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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I Watched Funny People and What I Learned about Male Factor Infertility

Updated at the bottom:

Perhaps don't read at work...

We live in a penis obsessed culture.

A penis obsessed, testicle obsessed, t'aint obsessed culture.

And by default, we live in a sperm obsessed, sperm power obsessed, sexual prowess obsessed culture.

In Funny People--a 136 minute film--how many times do you think male genitalia was mentioned by the parade of comedians marching across the screen? 487. 487 times in a 136 minute film about a comedian dying of a blood disease.

Okay, so I didn't count, but it felt like 487 times. It was probably somewhere close. Judd Apatow--how many times did you mention male genitalia in the film? This seems like it should be a Twitterable fact. Penis counting.

I wanted to see something funny; something that would make me laugh and distract me. I kept harping on Anchorman, an old favourite that no longer makes me laugh because I know the script too well. Lindsay warned me that Funny People wasn't going to be that film. "You'll laugh for an hour and then you'll think for 45 minutes and then you'll wonder why the movie is so long."

But the county fair was closed, I only thought about going swimming post-shower, and we weren't in the mood for a meal out on our date night (the siren song of ramen is that loud). So we stuck with the original plan of seeing Funny People, despite the fact that it has a blood disease in it. Despite the fact that I had been warned that it wasn't just a long movie; it felt like a long movie.

I cannot think of a profession that I'd be less suited to hold than comedian. I think I could do a better job with marine biologist despite the fact that I don't actually understand how oysters exist. I mean, first and foremost, I'm not funny. Secondly, I'm not good at memorizing things or getting up in front of people or leaving my house. But I love watching movies that show you the backstage life of comedians such as...well...The Comedian. Or The Aristocrats. Or...The Comedian because these are the only two movies I can think of that show you that life offstage.

The only reason I would ever want the job of comedian (even though, as we've already decided, I can't have it because I would suck at it) is for that offstage camaraderie that passes from one comedian to the next. I like to imagine myself around the table back stage, nursing a diet coke and listening to everyone exchanging their best jokes (I'm not really participating in these daydreams because I wouldn't really have anything to contribute despite the fact that if I'm backstage, it would mean that at some point, I would have to go on-stage).

And I'm savvy enough on backstage life (you know, from watching The Aristocrats in a theater) to know that the jokes that come from the men or are directed to men usually contain at minimum cock, balls, sperm, or a combination of two or more from the list. Men do not talk about their elbows or the size of their calves and if they refer to other body parts at all, it is usually to draw attention to their lack of definition.

And that's just the way it is. We live in a dick obsessed culture--not just figurative dicks like the ones Colbert skewers in his opening monologues--but actual dicks. When we see them, it's titillating. When we don't, it's comedy.

We were driving from Chicago to Madison; my brother, my now-husband (then boyfriend) and I in a rented car and we were telling my brother the story of the Aristocrats before the movie came out. The joke always begins the same: a man, his wife, his daughter, and his son walked into a talent agent's office. They asked if they could show him their act because they were seeking representation.

At this point, the bread of the sandwich ends, and the teller can add whatever meat they prefer, the raunchier, the better. This is a guesstimation of what I told; only one detail sticks out in my memory and was definitely in the version I told:
The father politely pulls out a balloon and blows it up, twisting it into the shape of dog. He hands the boy the balloon animal and he begins masturbating using the looped canine ear. As he cums, the man's wife catches the semen in a saucier pan, boils it down on a small camp stove, and serves it to the talent agent over a roasted chicken breast on a bed of rice. The son in turn fucks his sister, who promptly has a baby fall to the floor from her vagina, picks it up, sings rock-a-bye-baby, and drops it into a portable cradle. The wife does three cartwheels across the room, landing in an upside down position with her knees over her husband's shoulders. She unzips his pants with her teeth and begins sucking him off on the spot. Their children join in on the action, becoming a frenzied multi-armed, multi-legged sex creature out of a Danielle Steel nightmare, climax in a four-way orgasm, and land on one knee, their fingers wildly flailing in jazz hands.
The agent asks what the hell they call something like that and the father answers, "the Aristocrats."

We were driving down this empty road, tears streaming down our faces as I told it. It was still before we were trying to conceive. It was back when sex equaled baby because all one needed was manly enough sperm. Right?

I sat in the theater crying over Maude Apatow's rendition of "Memory" (marry me, Laura, I cried at a little girl singing Cats), wondering how we were going to raise our son in such a penis obsessed culture where his manliness would be measured by the length and width of his genitilia, the number of times he has had sex, the ease with which his sperm creates a life.

We never experienced male factor infertility--the problems were all mine--and I'm not sure I really understood the deeper secrecy surrounding male infertility until I started reading blogs. It's just a medical condition, why would it be a bigger deal than having a wonky uterus or missing fallopian tubes or a clotting disorder? Why would it be harder to talk about in public?

I don't know. It just is.

Because women do not joke with other women about the size of their uterus or the shape of their uterus. We don't boast that our eggs are so fresh that they get impregnated in a second. If we boast at all, it's about the prowess of our husbands ("he just has to look at me!"). Women may talk about how fertile they are, but they don't joke about how fertile they are.

Maybe it is so difficult to talk about male factor infertility because of that current that flows whether it is from comedian to comedian or athlete to athlete or businessman to businessman--that size matters, that producing sperm matters, that having mobile sperm with a well-shaped head that can impregnate a woman matters. If not, why would it be at the center of all jokes?

By which, at its heart, we know there is only so much joking in our joking, and no man wants to be the one who is not seen as virile, who is not seen as someone Darwin would point out as a shoo-in to get to perpetuate the species. Not because it matters, not because it's the sperm that makes the man, and we certainly know from Parenthood that any "butt-reaming asshole can be a father." But because we have made it so taboo, so enormous, we have elevated the importance of something microscopic, of something hidden, of something that is also a vessel of removing waste from the body. A tube. A sac of skin.

I don't want my son to ever feel like he needs to compete in this oneupmanship and yet, at the same time, I want Josh to pass along every good comeback he came up with ten minutes too late to use himself. I want to coach him like comedians perform for one another as a form of exercise. I want him to be the end of this line of self-esteem bashing and I want him to ride the crest and be the one who skates through unscathed. I assume we can't have it both ways.

I got my period the next day. Late movie tears explained.

When we were leaving the theater, there was a middle aged couple, who had been sitting a few rows behind us during the film, crouching behind a car in the dark parking lot. As another couple walked past, they jumped out at them, screaming for some inexplicable reason, "seven!" The other middle aged couple jumped visibly, we jumped visibly, and then the two couples grabbed each other and started laughing hysterically.

And like so many things that are only funny up to a point, only funny when you've hit the right person, hit the jackpot in terms of a lack of backstory, we got in our car, not laughing, muttering about how we were sure that was funny in some world. It just really wasn't funny in ours.

Cue laugh track.


Like Somewhat Ordinary says below, I too would love to hear from men who have male factor or women whose husband's have male factor about how they processed their diagnosis in the face of a society who has their condition as the punchline.


areyoukiddingme said...

Although this is about the penis, I will say that women have come a long way (in some ways) from the times when you were divorced or otherwise cast out due to your inability to bear children.

As long as symbols of power continue to be phallic, I don't think we'll ever get away from associating male virility with social standing. But, given that it's now all about electronic toys, and the smaller the better, we may be moving in the right direction.

kate said...

I was totally unprepared for how different the world of male factor infertility can be. I assumed that this would be somewhat difficult for my husband, being that he is the most sensitive human being on the planet (he once cried at the grocery because they were out of radishes-- because that's SO unfair. But anyway...). What I have found is that almost every single person has reported back to me that my husband is NOT the anomaly, that their husbands, too, retreated into a funk and stayed there for a long time trying to come to terms with what this meant for them.

And maybe I'm just a heartless jerk, or maybe women are made for tougher emotional stuff than men, but I keep thinking, "aren't men supposed to be the 'fixers'? Aren't they supposed to be the 'brush-it-off' types?" It's all very confusing, because I find myself being the fixer, being the 'brush-it-off'-er, and I wonder how much that has to do with my personality and how much has to do with the fact that I was so prepared for it to be MY fault.

I mean, yes, I am freaked out about our impending cycle. Yes, I am emotional about the possible outcomes. Yes, it sucks that my husband has shitty sperm, but NONE of it is worth a three week depression, complete with random crying jags and sudden angry snaps over nothing. And it makes me feel like such a jerk that I am just ready to GET OVER IT so we can talk like normal, rational people. Kate, the asshole. That's me.

BUT, reading this made me think about how, even if I have a bookish sensitive sort of husband who abhors dick-and-fart humor, he is still prey to the societal jockeying about sexual prowess, about his virility as a representation of himself, and that SUCKS. I wish I could carry some of the pain for him, but that's just not possible. I reassure as much as possible, I keep that awful jerk bound and gagged deep inside me, and I wait. I know someday, he'll have processed this enough that he can tie up his own snippish weepy jerk, but until then, I wait.

As usual, thanks for giving me something to think about.

Somewhat Ordinary said...

Wow, this post has so much for me to comment on...but is just too deep for me to grasp today. I think my husband's azoo has a lot to do with the rollercoaster that we experienced last year. It sucks that society can't see MF for what it is - a medical issue and not a definition of one's manhood. I wish I could formulate something more in depth - maybe as the day goes on - will. Thanks for this post, I'm looking forward to reading others perspectives.

Lavender Luz said...

I'll say this publicly and then write you privately:

Oh, boy. Are the google bots going to have fun with this post!

(Also, note that we build entire MONUMENTS to penes. And then name them after presidents and pharaohs and architects. Mighty, mighty.

Emmy said...

I've been thinking a lot about this recently. I wouldn't mind being more open about our IF, but I don't because of my husband (azoo).

Of his three brothers, he is the least manly, in the typical manly sense (football/sports/read meat). That made everything so much worse for him, because his brothers already have a bond that he is left out of, and this is one more thing that he feels alienates him from them. I think he also feels like he is letting his father down but not being able to procreate. That is all quite interesting, since 10 years ago he didn't want kids and now were at odds with how to proceed.

I've got a lot of thoughts about this subject swirling around, and am thinking of turning it into a post in the next few days. If/when I do, I'll come back and leave the link.

Another Dreamer said...

I don't have experience with male factor, but I've thought about this and I often thought about how much harder it must be on them in pretty much any society. But, you've said it much more.

Great post Mel, very well said and quite introspective.

Michelle said...

Interesting. My husband seemed to come to terms with his MF diagnosis when he started to talk about it, which for him meant making jokes about it to his friends (and making up outrageous stories about the procedures *he* would go through in order for us to get pregnant - as if, buddy). Kind of the flip side of joking about how virile one is, I guess.

Anonymous said...

We both had problems. For us I feel kinda made us share the "blame". Although, he's the one who had to clomid everyday for 3 years. I just had to take it cd 3-7.

When we got the diagnosis, he kinda lost it. We lots of discussions about doing what the doctor wanted.

Really though, and this is probably pretty self centered of me, I didn't think about it too much. We were in this together and we had problems. It was neither all my fault or his. Not that we would have pointed fingers.

I think it made us closer, kinda like a united front.

I did make him tell his parents it wasn't all me. Some comments were made and I insisted that he tell them it was his problem too.

serenity said...

I worried a LOT about the diagnosis of male factor, and how it would affect J. In fact, *I* was crushed when we got the diagnosis of MFI because I wanted it to be me. I thought I could handle it better.

Because our friends used to boast "Hey! My boys can SWIM!" when someone in our circle of friends got pregnant. And though J eschewed that sort of talk, I was really worried about how it would affect him, self-confidence wise.

(Of course it WAS BOTH of us - not just him. But we thought at the time it was just MF.)

Anyway. Maybe he's an anomoly. But he did really well. He wasn't upset, or affected, or anything that he allowed me to see, anyway. He was happy that we had a diagnosis and a PLAN to move forward.

And we started joking about it, just the two of us. About how his "guys" had helmets and rode the short bus to the eggs, taking detours the whole way.

So he's really done okay with it. But I can tell you that my husband is the kind of guy who seems immune to peer pressure. Or societal norms.

Or maybe he's just really, really good at hiding it.

Cassandra said...

I have nothing valuable to say about MFI.

I can, however, suggest some other movies about the backstage life of comedians. Punchline is one that I always enjoyed, even though it didn't do well critically or comercially.

Mr. Saturday Night is more poignant than funny.

Then there's The King of Comedy, which is an actual good movie.

Trish said...

I wish my husband would write you. I'D love to know what he thought of it. He never said much.
I was devastated. Not because of what it said about my husband, but simply becasue there just aren't a lot of treatments for MFI and I knew we couldn't afford IVF.

As treatments went on, I was bitter. While I wasn't the world's greatest ovulator, 50mg of Clomid fixed me right up. But I still had to go through the various procedures that weren't terribly fun because *HE* was broken. He would complain about having to take 6 vitamins a day and I'd want to strangle him. He wasn't the one whose ovaries were about to burst forth from their holdings.

As for the jokes.. mostly I'd cringe. When we got pregnant the first time, people recommended the book "My boys can swim" and I just shook my head. "but.. uh.. they can't."

Overall, I'd say it wasn't unlike any other part of IF. People say dumb shit. Depending on my mood, I ignored them, educated them or just scowled.

Caitlin said...

I saw that movie...and I liked it. Towards the end I wondered if I would ever make it out of the theatre or whether we should camp there, but still...a good flick.

We aren't dealing with a case of MFIF, however I do remember my husband's reaction the day I asked him to "make love" to a cup. He put it off for weeks. Finally, once the deed was done and we got the good results he was relieved and said, "Thank God it isn't me". Yeah. That one hurt a little.

Chickenpig said...

My husband seems totally unfazed by his infertility. At the time we were diagnosed we were actually pleased that 1) we had a diagnosis, it was therefore fixable and 2) male factor is a lot easier to overcome than endo, PCOS and the like. Infertility for us is truly a disease in itself. We are only affected by it when trying to have kids. Most women are suffering from a disease that causes infertility, or miscarriages, or both. My only problem is that I don't discuss my infertility with anyone. I don't feel like its my right to tell the world that my husband has crap sperm, it is his body, so I remain mute about it. I have told people that it took us a long time, that I had a large fibroid that caused complications (both true). And I have never felt comfortable talking to his family about it. I can't remember my hubby ever getting mopey or moody about the diagnosis, just after we had a miscarriage. He can be pretty moody too when he's down about something, so I don't think MF really bothers him at all. We have 3 kids now, after all, under 4 so all his guy friends think he's a stud. If we had moved on to adoption or remained child-free....I'm not so sure.

Rachel said...

While we don't suffer from male factor in terms of sperm count or mobility/motility, it is my husband who carries the translocation.

He always blamed himself for our troubles (even though I'm 100% convinced it was partially me, too) and couldn't talk about it with other people.

It was also really tough for us when we were TTC using donor sperm. He would sit in the room while some other man's sperm was injected into my uterus. It practically broke him, though he knew if it worked it would be worth it.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that men can't carry and bear children, so paternity can be considered questionably, and this boasting is the only way they get to 'own' their offspring.

Not sure where that leaves me as an adoptive mom.

But the worst thing to me is when people joke about "shooting blanks." I just CRINGE when I hear anyone say that. How horrible. They have no idea what they're actually saying.

Sunny said...

Yes! It's the joke in our family that whenever my parents come to visit and we rent a comedy, it always ends up awkward because of all the penis/sex jokes. I still feel bad for the full-frontal that hubby had to endure with my parents when we watched "Forgetting Sarah Marshall."

I have a very guilty admission. My hubby's contribution to our TTC efforts has always been stellar. The RE actually made an "I'm impressed" sort of face when he looked at the numbers on DH's sample for our last IUI. And you know what? My immediate reaction was that I felt PROUD of him. And then I felt guilty for feeling proud, thinking of all those men with MFI. It's not like my husband EARNED those numbers. I am proud of him for his professional success that he works so hard for. I am proud of his compassion, his kindness, his sense of humor. But this -- he has no control over! Am I proud of his kidney? His rib cage? I have to make an effort to replace that way of thinking, cultivated by society and movies and such.

I, too, hope my son will not get swept up in the unhealthy obsession/worshipping. And that I can be a positive force in him resisting it.

Faereyluna said...

Mel are you psychic? I swear you sometimes bring up topics that are troubling me at the pinnacle point of their troublesomeness. (Is that word?)

All I can say is that even fertility doctors or rather infertility doctors can sometimes miss the boat on when it comes to male factor infertility.

I don't mean not catching a male factor diagnosis after we have tortured our uteruses in hopes of finding something, but they think that all male patients should listen to them to be "more male". Because indefinitely and repeatedly enduring pain for the gratification of a few sperm that probably won't work is far better then raising a child that does not share your DNA.

Yup yup. The bearers of the reproductive organs on the outside couldn't possibly be capable of raising DNA that does not belong to them?

Katie said...

Very thought provoking post.

As a couple with male factor IF, it has been an interesting ride. I find that people atomatically assume it's me if they know anything about how long we tried, and out of respect for our privacy I do not set the record straight, although part of me really wants to. We recently found out we are having twins via IVF- and just started telling extended family members. One said in an email, " (My husband's name), you stud you." I felt an urge to let him know that I produced 22 eggs for the IVF- so maybe "Go me" was more appropriate. I am also bothered by the maternity shirts that say, "my husband's boys can swim." I think there should be a shirt that says, "I produce eggs like a chicken."

I've also noticed we, in the IF world perpetuate it ourselves. I can remember reading many times in blogs or forums after a sperm analysis comes back, that the husband was like Michael Phelps or Superman. I don't every recall bragging that my eggs are ripe for the pickin' and my tubes are crystal clean like a highway for procreation.

I think my husband handled it pretty well- but he's never been the type of guy to be hung up on typical guy stereotypes.

I'm just glad we don't live in an era that I would have already been killed for not providing an heir. Because that would just be so not fair.

Clare said...

We deal with MFI by embracing the stupid masculine = fertile paradigm and laughing at it. When people ask why we don't have children yet, my husband replies 'I'm shooting blanks' or 'My fellas are lazy' or 'my soldiers ain't marchin'. It shocks people at first but does diffuse the situation. I think they quite admire him for being so open about it and they can see it doesn't affect him as a man, he is not embarrassed or ashamed and he's always said why should I be? We live in Morocco, which as you can imagine is a very masculine society where fertility is everything, and my hubbie is determined to show people there's no shame in IF and that it's not always the woman's "fault" - he hopes it will provide an example for his younger cousins so they know they can get help and not be embarrassed. Thanks for posting on this.

Beautiful Mess said...

I have no experience with male factor IF, but I DO want to raise BOTH my children with compassion regarding fertility or lack thereof.

If we did encounter male factor, I would wonder how it effected my husband. I wouldn't think less of him, as I'm sure he doesn't think less of me because of my uterus. I would, however, always wonder if it made him feel less like a man. Which, I think is not right. I don't think less of myself as a woman becuase my uterus doesn't work so well.

Maybe with more talk about it to younger boys, we can erase the way it's thought about it our society. Big thinking, I know. But I can hope!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post, Mel. Wow, the complexities of MFI are so far-reaching that I didn't even realize many of them until I was several years into our azoospermia diagnosis.

Of course the jokes and bragging, etc. are brutal for my husband (and me) to hear. When I think of the hurtful things that people have said, they flash through my mind like a movie. I can still never look at those people the same way. The worst part, for us, was that he felt SO terrible for "causing" this. I would tell him over and over that it wasn't his fault, just a medical condition. It got so bad that if I was sad or upset about our struggle, instead of being able to comfort me he would withdraw and feel guilty and apologize, which would lead to a terrible fight. Cut to me crying alone in the car, alone at work, alone in the bedroom, afraid to show him my sadness because of the guilty spiral we would go down. We became horribly disconnected and distant because of this, and I did fear for our relationship for quite a while.

The other aspect of MF that I think is trickier than female factor is the secrecy my husband and I kept ourselves in. I needed to talk and share our IF, but because it was "his" issue, I didn't feel like I could. He didn't really feel the need to share and talk with others, but I did...and couldn't. As the months and then years passed by, I became distant from family, friends and co-workers, because there was this HUGE part of our life that no one knew about...treatments, medical appointments, $$ issues. I think after a while people started to get the hint that something was wrong, but all assumed it was my issue. Not that I wanted to blame and tell everyone it was him, but it seemed somehow wrong to take the blame, pity and advice when it wasn't me.

Like mcstarling, our situation also caused major problems with his family. They figured that my career was the reason for the holdup, and started to get hostile and resentful of me. I finally made him tell them, just to take the pressure off me.

It's telling that my IF therapist would marvel at how different my situation was than her other clients, because it was MF...lots of issues she had never heard or dealt with before.

It wasn't until your site that I found someone (many wonderful someones) that were dealing with MFI. I stopped feeling so alone, met ladies in my same boat, received support, and could express myself. Mel, you surely saved me during those long, awful months!!

Heather said...

Totally hear you on Funny People. So. not. funny. I too was hoping for Anchorman funny, and found myself trying to see my watch in the dark to see how much of the movie was left and debating on whether or not to just leave. We didn't but it was a tough choice.

Love your book and your blog!

Anonymous said...

Our primary diagnosis and reason for needing IVF/ICSI is male factor. Until I was on high doses of stims and didn't produce eggs. Then I got tagged a poor responder. We both have fertility issues and will discuss openly, especially when people would ask what we were waiting for or mentioned we weren't getting any younger or just outright ask why we didn't have kids.

The general response regarding my issues was sympathy. The general response regarding the male factor was one of shame or embarrassment. We were even told on more that one occasion that we shouldn't admit to that in public.

The difference in the response between my issues and my husband's were shocking. My issues are socially acceptable. His are not.

VA Blondie said...

We had both female and male factor IF. Our male factor IF diagnosis hit us at a bad time. I was really unhappy at the time of the MF diagnosis, and Hubby was starting to feel bad about our decision for moving out to Northern Neck. So not only was Hubby feeling like an inadequate husband who could not properly make his wife happy, he could not get her pregnant, either. The entire situation really made him feel inadequate as a man.

I knew mostly what he was going through with the IF diagnosis, (my PCOS had been diagnosed a couple of year earlier). I tried to be as empathetic and supportive as possible. He hid from it for a while, until he felt better able to deal with it. Eventually, we did move on with IF treatment. We tried a few cycles of IUI, with no success. I think it made him feel better, though. At least we were doing something, and it had a greater chance of working than sex alone.

We were considering donor sperm for a while. I think that never really sat well with him. He was not opposed to adoption, and he could not understand why donor insemination was difficult for him. At some point, he realized that he really wanted a child of his own. Which for us meant IVF/ICSI. An expensive proposition, to say the least! Fortunately, we had a relative willing to pay for it. He seemed really happy to do the the IVF cycle, and I think regretted that he was not more involved.

Now that we are expecting a son with his genetic info, I think he feels a lot better about himself. He is also very successful with his career, and is generally feeling better about where he is, and who he is.

ultimatejourney said...

My husband handled our azoo diagnosis extremely well. When we found out, he was more focused on whether he'd be able to provide genetic material for a child than whether the diagnosis made him unmanly. But he's pretty comfortable in his own skin and also not the traditional manly guy in the sports etc. sense.

Even when his surgery revealed that he doesn't produce any sperm at all, his devastation was more focused on our inability to make a baby together. He didn't seem to think less of himself, thank goodness.

Like Serenity, we even make jokes about the MFI at home.

I think one of the hardest parts of MFI for me is that even though my husband is comfortable with it, I feel the need to protect him from other people who might not be so enlightened about masculinity. So, like Chickenpig, our IF has largely been kept secret (apart from this blog world, without which I surely would've lost my marbles.)

I hate that it has to be this way. But I hear awful phrases like "shooting blanks" and I doubt anything will be different...ever?

J said...

My hubby was devastated when he got the results of his S/A back. 3% normal morph.... I felt we were lucky- we have alot to be able to work with (I was thinking we'd get a diagnosis of azoo thrown at us.) Until I started digging through your blogroll, we couldn't really find much for him either- he sees me blogging and connecting with you gals and joining in my infertility forums and wishes more guys were willing to gripe with him about it. There's so much out there for us gals, but society turns a topic they've made uncomfortable (infertility) even worse when masculinity is thrown into the mix.

Fertility Chick said...

Wow, thank you for this post. And thanks to all those who have commented.

Both my husband and I have IF issues. Mine I could spot a mile away (PCOS, IR), his diagnosis (azoo) was a complete and utter shock.

But I'm amazed how quickly he just seemed to deal with it and we moved forward. He tried surgery in the hopes that it might make a difference - it didn't. But he doesn't regret trying it. Our plans to move forward with donor sperm isn't the right choice for everyone, but it's the right one for us, and I'm thankful every day we made that choice together with no regrets.

I wish there were more men out there dealing with MF IF who blogged. My husband has no problem talking about it - but blogging/writing just isn't his thing. Maybe I should write more of his thoughts?!

I've rambled. But I've just really appreciated finding others out there that are facing this -- it's helped me to feel less alone (esp. in the beginning when we first learned of the diagnosis)...and more hopeful.


Mrs. Shoes said...

My husband still "jokes" about his broken penis whenever the discussion of another child comes up. it's his way of dealing with it. and since his MFI is inexplicable and likely genetic, I now worry about my son's future fertility and what do we tell him and when. This has sparked a post in my mind. Now if only I can find some time to do it.

Eileen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eileen said...

I always assumed that there was something wrong with me. It never ocurred to me that my husband could be the reason for our lack of success in the TTC department. So when my RE told me that all the tests she had run on my came back perfect, I couldn't believe it. I have never been so happy. We were, however, utterly devastated when she sat us down in her office to go over my husband's Sperm Analysis results. I remember that I had that feeling of sinking into a hole. Her words kept getting softer and softer until I could barely hear them anymore. "0% normal morphology on the strict Krueger scale." Those words resonated in my head for days. How is that even possible? 0%. Just a year before my husband's doctor had run an SA with 42% normal morphology. My husband, convinced that my RE was out to get our money by painting a worse picture than really existed, went to a different RE's office and had the test run again. The result? 0% normal morphology. We were both stunned.

We let the information sink in for a couple weeks and then scheduled another appointment with the RE. Basically the RE told us that the chances of us getting pregnant on our own were nonexistent. I like her because she is real no nonsense. She tells it like she is. She is very much like me in that regard. But it still felt like she took all our wishes, hopes and dreams and just flushed them down the toilet with that one sentence. She went on to say that usually she recommends that couples start with Clomid or IU!s, but she said she had no grand illusions that either of those would work for us. She said basically, IVF with ICSI would be the only option for us. We would have to put all our eggs in one basket. So home we went to start saving every single penny we had, dreaming of the day when we would actually be able to give IVF a try. And this summer we dumped out that piggy bank and the contents of our pockets and gave it a shot in the dark. We never discussed his problem with anyone. It's almost as if he feels that if we don't discuss it, it doesn't really exist. He would probably be mortified if he had any idea I have been blogging about it since that faithful day in the RE's office.


Anonymous said...

We also don't have the Male Infertility issue, it is all about me. I wish more people were open to discussing alot of Male Issues as well, it time I suspect.

Thanks for enlightening me.


EWebey said...

Male factor sucks.
After getting our diagnosis (nonobstructive azoospermia)my husband kinda spiraled into depression/wasn't the same. As a woman, I wanted to "fix" things, get him out of his depression, etc. He felt like a failure and it was hard for me to watch him beat himself up. All I could do was be there for him.
We made an appt with a urologist, he went to said appt (and a few more) and then that urologist referred him to someone who's specialty was infertility. That made us mad that he didn't think to refer us in the beginning or after that first appt. Met with new urologist and love her.
We are now on the IVF path. The road has been up and down the whole way.
DH had a "guilt trip" the day after our consult because he found out about all the injections and such I'd be doing.
And it all comes down to one surgery (TESE) to see if there are any swimmers in the locker room.

Indigo said...

We struggled through MFI, and it devastated my husband during those years. Of course, this was 1998-2002 and the support wasn't as strong as it is now. It was so hush-hush and very embarassing. Now infertility is something that people talk about, but still, devastating nonetheless.


Artblog said...

Well, you probably know my story by now. Male factor was really the only concrete diagnosis we ever got and I can tell you that when others asked us what the problem was we would never go into details about it because ultimately, from a male perspective, its taboo and embarrassing.

In the end, it's up to the man/woman themselves to be open about any infertile diagnosis they receive and mine chose not to.

I think because of male pride, it's harder to deal with than female infertility even though its no more complicated medically than female infetility.

It's just that woman are more open about it.

All I can say is, my need to express myself to someone, anyone who'd listen, especially other people going through it, is thanks to my blog! It was a major release for me and I often wished he would blog too, it may have helped and I've always been rather envious of the wives of the, albeit, few male bloggers that do!

Wishing 4 One said...

Dont know much about male factor but your post was deep. Actually too deep for me Mel. You did me in on this one, I am going back to re-read slowly. I think it was narration in the middle that threw me, i am so confused now. ROTFLMAO!!!

annacyclopedia said...

I had to sit with this for a day before replying, cause there is so much here. The reasons for our IF (failed vasectomy reversal which led to our decision to pursue DI) are different than many people's, and also we had the benefit of it not being entirely a surprise. But the whole thing about not being able to talk about it publicly sure fits. Like another commenter said, I would be happy to be more open about the reasons for our struggle to get pregnant, but I don't out of a sense of protectiveness towards my husband (also because he has indicated some preference for keeping things relatively quiet). It is complicated by the fact that he has a son from a previous relationship, so without spilling all the details, people who know anything about our life won't just accept the explanation that we have MFI and leave it at that.

I think it goes deeper than this, though - my sense in reading your post is that women talk about stuff like this, and men don't. And as you say, men joke about their fertility and manliness, and women don't. There's the dividing line, in a way - that it's ok for women to talk about their experiences and emotions and reactions but somehow men are not allowed to do the same thing. They are only allowed to boast and joke and laugh, even when they are the target of hurtful and intentional joking. Even when they are the ones being laughed at, men and boys are expected to have snappy comebacks or at least just laugh it off.

I really, really hope that this changes for the generation of boys that we are raising now. That my nephews and my baby (whether it's a boy or a girl) will be able to break down this division. I hope that these boys will grow into men who can talk about feeling hurt by this obsession with male genitalia - I think that two years after getting the news that Manny's reversal had failed, deciding to use donor sperm, and me getting pregnant through DI, I am still not entirely sure how he feels about it all. Not that he has been completely silent, but I sense that there are parts of the experience that are very painful for him and just too hard to delve into, even just between us. The fact that he has, as far as I know, not shared the details of our experience with a single friend of his is quite telling about how all of this is received among other men.

And while I hope for change for the boys and men in my life, I also hope for change for the girls and women. That we can learn to hold ourselves with more compassion - taking pride in what our bodies can do and not judging them so harshly for how we think they have failed us. That we don't measure our worth as women by our fertility, or judge another woman by those standards. That we don't remain silent when others assume that IF is all about the woman - that we find a way to educate people in ways that bring understanding and thoughtfulness.

Basically, I am hoping for a revolution.

Thanks for writing this, Mel. As always, you bring so much wisdom and insight.

Geohde said...

Interesting post. I've reflected in the past about how it is that my husband was so shocked by the male factor diagnosis.

I guess men don't know if their sperm are seriously wonky until they you know what in a cup for science, and women often get a clue int he form of cycle misbehaviour, but it was still a shock how upsetting he found it.

To this day, he minimalises it and doesn't think of himself as 'infertile', despite being in the ICSI range. I assume therefore our infertility has therefore become down to felame factor in his mind, in order to rationalise it all. Even after insisting on all *four* rubbish SA's. Our RE was happy to give a diagnosis after the first....

Makes no sense, but it's a man thing.


Lin said...

WOW! Thank you so much for this post! I had been processing similar thoughts in my own head and just wrote part 1 of a 2 part post on MFI and its extra baggage.

In addition to your insightful post, I truly appreciate the equally insightful responses. It's so helpful to "meet" others experiencing the same/similar things.

Bea said...

Hum. Yes. You know, I completely missed the significance of the male factor diagnosis, from an emotional point. There was a problem, we had identified it, now we were moving on to the solution, and I was busy sorting through the labyrinth of choices, when all of a sudden I realised I was forging ahead alone, and I had to turn around and go, "What? What's up? What is it?"

Maybe that's why I can't help you with the male perspective on this one, because I missed my chance to find it out, but I don't think it would have been Talked About in our house in any case.


Bea said...

Although it still irritates me that everyone assumes it's my problem.