Close call…

Hey Kids.

Been a while again since I last chatted with you…and a lot has gone on in that time.

I’ve written a few tongue-in-cheek guides for other guys going through Infertility – hoping that it may help to talk about what I’ve been going through, what I’ve been feeling, what I’ve been experiencing. And maybe by talking about my experiences, it’ll help other guys out there to analyse their own feelings and experiences, to be prepared for what’s coming.  There’s also the potential that it may help other women out there to better understand their men, maybe gain a little understanding of what they may be feeling because us guys are not known for talking about these things – which makes it a little hard on our significant others.

In the same vein, I agreed to be interviewed by Carte Blanche Medical for a segment they wanted to do on MFI. This was a big step, from being practically in the closet about our Infertility and treatments to appearing on national television talking about my testicles…it’s more than a big step…it’s a giant leap…it’s two giant leaps.

And, to top it all off, we’re in the middle of our second IVF. In fact, I’m sitting in the ward at this very moment, typing away as your mom sleeps off the effects of the sedative used during retrieval. I could tell you about the scans, the injections, the crushing disappointment we’re feeling at this moment in only getting two eggs… but I’ll leave that to your mom to tell you about – it sometimes feels like the actual IVF is all about her – very little input required from me…

So, with all that going on, what you may wonder am I going to talk to you about…

I thought I’d talk about something that seems to be ignored or slightly taboo in the Infertility community – like the black sheep of the family, or the dreaded illness that no-one wants to acknowledge, something that when mentioned, is mentioned in whispers and hushed voices. The big hairy wart on your nose that everyone knows is there, but refuses to comment on…and I’m pretty sure it’s something that many many infertiles go through at some stage in the journey…and it’s summed up by one word…”Doubt”.

For many years, I decided I didn’t want kids…I’m sure that any psychologist will tell me that this was almost 100% as a result of being told I couldn’t have any – the way I overcame the depression that hit me when the reality of my diagnosis finally really sank in. So, it was 14 odd years of telling myself I didn’t want kids. Then, we started on this journey 20 months ago, after your mom broke down and told me how loud and persistent her biological clock was ticking…how there was this almost physical need for a child, this ache to be pregnant. I agreed to go to the doctor, knowing full well that it was the thin end of the wedge. Knowing that the doctor would lead to the Fertility Specialist, which ultimately led to multiple weekly injections. But the thing was, in those first few months, I was just going along with it all to make your mom happy.

But a strange thing happened…as I slowly opened myself up to the idea of trying to have kids, the more medication I took, the more doctors visits we sat through, and as a result of the growing number of conversations we had about having children, I slowly shed this protective cloak of ‘not wanting childreness’ and let the truth finally see the light of day – I do want kids. I want everything that goes with having children – the good the bad and the downright messy – warts and all. This feeling grew, until there were times where I almost felt like I could also feel some physical biological need – like having phantom pregnancy symptoms, I was having phantom biological clock ticking symptoms. It was in one of these periods that I started imagining you guys into existence, imagining names and personalities. It then seemed like a natural extension to start talking to you (maybe a sign of too many years working from home alone!!), and so started blogging.

But, it’s a long journey. It’s a 24/7/365 kinda thing this Infertility. There’s no time off, no escape, no vacation from the sensation that there’s some missing part of your lives. And it’s tiring. Like any prolonged experience, you go through phases, there’s a natural ebb and flow to Infertility. There are days when it’s like you’re missing an arm, and then there are days, when it seems like such a huge over-reaction. There are times when you’re positive, and times when it seems like the lights have been turned off. There are moments when it feels like a mountain on your back, and yet you can go for days where it’s as light as a feather. And sometimes, these peaks and troughs are a few seconds and other times it’s weeks. But it’s always there…

And this is one of the reasons I haven’t talked to you guys for a while again. I can make excuses about being very busy with work, the whole Carte Blanche thingy (which seemed to take up an awful lot of my time, considering the filming only took two hours!!), a short-notice drive to Namibia and back in a 36 hour period. But these would all be excuses…because the truth is, a couple of weeks after our failed first IVF cycle (and I purposely haven’t called it our ‘first failed IVF cycle’), I had that big hairy wart staring me in the face. That black sheep of the family was sitting across my desk from me, that dreaded illness was in the air all around me – I was having doubts.

Not doubts about whether we were on the right medication, whether I wanted one or two kids or even three, whether I wanted boys or girls. Not doubting that my sperm count and quality was going to continue to improve, nor that our FS is fabulous, nor doubting about the decision to come out the closet about our Infertility…Nope, I was having the BIG CAHUNA of IF doubts – I was doubting whether I do really want kids.

Now I’m pretty sure this may have been a strong and natural reaction to the failed IVF cycle. The extreme disappointment of that negative after transferring two superb embryo’s and an ‘okay’ embryo. A natural reaction to doing the banking and adding up the costs of the cycle that gave us zero ‘return on investment’.

It was the understandable result of holding your mom as she fell asleep crying, of laying there waiting to be sure she was fast asleep before allowing myself the luxury of shedding my own tears. It was that strange feeling I’ve only had a few times in my life – that otherworldly sensation I’ve only experienced before after someone reasonably close has passed away (which might say a lot about how one really feels about a failed cycle) – it’s a strange realisation, an intense surprise that the rest of the world is carrying on as normal, even though this unnatural thing has occurred. It’s like the world should be different, but for everyone else, it isn’t. Nothing’s changed…

A couple of weeks after our negative, I started adding up the costs, both emotional and financial of this journey so far. I started obsessing over all the things we’re sacrificing to the ravenous beast that is Infertility. And it wasn’t just the big things Infertility was stealing from us. Yes, I imagined all the holidays we could have with the money we’ve already spent, the camera equipment I could buy, the things we could experience, the places we could go, or even just the potential improvement in our bond statement. There was also this ever-growing list of little things it devours. All of a sudden you worry about opening Facebook, you have complications with family get togethers, stress over kiddies parties, dreading pregnancy announcements from anyone ‘that’ age. There’s that inescapable feeling that there are certain times or occasions where everyone who knows about your Infertility is watching you out of the corner of their eye to see how you’re going to react. This feeling of being eternally hunted or stalked, that Infertility can jump out at you and ruin your day when you least expect it…movies that suddenly have Infertility sub-plots (I still cannot get over how the Pixar movie UP blind-sided us so totally!!).

And so, the debits column in this mental Infertility accounting equation seemed almost endless. And it didn’t make sense to me. Why were we doing this to ourselves. We’ve been married for over 12 years, and for the first 10 of them, we were extremely satisfied to be a family of two. We didn’t feel incomplete or that anything was missing. I love your mom more than I can express in words. She is my everything, my raison d’être – my reason for existence. I didn’t need anyone or anything else…so what had possibly changed to make this worthwhile?

A few years back, we bought a big-ass 4×4 truck and started prepping it for a 5 year drive from London to South Africa. We handed in notice in our jobs, sold our home, packed everything up, moved in with friends while planning our grand trip and getting the vehicle ready. But, your mom’s company kept trying to convince her to stay. At the time, it felt like it should have been an incredibly difficult decision – giving up a lifelong dream to really travel Africa in style – and giving it up to remain in grey dreary London…but I realised then that the decision was easy – that your mother meant more to me than realising this dream…that she means more to me than anything. So, if she wanted to stay, that’s what we’d do.

It may sound melodramatic, but the times in my life I’ve been happiest are those times we’ve been travelling…the open road, a full tank of petrol in a suitable vehicle and your mom in the passenger seat. I love the open road, I worship gravel travel, I’m in love with the bush, I find sitting with my camera watching wildlife and trying to capture ‘that’ image an almost religious experience. It’s sitting alone outside the tent as the first rays of the sun turns the world from monotones to multi-hued, with the kettle boiling away on the gas stove for that first cup of coffee, your breath steaming in front of you as you soak in the tranquillity and splendour….that’s what floats my boat. Those are the moments that take my breath away.

When we came back to South Africa, we knew that we were giving up international travel…we knew all travelling from then on was likely to be in the form of 4×4 driving and camping holidays in southern Africa…but that was fine. Because I could give up diving the Red Sea or doing the Inca Trail, if it means spending time in the African bush. The nature of being consultants means that most December/January periods, we’re forced into 3-4 weeks off anyway…so we’d be able to hit the road for that period, we’d be able to explore the incredible sights of southern Africa, those special places. So far, we’ve only managed it once in the soon to be four years back.

And suddenly, just a short while after the failed IVF, when these doubts were at their worst,  this mental arithmetic did the worst possible calculation (like it was on auto-accountant mode)…for the money we’re spending on treatment, we could afford to go on a 2 week overseas holiday as well as a 1 month holiday EVERY YEAR. And that’s just to conceive…!

I started imagining our lives without kids. I remembered our lives from just two years ago…and imagined those same two people but with more time and disposable income, with no sadness and depression wrought by the IF demon. My thoughts became a sad holiday brochure-type montage of your mom and I flitting around the world, laughing and enjoying ourselves, carefree and childfree. And this naturally led on to wondering whether I really wanted children…and if I still did, why?

And this was a difficult thing to face up to. When you’ve spent so long totally focused on trying to have kids, when you’ve been through what Infertility does to you, when you seem to have spent every waking hour for far too long obsessing about something, it’s hard to admit that maybe it’s all been wasted. When you sit back and consider all that the Infertility beast has consumed…and then that maybe it was unnecessary and you’ve tortured yourselves for no reason…it’s not an easy thing to contemplate.

It’s an incredibly hard thing to admit to these feelings to yourself, and it’s even harder trying to talk about it with your other half. It’s not something you can carelessly throw into conversation: “Do you think I’ve put too much white wine in the mushroom stroganoff this evening? Oh, and by the way, I’m having serious doubts about having children. Can you pass the salt?”

But we managed to broach the subject. Your mom and I talked about these feelings, the IF debits and credits list. What our lives could be like without kids, and what they might be like with kids. We managed to talk about it without getting too emotional, but somehow also without being too detached and clinical.

And the strange thing is, talking about not having kids brought us back to being certain we did want them. Like there’s some strange ‘kid constant’ that sits on the credits side of the IF account, and that the value of this constant seems to miraculously adapt to ensure that the result is always that the credits slightly outweigh the debits…that no matter what you’ve invested in terms of time, energy, emotional capital, pain and suffering, it’ll all be worth it when the time comes to collect on your investment…that the kid constant will have made it all worth while.

So, we moved through the wobbly patch, squashed those doubts, and booked our next IVF cycle, feeling positive and content with our decision. And it even means that I can comfortably chat to you guys again without it feeling false or contrived…because we’re back to agreeing unequivocally that we want you in our lives.

But kids, (and here’s the warning)…don’t ever forget that we almost exchanged you for a few holidays and a nice car…so be nice to your mom and me!! I think we’ve earned it.

~ by HopelesslyTTC on 02/10/2010.

5 Responses to “Close call…”

  1. Hello HTTC,

    As usual, your words are so eloquently honest and real, they strike a chord with me every time I read them. I truly admire your courage and candor in addressing “the big hairy wart on your nose that everyone knows is there, but refuses to comment on” –WOW, I have never read, or even heard, anyone discuss that before!

    My heart goes out to you and your wife. I am glad that you both have decided to proceed with the second IVF. Despite all the emotional, physical, mental, and financial costs involved, I believe it is all still worth it — to go as far as we are able toward achieving our dream to have children, instead of living out the rest of our life regretting that we didn’t do so. I wish you and your wife all the best as you continue forward with the second IVF. Please keep us posted.

  2. I’m so sorry there were only 2 eggs! I so hope they are overachievers like their mum.

    I love your blog because so often we don’t here the male perspecitve in infertility blogs, but so much of what you wrote has been me. For so many years I was travelling and living and told myself I didn’t want to have children. It took a lot to realise that I do; I think I always have but couldn’t admit it. I wasn’t the girl who always dreamed of being a wife and mother; I was the world traveller and scholar! And as I count the costs – financial, career (who accepts a better job when they expect a pregnancy just around every corner), friends (I just don’t give dinner parties like I used to as having to duck out to give yourself injections can be ‘interesting’), time not spent travelling and bushwalking. It just goes on. And its hardest when my husband and I aren’t in sync with whether we think the journey is worth it. For years I was the one ready to quit and he wanted to continue; now I’m the one who will go on at any cost and he would be happy to stop treatments. We keep going because somehow we’ve stayed together through all this. I don’t know if our relationship will survive it, but it’s what we’re doing for now.

    I didn’t know if you’d want a link added to you blog when I mentioned you. And I hope you don’t mind me mentioning you. I’m always hesitant, now knowing what people would prefer!

    • Hey Tas,
      Of course we didn’t mind you giving us a shout-out, specially when it was so complimentary 😉 And it was great to know you were thinking of us.
      I think Hopefully and I are fortunate in that we seem to be on the same page (even if it did take me a while to catch up) and we’re so conscious of keeping the communication open and honest – even when you want to broach an emotionally charged and difficult subject like giving up TTC. But, I suppose, in the grand scheme of things, we’re relative newbies to TTC – only been 20 months…But it is incredible how much pressure it puts on relationships.
      It makes me sad to hear you talk about your relationship suffering so much, and your comment on a previous post about having a child being more important than your marriage really jumped out at me. So sorry to hear that and hoping that things do finally work out for you two. Take care and keep on blogging.

  3. I just discovered your blog through TasIVFer’s blog. What an excellent post. I particularly like the way you describe how you never know when inferility might jump out and wreck your day – so true.

    I’m really sorry to hear about the low egg numbers. That must be devastating.

    • Cheers TheCrazyCatWoman. Welcome to my humble corner of the blogoshpere and thanks for commenting. Also been following Tas’s difficult journey…my heart goes out to her…we gotta stick together!!!

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