What about me or is that far too selfish?

27 05 2010

This post is my first and possibly the most emotional one that I will ever write. It is about a subject that is very personal and dear to my heart: denied parenthood and infertility. As a political animal, normally opining about one current affairs event or other, it is as if I have taken off my hat and coat to reveal another side to me. Many who read this won’t be affected, but some will resonate with what I have written. I needed to get this off my chest, to feel catharsis, after so many years of bottling it up inside.

I haven’t described every excruciating, painful detail, indeed much is missing, but I hope my narrow perspective might serve to provide some insight into the dilemmas and extraordinary pressures that childless couples endure. Indeed, if this article provides any insights to help people make a choice or to be more informed, it will have served a proper purpose, rather than a purely selfish design that I set out with to unburden myself of this torment.

It’s hard to imagine, from a male perspective, the intrusion, the physical and psychological pain and suffering that is involved in the diagnosis and treatment of infertility in a woman. However, all too often, it’s presumed that the man just has to ‘provide on demand’ and that’s as hard (excuse the unintentional pun) as it ever gets for him. This is so wrong. There are other dimensions, very personal and  spiritual ones that are overlooked and ignored.

I was the other half of a relationship that was dominated by failure in achieving something most couples don’t think twice about – parenthood. For 8 long and tortuous years, I was the back stop, the supporter, the soul mate, the provider, the team coach, the carer and the wannabe father for someone who was inexplicably infertile.  I was also a human being with the same annoying habits as any other man, no saint by any means, just a normal bloke who wanted to be a dad as much as his wife wanted to be a mum. It wasn’t all one sided. I wanted this as much as she did, but inevitably, it wasn’t about me and boy, was I made to feel that way.

We tried IVF seven times, we used a donor twice, and that donor went on to become a surrogate – all of which ended in tears. Adoption was next on the list and that in itself is another story, needless to say, that failed too. In the end, as many IVF marriages do, we failed, our relationship was dead, childless, ravaged by our experiences and individual solitude. We came to rue the day we believed that the means justified the end, they did not. The old adage of being cautious about what you wish for could never have been more apt – the single pursuit of one objective as the driving force in our lives became the seed of our loving relationship’s very destruction.

As far as the private infertility clinic in NZ was concerned, they knew me as the other half, the ‘provider’ and the financial donor to their legalised roulette table. They saw no reason to either get to know me, or be interested in me. No calls to see if I was okay when things failed, no nurse to hug, nobody to wipe my tears away and listen to my rants about how ‘unfair’ the world is. In fact, nobody to turn to at all.

The role of the fertile other half is a simple one, but far more complex than anyone imagines. How many times did I find myself saying ‘It’s not your fault that you can’t get pregnant…please, don’t beat yourself up’ only to be thinking, I love this person but I am helpless and powerless to make things right.  It’s no consolation (apart from a boost to the ego) to know that you have a high sperm count, that your sperm has high motility and  that they fertilise almost as many eggs as they come into contact with inside the petri dish. It’s all totally irrelevant. You love someone who’s suffering and tormented by the vagaries of their biochemistry and there’s nothing you can do about it.

Meanwhile, you put up with or deal to those who are unintentionally crass and those who are just blatantly offensive. Men seem to be particularly insensitive and insulting to each other. Machoism and ego, with over heated testosterone seem to come to the fore. I endured comments from male friends and colleagues such as ‘…give her over to me for a couple of weeks, she’ll soon get pregnant’,  to ‘…so are you firing blanks or is it her?’ and the one that causes the most aggressive response of the lot ‘…have you thought that perhaps you’re not  meant to become parents?’ (usually from those with several kids of their own). You rage, you shout, you cry, you lash out in frustration at the ignorance around you and the complete lack of understanding for your plight. Even your partner can say something to you that highlights and underlines the plight of the other half when they say in response to your outpouring of emotion  ‘…but at the end of the day, it’s not about you, it’s about me…’

There’s no doubt about it, you’re either both full on and positively engaged, drunk on the adrenalin of what might be or you’re very, very down, angry, reclusive and annoyed and frustrated. It seems as if nobody can say or do anything right. It’s so personal, so consuming. The paranoic  tendency is to believe that the world is just so ‘bloody insensitive.’ No more so was this demonstrated by our initial attempts at IVF in the UK. We attended a hospital in Oxford, somewhere with a fairly good reputation for research into infertility. The particular hospital shall remain nameless, but, it became clear from the start that our anxiety at not getting pregnant, the worries and concerns about what that might mean for us, were exacerbated and magnified each and every time we went to the clinic by having to trawl through the maternity section. Here, hordes of pregnant women would be milling around the foyer: young mums, old mums, jubilant mums, happy mums, mum’s to be, sad mums and then there was us, wannabes, so tantalisingly close, but so far from it being a reality, having it rammed down our throats each and every time. Confronted and challenged by this site, every time we visited, we took it personally. This was so hard, why couldn’t they separate us from them? Why did we have to be constantly reminded of our situation? Then of course, you’d see pregnant mums, outside the main entrance puffing away on cigarettes. The hatred and anger we felt for those woman who were ignorant of our plight, and ignorant to the dangers they were subjecting their unborn babies was immense. It was very hard to resist the temptation to tell them precisely what we thought of their disgusting and despicable behaviour. Even today, the image of a smoking mum to be fills me with rage.

As the years go by, you do begin questioning the whole thing – ‘why, for what reason are we doing this – is it really worth it?’ It would not be honest to say that at no time did one question how easy it might have been if I had fallen in love with somebody else, or that perhaps I should try to find another partner who can give me children, if that is what I really want. But,  those treacherous, disloyal thoughts arise as the most psychologically painful ones of the whole experience. I am told that these thoughts are normal during this time, but part of the damage is that these thoughts are also subdued and not aired, because the other half doesn’t want to express how they’re really feeling.

There are other ways – albeit on the face of it, where the pain,  insult  or embarrassment seems small – that the other half suffers in silence. The Pythonesque ‘nudge, nudge, wink, wink, know what I mean? know what I mean? Say no more, say no more’ approach within progressive health services towards the collection of sperm. There’s a smile and an embarrassed snigger when you’re invited to become an important part of the process. It’s confirmed when they tell you they want a sperm sample. The sperm receptacle was from memory a small jar with a pink screw cap, made of hardened plastic with sharp edges, the kind most likely to slice soft tissue like salami if you weren’t careful or you were of an unfortunately large size that made contact inevitable. The donation room, situated close to reception, with non-sound proofed walls, a sink and clinical taps, paper towels and a selection of dog-eared pornographic magazines is a more upmarket version of those seedy little porn-shops on the continent of Europe. Everyone knows why you’re going in there and everyone going in frets about how they get out without being seen, once the objective of the exercise has been achieved – a satisfactory ejaculation from which life can be created or wasted. Any thoughts of avoiding embarrassment are dashed when you have to ring a bell to attract the attention of laboratory staff to hand over your sample. Self consciously, you’re questioning how much you’ve donated compares to others who came before you. This is one definite moment though where size is irrelevant: it’s quality every time.

Imagine this scenario if you will. In the UK, I was told I could provide my sample from home and take it to a phlebotomy clinic at my local hospital. The collection times for samples were scheduled every three hours or so. I duly produced my sample and, as per instructions, got it to the clinic as quickly as possible but arrived after the clinic had gathered other samples together for collection. Notice, the samples had been assembled for collection but had not been picked up by the courier – so there was still time for my sample.

In a crowded waiting room, I approached the reception desk and in a softly spoken voice told the woman standing there that I had a sample for collection. She told me I was late and that I might need to (excuse the pun) come again. She told me every reason under the sun why it was important that people like me observed collection times. I asked if the courier had collected all other lab samples. She said no. I asked what the issue was, she said it was because they already had the paper work and everything needed for collection organised.

By this time we were attracting attention from those queued behind me and those sitting down in the waiting room. I asked her to go and see if I could still submit my sample. She agreed to go and see her supervisor… she moved away and went behind a screen. From behind that screen I could hear huffing and puffing and from around the corner of the screen, some four metres or so away, another woman shouted down to me “What’s your sample for?”. At this point, I replied inaudibly ‘sperm’, she asked me to repeat myself and to speak louder, I then shouted ‘IT’S A SPERM SAMPLE FOR IVF!’ She disappeared behind her screen, where I could hear frenzied utterances with mutterings also coming from behind me, as I stood there crimson coloured in embarrassment. The receptionist reappeared and avoiding eye contact, gathered a plastic bag and labels then came towards me saying ‘we’ve decided to allow you to add your sample this time, but in future, you need to get here earlier’. She handed me a pen and told me to write my personal details on the labels. I duly completed the paper work and then happily handed her the sample, with head held high, I turned around and walked out. Hurtful? No. Damaging? No. Unnecessary? Totally. Embarrassing and undignified? completely.

As an incident in itself, it’s hardly important. In the psychological vortex of IVF, it’s bigger, far bigger than it looks. Normally, a pregnant mother smoking would make me feel repulsed, but during the IVF process, it made me see red, I became angry and completely intolerant. That’s the impact on the psyche of the stresses involved and the pent-up frustrations one can feel.

Counselling of sorts is offered to all IVF couples, but it’s a regulatory requirement more than pastoral care by the clinic. Strangely, it is the counselling that is the first, last and only time, that one’s mental welfare in this journey to heaven or hell is monitored, beyond that, they take your money willingly for as long as you want to procure Dr Frankenstein’s test-tube baby, as I began to refer to it. As we ended IVF and moved to donor and surrogacy, we left behind a part of ‘us’. We had surrendered finally all hope that ‘we’ would be parents to our own children. The only hope now was that I would father some other woman’s child in the womb of my partner. As it turned out, my wife’s biochemistry was so successful at killing foreign bodies, that any and all fertilised eggs were being destroyed. It was at this depressing  juncture that the donor offered to become our surrogate.

At this point, not only could my partner not get pregnant, by natural or artificial means, she was now going to have to suffer the indignity of potentially watching another woman fall pregnant to the sperm of her husband. This was a remarkably giving, selfless thing to do on the part of both women. For my part, it was presumed as a given that I would allow my sperm to be injected into a woman who was largely unknown to me. When my wife told me ‘…you don’t have to fancy her you know, it’s ok…’ it made me feel even more taken for granted. It made me feel used and exploited. I couldn’t imagine ever having sex with someone I didn’t fancy, but here I was trying to make a baby with that lovely, kind and generous individual whom I was not remotely attracted to.

Add to that, the whole legal situation. Our donor was married, so, for the purposes of a birth certificate, the law would only recognise her husband as the legal father of my child. If I had wanted to become legally recognised as the father of this child, even though one would have presumed that de jure I was already that entity, I would have had to go through an adoption process with my wife. To me this was a level of complexity and legal nonsense that I just could not get my head around. It required me to question, again, the purpose of all this, what we were trying to achieve, for whom and why? The very thought of having to adopt my own child, selfishly perhaps, filled me with utter revulsion.

My wife was encouraging me to see the end game, rather than the means by which we procured our child. I felt very peculiar about the whole thing. Did I have a right to choose here? Was my sperm not sacred too? Why should I have to adopt my own child? What if I was to say no? How much did I want to be a Dad? It was obvious that whilst I wanted to be a Dad, I didn’t want to do so using a manufactured ‘child of Frankenstein’ methodology that we were heading towards.  However, in the end, I relented. The justification in my mind was driven by guilt. I was guilty that my partner was so desperate to become a mother, and that she had put herself through so much up to this point, for both of us, that I decided any ill-feelings I had with regards to this process I had to reserve to myself, in silence.

Our surrogate was an incredibly generous woman (and so was her husband). They had a family of their own, but they had wanted to help couples who were less fortunate. As a Vet in her professional life, she had managed artificial insemination in animals so she felt no particular moral, ethical or practical issue with the process we were embarking on.  So, with a plentiful supply of  syringes, I duly provided her with a sperm sample in one room, whilst she and my wife collaborated to inject  the sperm deep into her vagina (in case you were wondering). The first attempt was unsuccessful, so another trial was agreed. This time, she did fall pregnant, however a scan at nine weeks alerted us to the very faint heartbeat of the foetus and within three days, she sadly miscarried. That was the end of any hope of realising our dreams of having children in any way related to us. It was also the end of the beginning of the end for us.

Sex is important in any relationship, so is intimacy, touching, holding, kissing, all those factors make people feel special to each other. We suddenly realised that the only intimacy between us was comfort at times of failure around baby-making. Sex had disappeared, indeed, when we finally broke up, we’d not had sex together in four years. We had filled a vacuum in our lives with holidays and gadgets and moved from one beautiful house to another. None of that helped fill the deep, sad, lonely void that we now felt existed between us. Certainly, spending up large and having a good time was fun, but it was done in a very individual, personal sort of way, not in a shared, couple way. We had stopped loving and we didn’t know it.

So, six years on, with our divorce less than a month away, I am in a new, loving relationship with someone who is 39 (I am 43) and we are 16 weeks in to a pregnancy that we never expected. I am incredibly happy and so is my new partner because neither of us thought we would ever be parents. I feel so incredibly privileged and I am still pinching myself every now and again because I’m in disbelief. As for my ex-wife, she moved on – so she says – from wanting kids very quickly after our adoption fiasco. She is adamant about how she feels but I wonder if she was not 50 this year and turning 40, she might be feeling very differently. She was the first person I told, out of respect for her, she wished me well and hugged me, even suggesting she might become god mother. She went home and sobbed her heart out. She came back to me a few days later and hurled some pretty unforgivable insults at me – but I have to admit, I had been expecting her to react like this. I felt very sad and sorry for her.

It must be very painful for my ex-wife to see me achieving that which she could not and never will. She believes that I have ‘gone over to the other side’ as so many of her IVF and non-IVF friends have when they fall pregnant, relinquishing any thoughts, emotions and pain of the route they travelled to get to parenthood. The fact is, I lived with her for 12 years, the first 8 years were dominated by IVF and our attempts to become parents, the final 4 were years of solitude and loneliness for both of us as we recovered from the devastating blows that failure served us. There are emotions and feelings in that time that I will never forget. I can never forget her selflessness or that of our donor/surrogate, but they are memories now, that occasionally become reactivated into emotions by events around me. I am filled with both gratitude for what my ex put herself through and with immense sadness when I think of how trying to become a parent actually wrecked our lives. At the same time, we have both moved on, my focus is my new family to be (hopefully) and the happiness this will give me, even more so for the trials of my previous life.

If my ex-wife wishes to be part of my new life, my new partner has made it quite clear that she is welcome. I am sure that  my ex will walk through that open door and share my happiness, but at a time that is right for her.

Darcey Anne Archer-Page at 12 weeks 

8th September, 2010: Darcey, two hours after birth. Here she is 10 weeks premature, having been delivered in an emergency where both Mandy and Darcey were at fatal risk.

Darcey Anne Archer-Page, November 2011, 14 months old
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18 responses

28 05 2010
Elle

Wow, you dark horse you!

This is brilliant, powerfully written, emotional yet sober!
It is so touching to read a man expressing this way and not bottling things up.

So sad that other men generally fail to support each other and that men’s emotions are so often discarded.
I feel for you and what you’ve been through.

How lovely though you’ve found love again and are now going to be a father.
Sometimes things are not meant to happen, however hard you try.

I know, I’ve been there, my circumstances completely different to yours but still.

I know what is like to long for a baby and also to lose one and although I count myself lucky to have survived, you never do forget.

Brilliant post, congratulations.

I look forward to reading you.

love, Elle

31 05 2010
Karen Jones

David:
Wow! That’s some powerful stuff. I wouldn’t normally comment, but I had, in the past, thought of couples “trying” to have a baby as a bit whiney. Shame on me. Your description of this experience is poignant and has given me a more realistic view of the “wannabe” parents difficult plight.
I’m impressed at your ability to share your feelings and describe so clearly the way your natural desire to have a child could destroy a relationship. Its very sad. I’m sorry you both had to go through that.
On a lighter note, I have to tell you that I was laughing so hard I was crying at your telling of the indignities caused by the insensitivity of laymen and professionals alike. (Sorry!) You’d think, with everything we know about biology and psychology that the professionals, at least, could provide you with a private, comfortable setting for every step of the process. One might expect the odd insensitive guy to make inappropriate comments, but aren’t medical staff trained on such matters? The truth is, its common sense and manners, for crying out loud.
This story appears to be a fairytale however, as it seems the guy gets the girl and they live happily ever after! Ain’t love grand? I am so happy for you.
Hugs and kisses,
KK

PS. Don’t you just fricking love those ultrasounds? Its the babies first pictures. I couldn’t stop looking at the one of Cameron and carried it everywhere with me. He was an “accident.” I guess we’re supposed to say “surprise” but, either way, he was the best mistake I ever made.

30 06 2010
Its not all about me. « Still searching for our Golden Egg

[…] out this post by a male blogger.  It’s quite long, but I found it interesting.  And it makes me realise it’s not all […]

30 06 2010
napavalley

Hi there, I do appreciate your honest sharing with us out here. Your blog has taught me more about my husband and I will be more understanding of him as we are trying as well. Our first IVf is next month and I don’t think that I’ll go for a 2nd attempt if this fails. I am a very happy wife and in love to pieces with my hubby and vice versa. If it fails, we will adopt. Our most precious asset here on earth is each other. Therefore, if we have one or don’t , that’s not important as our love for one another. We’ve had our ‘moments’ and many of them in respect of our failure to get pregnant. I’ve dealt with infertility for many long awful years and I’ve always felt that it is worse for the wife than the husband. You have proved me most ignorant and I thank you for that. My hubby has been so supportive and quiet throughout these years and so again, I am grateful for your sharing of this part of your life.

IVF clinics, gynaecologists and other specialists are so expensive. Infertility has allowed many specialists to prosper. Yes, I agree there with you. I have to fly everywhere for fertility treatment each time. That is why this first IVF I believe will be my final attempt. I feel tired and worn out from trying. I am no longer jazzed up about the idea of having a baby.

Congratulations on the new baby! I am so thrilled for you. May you have many more and many more moments of happiness.

1 07 2010
djpnz

Hello, thank you so much for your lovely email.

Look, as in all activities where a deep, loving partnership is concerned especially where the emotions are so raw, we all need to cherish that other special person’s contribution, whatever it is. Occasionally, we should all stand back and see things from their perspective. Understanding, patience, consideration, support, tenderness etc goes both ways.

You’ve obviously come to a good place: parenthood/IVF will not define your relationship. Setting those boundaries, for emotional or financial reasons or both, is a good way of keeping this monster contained. Your love for each other is more important than anything – given the choice, a baby or your partner, you’d chose your partner. We lost sight of this and unfortunately, it was this that killed us.

Dealing with infertility is so different for so many, but it has to be done together. There can’t be any dark corners in that part of your relationship, no secret yearnings, no misgivings, it has to be done together – with help I think – to ensure you’re both in the same place. Honesty is not the question, vulnerability is at issue here, to say I want a baby when your partner has given up is a brave thing to do.

Remember some key things as you approach your first attempt (fingers crossed and saying my prayers for you both): this is about you two, only you two and absolutely you two. Your families need to respect how you wish to deal with this. As you have set the boundaries for how far you’re prepared to take IVF, set similar boundaries with your families and friends. I’ve replied to another email above with a ’10 things to keep your family under control during IVF’ which I am going to post. I think it’s really important you set the scene in advance.

One last thing, you said “I’ve dealt with infertility for many long awful years and I’ve always felt that it is worse for the wife than the husband. ” I think the truth is, whoever is infertile and whoever is not, there are very different experiences and feelings, but many that are common – it’s not necessarily better or worse, just different. The infertile partner feels as if they’ve failed. They’re the ones who go through terrible guilt. But guilt of another kind is felt by the fertile partner as they try to rationalise how utterly useless they feel as they see the other partner suffering. In my situation, my wife had the same physical invasion to her privacy that you have experienced and will experience again. I can never know what that is like, I can only ‘feel’ for her and imagine what it must have been like. We all inhabit different spheres and some of them intersect, but there are realms that neither enter. It’s therefore vital for you both to explore those areas together, with some help.

I really do wish you all the very best. Good luck, and don’t forget, whatever you decide to do if things don’t work out, that’s fine too, provided you are both on the same page, but give yourselves time to think things through very carefully, rationally, clearly, openly and honestly.

Feel free to come back to me at any time.

Cheers!

David x

30 06 2010
It’s not all about me. « Still searching for our Golden Egg

[…] out this post by a male blogger.  It’s quite long, but I found it interesting.  And it makes me realise it’s not all […]

1 07 2010
nicole

Thank you for sharing your perspective. It nearly brought me to tears. I am so happy for you that you will be having a child soon.

5 11 2010
Jamie

Gosh David, I didn’t expect to read an epistle like that when I saw your name. It seems like it’s been a few months since you posted this so obviously things have progressed further, but it was so well written … I cried so much, I guess because I understand what you and J went thru, and also because I can compare on some levels to what I’ve been thru, first with J (who I don’t think you met) and now R. I can’t believe the lady above said that about couples trying to have a baby as being whiney! All the best.

11 12 2010
djpnz

Jamie,
Thanks so much for the kind email. How are you? How are you mum and dad? All well, I hope. It took a long time to put all this together and to say what I needed to say. Tears have flowed for sadness and in more recent times for joy. The experiences of infertility will scar me for life, but hopefully, they will make me a better dad than I might otherwise have been.

Take good care.

David

18 07 2014
David

I too greatly rspeect those who make the decision to become single moms, either by AI or by adoption. And, as you stated, it is SO hard to raise a child, alone or otherwise, BUT I also know that “craving” that a woman can get around a certain age… that baby fever that kicks in. And honestly, I don’t think anything else can fulfil that craving except becoming a mom of your own. So my hats are off to them.LOVE THIS: “I would encourage us all to recognize the sacrifices of our own mothers, the challenges & joys of our journey as parents (& what it takes to get here) & our membership in an exclusive club: no doubt the greatest & most challenging job around.”Great post – I stumbled it.

17 01 2011
Pjjam

Dear David,
Thank you so much for being open and brave enough to share your experiences, thoughts and feelings. I found your blog yesterday via Fertility NZ and I didn’t want to lurk.

My husband and I are about to embark on our IVF journey, having been waiting patiently (well, not that patiently, really) on the list for funding. We’ve already been frustrated that all correspondence is addressed to me and that all appointments are for me (even of they expect both of us to attend). I am saddened to hear that this one-sidedness will only get worse – but better the devil you know.

Thanks to your advice we have some better ideas of how to approach this challenge with a bit more savvy and also how to deal with those who love us (and who have already suffered many cases of foot in mouth).

I am delighted that I found your blog at the right time to see the photo of you with your lovely baby in arms. Congratulations. And thank you.

30 01 2011
djpnz

Dear Kirsten,

I am so sorry I didn’t reply sooner but I am not returning as often as I should to this site these days – I seem to have my hands full and because I do the night shift and Mandy from about 6am onwards, until sleeping patterns for Darcey change, I am knackered!

However, thank you so very much for your kind words. I am so happy that my experience and advice was of some value to you both. My opinion though is one of many you will come into contact with, and believe me it comes at you like a tropical storm, at times!! So, remembering it was my experience, it was from 2000 to 2006/7, things may indeed have changed. However, I am sure much is pretty much as it was, so I’d be interested to know.

I really do wish you every success, both of you – but please, protect your relationship and the love you have for each other at all costs, no matter what happens. Get as much counselling at you possibly can, be open and honest with each other.

I’ll say some prayers for you and keep my fingers and toes crossed, just in case. Please do keep me posted on how you’re going and if your partner even, feels the need to discuss anything at all with another chap, am more than happy to listen and advise.

Good luck and god bless.

David x

31 03 2011
Pjjam

Hi David,

It looks like I didn’t tick the follow up emails box, so I have only just seen your reply.

I hope that you have managed to find some sleep in the last couple of months and things have settled down for you.

Thank you for this reply and all your good wishes. We are fortunate that as public patients we are given open access to counsellors. Not to be sniffed at at certainly not to be turned down.

We have our first appointment (the planning one) in just over a week and then start treatment in July. Prepared – yes, no, yes, maybe. Excited – yes. Terrified – yes. In it together – most definitely.

Thanks again. I’ll pass your offer of a chat onto Will.
Kirsten

7 11 2011
redcatcher06

Well, I think I will take a leaf out your book and try this form of catharsis.
I have traveled a similar road with its own set of twists and turns that still appears to have no end destination in mind.

8 years ago, I had an ectopic pregnancy, and not even knowing I was pregnant, ended up having emergency surgery for a ruptured fallopian tube with a 6-week-old fetus. We were of course very, very sad and went on to try to have another but with one tube it proved difficult.

This led on to 3 unsuccessful attempts of IVF (1 funded) and an unsuccessful egg donor, albeit that she was 24, healthy but 11 eggs failed to fertilize. All three of us were devastated; both the donor and I thought that least one would make it!

All this took place whilst my husband was catatonic from taking painkillers while undergoing a constant stream of surgeries, but for that story, I have to take you back 4 years…

4 years ago my husband was deployed to Afghanistan for 6 months, and weighing up all the risks, we decided to freeze his sperm should anything happen to him. I am, if nothing, very practical….

Not long, after arriving, he was shot twice in the arm and it nearly killed him. 5 mins from bleeding out they managed to save him and his arm – just.

After the obligatory phone call…..you never want to be at the end of a phone call like that…. they flew him to Germany where he stayed for 3 weeks in a specialist trauma hospital before coming home to travel a very lonely and long road to recovery – for both of us.

Trust me; it is a sight you never want to see as young men are wheeled in and out like Pak n Save trolleys on a Saturday afternoon. The images will stay with me forever.

No one prepares you for theses sort of changes in your life, the catatonic effects of the drugs, and change in personality and loss of your life together. Constant surgeries, fluctuating degrees of progress, and the list could go on. I now have the utmost respect for anyone that suffers a trauma and for his or her families that will support them.

In situations like this, I am good at burying things and pushing head, which is what I did and embarked on IVF, even though my husband had no idea where we were half the time and slept most of the way back and forth to Wellington. He had enough painkillers in him to kill a wild buffalo!

I can’t tell you much about that time as it is buried somewhere in Pandora’s box along with a couple of tonnes of other stuff. It’s dusty in there and the sun never shines so I try not to open it too often as I’m not at the end of my journey, so therefore can’t reflect.

We never did get the baby. Last year we were approved for adoption so we will see how that pans out.

We are still not completely over the trauma of not being able to have our own child, as well as the on-going drug and rehabilitation issues. If we had a child I think it would have helped with the healing process, who knows. We will never find out.

We try not to think about it too much but every now and then my wheels come off, as does his, as you never signed up for this! Nevertheless, so far we have managed to put them back on and still remain together after 15 years. He is my very best friend, and a very brave man.

Marriage is a long business and white picket fences are never guaranteed. So you must find sunshine wherever you can.

Thanks for listening.

8 11 2011
djpnz

We all travel a different path, similar scenery – lush green pastures and meadows, where the sun shines and the birds sing one moment, to places of deathly silence, of craggy peaks, desolation, and greyness, the next, and then we’re back again to where we were, sun, rain, hail and snow, all the seasons in a day. However, just to complicate matters, our partners go through their own torment and agony, in your case, physical as well as psychological. It cannot have been easy, indeed, it may, from time to time still not be easy. I don’t subscribe to the view of grinning and bearing it – actually, the stiff upper lip martyrdom of previous generations is something, thankfully I have no truck with. Holding one’s reserve is a matter of appropriateness, but in this place, there are no rules other than openness and honesty. I thank you for writing from the heart. It’s never easy, but in here at least you found some degree of sanctuary. You both know where this place is now should it serve to help you. I needed an outlet and catharsis is indeed what I sought and obtained. I have now made it my mission to ensure that the misery of infertility is something that as many people as possible who come into my circle are aware of – it is a curse that causes so much pain and most live their lives in blissful ignorance of it. There is so much that could be done, but even fewer people care xx

15 01 2012
Brenda Stevens Corbin

David,

I have just found your blog and have read this first post. I am the infertile side in our relationship and I constantly blame myself during this course of life. we have just decided to try pursuing further treatments as the ovulation induction medications have not produced the results we truly hoped for. We in Maine in the USA and will have to do some traveling for the fertility clinics but I am hopeful. I am glad I found your blog and it has made me realize that I can see a different perspective for him. Also to keep me on the persepective of focusing on our marriage and my love for him regardless of everything going around us. Thank you.

20 01 2012
djpnz

Dear Brenda,

Every time I read about the feeling of ‘blame’ that we all take on board – be it the blame of the infertile one who takes it upon themselves to feel wretched and useless, or the blame of the fertile one, feeling incompetent, ineffectual and useless in helping to support one’s partner, it makes me very sad. It’s so destructive and negative for both of you to feel this way and I so feel for you.

It is also heart rendering to hear that a medication or process has ‘not produced the results we truly hoped for’. I totally understand that bitter disappointment and sense of despair, each and every time it happens. The aspect of this that’s so hard is the realization that medical science is limited in its ability to deliver successful results with odds that dramatically exceed those of lotto or the roulette wheel. It’s not possible to say anything of use to assuage that feeling, which is why it is so good to hear that you are going to focus on things that need to endure, whatever the outcome, your marriage, your mutual love for each other and your future happiness.

If my blog has made a difference – I am delighted. Hold on to what defined you, the couple, do not let infertility define you. By sounds of things, this is precisely what you’re doing. Good luck courageous people that you are, and may you find peace, whatever the outcomes of your trials.

29 07 2015
It takes two to make a baby | Crazy Active Swan

[…] What about me or is that far too selfish? (opens in a new window) explains the heartache and the part that no fertility clinic ever wants to show you, until your already that deeply invested you couldn’t careless about what was happening. […]

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