Mr. Hopeful: A Male Perspective On IVF

HandWrench

At 31 years old, my wife should already have a couple of rugrats running around. She should be tripping over little shoes as she walks in the door, finding discarded pieces of food in the backseat of her car, and cleaning sharpie marker off of our lampshades. Unfortunately, she’s not doing any of these things, and the reason why comes down to one little word:

Me.

If you wanted to get specific, I guess you could blame my genetics, but either way you look at it I’m the reason that we don’t have kids. Like Mayhem—the character from the All-State Insurance commercials destroys everything he touches—I’m the cause of all those massive IVF bills, the needle-inflicted bruises, and the river of tears that have been shed since this insane process was started.

Like many with Ostrich Syndrome (head buried firmly in the sand), I initially figured that the reason we couldn’t have kids was that our timing was off, or that we were under stress at work, or that the stars weren’t aligned or whatever. On the rare occasions when I did think that something was wrong from a fertility perspective, I was certain that it was on my wife’s side—after all, in terms of complexity, the difference between my system and hers is like the difference between a Ford F-150 (simple, reliable, easy to start in cold weather) and Sebastian Vettel’s Formula 1 Ferrari racecar (complicated, temperamental, and requiring monthly rebuilds). Besides—caution, TMI ahead—everything of mine down there functions just fine, and I would know if something were amiss. Right? Yes, of course. Back to the sand.

Fast forward a few years of unsuccessfully trying to have kids and my wife finally dragged my stubborn ass to the fertility doctor who, in a brilliant display of timing, called me on my 30th birthday with four words that I never thought I would hear directed at me:

“You have no sperm”.

Allow me to pause for a moment, dear reader, and explain the implications of this diagnosis on my manhood. I felt useless. Unmanly. Ineffective. Pathetic. Worthless. Nearly every male out there is programmed with an innate and primal desire to repopulate the world with his seed. Now, I’m not talking about sex, I’m talking about reproduction. Think of it as the ancient Spartans thought of it, the desire to have a couple of big, strong sons to grow up and ensure the survival of your lineage. Chauvinistic? Perhaps, but nonetheless difficult for me to reconcile. In a world where my fellow men were walking around with fully loaded M249 machine guns, I felt as though I’d just learned that I was carrying a super soaker. And that sucked.

(Side note: When my father found out that I was born with a permanent, irreversible vasectomy, the first thing he did was to call my one and only brother and urge him to have a son to “continue our line”. High fives, Dad.)

Naturally, the one person who snapped me out of this ridiculous way of thinking was the most supportive, coolest, and most loving human I know: My wife. She reassured me that I was one of the manliest men she’d ever met, and that my ability to reproduce was in no way a reflection of my character. She told me that I had a stronger sense of purpose in life than mere reproduction, and that she had never seen me back down from a challenge and knew that I wouldn’t back down from this one. In fact, she went on to affirm, so rare was my genetic affliction (1 in 30,000,000, or something like that) that it was actually kind of cool. My attitude changed. Suddenly, I didn’t feel worthless. I simply saw this as the card we’d been dealt, and I vowed to be strong as we tackled this issue as the awesome team that we are.

Believe me, being strong was not always easy. I cannot explain the absolutely overwhelming feelings of guilt that come from watching the person you love most on this planet stab themselves repeatedly in the belly with needles because of a deficiency on your part. That was a tough one. Having spent more than my fair share of time in a hospital bed (I work in a high-risk profession), I can say that it is tougher for me to be the person on the sidelines watching the one you love go through pain than it is to be the one who is hurt. No lie, I would have changed places with my wife during every one of her uncomfortable, painful, horrible procedures if I could have. As luck would have it, I got my chance in the hot seat when I went in for what can only be described as the most horrific surgical procedure I’ve ever endured (and I’ve had a bunch). The experience sucked, but once again I drew a lot of strength from my beautiful wife, who maintained a strong belief that all of the pain would be worth it in the end.

If you’ve read any other post on this blog, you now know that things didn’t turn out as we’d hoped. Not even close. We’re both still grieving the negative beta result that we received just a couple short days ago. Words cannot describe the gut-wrenching sound of a mother crying for her lost child. I’ve been through a lot in my life, but seeing my wife pull down photos of our embryo, seal them in an envelope, and lovingly place them in a filing cabinet with tender, motherly care caused me to come completely unstrung. Those of you who have been in this situation before understand. To those who haven’t, I truly hope that you never have to experience the feelings of loss and devastation that come with a failed IVF cycle. Even though I wasn’t the one who underwent the transfer, this feels every bit as real to me as I would imagine it does to my wife.

Fortunately, in times like these you find out not only what you are made of, but what your partner is made of. My wife and I have taken turns holding each other—both physically and emotionally—and even though things aren’t OK right now, we both seem to have the underlying sense that they are going to be OK. Although, to be fair, we have no idea at this point how they will get there.

Male or female, husband or wife, if you find yourself in the unfortunate situation where you are comforting your partner in the wake of devastating news, just hold them. Really. You don’t have to talk, you don’t have to fix, and you don’t have to promise them that things will get better, even though they may. Just hold them close and kiss them often.

30 thoughts on “Mr. Hopeful: A Male Perspective On IVF

  1. yearningformotherhood says:

    Such a beautifully written and insightful post. Being such a female-dominated community, I think the heartache our other halves suffer, too, often doesn’t get the spotlight it deserves.
    So sorry this hasn’t worked out for you guys. I was a broken woman after our cycle #1 failed, and couldn’t have done it without the strength and love given to me by my husband. Take comfort in each other, and know that this isn’t the end.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. theonewithjb says:

    This was an amazing read. Safe to assume that you’ve read the minds of all those blokes out there with slow, weak, low or zero sperm.

    You’ve perfectly describes how it feels.

    Thank you and good luck.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Surviving Infertility says:

    I LOVE that your husband posted for the first time!! He did a wonderful job. My husband did his first post too not to long ago & I loved hearing his point of view through his writing. We have male factor as well. You are an amazing couple, & your love & strength really shine through during this tough time.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. shayoneil says:

    This is a beautiful entry. We also experience male factor however my husband has 0% morphology. We’ve been blessed with ivf success but have experienced a miscarriage. I will be praying for you and wish you all the luck next round.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. KLA says:

    This truly is a powerful post. It brought tears to my eyes as it gave a glimpse into a very painful, raw experience. You are both very strong and together you will overcome this awful, heart breaking journey.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. alssnowflake says:

    You are a strong man Chris. And so is heather. My heart breaks for the both of you. I know how it feels. I’ve been there twice. First time the embryo stuck but couldn’t hold on. An early miscarriage. I was breaking to pieces. Second time it just don’t want to stuck. We had those Chances no more. There is no try again. We simply can’t afford it.
    Reading your side Chris was amazing. And for some reason I know there will be small shoes to fall over in your house. I have a gut feeling of that.
    Lots of love to both of you.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Terrakna - She of Advanced Maternal Age says:

    You know, as I toddled off to the kitchen to make some coffee, I started talking to you in my head. It went a little something like this: “What the hell makes you think it’s your FAULT? Did you purposely sneak out in the middle of the night for a clandestine vasectomy? No. If it were Heather’s anatomy preventing a child, it wouldn’t’ be her FAULT either. It’s just Biology and bad juju. Knock it off.” And that is my loving comment to your beautiful post. 🙂

    Like

  8. 30yr old nothing says:

    This is so beautifully written. It gave me a little insight into how my husband is dealing with our first failure which is very much how yours went. We’re also dealing with severe MFI but my husband never talks about how it makes him feel. This makes my heart break for him. I’ll go give him extra hugs. Thank you for sharing. Oh, and sending both of you extra hugs too. This too shall pass.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Tikeetha T says:

    Thank you for writing this. It was inspiring as to what many men don’t say and for those that don’t know what to say to their wives who go through IVF. It is painful and we do it because we love you, but at the end of the day it is about the team of us doing what we can together. I love you guys and what you write. Wishing you only the best.

    Like

  10. Mylittlesoldiers says:

    A beautiful and witty account of male infertility. Bravo for being so brave and honest.
    Btw I have written a novel about male factor infertility – My Little Soldiers. If you wish to have a free copy of it just e me.

    Like

  11. Jennifer says:

    wow! Thanks for putting into words and posting your journey. As I read it – I well up with tears. It’s like your writing about our exact journey. Please know it does get better. As I lay here with my
    Miracle baby boy. It took five long hard years. A lot of tears, but we’re here now. You guys will be too!! I’ll be praying for you. Thanks again for having the strength to blog. We were literally in the exact same boat. All the best

    Like

  12. ashleykyleanderson says:

    My thoughts have continued to come back to this post even a month later. Thanks so much for writing it, Chris. I really appreciate hearing from a male perspective, especially since it is a perspective that is often even more overlooked in society than one of female infertility. I have asked my husband several times to write a post for our/my blog (so far he hasn’t been interested), and I think you are brave to talk openly about a pain that so few are willing to show others. Also, I wanted to say I can relate to a lot of what you are feeling since I am the reason we have struggled with infertility. Thankfully, like you, I have a wonderful spouse who has loved, accepted, and supported me through it. Still, there is a lot of pain there.

    After seeing an article on yahoo today on an experience with male factor (https://www.yahoo.com/parenting/my-wife-was-fertile-i-wasnt-121028744003.html in case you are interested) I remembered that I had wanted to share your post on Facebook so that others could hopefully better understand this side of infertility. Would that be okay with you guys? If not that’s completely fine. I just wanted to ask beforehand in case you had wanted to keep the blog more private.

    Keeping you guys in my thoughts.

    Like

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