Saturday, December 20, 2008

Further into the depths of fatherhood.

So, things have been chugging along. Ok, more like flying along. I understand now why people with kids are always so busy.

Not much has really happened. Everyone is settling in well and we are working on routines.

We have setup another, private blog with pictures, email me or leave a comment and I will send you the info. You will probably also get added to the announcement mailing list for the pictures.

In parenting news, C is getting much more comfortable and seeking my attention, affection and approval. He hinted around when I took him to bed that he liked to read at bed time. Of course I obliged. We took turns reading, he is a REALLY good reader.

Tomorrow we are off to Grandma's for the day. I will probably be exhausted after that.

In work news, I got thrown under the bus and ended up on call for the next two weeks, during the "holiday closure". Not real thrilled about that. Prior to the boys getting here, I wouldn't have cared. Funny how all that changes.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Finally, some time to breathe.

So, here I sit in my nice quiet house all by myself.

Amanda went to Wal-Mart (Which I hate) with X to pick up a pack-n-play and some other things. So, I can think a bit.

While I can't really compare this to "traditional" parenting, but it has to be harder. We went from no kids at all to having an infant and an 8 year old in the house. While the infant is pretty easy to understand the needs of, the 8 year old is significantly more difficult. He has likes and dislikes, things that make him happy, things that scare him. It is very hard to find these things without just grilling him, which would not be cool. One just has to be observant and try to pick up on them. We are figuring it out, but slowly.

I took C down this morning and FINALLY enrolled him in school. What a mess that was. Even with the principal being Amanda's uncle, they fought us. They could not get past us not having a birth certificate. We told them time and again that his last school had copies of all that and they would gladly fax it to them if they would call and ask for it. They were still hung up on needing it before they could enroll him, and they couldn't request it until he was enrolled. It was a real chicken vs egg problem for the simpletons. Finally, we just laid down the law. We told them we were bringing him in today with all of the paperwork we had from the state telling us to enroll him, and let them figure out what to do about it, or call DHHR and tell them why they were refusing to enroll him. By golly, it worked. If it wasn't for the fact that we would have been causing family problems, I would have called the papers to see if they wanted to run a story about the schools refusing to enroll foster children. It seems like they think when children are removed from their homes they come with a folder labeled "Important Documents" so it's all nice and tidy. Seems that the goal of education has been lost in favor of red tape. I in no way wanted to break the rules, I just wanted to get him in there while we sorted the paperwork out. Maybe I will go ahead and send a letter to the editor to the local papers. It is certainly a problem that needs some attention.

In all my life, I can't really recall thinking "Where is that damn camera" as many times as I have this week. Last night, C and Amanda were decorating the tree (C and I put it up, they decorated) and I couldn't find the camera fast enough and I am not sure I would have been composed enough to use it anyhow. It was a pretty amazing thing to be a part of.

We are trying very hard to undo some of the damage that was done regarding Christmas. Apparently, he was told a while back that Santa was dead. I am not sure of the reasoning, but I can't come up with a reason that justifies it. We are making pretty good progress on that front. We have gotten him excited about Christmas. Still waiting to find out where they are going to spend Christmas itself. He wants to go to his grandfathers and we are working to make that happen as best we can. While we love these children, we can't deny them their birth family. It's important to him, so it is important to us. Hopefully, we will know something on that in the next day or so.

I had a talk with C last night when he went to bed. He was concerned about kids at school making fun of him or being mean to him because he is a "foster kid". I told him the best I could think of, which was that they only know what he chooses to tell them. If he wants to say we all just moved here as a family, we will roll with that and back him up. The school agreed to do the same. I know this has to be a terrible thing for such a young child to face, and I do admire his bravery. I like to think he draws some strength from knowing that he has a mountain of man for a father who is 100% on his side, come hell or high water. But, I really don't know if he does. Either way, I have to keep doing it and be there for him. He has had enough disappointment, I won't be part of him having any more.

Last night I took my entire family (Me, Manda, X, C, mom, dad, brother, brothers girlfriend) out to dinner with some of my Christmas bonus. A good time was had by all and poor C didn't know how to react to the waitress flirting with him.

I had a good opportunity to reflect on the last year yesterday. I had to do my anual review with my manager. I know I do a good job, but it reall hits home when you see it all spelled out. In reflecting, I am amazed how much has happend this year.
  1. New role at work
  2. Diagnosed infertile
  3. Promotion at work
  4. Moving
  5. More new duties at work
  6. The entire home study process.
  7. Getting these 2 wonderful children that in no way deserve anything less than the best.
  8. Seeing my wife get her mom groove on so gracefully.
So, it's been a damn fine year for me and I think next year will bring even more positive things. This is really important for me to realize. I did ALL of this on my own, with no support from my parents. made this happen, I made my life, and I succeeded. Cost me a lot of $$ in therapy to say that (Thank you Jill) So, for the moment I am going to pat myself on the back and bask in the glory of my life, enjoying it with the one person who steadfastly kept putting up with my shit, my wife.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

So, this is cooler than I expected

Again, bad blogger here....

But, I promise, this time I have 2 of the best excuses I could hope to have.

We will just call them C and X. C is 8 and X is 8 months.

Today, we did the single coolest thing to date with them. We put up the Christmas tree. In the past, we wouldn't even have a tree. But, somehow this is a bit different, and much cooler.

With the exception of dealing with getting C registered for school, it has been a pure pleasure.

Both are quite happy and quite well adjusted.

For myself, I am beat, this is WORK!

Unfortunately, since they are foster children, we aren't allowed to post pictures.

Since C will be starting school tomorrow, I will have some more time to post more. Just wanted to jump in and give you guys an update.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

One Family In A Box Coming Up.......

As luck would have it, we actually got a referral today. Not only that, we got 2 referrals today.

So, Monday, we will be the proud new pseudo parents of 2 boys. One 7 months old, the other 8 years old.

At this point, that is all we know. Amanda went and did her first motherly duty today. Well, we did do something last night that would be considered the first act of motherhood to the lucky bastards that have kids the old fashioned way. Anyhow, she went and got the school enrollment stuff for the 8 year old today. Unfortunately, we can't do much with it. The social worker will do it Monday when she drops the boys off. We simply do not have the information right now.

So, from famine to feast.

We know that the likelyhood of adoptability of these two is slim to none, but that's ok. It will have us doing SOMETHING instead of fighting with all the other states.

We are relatively certain that we are going to switch over to DHHR from the agency and have a call in to them to start that going. We should know more on that tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Soul Searching (And More Ranting)

Blatant cut and paste from my wifes blog

Where do I even start? Okay. We start with the beginning of the day. This will be a massive brain dump with a plea for advice somewhere near the bottom. If you read nothing else, give me input on that part please. K? Thanks. I appreciate it.

We expressed interest in a 3-year-old in NC last evening, they said he had some delays, etc. Emailed the home study to the contact address on the website. I woke up to an email from them stating that they don't accept emailed home studies, could we please fax it. First, WTF, dude? You ALREADY HAVE IT. Just read it. Whatever. We faxed it. They then refused to tell us anything about the kid. They would ONLY talk to our social worker. So my SW calls. The kid, at 3, is completely non-verbal, only just learning to walk, not potty trained, and will require assistance for the rest of his life. My SW actually said the kid would be better off in an institution because that's the level of care he NEEDS. If that's not blatant misrepresentation, I don't know what is.

We expressed interest in a 2-year-old in GA. Emailed the home study. Oh, but they still can't tell us anything. They'll only talk to social workers. What the fuck ever, people. Seriously.

We got a new liaison at AdoptUsKids. She's way better than the last one. We were pretty much in constant contact with her either by phone or email until she left the office today. Much better treatment than we're used to. Refreshing.

At the beginning of this process, our SW told us three things:

1. We'd have referrals for fosters coming out our wazoo.
2. Young children (under 3ish) are very rare.
3. We will probably wait years for an adoptive placement.

Today, my mom told me about a friend of her's who has adopted two children through foster care (both under six months old at the time of placement) and just took a referral for another 3-year-old who is already adoptable. TPR is already complete.

Mom gave me her number (let's call her R). So I called R and talked to her about it. R and her DH have been doing foster care for about 8 years. In that time, they've had eight foster children who went back home, and by the end, have adopted 3. And R and her DH only accepted children under 18 months! (Until this latest one came along.) So, that's 11 babies/toddlers to come through their home in 8 years. Eleven children under age 3 in 8 years. Three children under age 3 who have been adoptable.

My brother's girlfriend's parents (P&D) are foster parents. I don't even know how many referrals they've had or how many they've turned down. Right now, they have 4 children under the age of 5 and they're adopting one of those. Another one of those is an infant who may still be adoptable in the future. I think P&D have been in this for three years or so.

Both these couples are going through the actual state agency. The DubV equivalent of CPS. We're going through a private agency who is funded by the state. Completely different animals. Now, when the department (CPS, stick with me here, I'm almost done) gets a referral, they are going to call all their homes first. They get paid by the kid from the state, so they want to keep as many kids as possible in their program. After they've run through their list of homes, they call these other agencies (like mine) and give the referral to them. So basically, we're scraping the bottom of the barrel. We're clear down there at the bottom of this flow chart. When my SW told me that babies/toddlers never came in and that adoptable placements almost never came through, it was a skewed view of the thing. Those situations may not come through THAT agency, but they're certainly going somewhere. They just happen to find a home way up at the top of the flow chart. So now we're left with this:

1. We've had two referrals that we didn't get picked for (because the department found homes for them). If that's referrals out the wazoo, I think he needs to re-examine the definition of said catchphrase.

2. Children under 3 are only rare at the bottom of the flow chart. Where we are. We have the ability to jump up to the top... You know, where the KIDS ARE.

3. Adoptable placements come along as often as young kids do. Just not at my agency.

So where does this leave us? Fuck if I know... My gut tells me we're dropping our agency and going straight through the department. I feel bad doing that because I really do like our SW. But I almost think he's just a really brilliant salesman. Really good at blinding you to the facts and making you feel like you need him. And I think I bought it hook, line, and sinker. At the root of it, we were lied to. Best case scenario, we were misled. Either way, it wasn't the right way to do it. There's no way, going into this, that we would know how the referrals worked. I guess I was naive enough to believe that it was an equal opportunity thing, but looking at it now, it all makes sense... What motivation does the department have to hand off these referrals when they have their own foster homes? Why give away that money? It's glaringly obvious that you have the upper hand at the department as opposed to being with one of these offshoot agencies. And should I really feel bad about leaving my current agency? After finding out that we were purposely misled about the way the department handles things, how many kids are really out there, etc... I don't feel quite so shitty about it.

Is it better to wait around for months on end with no referral because you get to skip the politics of the department? Or is it better to jump into the department with both feet because you'll get kids in the house faster? Seems obvious to me now. Twenty four hours ago, you wouldn't have been able to convince me to do this... But based on the information that I received today... It seems to be the only thing that makes sense for our long-term goals.

So, what would you do, Blogosphere? Impart your glorious wisdom upon me.

Just when you thought they couldn't get any dumber.

Ok, our latest contestant is Georgia.

Georgia provides a way to express interest in a child online. Same routine as everyone else, "Please send us your completed home study". Ok, so we do.

Here is what we get back:

To get more information about XXXXXX, please have your worker contact us. We will put him/her in touch with XXXXXX's worker who will be able to give additional information to your worker on your behalf.

So, exactly what the crap was the point of us sending them the home study. They could have told us this upfront and saved everyone trouble.

And the hits just keep on coming......

So, we inquired about a child in NC. They stated "he has some delays" but is in preschool, etc.

The reality we found out was that it was a 3 year old that was not mobile, non verbal and will need care for the rest of his life.

What the fuck is wrong with these people? I can't imagine they are really this stupid. It's more used car salesmen tactics. Makes me more and more sick the more and more I deal with these people.

So, that's 2 states sofar that couldn't find their ass with both hands and a map. Let's hope the other 48 are at least a little better.
Yet another example of incompetnce and lies:

>Thank you for your interest in the waiting children of North Carolina. I apologize for the >inconvenience but we do not have a secured website, therefore we are unable to accept >homestudies by email. We want to make sure that we can safeguard families' confidential >information and comply with HIPAA regulations.

1st) The website is completely unrelated to email. Regardless of how secure your website is, email is still email and not secure.
2nd) HIPPA has exactly nothing to do with this.

So, in their intial interaction with us they have started off on the wrong foot by claiming BS reasons and incorrectly attributing it to law/policy. A much better way to handle it would be "We are sorry, but our policy does not allow us to accept home studies by e-mail at this time". Same effect, but without the BS.

Now, in all likelyhood, this person is just doing what they are told when asked about homestudies by e-mail. So, this is not against the individual, with the possible exception of speaking up about handing out BS answers. What happened was some manager somewhere wrote up the boilerplate email response using buzzwords and such thinking that nobody would actually call them out on it. It is even sadder that if we did, we would get moved to the bottom of the pile or the trash.

In the big picture, these are just other signs of how people operate at large. The world has become full of people who can't be bothered to give you factual infomation, just something to get you off their back so they can go back to their myspace browsing or whatever and not be bothered by this silly "job" thing that puts food on their table.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Not a post for those easily offended

Ok, again, sorry for not being a more active poster.

Fair warning to those of you that are offended by 4 letter words.

I am flat fed the fuck up with 90% of the people "working" in the adoption/foster industry.

They are the most unprofessional, discourteous bunch of fucktards I have ever had the pleasure of working with.

A) My cat is smarter than most of these people
B) Is it so fucking hard to call someone back?
C) What is the point of having a phone if you never answer it or return voicemails.
D) Same as above for e-mail.

I just don't get what is so damn complicated about this. EACH and EVERY one of these dipshits we have worked with could screw up a wet dream. I don't think we have ever gotten a phone call returned.

Sorry for the very colorful rant, but I am quite pissed off at the moment. Spent a week chasing after dumbfuck social workers in Florida, jumping through their hoops because they were eager to work with us, only to have to almost literally pin them down for them to tell us we weren't selected. My money is that we weren't even in the running, they just aren't capable of being honest. That is a another theme that seems to keep occuring in this. Fucking lies. Just grow a pair and be honest, people will respect you a lot more, even if you aren't telling them what they want to hear.

Ok, I will end my rant now. I will post more about the bullshit an lies they put us through as they occur.

And, if you are wondering, I am not bitter about not being chosen for the one child. It's not that at all. Just be upfront and stop the bullshit.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thoughts on Foster Parenting

Initially, we were going to adopt and be a happy little family. You know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men......

When we first talked about fostering, Amanda was against it. She did not want to deal with the "loss" when foster children left. I was of the opinion that it was a wonderful opportunity to have a positive impact on these children. I still feel that way, but I am a bit more reserved after learning more.

That's not to say that I don't think it's a good thing, just that it's going to be pretty thankless. The age range we are looking at (0-5) don't really understand what is going on. They only know that they are not at home anymore. They don't understand why. They will act out and test the limits. We will have to deal with children that have been abused, neglected and sexually abused and all the backlash that comes out of that. It will more than likely be the worst of the worst, since the powers that be step in and actually do anything.

There is no doubt that it will be rough when they first arrive. Hopefully, we will have the patience to let them adjust and get comfortable.

I still have the hope that each child will leave here with positive, loving memories of their time with us. Learning what it is like to be loved and cared for and to not accept any less from their parents, biological or otherwise. I think that is all we can hope for and the best we can do.

If it all goes well, we have the opportunity to touch so many lives.

I won't say I am not excited about it, but I am somewhat more reserved than I was.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Sorry for the lag in posts

Sorry I haven't posted much. I took a couple weeks off work to burn vacation and go hunting since it's deer season here. Ended up not really going hunting, but that's ok. Just been bumming around. I did manage to get 3 deer from various people who got them but didn't want them. So, we are set for meat for the year.

So, we got the Cat Genie, and got it all setup. It appears that the cats are using it and it is working as expected, so that's good. Installation was pretty easy, pretty much anyone could install one. So far it's getting a thumbs up from me.

We spent a couple days this week "camping" up at her mothers. I call it "camping" because it involves our 30 foot mobile hotel room we drag behind the truck. It is nice to be able to spend time somewhere and not feel like you are imposing because you have your own space. You go to bed when you like and get up when you like without disturbing them. Some pictures of the ice and snow on the camper are here

In other news, we are officially licensed foster parents. Got the call from our SW that we were fully approved and in the system. So, now it is a waiting game until we get children. All indications are that it will be fairly quickly, more than likely before Christmas. So, that's the big news around here.

I am still working on the thoughts on foster parenting post, but it's probably the most complex of the "thoughts" posts. It involves more people, different emotions and such. I am not even sure that it will be entirely accurate before we get a placement.

Friday, November 21, 2008

On Fostering.....

The wife found this on Post Secret today:

----Email Message-----
Sent: Sunday, November 16, 2008 6:13 PM
Subject: chemo2 postcard

I felt totally alone and irrelevant for the first 11 years of my life.

Then, a woman just like you (she had cancer as a child) became my foster parent and eventually adopted me.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Cat Genie Anyone?

Completely unrelated post here, but we are going to be buying some kind of fancy, self cleaning litter box for the cats.

Right now the leading contender is the "Cat Genie", any thoughts on it?

Why is the adoption/foster industry stuck in the dark ages?

First and formost, I am a geek. I look at everything and think about how technology could be applied to it and improve it. It touches almost every aspect of our daily lives. From television to telephones to home security, all of them touch a computer in some way or another in our house.

I have an entire document management website for us to keep up with all of the adoption related paperwork. We can produce copies of all relevant documents by simply selecting and printing them.

I probably go too far, but it's who I am.

As we navigate our way to parenthood, I am astounded by how under utilized technology is.

If you remove the fact that these are children and look at them as "products", there is a myriad of technology that can be used to manage this. This is not as callous as it sounds. It is all about organizing and sorting.

Some of them have made an effort, and have listings on their websites. Problem is that it's useless if you never update it. The simple act of taking a few moments every day to make sure your listings are up to date would save you time in the long run because people won't be calling about children that were placed 6 months ago.

As we were going through our home study, we ended up with several hundred pages of printed materials, between documents, forms, etc. Without a doubt, all of these are in the form of a word document or pdf somewhere. Why print them? Just burn all of it to a CD and print off as needed. Offer a printed copy for people who request it. This also has the side effect of making all of it searchable. Can't recall what the documentation had to say about Cub Scouts? Just search them.

I am sure that most of the objection to this would be cost, but even that is minimal anymore. Perhaps this is an opportunity for an open source project that would be a fork of something like Sugar CRM modified to suit this industry. It could run on low cost commodity hardware with ease.

Obviously, when warehousing this kind of data there are security and privacy concerns, but if properly delt with it would be at less risk than the flimsy filing cabinets they are kept in now.

Anyhow, that's my rant for today.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

On Adoption

When we first found out that we would not be having kids the old fashioned way, we started going down the IVF road. About a week before my extraction we were talking in bed and found that we were both doing it because we thought the other one wanted it. So, then and there we decided to look into adoption and leave IVF as an option later if we decided to do that.

We found out that a home study was the first step in adopting. No big deal, we figured we would have to cover outlets and buy a fire extinguisher. That was the easy part. We knew we would be spending some money going down this road, but we had no idea how bad it was going to be.

Let me preface this by saying that I am by no means a cheap skate, I have a very well paying job and I understand that certain professional services cost money and will pay for them when required. But, this home study business is a complete ripoff. We got quotes from $1500 to $5,000. Let's look at that. The average home study takes 3 visits to the home of anywhere from 2-4 hours each. That makes a total of 12 hours of on-site time. Add another 6 for them to prepare the report and administrative time. Total of 18 hours. That puts their billing rate between $83 and $277 an hour. COME ON people, that's absurd. While I understand that there is licensing and such involved, and everyone needs to make a profit, but even at $83 an hour they are raping you.

So, we start the process of getting our home study done. We agree to pay it in thirds at each home visit, at least this lessens the blow to the wallet. The first visit goes fine, and she collects the basic information from us. She collects copies of drivers licenses, marriage license, divorce decree, all that jazz. She talks with us about our feelings about trans-racial adoption. We had already discussed this amongst ourselves and we have no issues with it. Upon learning this, she tells us she knows of a situation in Charleston where there is a baby being born later in the year that they are having trouble placing. She calls her contact about this and gets them in touch with us. It seems like we are off to the races much faster than we expected.

On a side note, if you are going to be getting a home study done, buy an all in one printer that will make copies. It will make your life SO much easier when they ask you for a copy of this or that. They can be had for around $100 and in the big picture of this process, that's nothing.

We submitted our "profile" to the agency and were told that they would call us and let us know when they presented it to the birth mother. 2 weeks later, we call them to check on things to find out that they had presented it a week ago and were waiting for an answer from her. Strike #1- Not doing what you say you will. Another two weeks and we call them back again and find out that she had decided to parent. Strike #2- Not doing what you say you will (AGAIN). At this point we do not want to work with them. The way I see it, when I am paying more than $10,000 to them for their services, they best do what they say they will, if they don't, buh bye.

So, we go on the search for other agencies that we may like to work with. We quickly discovered some things that did not sit well with us.
  1. Many want at least a large portion of their fee up front
  2. Many request that you "apply" and must be approved before they will talk to you.
  3. A fair number want you to pay an application fee of $100 to $300.
  4. Most ask you to specify how much you are willing to spend when applying.
I cannot think of any other service that has the gall to behave like this. You enter into a contract with them while tying up many thousands of dollars in it. You have almost no recourse if you are not happy with the service they are providing. They also seem to be forgetting who is putting money in their pockets, if anything they should be applying with me to win my business not the other way around. Some general pre-qualifications are acceptable, but not an entire process. I also refuse to pay them to consider me as a client. And, if they are upfront about their fees, they should not have to ask me what my budget is.

Based on this, I developed my own little criteria when looking at agencies.
  1. Fees should be clearly posted on their website or given when requested.
  2. I will not pay them upfront unless the contract specificly stipulates performance requirements and allow me to terminate the contract if these are not met and any fees paid will be returned to me with interest.
  3. I will not pay to see if they will accept me as a client.
Well, this pretty much shot every agency down. But, somehow that didn't bother me. I feel these are all reasonable requirements and any ethical business should not object to them. We found one that met them, and we did start speaking with them.

What we found when talking to all these agencies was that they exsist to broker/sell children. Call it what you want, but that is what they are doing. Unreasonably large fees for the services they provide, practices that any legitimate business would be very reluctant to do. My final conclusion was that I wanted no part of this process.

The unfortunate part is that if you want to do a private adoption, you have to play this game. I completely understand some people are willing to do this, and in the end they are still helping the children and I respect them for that. So, if you are reading this and are doing private adoption, please don't take this as an attack against you. I just personally feel strongly enough about these things to not take part in it.

After speaking with several people, we were introduced to NYAP (National Youth Advocate Program), which is primarily geared at foster parenting, but also works with foster to adopt. After meeting with someone from there we decided that we would go with them and do foster to adopt. But, that story is another post about foster parenting.

Although I generally don't comment on comments, I do read them and appreciate them. So, please keep leaving them.

And for those men out there that are facing male factor infertility, you are not alone and unless you castrated yourself with a pocket knife or something, your not to blame either. It's just the way things go, so don't be too hard on yourself.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

On Being Infertile

It seems to me that being infertile carries some different feelings for men than it does for women. It's also something that, as some of you have commented, men are in denial about.

For women, I would imagine that reaching puberty is a bittersweet thing. Yay for being a woman! Boo for dealing with having a period.

For men, it's more of a rite of passage. You have arrived! You have manly hair places you used to not, things start "responding" to thoughts and sensations. You are offically entering manhood. You have to be careful with that thing now, you can make babies with it! Yeah, I know at 12-13 it's not much of a risk, but the thoughts are there.

Most of us spend the next 10 or so years thinking with the wrong head and usually getting into trouble because of it. Some of us have the sense to practice safe sex, some do not. Some get lucky (we think) and never happen to get someone pregnant. All the while NONE of us are thinking that we may be wasting our time and quarters on those silly machines in gas station bathrooms. It never crosses our minds.

As we get older, we settle down, get married and eventually decide to have children. For the majority, it happens just fine. For some, we languish in the frustration of planned sex and doctors telling us to give it some more time. Because the manly ability to impregnate is so deeply ingrained in our heads, we are not able to wrap our heads around the concept that we are not able to do it.

Eventually, usually after subjecting our partner to numerous trips to the doctor to have all manner of strange and unwelcome devices inserted into their most private of areas, we give in. We finally agree to let the doctors office in on the big secret that we masturbate and give up a semen sample.

This is where men get stupid. Admit it or not EVERYONE does it. The doctors office doesn't care, your wife doesn't care and the nurse you hand the cup to doesn't care. Again, it is so ingrained in our heads that it is shameful or something that it's a real chore for some of us to do something that proves we do it. It's the crazy notion that if we do it, even for this, that it means that we aren't getting any or some other foolish thought.

After leaving our present with the Dr. office we pretty much forget about it. Because, of course there is nothing wrong with our man parts. Then it happens......

For whatever reason, you have no sperm present. After the inital shock wears off, there is a big giant "WTF!". How can this be? There is no way that I am not man enough to get someone pregnant. Yes, it's a silly corrolation, but society has a way of getting stupid things like that in your head. So, here we sit, sterile and mad.

As more time goes by, the bigger picture sinks in..... Realizations like "I will never be able to play catch with MY son", "Why would she want to hang around a man that can't provide her with children?", "Of all the things that can be wrong with me, why this?" Basically, a flood of self doubt. Given our choices, most men would take almost anything problem over this. It truely is a worst case scenario. It is emotionally crippling and in many cases, there is no hope of repair.

Now, I am sure some of you think that we would be happy about this. And I am sure some men would be thrilled that they can screw anything that walks without worry of getting them pregnant. But, if you are with someone who reacts like that, leave them, you don't want them.

Eventually, most of us will investigate what the problem is. Some will get lucky and find out it is something treatable. Some, like me, will find out that it is not. While the problem itself will likely never be fixed, there is some hope for having children. But, as usual, there is a catch.

Here is the scenario: You can try to have biological children, but they need about $15,000 to try and they will have to split your nuts open like a watermelon and HOPE they find viable sperm. Ok, let's think about that. It costs a fortune, you are promised extreme pain, and there is no promise they will actually get anything to work with from it, and even if they do, there is no promise that IVF will take.

So, best case scenario, you will be in a lot of pain, a much lighter wallet and she is pregnant. Doesn't sound so bad.....
But, the more likely scenario is that you will be in a lot of pain, a much lighter wallet and she is not pregnant. Add to that the further insult if they don't find viable sperm. You just went through this to get yet another confirmation that you are lacking in manly traits. So, not only are you inadequite, but you have to keep your nuts on ice for a week and every little move will give you a painful reminder.

At the end of the day, there are no "wrong" choices, it's whatever you are comfortable with. I highly suggest that anyone coping with IF, either male or female factor, take some time between getting the diagnosis and any drastic moves towards fertility treatment. You may be surprised what you decide if you are both honest with each other about it.

There are a bunch of choices out there and there is no cookie cutter answer, each of us just have to choose what suits us best.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

After "The Call"

While my poll runs it course I will go into some detail on what went through my head after getting a call from the Dr. telling me that no sperm were found.

I never anticipated that when the call came that we would be told that *I* was the problem. Honestly, I didn't think there was a problem. Sometimes it just takes time to get pregnant. But, she was certain that there was something wrong and we went through the process to find out if anything was.

My first thought when he told me that there were no sperm was "None?!" I could have more easily accepted that there were only a few, or they were not very energetic, but the none took caught me off guard. In speaking with him about this, he said that none typically means that there is a clog in the plumbing and is somewhat rare but not unheard of by them. When I asked if another test would be advised he said that it was unlikely that the results would be any different. The call was very matter of fact from his side. But, he's not a shrink.

After hanging up, I remember just kind of sitting there trying to digest this and what it meant and what the problem could be. Many moons ago, there was an incident that involved a HS girlfriend and an abortion behind my back. This told me that whatever the problem was, it has not always been there. Speaking with the Dr, he agreed that my 3 hernia repairs were a likely cause. Over the years I have had 2 on one side and 1 on the other, effectively taking out the plumbing for both boys in the process. So much for redundancy.

While I knew that she would not be mad about it, my mind wandered to how she would react. Would she decide she wanted to find someone who could give her the children she so badly wanted? Since MF infertility is just about the end of the line for our realistic chances at biological children, we would have to do some soul searching.

The conversation with her about it went about as one would expect. Both of us were stunned by it, never expecting this. I didn't immediately go into asking her if she was going to bail on me. I wanted to let things settle a bit and see how she reacted. I honestly did not expect her to do that, but you never know and it was certainly possible.

I did ask her later that evening if she was going to leave me for someone who could provide her with children and she said she was not going to. I don't know how much I believed it at the time, but there was not much I could do beyond taking her word for it.

At that point, we decided to go to the urologist and see what he had to say and explore our options from there, not really making any decisions until we had all the facts. The problem is that in this, there are little to no facts. The only real fact being that we aren't going to have kids the old fashioned way. Beyond that, it was all a numbers game, IVF, IUI, adoption were all chances.

We did start learning about adoption, what the process was and such.

The trip to the urologist did not yield any good news, basically nothing more than we already knew. All he could say was that there were no obvious problems that could be detected by physical examination. Our only option was extraction. Even that was a crap shoot. Everyone suspected that it was a plumbing problem, but could not say for sure. It was entirely possible that that was not the problem and when we did extraction they would find none.

The option of donor sperm was brought up and I flat refused it. I simply could not handle my wife being pregnant with some other mans baby. Sexual or not, that was outside my realm of comfort by a long shot. To me, if that occurs I would be forced to find the donor and shoot him for getting my wife pregnant. I know that others go this route without this issue, and thats cool. Just not the option for me. Yes, I do feel strongly enough about this to make an executive decsision regarding it and it was not something open to disucssion with her. If she wanted to go that route and forced the issue, there would be a divorce involved.

The single biggest impact of all of this was that one of the defining traits of being male was gone. While I am not a real "macho" type guy, there is a huge impact on your self image. Not being female I can't say for sure, but I suspect it is very similar to what many infertile women experience upon finding this out as well. It took some time to sink in and to not view myself as a lesser man or as "broken". But, at the end of the day, the fact is that I am broken. Like it or lump it, thats the hand I have been delt. After several months of letting this sink in, I have more or less come to terms with it. I really don't have any desire to try to fix it, because the likelyhood of success is fairly small and I just don't want the hope and likely letdown of it not fixing and enduring the procedures for basically nothing.

This will probably fall into the TMI category, but after speaking with several people about it, I think it needs clarification. While the plumbing is clogged, this does not mean that I don't ejaculate. I don't know the details about where all the components of it come from, the plumbing from the boys only supplies the sperm, the rest of it comes from somewhere else. That is why it was not obvious to us that something was not right. We thought everything was working and as far as we could tell it was.

And lastly, I know that much of the infertile community is female and that some of you have partners who have problems similar to mine. If nothing else, let them know that they are not alone and other men have the same issues. If they would like they are more than welcome to contact me if they would like.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Why is this blog here?

Please vote in yonder poll to help give me some direction.

So, I suppose I should start with why I am doing this blog.

To make a long story short, "I got no swimmers". I found this out earlier this year after many months of unprotected sex (with my wife) not producing babies.

She went to the reproductive endocrinologist to get her bits checked out, and while we were there they went ahead and asked me for a sample.

The collection process is exactly what you would expect. You are given a small plastic cup and directed to a room. In my case, it was basically a carpeted bathroom with a loveseat, television, vcr, basket full of porn, a commode and a sink. Y0u can choose to use your imagination or the provided materials. I thumbed through the magazines long enough to feel like I needed to wash my hands, and after doing so, went about my business.

After leaving my "sample" at the counter, we went on our way. A few days later while the wife was out doing something the Dr called. The news wasn't good. Sperm count was zero, zilch. After discussing with him if the fact that it was ZERO was bad, and being told it wasn't, I told him that I would talk with my wife and see what we wanted to do from here.

The feelings that you experience after being told something like this are strange. It's not quite the blow you expect, it's different. You just have to come to terms with it. At that point, you really don't know much. Particularly WHY. And of course, this Dr doesn't deal with that, you have to go see a urologist for that.

After talking with the wife (another post about that at some time), we decided to get the blood work done to make sure my hormone levels were correct, and then goto the urologist. Of course, my hormone levels were perfectly normal. So much for the easy answer.

A visit with the urologist tells us that all the bits that can be examined externally were in good working order and "quite nice" in his words. This left us with plumbing problems. More discussion led is to believe that the likely cause was one of my 3 hernia repairs caused scar tissue to clog it. And, of course, there is really no way to say for sure without some pretty invasive and painful testing.

This lead us to option #2 which was IVF after surgical extraction of sperm from me. Which means the boys would have to go under the knife. We started going down that road until one night we discovered that we were both doing it because we thought it was what the other wanted. Neither of us really wanted to do it. It has risks and problems for both of us.

Following that decision, we started down the road to adoption and eventually foster parenting. But, that is another post as well.

So, there you have the Readers Digest version of events so far.

The other reason for this blog is because among the online infertility community the fairer sex is well represented with almost nobody from the male side of things. As is true with most things, the male view is somewhat different and I hope to bring my version of that view to light and encourage other men to speak about similar things.

Well, thats it for now, time for dinner.