My birthday is coming up. I’ll be turning a bright, young, fresh 41 years of age.
Any time my birthday comes up these days I tend to take stock in my life. If you know me, you can already guess that the biggest thing in my life is always about my family. About my wife Sheri and about my kids Kayla and Emmitt.
And about our infertility that we went through for many years.
This has been something I have wanted to write about for some time now. And in fact I have attempted to write about it on an anonymous blog. Let’s just say it’s a tricky road to navigate.
We are now blessed with two wonderful kids that I am grateful everyday for … but this blog post is not about the kiddoes Emmitt and Kayla.
It’s about infertility and the emotional rollecoaster that comes with it.
Why I need to write…
I have wanted to write about our fertility challenges for some time now. I mentioned I anonymously blogged about it for awhile, maybe as a practice run of sorts. But, as much as I love to write, writing about this proved difficult as I noticed that the more I wrote, the more bitter I sounded. Our fertility challenges years definitely cut very deep.
That being said, it’s important to me to write about it, and not just for me. I have made a lot of great connections these last so many years which has been great. It’s just the sitting and writing my feelings out explicitly about everything in my head that has been challenging.
But here comes 2013. And I think I’m ready.
The best way I can explain it is to relay a recent connection I made at my acpuncturist’s office.
I recently met a young man…
I was a last minute appointment for my acupuncturist so I had to spend a bit more time sitting in the lobby. In came a young man whom upon first sight definitely had a sense of ..well, half confusion and half desparation. He walked to the reception desk and asked about acupuncture, asked if it was on his medical plan, asked for cost. His questions were not well thought out, just a bit random as if he had a lot on his mind and couldn’t figure out where to start.
I eventually heard him say “But HRC suggested I start acupuncture…”. I heard him mention “HRC”, a.k.a. “Huntington Reproductive Center”, a.k.a where Sheri and I also went.
He ended up sitting down in a chair in the lobby, just sitting, as if not sure what to do .. make an appointment? Leave? Stay?
I could read the emotion in his body having gone through many similar feelings. The young man wasn’t sure what business to conduct, he had run out of questions and didn’t know what other questions to ask, didn’t know if acupuncture was under his medical benefits. At the same time, he just sat in the lobby because leaving meant mentally closing that specific door of hope. So he just sat.
I opened up by just asking “I heard you mention HRC. Just curious, which do you go to? The one up the road here in Pasadena?”
He was reluctant to open up. So I did.
“My wife Sheri and I went too HRC too. The one in Pasadena. In fact we went there for our first two IVFs many years ago but after the second we didn’t really like our doctor there. We ended up going to the one out in Reseda because of multiple independent recommendations for a doctor out there.”
“In fact, we were trying for about six years and went through a few IUI’s and three IVF’s before we had our first child. She’s now two and a half years old and quite the spirited one. I have problems keeping up with her!”
This elicited a small chuckle. The young man’s shoulders slightly relaxed. He did mention that he and his wife were considering IVF. So… I kept talking. (Hey, you give me an opening, I could talk your ears off for hours..)
“Yes to be honest, IVF really scared us. That’s a pretty invasive hormonal procedure. In fact, one of Sheri’s friends, after reading about IVF, decided against doing that to her body and opted right away for adoption.”
“After going through the procedure itself, it was not nearly as scary as it seems. Then again my wife is a pretty strong women and can handle a lot. And now having a better understanding of our issues we had, after the fact Sheri and I both realized for our personal situation it would have been easier all around moving right to IVF.”
As I continued to talk, he continued to open up. Then he started asking questions.
“Yes Sheri and I did try acupuncture. We believe in it a lot. We also had chiropractic massage. But also we were part of a support group Sheri found. It really gave us ..well, not just a lot of information, but just a feeling that we weren’t by ourselves. It was actually a study group that taught us about stress and its effect on fertility, but functioned as a great support group too. That helped a lot.”
“Oh we definitely were nervous about IVF. Yes not just the hormones, but the money as well. What finally made us go to our first IVF was that through our support group we found out about a study going on. We inquired, found we qualified, so all our meds were paid for which significantly brought down the cost.”
Then he started talking more. And asking more questions. And talked some more.
“Wow, we also started with the same doctor you are currently seeing at HRC Pasadena. We didn’t like him much either. But he is the one who ended up getting involved in the study which prompted us to finally try an IVF. But after two IVF procedures with him, he seemed to settle on the ‘fact’ that Sheri and I were just in the category of ‘unexplained fertility’ and that was that. We didn’t like that much, as if he lost hope on us already. We weren’t quite ready to lose hope so we went to seek some new doctors and new opinions. One of the best things we ever did.”
“How did the urologist get involved? When we sought out a new fertility doctor, we interviewed quite a few. Two of them (including the doctor we ended up with) recommended I see this urologist. And it was also recommended by two other people from our support group including one couple that went through something like ELEVEN unsusccessful IVFs before seeing this urologist and then having a successful one on their next.”
“Yes, I did have to get some surgery suggested (almost mandated) by our urologist. Our fertility doctor agreed. So I got the surgery. And let’s just say I’m a high believer now.. because the next IVF was successful. And the thing is, this surgery and procedure is so new..maybe within the last 8 years, and I am guessing it would explain a lot of previously unexplained infertility.”
We eventually parted ways as I was called in for my appointment. We traded emails and did have a few follow-up email conversations. I haven’t heard from him in some weeks now, but I do have a feeling that he and his wife at least have an idea of a direction to follow now.
Which brings me to an interesting theory, something I learned in a Sociology class many moons ago
Man’s Greatest Fear..
One of the best classes I took was at a community college where I grew up back in Kent, Washington. It was a Sociology 101 class and my professor was amazing.
One day he went over the subject of “Man’s Greatest Fear”… We all took a guess: death, loss of family, loss of riches, loneliness, and others.
Our professor’s resopnse
“Man’s greatest fear .. is the unknown. Ambiguiuty.”
Which when you think about it makes so much sense. Because the unknown and ambiguity means that you cannot take action. Without understanding, you cannot move forward.
Many people deal with situations in different ways. Take for example the man who finds he has developed a terminal illness. It’s conceivable that his next immediate steps might be
- Immediately hitting the books and on the internet to find anything and everything about this illness
- Immediately checking out his liquidity, checking prices for houses on the lake, and checking the feasability of living the rest of his life peacefully by the water.
- Feeling the despair of the situation, immediately goes home and has a week-long marathon of mind-numbing tv watching and junk-food eating to take his mind off of what he just found out.
Regardless of which seems to be the best and most productive, the point is that each person was able to move forward in his own way once a situation was known. Knowledge and understanding empowers a person to make a decision on how to move forward.
Ambiguity and the unknown … that can leave you helpless, not knowing how to move forward.
Why I need to write…
When I think of the above sociological theory about Man’s Greatest Fear, I can easily point to this young man as an example.
The young man whom I saw come into the acupuncture office, by the way he carried himself, by the way he talked, walked, and moved … I could see the ambiguity in his life. He just did not know what to do and was doing his best to figure out how to move forward and was trying to see if acupuncture was covered under his benefits
The young man who walked out, and later conversed with me in email, by his body language and later just his email language, I could now see someone whom, like me and Sheri years before, still did not know if they would ever be able to have their own children, but at least there was more knowledge, there were more stories and experience, and there were ideas to help form a plan to move forward. He asked for referrals for my doctors. He asked for information on the support group.
He did thank me for initiating the conversation and being open, because he told me later he had felt a bit lost with no idea of a direction to go in. And at the very least, from our conversations, he and his wife now had some ideas on how to move forward.
Why I Need to Write…
The young man did say something which gave me pause…. After hearing our story, he just sort of wondered out loud: that if Sheri and I had these issues maybe 10 years ago, before all these advances discovered by the urologist, what would have happened?
I shudder to think.
Maybe we would not have been able to have our children. No Emmitt. No Kayla. Maybe we would have even settled on the exposition by our first Dr. [Blank] at HRC Pasadena that we were simply “unknown” and “unexplained.” Maybe I would have been the guy with the slumped shoulders, not knowing what to do next.
Why I Need to Write…
Sure, writing is great for me because it helps me clear my head about what has gone on in our lives. You know, the whole cleansing thing.
And it will help me remember, and remember, and REMEMBER what we went through… which will remind me, and remind me, and REMIND ME to never take for granted our family and my kids.
Maybe I just need to make sure there are fewer people out there going through fertility challenges that have that feeling of ambiguity. Because it’s scary.
There is a feeling of shame that comes with not being able to have a child.
It’s unfair, but it happens. When something that is SUPPOSED to be natural that you perceive as coming “easily” to others ..and this supposedly natural thing refuses to touch your lives month after month, year after year… it is a painful process, and one not easily discussed.
For a woman, it can make you feel like less of a woman. Because women are supposed to be able to get pregnant, have babies, and be moms.
For a man, sure, it can make you feel like less of a man, not being able to get your wife pregnant. But in addition it can tear your heart out watching the woman you love, the woman you married, break down into tears, while you can only stand by helplessly not sure what you can do to help.
I’m going to go on a small limb here.
It seems to generally hold true that women are more likely to talk about internal topics (i.e. personal topics).
It seems to generally hold true that men are more likely to talk about external topics (like sports).
I hope you forgive the stereotype, because discussing infertility can be difficult regardless of gender. But for me, the perceptions hold a lot of weight. And I do think that amongst men, there is just another layer of difficulty because we are not always pre-disposed to have internal topics of conversation. Where as a woman *may* find another woman she trusts to confide in about fertility issues, a man may end up just not finding himself able to do so.
That being said:
I could easily have been that guy not knowing how to move forward. And the young man whom I met in the acupuncturist office could easily have been that guy too. As could many other loving husbands and hopeful fathers.
Just because we, as men, fear those types of topics of discussion. Even when I opened up to the young man in the acupuncture office, he was immediately guarded and it took some time for talkative-ol-me to melt down the walls a little bit.
That’s why I feel the need to write.
Because I think writing about the painful experiences of infertility, especially experienced from the man’s point of view, while helpful for me, just might be helpful to others too.
This is the first of what I hope are many posts about our experiences and my experiences. I hope you enjoyed reading.