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.


  1. All I have to say is Thank You, Thank You, Thank You for starting this blog. If I can ever get my husband to take some time to get on the computer I would love for him to read your blog - so much of what you have to say is stuff he has said to me. He thinks he is alone though and doesn't realize there are others he could reach out to.

  2. We have the double-whammy. I have PCOS, he had some sperm issues (which were much less before the narcotics but still present). Anyway, when ever we talk, The Man acts like he doesn't give two shits about how many or how successful his "boys" are. But I know that somewhere deep down inside him that is not true. How? Because directly after we got married, before I even went off the pill, he used to go "Yeah, yeah" after he *ahem* finished. He was so delighted to have left his spawn inside me. At the time I thought it really bizarre but over the last years I've come to understand it is a totally normal, innate, man-feeling, though perhaps not frequently vocalized in that particular fashion.

  3. Since my husband isn't the cause of our infertility he takes the "I don't care if we have children or don't" BUT when we thought MAYBE he was contributing to the problem boy did the gloves come off.

    This is such a good essay on sociology and gender inequity!

  4. Your perspective is priceless. I love the balance between sad real life and raunchy realities!

  5. I hope you don't mind if I keep up with your blog. I am hearing you say things my husband would never say, although his issues are much less severe and most of our infertility causes are female issues. I am so sorry you have to go through this, but do appreciate you posting this fresh perspective.