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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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