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Monday, December 18, 2006

Male Factor Infertility and Ridicule

See--this is ten times more interesting than just hearing what the authors have to say about the quote. And, as Serenity pointed out, it's the authors' opinion so asking the question would simply get more of the same. This has been fascinating to hear so many people giving their point-of-view.

We're female factor and we're very out. We're so out that my husband annouced our RESOLVE membership in front of an entire film audience without blinking an eye. After I read that quote in the book, I wondered if our willingness to speak openly is due to the fact that it isn't male factor. And how will we ever really know since it's all hypothetical?

In college we had a massive senior thesis we needed to complete in order to graduate. I had a double major in anthropology and creative writing (which was actually more realistic in leading to a career than my original major which was Scandinavian studies--what the hell was I going to do with that degree except teach Scandinavian studies at one of the two colleges in American with a Scandinavian studies degree?). My senior thesis was on the transmission of infectious disease through religious ritual. The preparation of the body for a funeral continuing the transmission of ebola in Angola. Immunosuppression from hallucinagenic drugs in religious cults. And the drinking of semen in Papua New Guinea.

There was a group of people in Papua New Guinea (and I can't believe I remember this, but the group was called the Kaluli) who passed virility and bravery through the male line by drinking semen. A man's power was contained in his sperm, and the best way to ensure that the next generation were great warriors and could protect their clan was to imbibe the semen of other men.

Um...the point. Part of me has this ingrained--that from Papua New Guinea to New York City, sperm is what makes the warrior: whether that warrior is protecting his village or protecting his Wall Street investment. So I can imagine that if our diagnosis had been male factor, we would have processed it in an entirely different way. Or would we? Because for all the joking about sperm and masculinity, there is the same message passed to women about our bodies. We have "child-bearing hips" and "baby-making bodies." About our wombs and femininity. At the end of the day, even though it compromises my femininity, I admit to the world that I'm infertile. And if we're going to give credence to the importance of masculinity, we need to also give credence to the importance of femininity in navigating the world. At least, that's my opinion.

From my experience, no one has ridiculed us in the holding-the-head-in-the-toilet-and-giving-a-wedgie sort of way, but we certainly have gotten the subtle hints about being a real woman that Road Less Traveled and Teamwinks mentioned.

Maybe the lack of outright ridicule is due to circumstances as Max stated. Usually, when we tell people, we're not in a boisterous situation, therefore the response goes one of three ways: (1) fantastic with the person sharing their experience too or--if they're not infertile--with them offering sympathy, (2) dumbfounded with the person changing the subject, or (3) asinine with the person sputtering out a nervous response such as "well, you're lucky you didn't end up with 7 children." With the majority falling in the first and second categories. We probably have a larger amount of stories about that third category than most people because we tell so many people. When we talk about it, we're usually tell one person at a time or in a quiet situation. I'm sure the response would be different if we were socializing with three other couples at a bar vs. if we told one person in quiet conversation over coffee.

All this went through my head as I read that quote in the book, and I'm glad everyone is chiming in with how they read that quote. It's as if I'm getting to read books through twenty different sets of eyes. Many many more quotes to come--I've been keeping a notebook of ones that have stopped me in my tracks.


Anonymous said...

I dont believe I / we have ever encountered ridicule due to my MFI. Most of my office knows of it as after each biopsey I walked with a cane for a while. After using DI the story and focus shifts to the kids and my issues are second.

Anonymous said...

...and on with the quotes, as well. Would love to hear more. Like the bit about twenty sets of eyes.