The Daily News

LFCA Latest Issue: Friday, September 25, 2009.

Latest Post on BlogHer: Parenting after Infertility.

My Status: Fed Josh's almonds to the squirrels. They needed them very badly.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Updating the Donation Room Porn

I was asked to write an essay about one aspect of infertility and I realized something I have barely written about. Not infertility, I mean, but the subject I'm about to tackle. This is a racier post than usual so...um...Mum, you may not want to read. And if you do, please don't let me know.

Loss is inherent in infertility--the negative beta at the end of the cycle, diminishing hope, forgoing opportunities. We have spent so many years of our life together in a perpetual state of continued loss. And mixed in with the loss is the physical pain and the emotional embarrassment. The financial holes and constant anxiety. And, of course, shwanking off in public.

When my husband, Josh, would complain about the donation rooms, I would lift up my shirt to show him my bruised belly. Needles, in my mind, always trumped a date with your hand because at the end of masturbation comes an orgasm as opposed to the end of a Follistim injection which comes with an annoying sting and a little medication dribbling out. How could he ever compare rubbing one out with nightly injections?

And then I took a field trip to the donation rooms and listened to the nurses discussing the viscosity of a semen sample on the other side of the thin wall and I had a newfound appreciation for my husband's prowess to zone in on an image of breasts (always my own, always my own) and get the job done despite the andrologist crooning "Careless Whisper" in his office, three feet away.

On the morning of our first IUI, we drove to the clinic, bleary-eyed from lack of coffee and somewhat anxious to see if this next step would work. Josh's appointment was at 8 and my insemination was at 10 but we went together, intending to spend the downtime at the Starbucks down the street. When he was called back to the room, he seemed a little surprised that I was coming with him.

"I think you wait here," he said.

"I'm coming back for moral support," I said to the nurse. "If that's okay."

"Fine," the squat, German woman barked out as she led us through a set of doors into a series of labs. She paused outside of tiny room that contained a barcalounger, magazine rack, television set, and a sink counter containing a sealed collection vial.

"Des eez ar donation room," she spat. "Vee need a clean specimen. Do not put your mouth on heez penis, understood? It needs to be a clean specimen. Do you understand?"

"I understand," I said.

"Wheech meenz no mouth. No mouth. No saliva."

"I will not use my mouth," I promised. "I'll be very quiet. I won't touch anything. I'll just read one of the magazines."

"No mouth," she repeated a final time, picking up the sealed donation vial and slamming it down on the counter as a final reminder of her wrath should my lips creep close to anything that is currently under her domain.

And this is what babymaking at the clinic is like. Someone else is conducting your intimacy and someone else is setting the time. And frankly, someone else is doing the job. It can be sobering, stilling to think about how much this process is out of your hands, the wonder removed, the love vacuumed out of it in the quest for a clean specimen. But that was why I was there. I was taking back the porn.

"I don't know if I can perform if you're going to be watching," my husband admitted.

"Oh, I'm not going to be watching," I said.

And that is when I stripped off the oversized grey sweatshirt and wide-legged jeans to reveal a black merry widow-like contraption with garters and thigh-high black stockings peeking out over knee-high boots. I unhooked my barrette and let my hair tumble down past my shoulders. "I'm Hilde," I breathed.

"Hilde?" my husband asked unsteadily. "Like your great uncle's girlfriend?"

Which wasn't the reaction I had been hoping for. I had sort of assumed that the outfit would cause immediate schwangage--that he'd have to dive for the collection cup in slow motion to catch the stream of semen shooting out just from the mere site of his wife parading in front of him in material that was black and shimmery and see-through. That I would be triumphantly and tantalizingly emblazoned in his memory whenever he looked at our child (because, you know, we would conceive on this cycle) and thought about how fucking hot his wife looked the day that child was created.

Because don't newborns always make men think about merry widows?

But Hilde was already part of the persona I had created; part dominatrix (will you fucking get on with this collection business? We only have an hour and a half left for Starbucks and I want my iced Americano), part ingenue (innocent, pure, has fallen into a trashy little side life not of her own creation), part black-and-white Ingmar Bergman-esque exquisite angst (it's really tragic, this infertility thing. And now I need to take advantage of this poor girl night after night after night, filling her with my seed. The despair. The modernist abyss).

"I'm Hilde," I said, shaking my ass a bit in his face as I leaned over to check out the porn in the magazine rack. Victoria Secret catalogs, a few cock-in-mouth covers, naughty nurses. I should have gone for the slow reveal. Now I have to fill another ten minutes. "Perhaps we should get to know each other," I murmured, trying to look at him through my lashes without getting a headache. "I have a lot of secrets."

"Really, Hilde? Secrets," Josh said, not really making any motions that would get us out of this room and to Starbucks before the end of the hour.

"Lots of secrets," I moaned. "Here's the first one. Why don't you just get your donation vial ready and we can begin."

"Mel," he said gently. "I think you're beautiful in that. Hot. I wish you'd actually wear something like that at home. But...I love you. I want to make this baby with you."

For him, it wasn't about what was lost. It wasn't about everything that came before or even this moment itself. It was about looking forward, thinking about what we were creating together. It didn't matter if it took place at home or in an office or in the single-stall Starbucks bathroom--the end result would be the same. Parenthood. A child.

That is how we tuned out the conversation happening on the other side of that door; the whore and the madonna, sitting on the floor, holding his knees just so I could feel connected in some way to the experience. My eyes averted, a quiet connection, a return to the continuous mantra chanted by the heart, "could this be our chance could this be our chance couldthisbeourchance".

All to the tune of "Careless Whisper."

Fini.

65 comments:

Zee said...

Whoa! I think I need a cigarette.

No, I'm joking, of course.

I love you for putting it out there, Mel. This is so beautiful and so cool. Funny, though, having a partner unwilling to even consider the public shwangage, the "porn" part for me is the part where Josh is willing to get in the room with that barcalounger in the first place. And the willingness to connect said shwangage with an actual baby? Before the act, even? Whoa, dude! That is so...um, you know what, I think I need to be alone for a little while.

heather.pnr said...

Oh. My. Word. I can't believe you just shared that with the internet.

You are awesome. And so is Josh.

Alexa said...

That was a lovely essay, Mel.

HOWEVER.

MY GRANDMOTHER'S NAME IS HILDE.

m said...

Mel, you had me laughing out loud in the midst of this godforsaken LAX and then drew me to tears. Damn you. That was an amazing and touching and awesome piece and dammit if I can't stop crying with the realness of it all.

Lori said...

I SOOOOO hope I get to review you next year for the Roundup Extravaganza.

I can't stop laughing. Even these comments are hilarious.

And yet, there is weight to this post, too.

Constant Craving = me
Careless Whisper = you and Josh

From now on.

annacyclopedia said...

This was so beautiful it is making my poor, bruised heart smile.

Thank you so much for sharing this. I think you hit on a lot of truth here - at least things that are true in my experience - about how some men (or maybe just Josh and Manny or maybe just some people) are able to just focus on the future in a way that is so grounded and so real, yet so hopeful. There is something I admire about people who can do that - I'm not really one of them - and this story just speaks to that so tenderly. Gorgeous.

bleu said...

I am sitting here crying. That was really sweet, and it moved me to tears. Honest. You are so amazing at capturing his honesty and his love for you and in turn your love for him. Thanks for sharing it.

Jess said...

MEL. That is AWESOMELY BRAVE that you just said all that!!

AWESOMELY BRAVE.

It was also achingly sweet.

I'm with Josh. The intimacy isn't lost. The wonder isn't removed.

Fertility clinic or no, my kids are miracles. And Ethan, created by Travis and I, not in the TRADITIONAL WAY, mind you, is all the more wonder because if not for sexless babymaking...he.might.not.exsist.

He might not exsist. How crazy is that?

Kristin said...

What a cool, beautiful, funny story...and you are incredible for sharing it with us!

Cassandra said...

Mel, that was a fantastic post, but, um, I don't think you should sit on the floor in the donation room. Ewww.

luna said...

oh I really love this post. really. love. it. so much truth and humor and love there. you and josh are both so awesome. thanks for sharing this gem. a stirrup queen instant classic.

and I really hope your mom didn't read that.

Jill said...

I'm not sure I have the words to describe that post. It's beautiful in a strange "American Beauty" kind of way, you know?

Tally said...

I am sharing this with my own Wonderboy... your humour and willingness to put it all out there (almost literally!) is such a balm for me. Thank you for sharing.

Now... how do I explain to my workmates why I am teary-eyed yet smiling like an idiot?? *grins*

Piccinigirl said...

as usual you Rock, you say the things that need to be said and talked about and make all of us feel less alone. I have sat with Mr Kir for every single donation except the one the ultimately made the boys because I was being readied for the ER.
I still remember talking to nurses in all three places about the porn, the lack of , the way they needed to get to a bookstore with a boyfriend and find some "new" material. I'm so glad that you wrote about it. Makes it less weird.

thank you, you are my hero now. LMAO.

Lisa said...

Awesome!!! This post went in a totally different direction then I thought it was going! You've got guts, girl!

Yep, the room is awful, but, I still think 5 needles a day, constant blood draws, and an almost daily date with the dildo cam trumps it!

Patricia said...

...just so I could feel connected in some way to the experience.

Oh how this grabs my heart.

Like so many aspects of this entire horrid experience, I thought I was alone in my awkwardness about all this. Thank you for helping to pull us together once again.

I continue to giggle at the thought of wanker rooms. My clinic doesn't have one so we do it (errr, so to speak) at home and then I put the cup in my bra to keep it body temperature as I drive to the doc. Yeah, try walking through a hospital with that between your boobs without feeling Just Plain Weird.

Shelli said...

Oh hell, Hilde. I feel like a prude reading that. lol.

What a great post. And for the record, I've never been in the collection room, but you inspired me.

mamie said...

great post! i just have one question...

did you change before your 10:00 appointment, or did the RE get to meet hilde too? (they only made me undress from the waist down.)

my husband wouldn't let me near the donation room. he was probably afraid of something like this! ha!

thanks so much for putting this out there.

Io said...

Hilde! Oh, you are the best storyteller...I'm laughing and crying at how sweet this story is. And how you must have looked among the porn. Heh.

Ellen K. said...

Oh no you didn't!

I never went back to the collection room with D. I knew how much he hated it (with MFI, he had nearly as many SAs as I had blood draws), especially the walk of shame/pretend nonchalance back to the waiting room, but he didn't want me there.

D. is still pissed because only on the day of ER, after I had woken up from sedation and he had kissed me goodbye and been escorted off to the collection room, did anyone bother to point out "the cabinet" to him. Now he calls it the "14-grand porn" in honor of our IVF cost.

D.'s best friend, who is cycling at our clinic, found homemade porn left behind in the collection room -- a racy Mac PhotoBooth picture.

loribeth said...

Oh. My. God. I'm sitting here in my office cubicle shaking with laughter & tears -- & trying to do so quietly!

Mel, Lollipop, Hilde... you are a woman of many identities... & obviously many hidden talents, lol. ; ) Thanks for another gem of a post!!

ms. c said...

Oh Lady! You have me laughing so hard!

Thanks for sharing this. I love your whole Hilde persona. And love that you were thinking about your coffee... And I love the Josh was able to verbalize how he felt about giving his sample. Having a male POV is always enlightening.

I have to say- I always accompanied my husband to the donation room. He and I wouldn't have dreamed of me not being there with him. And *gasp* I always used my mouth. We were never warned against it...

Kate said...

Ha! That is awesome. I got into a conversation with a friend about which Dr.s have better porn. Her Dr. had videos (very fancy). My husband was mad b/c ours only had magazines.

B said...

A sterling effort.

My husband had to do it on his own after watching me bleed all over the floor during the egg collection (I hit a blood vessel, oh two,, haven't done that for a year)turn ghostly white, and bawl my way through the procedure as it was all a little too much like when i had the cesearean done and then my daughter died.

Don't know how he did it.

Cheers to the lovers who make do.

Heather J. said...

too, too funny! we did it both ways - sometimes hubby went back on his own, sometimes I went with him. if i went, i always had 2 or 3 (or 4!) sexy outfits to change into. if you could ignore the fact of where you are and who is outside the door (yeah, really easy, right?!) it was actually kind of fun. ~LOL~

Karen said...

Oh my god, Mel, you are the BEST. The absolute BEST and I LOVE YOU. I want to be YOU when I grow up! S would have absolutely DIED if I had gone into that little room with him, much less turned into Hilde! I LOVE YOU!

Sarah said...

You are amazing.
You husband is amazing.
Amazing people!

hugs!!

Fertilized said...

Brava!! excellent. My husband would always complain about the donation room collection but he refused to allow me back there with him. Then a tv show (rescue me) introduced me to a terminology spank bank. I must have asked him about that term over annd over again

chicklet said...

That's absolutely hilarious! Maybe we should do a "donation room" week where everyone tells their best story, or their perspective/experience on it, cuz reading yours got me thinking.

The donation room was subject of a LOT of discussions in our house, cuz I actually felt different than you - I felt like his role was so much worse than mine. He had to go do something very private, very intimate, in a very public place. he had to do it on a timer essentially, and then admit he'd done it by having to hand it over to a stranger. While needles sucked and people in my cha cha sucked, that wasn't intimate or private - it was clinical. So I actually thought I had an easier time that way (not emotionally though).

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this.
On a semi-related note, I wish there was more discussion in general about the male side of infertility treatment, especially when it comes to dealing with performance anxiety, and what the heck to do when the usual strategies (collecting at home instead of the clinic, using a non-reactive condom instead of a collection cup) don't entirely mitigate the problem. Honestly, after providing *a lot* of help to my husband and still not having it be enough, for me the embarassment and frustration of that far outweigh the physical discomforts of infertility treatment.

Meghan said...

Great story...something about it made me cry. I tried something similar (although not as creative as Hilde) for our first IUI. Since it was at the local office we could do the deed at home...and I was so hurt when he didn't even want me in the room. Guess they also have their own things going on too...

LJ said...

Woman, quit the IF book writin' biz and just write erotica!

Seriously though, it's awesome that you wrote about this, and important that people know that many of us have done similar things...

Lisa said...

I want to send this to everyone I know. This was truly awesome.
Thank you for always saying things in the perfect way.

Shinejil said...

You've outdone yourself, Mel. What you've posted is so personal, yet so many of us can relate.

I was actually relieved when my husband said he wanted to fly solo on this one. We discussed the problems a man who likes more robust women--as opposed to the sticks w/ boobs in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit editions that predominate at our REs--and getting off to standard soft-core or barely even porn.

C said...

Thank you so much for sharing this, what great candor.

We were lucky in that we lived close enough to our clinic that our "donation" occurred in our bedroom. So we had the pleasure of transporting it through traffic, across the parking lot, up the elevator, and then we got to wait in the waiting room all together -- me and DH and our millions of half babies.

Beautiful Mess said...

*standing up and clapping* Absolutely amazing! I loved every word!

Kathy said...

Wow Mel! Thank you for sharing. You continue to amaze me with your candidness here. My husband always did his donating at home (without my assistance) and then we brought it to the clinic in conjunction with my ERs, except for the one IVF that was converted to IUI (that time I just brought it with me).

I feel kind of bad in retrospect that I never helped him (outside of maybe giving him the latest VS catalog), however most of the time it was first thing in the morning and we were just trying to get out the door to our appt. in time.

Anyway, it is incredible what so many of us go through in the name of trying to have a child(ren). And I do believe that no matter how they come to join our families (whether their life begins in our uteruses, a petri dish or in our hearts) they are each miracles.

tj said...

THis what I love about you and your writing. You're open.

<33

Alex said...

Oh, how funny -- and sweet. And, yes, romantic. However, this makes me glad that my DH's retrieval, like mine (my 4, his 1, but hey, who's counting?), was surgical -- that I had the sense to say to the surgeon who performed his (unsuccessful) vasectomy reversal, "While you're in there..."

This did leave me driving 1.5 hours very early one morning while my DH was under anesthesthia, as there was no other way to get what had been retrieved to the place where it was cryopreserved.

Like Jess, every time I look at my son I am so grateful for his highly improbable existence.

Caro said...

LMAO

STE said...

You got this exactly right. It's, er, uh, satisfying to read something so accurate, and yet it kind of makes me cry, too. That it's so accurate, and that this is what we do to get to that place somewhere in the future. This could be our chance.

Thanks for saying it.

waitinginline said...

At first I had to laugh...then I seriously began to cry (at work mind you!). Men really can say some of the most touching things.

But now I must grin at the image of you shaking it in a merry-widow!

jodie38 said...

I think I've peed myself... God, how funny. And, oh how true!

Thanks, Mel. I needed that.

Sometimes men can come through with such touching, amazing clarity. Sometimes you wonder how they earned their opposable thumbs....

battynurse said...

Wow!! This is fantastic. You had me laughing, feeling relieved that I buy mine in a little vial, getting teary at hearing about your desire to be connected to the process.

Kymberli said...

And like the hormonal sap-for-a-touching-story that I am, this story has me tearing up. It was funny, but Josh's words were so endearing. I have that tearjerker feeling.

nancy said...

"Careless Whisper".

Thanks. Not that I ever actually hear that song often, but when I do, maybe in a nice Saks elevator, I will think of this situation. Exactly.

Martha said...

I am printing this out to put in our clinic as "source material". It's tough to keep stimuli magazines and DVDs around, (they keep getting "borrowed"), so this will do nicely. Men are so results oriented.

midlife mommy said...

What a wonderful story. My husband will not tell me anything about the magazines that are in the room, what he reads, anything at all. He just tells me that he "does what has to be done." I have joked that when my daughter was conceived, neither one of us were there. Only it's really all that funny. More like gallows humor, I guess.

Vacant Uterus said...

I was laughing right up until the end...then I wanted to cry. That was beautiful, Mel. And brave. Thank you.

xx

Paz said...

best. post. ever. I agree with Luna Instant SQ classic.

thanks.

Marie said...

Holy crap that is a spot on post! Hubs has to do this for the first time Friday :(

Tash said...

Laughing so hard. (I said hard! Bwahahahahahaha!)

If you're brave enough, this should be sent to clinics everywhere. I doubledare you.

Sadie Marie said...

OMG I can't stop laughing :) I totally pictured my husband in that situation and I almost peed.
U rock.

Cindy (and Brian) said...

This was so excellent. I laughed and I ached a little too. I loved reading this! Thanks for sharing. :)

adena said...

hysterical, sad, brave
thank you!

Kim said...

Thanks for sharing! I have a similar beginning to dh's first time, but a totally different ending! The nurse called his name and I got up to go with him. Both he and the nurse looked at me. I somehow thought me being in the room with him would make it easier and less embarrassing for him. We got into the room (I had no hidden outfiy) and I got a case of the giggles. Maybe it was the nurses feet shuffling by, or the roll of paper over the back of the chair in the corner or even the black VHS tape on the counter with only a strip of masking tape with the word Sex on it! The giggles were like a bad case of hiccups and would not go away. Dh was now getting angry and kicked me out. I have a feeling he might not have been imagining me that day!

Barb said...

Wow. Bravo to you for being so honest and deep.

I think DH felt much as yours did, and didn't actually want me in there for that reason.

the Babychaser: said...

Oh my god, this wasn't a story I expected to make me cry. How beautifully put.

My husband hates the crappy porn in the donation room. Last time, he brought his laptop and watched a movie he brought along with him. But he was pretty closed-mouthed about whether it made things better.

For us, the moment we spend together is the transfer and those 10 minutes after. That's the only time he's really there with me, holding my hand and reading me funny stories from the paper. And when I think about how we conceived our child, that's what I'll always remember.

Bea said...

Is Mel's Mum here? I bet she tried to resist, but couldn't. Like a traffic accident. Not that you would have looked horrifying, Mel, I bet you were super-sexy, but super-sexy can be horrifying to a mother, no doubt.

We collected our samples at home (except two, which Mr Bea did whilst I was under GA). Now I feel like I missed out.

Bea

WkSocMom said...

Not at blogher, but linked over from community keynote list. Wow, awesome post. I remember bringing in the samples in paper bags for our IUIs and then the whole room thing for the IVFs. My husband does not embarrass easily. But he never wanted me around for that part, he never complained though. I think it's his catholic upbringing. Wish I'd had the nerve to pull your stunt.

Karen MEG said...

I re-read this post this morning and re-lived in my mind your poignant reading from but a couple of days ago... there's a part of my heart that is just twisted in a knot by this... when you read this on Friday, I laughed and then at the very end, I was almost sobbing by your chorus. I guess once an infertile, always an infertile to some extent.

This was one of my absolute highlights of Blogher 09. Thank you so, so much for sharing this.

Al_Pal said...

Here from the keynote list.
Great post.

♥georgie♥ said...

I didnt attend blogher but i am visiting the keynotes...wow what a post!

Heather said...

A post that made me laugh in 2008? This was definitely the first that came to mind. Who wouldn't laugh at the great Hilde reveal? I'm actually a little shocked I'm the first Bingo-er commenting here today!

this week for dinner - jane maynard said...

thank you for reading this at BlogHer. It was hilarious and beautiful and made me cry in public (yeah, thanks for THAT). anyway, thank you for sharing this with the world!