What to expect when you’re not expecting

I’m not a huge fan of revealing too much personal information on a blog that is read by 10s of people but here we go, this is as personal as it gets. Also, this post may get super long. Sorry.

Kim and I have been married for 5 years now (well it’ll be 5 years next week). We’re both in our early 30s (one of us is in our earlier 30s than the other). A lot (most) of our friends have kids, some of them are on their second round already. And in an ideal world we’d be there or thereabouts.

But we’re not.

Because infertility.

It’s not something that’s talked about a whole lot (the Spinoff has done some posts about it which are great, this one in particular: http://thespinoff.co.nz/parenting/30-12-2016/how-to-support-your-friends-and-loved-ones-who-are-struggling-with-infertility/).

Deciding to have kids is exciting terrifying crazy magnificent. You realise you’re an adult now and you’re comfortable with your place in the world (relatively speaking) and you want to bring in someone else to join your family because your cats just no longer cut it. Kim and I made that decision coming up three years ago. It really was a case of just saying “let’s go for it.” So we went for it. Graphic details aside we were trying for quite a long time and without a skerrick of success. Over the course of trying for a while, my anxiety disorder was being treated by anti-depressants. And let me tell you they really don’t help when you’re trying to procreate. In NZ if you are showing signs of infertility you need to be shagging for about a year without success before your GP will refer you to a fertility doctor.

We crossed that point and so got the referral.

The first thing they check is the dude. In this story, that’s me. I got a ball-ultrasound and a sperm test. I decided to take the morning off work one December day a couple of years back to complete both tasks. I went to the hospital and the radiologist put me in a gown that didn’t quite cover me. I looked pretty. Then they made me hitch my gown up. Quite why I had to put the gown on at all is beyond me, but I don’t set policy.

Then they gel up the machine and gel up … me. There was a TV screen directly above where I was lying, and while I was being scanned, the radiologist asked if I wanted the screen switched on so I could see what they were seeing. Oh my god yes.

The radiologist said that was interesting since most men choose not to see. Men, you should take this opportunity if you ever get the chance. It’s fascinating. I got a full biology lesson about my testes and learned things I should probably have learned years ago. Given it was December, I asked if they could print a screen-shot out and write “HAVE A BALL THIS CHRISTMAS” on it so I could use it as a Christmas card. They could not. Sad.

The radiologist said that while they weren’t the specialist everything looked fine but someone would let me know. Aces.

**POSSIBLE NSFW SECTION AHEAD**

The next test was the sperm sample. I was given a wee jar and told to have at it. There’s a lab on Lambton Quay where you take samples, so I rang them to find out what the deal was. I was told that sperm samples actually only last an hour and that I’d need to take it direct to Wellington Hospital’s lab. In case you’re wondering “deposit” is a lab technician’s euphemism for ejaculating.

I rang the hospital and spoke to the lab technician, explained what I was doing and asked “do you have … like… a room?”. The tech said “I know what you’re asking…and no.”.

So I thought to myself, I can do this. I live about 20 minutes away from the hospital, I’ll have some “me time” (deposit) then zip into the car and get to the hospital.

Deposit complete, I hit a stop watch on my mobile phone and jumped into the car. 1 hour to go. I got to Tinakori Road and got stuck in a massive snarl up due to roadworks. It was December and Wellington was having a weirdly warm day. I was stuck in a traffic jam. The car was heating up. And there was a jar of jizz on the car seat next to me. This was not how I’d envisioned my life turning out.

After 20 minutes I got through the traffic jam. Got on to the Terrace Motorway and boom, Terrace Tunnel is backed-the-fuck-up too. What the hell Wellington? I’m starting to have a wee panic that I’m going to have to rinse the jar out in the hospital and “deposit” in the car park or something.

Finally through the tunnel and to the hospital with 8 minutes to go. I dashed into reception, not 100% sure where the lab was. In my haste I neglected to hold on to the jizz-jar which is crucial. I cannot emphasise this enough. If you are carrying a sperm sample. Hold on to it. As I tore into the big echoey hospital reception the sample jar flew out of my hand and the world slowed down.

The jar spun, must’ve been 400 times, as it headed towards the hard tiled floor. I watched in horror. Nothing I could do.

It landed on its lid. Didn’t crack.

Made a hell of a noise though. Lotta people turned to look at what the hell had just gone down. I didn’t even care at this point. I swooped up my sperm (another thing I didn’t think I’d ever write) and headed for the lab. Got there, rang the bell and a technician showed up.

“Hi there”, I said warmly. “I’m here to drop off a sperm sample”.

“And what time did you … deposit …?”

“About 1030”. The technician looked at his watch. “You just made it” he said. “Yes” I said proudly. “Thank you.” And off I walked.

The next day my GP rang me to tell me my results.

“Ultrasound is absolutely fine” she said “so that’s good news.”

“Sperm count and motility is also good so that’s also fine.”

Then there was a pause.

“But there’s a note at the bottom of the results that I’ve never seen before.”

If you want medical panic, search your symptoms on Google, if you want complete and utter confusion, have your doctor tell you that you’re party to something they’ve never seen before.

“What…what does it say?”

“It says it ‘sticks to stuff’.”

Of all the things that a doctor could say about my sperm sample being surprising, I don’t think “sticking to stuff” would have been one.

“It sticks to the stuff? What the hell does that mean? Surely if someone was asked to describe sperm, sticky is maybe one of the adjectives they’d use?” I asked.

“Yeah” said my very patient doctor. “It is. And there’s no further follow-up required so I guess we’re good.”

All of this just raised the question for me, what the hell were the lab technicians doing with my sperm? Were they flinging it against the lab wall and timing how long it took to slime down to the bottom? Did they get it stuck to their fingers and try to desperately shake it off? No matter. It was a great anecdote to share with people.

We went back to the fertility doctor, and he said “I have all your results here”. “Haha” I laughed, “it sticks to stuff!”

“Yes” the doctor answered gravely. “That could be a problem”.

So it turns out that if your sperm is “sticky”, that can mean that your body’s antibodies are treating it as a hostile invader and fighting it. If this is the case then you just ain’t conceiving naturally. So this meant that my once hilarious story could now have really a negative outcome. Stink.

So I had to “deposit” again. This time however I got to use the lovely facilities at Fertility Associates which does “have a room”. Brown leather couches aren’t the most romantic setting, I’ll say that. Also, sitting on brown leather couches and thinking to yourself “wow, thousands of dudes have sat here and done this exact thing” is also not good for mood setting. Learn from my mistakes people.

On the plus side, it was our wedding anniversary and Kim sent me a supportive and loving message while I was in the room.

The results for this came back and we could all breathe a sigh of relief, my “sticky stuff” was fine.

This meant we turned to Kim to review her condition. Following a number of tests (and Kim will write about this herself at some point) it was discovered that Kim has one of the most fascinating things you’ll ever hear. Its official name is “uterus didelphys”, it means that where someone would usually have one uterus, my utterly amazing wife has two. Twice the human! She also has two cervices. She still only has two ovaries, but each ovary services a separate uterus. The whole thing is incredible. We lovingly refer to it as “double-cunt”, which our doctor finds delightful. However he still won’t support my moves to petition the medical board to have its official name changed.

Oh hey surprise biology lesson

During the course of the surgery they did to discover Kim’s condition, they also found a bunch of endometriosis which was probably a large barrier to conception. Kim also had to take some medication to ensure she ovulated good and proper. This had the by-product of really really messing with her hormones.

**LESS AMUSING PART TO COME**

Already it’d been 2-2 1/2 years of trying and without success. And people all around us were filling our Facebook feeds with photos of their newborns, and then their toddlers. Amusing stories of what those little cherubs had said and so forth. This is hard to bear. You want to be supportive and happy for your friends – and you are; this is a really important point. When you see your friends celebrating their children you celebrate too. But at the same time, you start getting angry at the universe. Because you feel like you’re missing out on what looks like a wonderful and amazing experience.

Social events were becoming harder to attend because they’d now be filled with children, children of others. Not ours. It was impossible not to become slightly socially withdrawn. And it’s hard for people to properly empathise if they’re not going through it. We were told repeatedly “oh don’t worry, it’ll happen for you” and “appreciate this time that you don’t have kids because you don’t have your own time after that!” Some people didn’t realise that we would happily give up all our time we had to be able to successfully have our own. But we just couldn’t.

So this medication Kim’s on, it’s brutal. And I can’t do anything to make it easier. She’d cry and rage at things that normally she’d laugh at. One time she was staring out the car window, looking at the ocean and she started crying. “Why are you crying?” I asked.

“Why did you make the water so rough?” she asked back, in between sobs.

And this hurt me. Not because I was being blamed for something I obviously had no control over (though she may have just mistaken me for God, an easy mistake to make), but because my wife who I love so much is hurting in a way she can’t control, which is a layer of hurt on top of the hurt that already exists from us not having kids. And I’m not trying to co-opt her story and pain and make it my story and pain, I’m just wanting to share my thoughts and feelings before Kim writes her post.

I learned coping mechanisms for a lot of the struggles – if Kim blamed me for roughing up the ocean say, I’d just apologise and support her. Hold her hand. Give her a hug. Tell her I loved her. This flies in the face of 30 years of me being an argumentative piece of shit who would die in a ditch over anything I believed was right. But she’s my wife. Not a debating opposition. And she’s going through something that I can’t fully empathise with.

As all this is going on we’re still trying. We had a new routine in place. On days 3-7 of her cycle Kim would take the medication then days 10-20 were what we both referred to as “fuckfest”, and then came the waiting phase, followed by, what has been every time, crushing disappointment. And let me tell you, if you want to find a way to make sex with your loved one a bit shitter, make it mechanical and with one desired outcome. This is also wonderful for fucking with your head a wee bit about the whole sexual side of a relationship. After a while of this you feel like you’re just being milked like a cow for one express purpose (sorry for the evocative imagery).

All of this would be interspersed with visits to the doctor to just check in. No news, nothing different to try, just oh well keep going. More tears. More disappointment. It’s a shitty shitty time. You don’t feel like you have your life anymore.

Also, don’t fucking watch Finding Dory. In fact it’s amazing how many movies have some kind of parental strain angle in them. I tried to vet the movies we’d watch and failed. A lot. Who knew that Hunt for the Wilderpeople could cause someone to cry throughout the entire thing? Well let me tell you, it can.

Which brings us to today, just yesterday in fact. We met with Fertility Associates because after 3 years of trying, crying and not succeeding we’re now moving to the next stage. I sat yesterday in a little office in horror as I listened to what Kim needed to do over the next month for our first round of IVF treatment. And I just have to take one pill and jizz in a jar. And I’ve gotten really good at that. Pregnancy is not an equal deal is it? Men, we get it super lucky. And IVF is a whole new level of stress. We’re on the public system, but we’re also doing a round of private. And it’s not cheap at all. And it’s almost a 50/50 coin toss. So it’s the most expensive coin-toss I’ll ever do. But goddamn if it works out, it’ll be the best coin-toss I’ve ever done. Because right now, I’m sick of it. I’m sick of not succeeding. I’m sick of my wife having to deal with awful medical treatments, I’m sick of her hurting and I’m excited that there’s a possible positive solution just ahead.

Now we wait and see.

 

So why have I written all this? Because people don’t talk about infertility much. At high school we’re taught that if you so much as look at a girl strangely she’ll get pregnant. But it’s not that easy, and if you want a kid and it’s a struggle then you often don’t have a lot of places to go. So I’m trying to talk about it out loud to show anyone else who might be struggling that you’re not alone. We’re not alone.

 

 

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34 Comments

  1. Jim Stanton says:

    You are amazing. Kim is amazing. Fertility is fucked up. Don’t go crazy. Wear sunscreen. I love you guys .

  2. Wow thanks for sharing. We’ve decided not to have children, but hearing about other’s struggles breaks my heart.

  3. My youngest is the outcome of a single round of IVF with only 4 eggs were produced – they like at least 12 . Mine were old lady eggs (40yo) so I’m sure Kim will make masses. From that only two turned into viable embryos to be put back. From that ? One (phew) 10lb baby boy. so I guess I’m saying you only need one good egg, aside from the sperm donor 🙂

  4. Loads of love to you guys. It’s so shitty. Really hope everything comes out on top. Big hugs xxx

  5. A most honest and vulnerable and special piece of writing. (I wept and I’m not on any hormones.) We’re waiting with you bro.

  6. Nikki Pender says:

    Dearest David and Kim

    What an awesome, honest, poignantly- funnysad story.

    We had multiple miscarriages in our bid to become parents. It was a raw, brutal time. I know exactly what you mean about the mixed emotions around friends’ babies. I’d feel excited for them but couldn’t face their baby showers because of the inevitable, wellmeaning “how many kids do you have” questions

    Finally, Phoebe stuck and the visceral memory of all that hurt got banked somewhere along with her labour pains.

    Stick tight, keep loving one another and -I know this may sound odd – if you have any religious friends, accept their prayers. Science can do awesome stuff but blind faith helped lift me out of the dark places.

    Big love, Nikki xx

  7. This stuff can hurt a relationship.
    My wife and I have done 3 rounds of IVF. Plus 2 attempts with donor eggs. She’s in her late 40s and I want us to give up now as I have lost faith.
    But she is determined to carry on. It’s a sore point between us.

    Sucks that adoption is so hard in NZ.

  8. We’ve got everything crossed for you guys x

  9. This is so close to our experience it’s almost entirely recognisable, just with different medical details interspersing the process. I still recall the horror of the panicked and surreal rush across town in traffic with a pot of jizz in my coat pocket to keep it warm (but not too warm!) on a winters day…

    For us it had a different start though. We got pregnant within a month of trying but when we went for our 12 week scan, all happy, excited and clutching the voucher for the scan photo, the scan showed we’d had a missed miscarriage; our baby had stopped developing at 7 weeks but my wife’s body just hadn’t been ready to give up on it. It was heartbreaking. I’ve never known a pain like it and even now there’s a tear in my eye as I think about it.

    After that, you can pretty much insert your story into ours; the hope, the expectation followed by disappointment, leaving a restaurant mid meal because we couldn’t stand the gorgeous little baby boy on the next table who kept smiling at us. And all of it underlined with this aching thought of “well, it happened once before, it might happen again…”

    Like you, we reached the end of the road with the fertility specialist who basically just shrugged and said there’s nothing else they can do. We can keep trying and it might happen, but given our ages we might want to go down the IVF route. We’re a little older than you and didn’t qualify for any funded treatment. And our odds were even lower, in the 20s.

    But we went for it anyway. We said we’d be sensible. Two cycles and if it didn’t happen, that would be it.

    Only it did. First cycle. Our baby is due in the summer.

    So don’t give up hope. There’s always that chance, whatever the odds, and medical science is an amazing thing that’s improving all the while.

    Good luck, my friend.

  10. So it’s not legal to masturbate in your own (parked) car?
    (Asking for a friend)

  11. I’m so glad I’ve found this site. And this post is wonderful and sad as hell.

    Don’t know you. Privileged to read you.

  12. Thank for sharing this wonderful piece of writing

  13. Laughed, cried, crossed everything for you. Love to you both.

  14. Marianne Elliott says:

    “It’s hard for people to properly empathise if they’re not going through it.” It really is, isn’t it? But people like you, writing beautiful, honest posts like may just help a little. Thank you. Wishing and hoping for all good things for you and Kim.

  15. Thanks so much for your story. We’re going through this and many of our friends are or have been through this too. Don’t give up the fight, and wishing you and your wife all the best and hopefully the first round works a treat! Really appreciate your honesty, to read this has helped so much, you’ve put the struggle into words so well.

  16. Really captures the shittiness of the whole experience and no one can possibly begin to understand unless they’ve been through it too. FA are incredible though and you feel like you at least have a chance.

  17. Good on you for sharing this. And you haven’t even mentioned the fun (!) you’ll have in store if your wife does get pregnant- the didelpys uterus makes that process precarious too. Speaking as someone who also has this, as well as endometriosis, and who now has two gorgeous girls (though both were premature) – it is amazing what the body can do. Wishing you all the very best – and happy to have my brain picked if that helps!!

  18. old woman says:

    I cant imagine what this must be like for you. Tremendous courage for sharing. Wishing you well

  19. Infertility sucks in every way possible. When we were trying to concieve there were no less than 16 pregnancies announced at my work place (public sector with lots of women in their 30s). I remember just about spitting out my coffee when one woman announced that her husband “just had to look at her and she fell pregnant”. Every announcement was a double-edged sword right through my heart. I’m sooooo glad that Facebook was not as prevalent when we were trying.

    I was lucky to have two good friends in Wellington and Dunedin respectively who were also struggling, each with their own unique infertility issues so it was helpful to laugh and cry together.

    It was the really inappropriate comments that I found the hardest to deal with, everyone has a (usually ill-informed ) opinion on infertility and they are quite happy to tell you about it.

    I am NOT GOING TO SAY it WILL happen for you because nobody knows that for sure but I do wish you the best and it is so good to hear a male perspective on this topic. Thank you.

  20. Thank-you for talking so honestly about your struggles with infertility. No-one really understands it, unless they have been through it themselves and it’s so hard when all your friends are wrapped up their own children and you feel left out by the universe. It sucks!
    I recently wrote a blog myself, for the exact same reasons as you, to help people feel less alone. But also so that people around me (who were blessed with kids easily) could have a better understanding of what we are going through.
    If you are interested in reading our story from the female point of view (you will find that we also had difficulties with dropping off the sperm ‘deposit’! lol) my blog is: https://dreamingofbabies.wordpress.com/2017/02/27/my-journey-so-far/

    I look forward to hearing more from your story and I really hope it has a happy ending!!
    Best of luck to you both!!

  21. I listened to you on RNZ this afternoon and all the emotions associated with infertility came rushing back. You’ll absolutely understand when I share that my sister in law phoned me devastated that she was having twins. I think she finally worked out some time later that I had infertility problems (or seriously issues with my contact lenses) at the twins’ christening and 1st birthday. Miracles happen (and I hope they will for you and Kim) because by the twins’ 2nd birthday I had a baby of my own after over 7 years. He is 21 now but I still know how you both feel. Sending you both my best wishes.

  22. Kim I would love to be able to get in contact, I also have UD and we are going through the same thing at the moment. Hopefully we can support each other in some way.

  23. What an amazing article. Love to you both guys.

  24. Hi, really enjoyed reading this, as my wife and I have been in the same boat ourself. I’m a firm believer that more people should talk about infertility AND miscarriages as tons of people go through both. If you want to read our story you can here…

    http://graemegardengarbage.blogspot.co.nz/2016/11/the-story-of-francis-part-1.html

    I wish you and your wife the very best of luck

  25. What an incredible article, thank you for sharing it. My mum has a similar condition to your wife, 2 uteruses (and 1 kidney, apparently that’s not unusual in people who have an extra bit, it’s like an organ swap out). It took them 4 years to get pregnant but they went on to have 3 kids. So keep your chins up, there is hope. Fingers crossed for your IVF, good luck!

  26. This is a really great read- thanks so much for sharing your story so far. It took 5 years, 4 rounds of IVF, a couple of surgeries, several early miscarriages and a mountain of heartache before we had our first child. I read so much about infertility in that time (it was basically my life) and I can honestly say this is one of the best things I’ve ever read on the topic. And EXACTLY the sort of thing the fertile rest-of-world needs to read. I hope it’s shared widely.

    For the record, we now have two kids. The second came along only a year and a half after the first – conceived in the one month we jokingly ‘tried’ before starting a final “we’ll always wonder if we don’t, but no chance it’s gonna work” round of IVF. I know those stories can kind of suck a bit when you’re trying still, cos that only ever happens to other people and all that. But I just wanted to share because it really is true you just don’t know what life has in store . I really hope you guys get the happy ending to this part of your story too.

  27. Just listened to your interview on RNZ and read your piece. Beautifully written…All the best to you both

  28. Craig Berry says:

    Great, Great story, I’m hoping very much like me, you can one day look back it all laugh as much as your story made me laugh.

  29. Thank you for sharing, I haven’t discovered very many pieces on the infertility ‘feels’ that weren’t focused on the treatment failures themselves, or heavily focused on other ‘fertile’ couple’s successes. Every couple has a unique medical journey but I think the feelings are very relatable to me and allows me to read, understand and empathise while staying positive which I really appreciate.

    Anyway, best of luck for your first IVF cycle. After several years ours was in January and (against our trademark low expectations) it has worked so far. I hope yours will too.

  30. Pingback: The Ruminator – Not great news

  31. My mum made me listen to your RNZ interview which led me back here. Thanks for sharing your story, it’s really refreshing and somehow much more comforting to hear an infertility story that hasn’t (yet) resulted in a happy outcome. Ours hasn’t either. In terms of taboos, I think infertility is being talked about more and more. It’s miscarriage (I had one last year) that no one talks about. We are doing the ‘Home For Life’ / fostering training in a few weeks in case our next round of fertility treatment doesn’t work out. Wishing the two of you all the best.

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