One year ago today, I decided to create this space as a place to share our journey with the world. During this time, it's mostly been a one-sided point of view. Grey and I have been talking about this blog and how amazing this community is. But the thing that I noticed missing was a guy's point of view on infertility and pregnancy loss as well as the hurdles involved with expanding one's family. In honor of the one year anniversary of this space, Grey has written a post. And as I promised to him, I will be reading it will all of you, seeing his point of view on these past 3 years only after he hits the "publish" button.
Cristy has invited me to share my experiences and feelings on her blog with a series of guest posts. She's cool that way. I'm Grey. Infertility has been absolutely awful. I'm lucky though; at least Cristy and I are together through this. That has not been easy. The anxiety, fear, shock, sadness, the despair, the anger, the tears take a toll on a relationship. There have been many fights followed by crying and making up. But having held tight to each other through this, I love Cristy more deeply than ever and I feel we have discovered aspects about ourselves and our relationship we would otherwise have overlooked.
One of the earliest experiences in this journey that sticks in my mind is the day of the HSG. I'm a scientist, but (overly) conservative on some matters of health. I'm not a fan of directly irradiating our reproductive organs for any reason. I freaked out. I thought we were going to harm our children, fry their DNA to a nice toasty mutagenic crisp with x-rays. Not the sexy kind of fantasy mutations you see in X-Men either; the bad ones, the cancer ones and worse. They say that they do this all the time, the dose is low and perfectly safe. I'm sure that's also what they said about painting radium on watch dials and installing asbestos insulation. I started studying horrible diseases because of how awful they are and my imagination has a diverse inventory. Then I worry about the conversation I had once with a radiology tech who flies around the country adjusting this kind of equipment and can find it out of tune. Is this clinic competent? Why do we have to do this? Why can't we just wait and try some more? Cristy and I fought. This was about 1 hour before the procedure. I waited until then to address these feelings.
It was the first of many diagnostic interventions, then meds. Every time I asked: "Do we have to do this? Why are you so impatient? Why do we have to risk this?" then I'd say stuff like "I can't believe you'd risk this, you're obsessed!" I took my insecurities over the experience out on Cristy. It was a lesson on how a wedge can be driven between two people who love each other dearly.
Then came the day. My first one. Not nearly as invasive as what Cristy had to go through, not painful at all, but more than a little awkward. I'm sure almost every guy feels this way doing this, except those 6'2'', MD-PhD-JD-triathelete-Returned Peace Corps-MENSA 20/20 vision in their beautiful blue eyes, professional sperm donors you read about, they must know that they offer a quality product that the world can't do without ;) . For me it was extra awkward; this was the department at the university I'm affiliated with, there are people I see in seminars that have offices 2 doors down from the "production room." Then, I'm on. The reading material is interesting. I'm amused by and support the inclusive diversity; all your standard guy-magazine fare (subscription tags on the front, the clinic is dedicated), and also offerings if your sperm can't really ever impregnate your domestic partner for same-sex reasons. I make my choice, standard stuff, she looks hot. I like the lipstick and her hair color. She also looks non-judgmental, given the situation. Kind of a: "Hey big boy, let's just enjoy the moment." I go to it, thinking how I'm doing this while my coworkers are, well, working, during working hours and I'm doing this. It's slow at first, but I'm experienced and low-maintenence. Job is complete. Ahhh... never a bad finish. Yeah, I'm a guy.
I wash up, make sure the lid is on tight and put it in the plexiglass box I've been instructed to leave it in. The office staff and technicians are great, they remind me of diner waitresses that make you feel special. This isn't meant to be insulting to their training or important role. It's sincere and a complement. I leave and consider myself lucky that I didn't need to do some of the more sophisticated, invasive retrieval techniques (you guys are tough!).
I need to level with Cristy. I know now how she has felt, she fears that it's her, now I have the fear that it's me. Her tests aren't done. More to go. My counts aren't back yet. I love her. I say: "Cristy, whatever the outcome, it's you and me all the way." She agrees. We're a team.
Time goes by. Counts come back. Not great, but ok. Slightly low this, but high that. Doc says nothing particularly informative. Future counts fluctuate, some great (self-esteem booms), others a bit flat, one due to a fever from a Reno wedding food poisoning incident confirmed by 20 other victims, including Cristy (why did I eat the fish?). Maybe it's me. Maybe not. Maybe they're great. Maybe they suck. Maybe I suck. Maybe I'm not a man. Maybe I'm a useless sterile blob, a flesh dumpling just taking up space and depriving my wife of a child, a child some real man could give her if I'd just get out of the way. I'd be better off as a robot. If I was a robot, I'd have a purpose and I wouldn't care that I didn't have the parts to build a little robot. Up, down. Then I see what a "normal" guy's counts look like over a year. They vary at least as much.
More tests for Cristy. Then the diagnosis: unexplained. Constant speculation about things. Is Cristy's progesterone a little too low? Time goes on, "mild male-factor?" gets tacked on to the diagnosis. With the question mark. Are we mild-combined? Is Grey a carrier of some exotic balanced translocation? Does Cristy have a coagulation disorder? I blame me. Cristy blames herself. We are both insecure. We both fear abandonment and being defective. Some nights, suffering very quietly to ourselves. Other nights, leveling with each other and holding each other. Some nights, fighting.
Three IUIs. With the first, I panic again. What if the clinic screws up and mistakes my sperm for someone else's? The old sample swap, a shell-game of gametes. What if I end up with a genetic child with another woman (if my sperm could do that ever at all with any woman) and (gasp!) Cristy bears the child of another man? Cuckolded by the clinic. What if that guy is HIV+? These tests aren't required for this procedure. What if it happens and Cristy and that guy hit it off? Judge how you want, until you are there, you are full of shit in what you think about a man in this position. Insecurities abound. Then I finally stop being so crudely selfish and remember this has become our best shot at a child. Cristy is running body and mind risks too. And she fears me leaving her for some 19 year old fertility goddess.
All IUIs failed. Not one positive. I feel naive to ever have believed in them. Now for the big guns, the BIG three letters, IVF.
More tests. More forms. Scratch together some money. Borrow, borrow, borrow. Save, save, save. Plead with your employer to cover IVF? Fat chance. In this recession? Or ever.
We need pathogen testing to deposit embryos into cryostorage. At least all our blood tests come back negative. I didn't have any reason to suspect, we are insanely dedicated to each other and profoundly low risk for anything. But when you're feeling defective, you wonder just how far it goes.
All I want for Christmas is you. You little baby. Oh to finally see you. That's what I'm thinking in mid-December as we go through our first round. All those mornings, getting up with Cristy to help with her injections. She feels awful. Pain, discomfort, it goes on. The big trigger shot night. The gown, the scrubs, the stirrups. Will they fertilize?
They do. We get about 20 oocytes, nine embryos, eight make it through. Excellent quality. We were finally there, the tide was turning! All I want for Christmas is you. Two days after Christmas we test. Cristy can't look. I look. I tell her: "Sweetie, I think it's positive...". She looks. We hug and cry.
Heaven. For a couple days. HCGs fall apart. Cristy is on the phone with one of the docs, tears drop from her eyes instantly. I deny. It's just a lab fuck-up, man I tell you those jerks can't get anything right...But I'm dead wrong. The lab is good at what they do. They are right. 2012 starts as a miscarriage.
I hold her hand during the D&C. I try to distract her. Don't look down there, look at me. Pain. Failure. Loss. Death.
We try again. How could we possibly go wrong? Pregnant again! HCG is so good, maybe twins? I'll take 'em. Loss of sleep: don't care. No money: don't care. Constant chaos (my brother has twins, I know how it rolls): don't care. I'll take 'em. Now! Finally! Done, done, done! Just give me this! Let Cristy have this!
Then....blood, pain. Miscarriage. My boss reminds me via e-mail about not posting my next week's goals. I write back to him: "I'm sorry, will do ASAP. Right now, Cristy is having another miscarriage, passing appx 50mL clots, in distress..." I feel bad for having answered, but after years of infertility screwing with my employability, I feel the need.
It isn't as bad while it's happening. It's after. And before, if it's happened before and you're anxious. Cristy cries and mourns. I do the guy thing, granite-faced, there for others (Cristy).
It catches up with me. The reality sinks in over the next weeks. I want to die. I imagine two little headstones, about the size of coasters, each with their own little name. Names I fantasized about giving them when we were pregnant. The names for the kids I won't be teaching how to ride their bikes. This hits hard. Bikes are very personal symbols to me. I dig into the carpet with my hands. I cry finally. I also think no little socks for them. This is the stuff that materialized it for me. No bikes and no socks. Intimate symbols.
The tears and the pain expel the cold grey barrenness I live in and have come to adapt to. The pain reminds me I'm alive. The pain separates me from the graves. I remember what it feels like to be alive. The tears are better than the wasteland of a reality I had been living in as a consequence of infertility. This pain is better. This pain feels healthy somehow.
This pain is life pain. I felt a strength from this pain. Like I could live somehow. This is not what I feel most of the time.
I'm writing too much about myself. There are countless nights I came home to find Cristy crying or raging. It was awful. It's not over yet, but it's better right now. I try to support her. I focus on our partnership in life. There are times we are exhausted and can't support each other. There are very few who understand. I think you do. Thanks for reading this. Thanks for your support. I don't know how many times Cristy has been supported by you when I could not because I was in pieces. I hope this story helps you somehow.
I'll write some more later on, I especially want to describe our efforts to adopt, our experience with marriage counseling and wrestling with the decisions on further treatment.
Listen Up and then BE HEARD!
3 hours ago