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.