t even acknowledge my presence and often they don’t speak directly to me. Here’s what a typical welcome for an appointment seems like to me:

“Hello, L. How are you doing today? Oh, I see you brought the sperm production machine with you. Please stand it in the corner over there.”

One time, I even had a physician refuse to give me the results of my semen analysis over the phone. She insisted on only talking to L. Why? Good question: I wasn’t the patient of record! I’ll happily grant that L’s an amazing woman, but did the doctor really think that she produced the sperm sample by herself?

Good luck explaining that one to the medical insurance company.

My message to REs: I’m a fragile flower too.

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