Staring at the wrong side…

Hi Kids,

I’m very conscious of the fact that I often seem to start a conversation with you guys, by apologising for the long time since my previous post. It seems to be a recurrent theme, and as you read through these posts (or as I do anyway), the cause is fairly obvious. Most often, any significant gap in my posting has been caused by my going through some kind of issue, something that’s causing me to stop and think for extended periods of time, rather than just write… most often a crisis of faith.

Now when I say a ‘crisis of faith’, I’m not talking about me having doubts or issues around some existential god-like figure, not questioning religion or my beliefs. No, the ‘faith’ in questions is almost always about Infertility: my belief in our success in bringing you guys into this world, my faith in us overcoming these seemingly unscalable hurdles, my thoughts on having children versus living child-free.

But this time, my reasons for not talking to you guys a bit more frequently have a slightly different reason.

You see, this second IVF cycle was tough – a strange comment when you hear that we never even made it to Transfer! But it was, it was really tough, it was way harder to deal with than the failed first IVF cycle. It’s left your mom and I reeling a bit, we’ve taken a knock the likes that anyone stepping in the ring with Mike Tyson would expect, our sails are well and truly windless.

Because, in a cruel way, for the first time since we discovered we had sperm, we’ve been faced with the idea that this still might not happen for us, that you guys may forever be virtual and imaginary, that we may never get to hold you and nurture you and watch you take on the world. And this has left your mom and I pretty down and depressed.

And this is the reason I haven’t been chatting to you guys.

I don’t want this blog, these conversations, my posts to be negative. I’m not trying to hide the darker side to the emotional toll of Infertility. I don’t want to pretend that the sad and depressed days don’t exist. I don’t want to hide the strains it places on us, our relationship, our finances, our lives…but I also don’t want to harp on about it. There are enough people out there blogging about the downsides of Infertility. I want you kids to understand what we’re going through, but it doesn’t mean I need to tell you all about the bad things in the minutest detail. I don’t want to dwell on the pain, we can wallow in the self-pity without dragging you into it.

And that’s why I haven’t posted for a while…because this time, it wasn’t a crisis of faith, it was a crisis of comedy. I ‘ve been struggling to find the funny side of things. I’ve been unable to write to you without it descending into negativity and self-pity…and no-one wants to read about that…least of all you two! The last thing I want is for you to feel guilty about what we’ve been through to conceive you…after all, it was our choice, our decision, and you could do nothing about that. It’s enough that you know it wasn’t easy, because that may give you some inkling into just how much your mom and I were willing to endure to have you, how much we wanted you, how much we love you…and that’s the important thing.

I fantasize about you guys reading these letters when you’re both a certain age. Something we can give you when you’re old enough to understand. And I want you to enjoy reading them, to laugh, to cry but most of all to understand.

So, it’s because of the mood I’ve been in that I haven’t posted – this crisis of comedy. And this mood is because of this latest cycle that went so horribly wrong.

Our IF journey has not been typical – maybe a gigantic understatement, I know. Most couples decide they want kids, and then start trying the old-fashioned way – flowers, dinner, candles and rose petals round the bath overflowing with bubbles, Barry White schmoozing from the hi-fi and then some horizontal dancing (okay, this might be the VERY old-fashioned way, but you know what I mean). Then after a year of that they pootle off to the doctor, because by this stage they’ve run out of bubble bath, the unattended candles have burnt the house down once or twice, one of them has finally recovered from a rose thorn induced infection while the other has developed a nasty allergy to rose petals or massage oil or silicone lubricant, they’ve both got sick of Big Barry and his annoying voice and reached the stage where the horizontal dancing has become something that’s scheduled in a work-like manner (they’ve probably both got it in their Outlook calendars like any other work appointment), an appointment that’s slightly dreaded each month, that’s approached with a dutiful sigh in much the same way as any other household chore. They see their doctor who may give them some advice and send them off for some more DIY conception attempts, or may refer them to a fertility specialist (and may end up doing this referral a few month later when the poor couple come back telling the doctor that he can stick is crummy DIY advice). Then they head off to the Fertility clinic…

From there the scenario’s diverge depending on the causes of IF, the treatment options selected, the success and failures of these treatments…but there’s a natural progression, a sort of general order and escalation process. It might be trying again at home (oh god no!!), but using an OPK (ovulation predictor kit) to make sure the sex is timed to provide ulterior motives to the usual recreational reasons – and the sooner they wi-fi enable these OPK’s the better – because then it can automatically email the Outlook appointment and reschedule it if required based on that morning’s test results. It could send reminders and set off alarm bells when ‘the time’ has come. The couple may be recommended to take certain supplements to increase quantity and quality of any output, they may move up the next step to medicated cycles, then maybe IUI. Generally speaking couples will try a few IUI’s before IVF is even mentioned. But if they don’t work, then it’s on to the Big Cahuna – IVF. But that also has its starting points and escalations – beginning with straight IVF, like a Delia Smith episode – take 5 parts eggs and 140 million parts sperm, mix in a medium-sized petri dish, let stand for 5 days at gas mark 2 and viola. Next step is ICSI – take 1 part egg and 1 part hand-selected sperm, combine forcefully and observe regularly till morula develops, at which stage return to oven and wait for 10 days before testing. Maybe straight ICSI isn’t enough, so they try PICSI or IMSI and maybe throw in a pinch of PGD for seasoning or add some IVIg or an Intralipid infusion to the mix. And it’s often only when these couples have tried IVF (or any of its permutations) a few times that donor eggs or donor sperm come into the equation (unless there was zero egg/sperm in which case this would have of course been included earlier in this exciting journey). Then there’s the surrogacy option. and for many, the final option in this journey of many steps is adoption.

Obviously (before I get flamed to death by irate readers who have had a different experience), this progression is very general. There are many people who skip stages, reverse orders, and/or who don’t see adoption as the last resort. But, “sweeping generalisationally” speaking, this is the normal (and I purposely didn’t say ‘natural’) progression.

But not us….Noooo. Why be normal…or why start now in any case.

We start off spending years thinking adoption will be our route to parenthood (if we ever decide we definitely want kids). End of story.

Then, (roughly) 2 years ago, your mom’s biological clock starts ticking, loudly. Scrap that, it starts ticking VERY LOUDLY. So, pregnancy is required. Well then, donor sperm it is then. End of story.

Actually, lets seek medical advice first. Doctor does SA and tells me ‘not enough sperm for a count and definitely not enough for natural conception’ – so the horizontal dancing is purely recreational and no need for the OPK (web-enabled or otherwise), Big Barry, flowers, bubble bath, fancy dinners, candles, massage oils, or my Outlook calendar – they’re all surplus to requirements. Doctor refers us to FS (after putting me back on testosterone injections which it turns out was not the best thing to do, but that’s another story). FS says he wants to do tests, but it sounds like IVF or donor sperm is going to be the only options. SA at fertility clinic comes back as Big Fat Zero…no sperm whatsoever…Donor sperm IUI it is then (dIUI). End of story.

We (well mostly your mom if I’m honest) do a bit of research on Secondary Hypogonadism (my diagnosis many years ago). Find The Pituitary Foundation. Your mom convinces me to get in touch and ask them if they have any experience in getting someone with my condition to produce sperm. They come back with positive answers and protocol suggestions. They do say that it could take two years with no guarantees, but there is a quick option that should give us some indication within a couple of months as to the likelihood of success of the longer treatment option. So it’s back to the FS for a discussion. Test protocol it is then…a few months of injections, regular blood tests – no response. Not going to work. donor sperm it is them. End of story.

Hang on a sec, change FS – communication/language problems with the old FS leaving us uncertain. Same clinic, new FS. He tells us treatment option ‘will work’. Long discussions – 1-2 years of injections with no guarantees (other than the FS saying it will work)…what the hell…lets poke me full of holes on a very regular basis and have SA’s so frequently that they may name the Wank Tank (the clinic’s andrology room) after me! 6 months later – first ever SA comes back with ‘some motile sperm’. Donor sperm out of the picture then. Sperm count perilously low, ICSI is the only option – no timed DIY sex, no medicated cycles, no IUI’s, no IVF – it’s straight to ICSI for us. Keep at the treatment protocol, and schedule our first IVF with ICSI for a couple of months time. 5 follicles, 4 eggs, 3 embryo’s,  3 transferred (although the third, ‘Runty’, isn’t in peak physical condition) = CYCLE FAILED.

2nd IVF planned, 5 or 6 follicles, 2 eggs, 1 fertilised, never develops past fertilisation = CYCLE CANCELLED.

Nothing transferred…story still ongoing…to be continued…

Now that I get here, I can’t remember the whole point of telling you about our journey versus the ‘traditional’ journey…I think it was something to do with the fact that we didn’t follow the normal progression, we didn’t get used to months of trying with disappointment after disappointment, we never felt the safety of knowing that if this didn’t work, that there was always another more complicated but more effective treatment option available. We didn’t pass ‘Go’, we didn’t get our $200, we went straight to the end of the line…and the problem is, that it feels like if this doesn’t work, that that’s it…we have no idea of how the story will end.

And, unfortunately, this last cancelled cycle has brought it home to us that even though IVF with ICSI is the most advanced Artificial Reproductive Technology procedure there is, it still may not be enough for us.

And this is the reason we’ve taken such a knock, why your mom and I are battling to keep the depression away, why I’m struggling so hard to see the funny in things. And when I can’t see the funny, I don’t want to write, and when I don’t write I don’t get to talk to you guys…and I don’t want that either.

So, I will try my damnedest! I will look for the brighter side of things again, and stop fixating on the darker side…I’ll hopefully chat to you a bit more frequently…and maybe just maybe, by talking to you two, I’ll find the funny again…because staring at the dark side isn’t gonna do it, of that I’m certain.

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~ by HopelesslyTTC on 20/10/2010.

4 Responses to “Staring at the wrong side…”

  1. Perhaps you need a second blog to vent the negative side then.
    Because what I need to share most is the dark side of it all.

    I keep telling myself I will get through this somehow, but it will take time.

    Hang in there.

  2. Dear HTTC and wife,

    There is a time for everything — and for me, this is the time to feel sad with you both about the outcome of your second IVF cycle. I so admire your continuing courage to share your physical and emotional process during this fertility journey. Only you and your wife can decide together how to proceed, based on this latest development. All I can encourage you to do is to do all you can to work toward your ultimate goal, so that you can both one day look back (no matter how this saga pans out) and say to yourselves and each other that you did everything you could –and there are no regrets.

    My heart goes out to you and your wife during this sad time, and I trust that you will “find the funny again” when it is the right time.

  3. Hi there! What a pleasant surprise to see men sharing their experiences of infertility. My experience as a Psychologist in private practice has been that for a long long time infertility has been a “women’s domain”, so much so that I am going to be doing a PHD study on men’s experiences of infertility. I would like to interview you, either via e-mail, telephone or in person if you would be kind enough to share your experiences with me.

  4. Hey Def TTC

    I am sorry things are so dark at the moment. Please don’t be so hard on yourself. I know you always try to look on the bright side but sometimes it is impossible and you can’t expect yourself to always be upbeat….. Sometimes it’s hard to see the comedy ….sometimes you just need to be sad and let it be….

    No matter what you write in your blog to your children, whether it is funny or sad, upbeat or downhearted, it is always so honest, so refreshing and so bittersweet and without a doubt will make sure they understand one day how desperately they were wanted and how much they are loved.

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