Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Musings on Sperm

I'd like to say thank you for the many comments about the last episode, where I attempted to take a humiliating experience and squeeze the comedy out of it. Many of you seemed to believe I'd succeeded.

Kelly - thank you for reminding us all that the genders see and experience things differently. Maybe I have a purpose in that I can help the guy's view be more transparent to the Wannabe Moms.

I was shocked and amazed at the assertion that there may be pleasure in the guy experience! There isn't, I promise you, and the fellow that forgot the lube can really promise you (thank you Krista)!

One question Krista.  Were they butter knives or steak knives?

What did I say?  I'm just askin'!

A couple of the comments talk about having to perform on cue.  For most guys, that can really complicate matters.  Wannabe Moms - there is such a thing as performance anxiety.  Once things start malfunctioning, it's hard to recover.  I can't imagine how mortifying it must have been for waiting4amiracle's husband.  If that had happened to me, I would have been forced to return on another day.

Empty whole - thank you for sharing about your husband's inspiration.  I'm certain that his is not the most extreme case.  Not by a long shot.

That said, if I were taking my laptop into the Evocation Suite, I would try to hide it in a briefcase or a backpack.

Did he have an air card?

Despite everything discussed here, Wannabe Moms have it so much worse.  JK had to go under the knife five times before we made it to the other side.  I figure one surgery equals about fifty forced emissions.

Next time, I'll discuss another of those surgical procedures.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Would You Like a Sample of my Sperm?

I imagine a Costco sample server saying that very thing and it brings a smile to my face.  Then I imagine myself as the Costco sample server and the smile widens.

You see, providing sperm at the fertility clinic is undignified, but it is bloody hilarious if you have the ability to see it that way.

JK had more than her share of indignities and I could be laughing at those... if I could be both insensitive and dishonest on this blog.


Yep, that is exactly what I meant.  I am trying my best to relay my feelings about these events, both at the time and in retrospect.  The truth is I was too busy admiring JK to laugh.  The way she was able to slog through the hurt, the disappointment, the humiliation.  I could not see funny.  I only saw strong.

Happily, this is me.  Please feel free to laugh until you pee.

*          *          *

Dr. Sipe informed me that I would have to provide a sperm sample.  He said that I could, uh... evoke it offsite, but that I would need to get it to the Fertility Centers of Illinois (FCI) in one hour.  Oh yes, and also that I'd need to store the sample inside my underwear and close to my penis all the while.

Is it odd that I'm storing my spooge almost exactly where it came from?

Did I say, "came from?"  Sorry.  No tasteless pun intended.

So, thinking of the inconvenience and sheer stupidity, I figure I will go to FCI and 'evoke' there.

Why is it that I can not seem to say masturbate?  Masturbate.  As a society, we tend to judge or ridicule people that pleasure themselves.  But, it happens all of the time.  The folks that heap the most ridicule on masturbators are themselves masturbators!

Statistics show that there are 11 million infertile couples in the US alone.  I don't know how many seek treatment.  Imagine that all of them do seek treatment (thus adding to the count).  That's 11 million guys who have had to masturbate on demand.  We are talking about one helluva lot of spooge.

By the way, no lubricant can touch the sample, for fear of invalidating the screen.  No lotion, no oil, no KY Jelly, not even saliva.  Aren't humans made with natural lubricants when we make love?  How do you expect me to pull this off?  I have calluses!

And no, the calluses are not a result of excessive masturbation.

I do know one thing.  I would need inspiration.  I had no idea what sorts of media there might be at FCI?  VCR's?  DVD players?  Naughty movies?  What kind of naughty movies?  Are they hetero?

In the end, I reasoned that I would have to supply my own inspiration.  Movies seemed impractical.  Even a laptop, capable of getting a naughty web site feed, seemed burdensome.  In the end, I decided that I would print a naughty story.

I have an active imagination.  It would be enough.

When I arrived at FCI and was shown the masturbation suite (not a suite really) I was so incredibly glad I had brought something from home!

There were magazines there.  I will remember the appearance of those magazines like a horrific near miss for the rest of my life.  If I had been forced to touch them, soiled as they clearly were, I believe I would have been forced to hand wash like Lady Macbeth until the end of time.  To say nothing of how my genitals would be affected!

I did bring lotion from home, careful to use it only on the shaft.  The story did its job and soon I was ready to provide the sample.  In moments, I was spooging into a sample cup.

Trouble was, there was this little bit hanging off of the edge.

Naturally, I tilted the cup in hopes of guiding the hanging bit back in.  Holy crap!  I was about a millisecond from too late to save the entire emission from splashing onto the floor.  Visions of me scooping the ruined sample back into the cup assaulted my brain.

Imagine the hilarity if I had been forced to repeat this entire experience.

No harm done however.  I closed the cup quickly, unwilling to chance any more screw ups.

In the end, we learned nothing new.  My sperm were plentiful, if slightly lazy.  They would be able to do their job.  The testing would reveal things about JK that would help us in the long run.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Meeting Dr. Sipe

So now we come to it.  Three miscarriages later, JK and I talk to Dr. B about a fertility doc.  She figures there are two good choices at Fertility Centers of Illinois (FCI).  One is Dr. Kaplan, who is their celeb-doc.  He has done more aided births than any doctor in the Midwest.  Heck, while we were being treated there, Dr. Kaplan had Bill and Giuliana Rancic and the whole reality show barrage.

On the other hand, said Dr. B, we could go with her friend Dr. Sipe.  He's younger, doesn't have the stats, but he's nice.  Dr. B figured JK could use a little compassion.

JK and I hardly discussed it.  We went with Dr. Sipe.

I figure any doctor that works with FCI is very good at what they do.  So if competency isn't in question, then maybe you can aim for the other 'softer' pieces.

It's funny though.  We felt like we had broken ranks with the entire world.  Our friends Brant and Jen?  Dr. Kaplan treated them.  The other members of JK's yoga class?  All Dr. Kaplan.  Seemingly the entire world?  Kaplan.  Kaplan.  Kaplan.

Who can argue?  The guy gets results.  Brant and Jen have beautiful twins to attest to this truth.

In the previous episode, I talked about the mind (heart? soul?) and the body, and how important it was that they work together.  We hoped Dr. Sipe would treat JK's body while keeping her soul intact.  We were not disappointed.

He has a subtle sense of humor, does Sipe, and a mildly dorky aura (I can relate, my beloved readers).  Most important, I felt that he really was focused on us.  He cared.  And I sensed JK giving him her trust.  After that, could anything be more important?

We first learned the scary path.  Clomid.  Clomid plus other drugs.  IUI.  IVF.  All of the percentages.  All of the costs.  The time needed.  Taking all of that information in was not easy.  But Dr. Sipe urged that we do each in order.  JK was unsure, thinking she was aging and time was short.  I pointed out that we'd decided to work with Sipe.  That meant we were all in.  Either we trust him fully and follow his instructions, or we move on.

Before we could begin Clomid, a few things would have to occur.  We would both need to have blood tests run, and JK would need an ultrasound to check her uterus.  In perhaps the funniest episode of our long journey, I had to donate a sperm sample.  Next time, I'll tell you all about it.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Enjoying Others' Joy

Forgive me for adding another musing before moving on to the fertility doc.  That said, those of you familiar with Fertility Centers of Illinois (FCI) may also be familiar with Pulling Down the Moon.  I mention it because JK started going to a yoga group there near to the time we began treatment at FCI.

For a long time, JK was saddened or angered by other pregnancies while we remained infertile.  And she sometimes had reason.  For example, there was that time at O'Hare Airport when we were in a long line at security and in danger of missing our flight.  The TSA person saw a pregnant woman behind us and escorted her to the front of the line.

Women that have trouble getting pregnant or carrying to full term can not help but see how pregnant women get special rights.  This adds resentment on top of the whole infertility resentment and can quickly turn to vitriol.

Wannabe Dads - it is normal, even human, for your Wannabe Moms to feel this way.  But I don't believe it's healthy, and I didn't believe it was healthy for JK.  On some days, JK would come home and rant about all of the pregnant women in her office.  She even ranted about someone that was not yet pregnant, saying, "If she gets pregnant before I do, I'm gonna put a bullet in my head."

People believe in so many different things: the heart, the soul, inner balance, chi, yin/yang, and some Jungian concept that is completely over my head.  They all amount to the same thing, and infertility rips them apart.  Have you ever heard people express crazy as "unbalanced"?  I suspect that infertility takes a Wannabe Mom so far away from her center that she is crazy.

Fine, whatever.  Once we have a baby she'll be ok.  Right?


Or so I believe.

What if it's impossible (or unlikely) that a Wannabe Mom can become a mommy unless the hole is healed; the balance re-established?  What if a Wannabe Mom needs to be whole inside and out before she can journey to the other side?

So, when JK became negative toward others' good news, I told her that she was hurting herself.  I felt strongly that she would need to learn to enjoy others' joy.  She simply couldn't.

Her yoga instructor at the health club suggested Pulling Down the Moon.  Knowing her need, the cost of the class seemed like nothing to me.  So she ended up in a small group of women (eight, I think?) for a class that was part yoga and larger part counseling and discussion.  JK soon discovered that there were much worse infertility journeys than our three miscarriages.

As she got to know these women and their stories, her attitudes changed.  She got to like them, of course (they are still in touch).  More importantly, she decided for the first time that she could be happy if one of her yoga classmates became fertile.  I could see her finally able to experience joy in the joy of others.

When I saw JK incessantly reading the hundreds of infertility blogs out there, I worried that she was doing herself harm.  I figured this was a pity-party, misery-loves-company kind of thing.  Now I see differently.

The search on the infertility blogosphere is a search for hope.  It's a search for laughter amid despair, healing amid the broken, life amid barrenness, clarity amid confusion, joy amid sadness.  I get it now.

Next time really will talk about the fertility doc!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Seeing Doctor Quack

Our fertility doctor was wonderful.  Next time, I promise I will tell more.  However, it seems appropriate to joke/rant about Doctor Quack first.

I don't know if I mentioned that JK has Taiwanese origins.  She believes in both Eastern and Western medicine.  And, honestly, so do I.  Eastern medicine often has ways to gently treat ailments that Western medicine mishandles.

After our second miscarriage, and on the suggestion of certain friends, I entertained the idea of finding an acupuncturist for JK.  Our once infertile friends Brant and Jen had a good experience with acupuncture, and others seemed to voice the same sentiment.  So, now there was only to find one.

After hearing of several, we settled upon a reputable fellow in Chinatown.  I call him Doctor Quack, because I do not want to write something that would bite me in the butt later.  Now you the what but not the who.  That will have to suffice.

Upon arriving at this office, we see shelves stocked with copious amounts of herbal remedies: pills, teas, tinctures, blah-dy blah-dy blah!  As busy as this office is, I quickly realize that most of the money made here is in the packaged stuff up front.  Doctor Quack's own herbals, as it happens.

We tell him our story, simple enough at this point: get pregnant on the second try, miscarry, wait three months, try again, get pregnant on the second try, miscarry.  One miscarriage of unknown cause, and one known: Turner's syndrome.  He checks a few things out on JK, and then confidently declares that with his care and the herbals she would be taking, we were going to have a baby right away.

If the Internet could convey smells, you might be picking up the scent of bull$^*+.  I certainly did.  So did JK.

His assertion that we could begin trying right away when the miscarriage had just occurred?  A woman's insides need time to right themselves first.  Our excellent OB GYN always suggested waiting for three cycles.

As for the rest of it... I don't know how many hundreds (or thousands?) of dollars we would have sunk into his remedies, had we drank the Kool-Aid.  I don't want to know.  JK had an issue that needed to be solved medically.  Doctor Quack didn't know that, and neither did we.  I wonder how many couples cling to Doctor Quack's indomitable confidence when pitted against the confusion and heartbreak of infertility.

If you take the cynical point of view (as I do), he and others like him are predators.  Infertility has a way of causing confident people to doubt themselves.  Decisions that seem objectively obvious become something else.  A quack dangling hope in front of a heartbroken, hopeless, infertile couple will often succeed.

Fortunately, we high-tailed it out of there, politely refusing the prescription as they tried to push it into our hands.  Happily, our fertility doctor at FCI was nothing like that.

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Third Miscarriage: Dignity is Overrated

True to form, JK and I conceived on the second try (do you sense a pattern?) but this pregnancy never seemed promising.  Even I, the "optimistic" one, had to wonder why the double lines came in so faintly on the pee stick.

It didn't take very long for the bad news to become evident.  On the first ultrasound visit, we saw a sac, but nothing else.  No egg.  No heartbeat.  Conclusion: blighted ovum.  Our third miscarriage.

Dr. B was loath to perform another D&C, the third in a year, and so she suggested a medical avenue for ending the pregnancy.

Please forgive a digression.  I swear that it leads back to the topic at hand.

JK and I live in Chicago, and she works downtown.  A couple of years back, I picked her up for lunch and we walked over to Perry's Delicatessen, which has the biggest yummiest deli sandwiches in Chicago.  The sandwiches are so huge, they happily wrap a half for their female customers.  However, men are expected to, well... be more manly.  Perry's does not wrap a half, but will give a bag and some plastic to the guys that ask.

JK asked for her half to be wrapped and then I did the same... oops.

I knew I'd just blown it and I was about to be humiliated.  Sheepishly, I said, "Oh yeah, I heard you were going to bust my balls over that."

He laughed.  He wrapped the sandwich.

JK asked me, "How is it that you are the only guy who has ever had his sandwich wrapped at Perry's?"

I responded, "Dignity is overrated."

Dignity is overrated.  A motto for infertile couples as well.  Because this is one undignified road Wannabe Dads.  If you wish to survive it, I might suggest putting your dignity on the shelf.

For the Wannabe Dads, there's plenty of undignified stuff that I will delve into as this story unfolds.  Get a grip Wannabe Dads!  Whatever indignity you are subjected to, it pales in comparison to the indignities an infertile woman must bear.  Here's a few:

1) Having a kajillion people rummaging around in her privates.

2) Enduring endless questions about when she is going to have kids, and doesn't she like children?

3) Shots in the bum.

4) Stirrups and dildo cams (slang for the wand-like probe used in transvaginal ultrasounds).

5) The waiting room at the OB GYN with all of the viable pregnancies.

Did I mention a medical avenue for ending the third pregnancy?  We were given a prescription for Cytotec.  So JK just takes a pill and that's it, right?

Wrong.  So wrong.

Our instructions: place four pills far inside the vagina, trying to get close to the cervix.  Because of the difficulty placing the pills, it should be done by... guess who?  I could have run away screaming from this task Wannabe Dads, but I remembered that dignity is overrated.  More, I remembered that my wife needed me.  This would suck much more for JK than it would for me.

Eventually, the sac expelled along with the usual other stuff.  JK had an uncomfortable day, but happily no other ill effects (for now).  Soon, it would be time to look forward.  We were in the high-risk category now.  Dr. B suggested something that we already knew.  It would be time to get help.  Next stop: The Fertility Centers of Illinois, better known as FCI.

Next time: Choosing a Fertility Doctor (and other stuff!)

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Turning to Friends

Three things you should know about turning to friends:

1) It's a certainty that you know someone who has had fertility problems.

2) They do not publicize this fact.

3) BUT, they will talk to others experiencing the same anguish.

My friends Keith and Peri have three kids.  I never suspected they had any difficulty.  Turns out just getting to #1 was a two year journey for them.  They had trouble conceiving and experienced so much of what I described in the last episode.  The things they taught me helped me to survive infertility.  Our long talks on the phone helped me to cope.

Wannabe Dads - understand that much of your wife's journey is a search for control.  It's the natural order of things.  They (understandably!) figure that the odds are against them and their chance to be a mom is slipping away.  So, they will seize every controllable variable and obsess upon it.

Diet?  You'd better believe it.  Schedule?  Of course.  Medication, doctor's orders, etc.

Where it gets scary Wannabe Dads, is their (understandable!) obsession with the things they can not control.  You may rationally believe that it's useless for them to dwell on: inability to conceive, inability to carry to full term, miscarriages, chromosomal abnormalities, advancing age, declining eggs.  You may admonish them to try to dwell upon the positive.

Dream on.

But forgive yourselves.  I did it too.  Keith did it.  We are all guilty of pushing our wives in a direction they can not go.

I will always be eternally grateful to Keith for helping me to understand my role.  In the course of one of our long talks, he said, "don't try to fix things," which was incredibly good advice given to someone that would try to fix things.

But his admonishment has deeper meaning.  Don't try to impose your perceptions upon your wife.  Don't try to impose rationality upon her.  Do not attempt to control her environment.

Instead, listen.  Hear her and then respond.  If she asks for a boon within your power, grant it.  If she needs encouragement, give it.  If she needs hugs and kisses, embrace and smooch.  And, if she needs time by herself to sort it all out, then for $@#J'$ sake, give her some space!

Making certain that she knows you are always within reach.

That's how it is Wannabe Dads.  Sorry.  This is not a blog to rail against fate and it's certainly not one to try to change reality.  It's a pay-it-forward, if you will.  A chance for me to help Wannabe Dads as Keith and Peri helped me.  You are not the captain of the ship.  This is infertility.  So heed Captain Wannabe Mom and ride this storm for however long it takes.  Keith and Peri saw the end of it, thank goodness.  So did we.  Others never do.

I pray your ending is a happy one.

Now that my happy digression is over with, next time I return to our story and tell of our third miscarriage.