Infertility is a “lady problem.” Insert air quotes. Let voice fall to whisper as if discussing menstrual cramps, the absorbancy of tampons, how much that same underwire bra that gives your breasts a boost hurts like hell to wear and causes ring-around-the-chest. Bottom line: It’s none of his concern really.
Except, of course, it is his concern in at least 35 percent of infertility cases and 100 percent of the time where male-factor infertility is at the crux of why our circadian rhythm reflects early-morning appointments for vaginal ultrasounds.
I know this to be true.
Once upon a time, back when I took for granted how simple it would be to get knocked up (and, if we’re being honest, I wasn’t really thinking about it), the love of my life took me for a slightly-soggy, snowy walk through a sculpture park in Lincoln, paused in front of Jim Dine’s “Two Big Black Hearts” and asked me to marry him. Reflecting on the sculpture featuring, well, two big black hearts out of which emanate hundreds of hand tools – saws, hammers, nails – he reminded me that real love wants hard work. He was willing to put in whatever time, energy or effort it took. Was I, he wondered aloud? Yes. And that’s what I told him because that’s what I meant.
So I married the youngest son of one self-proclaimed Fertile Myrtle and Bountiful Bob. Post-wedding/pre-honeymoon we said our see-you-soons before catching a ride to Logan. My newly-acquired mother-in-law wished us well with a note of caution: “Unless you want to come back from Kauai with more than just a fabulous tan, make sure you’ve packed your birth control. In this family, we get pregnant like [insert snap of fingers here].” And because, at the time, we didn’t terribly want to get pregnant like snap but were still fully convinced that’s how it would happen, we were careful. Very.
Of course, as we’d learn three years hence, we didn’t have to be because even the spawn of these two hella-fertile folk could be, as it were, unable to impregnate a gal the old-fashioned way. Let alone like snap. At once (or, more accurately, after a full fertility work-up and consults with some of the finest docs in town) it became apparent this was a classic case of Male-Factor Infertility.
But to pass this off as a dude’s issue would be a massive misnomer.
Of course, male-factor infertility accurately reflects our diagnosis. Don’t get me wrong, being able to pin-point why exactly we’re so decidedly not pregnant positions us to better treat the problem and build our family through assisted reproductive technology. It speaks to the fact that infertility is hardly a ladies-only problem.
But getting caught up in the hims and hers of infertility runs afoul of this important truth: If you’re one half a couple struggling with this disease (or, hell, an aspiring single ma or pa with friends, family, associates!) this isn’t her problem. Or his. It’s ours.
In this way and true to our promise to commit time, energy and effort, we’ve done so: forfeiting wine with dinner, dips in hotel hot tubs…trusting our bodies to doctors’ care, marveling at new needle-induced bruises (nay, track marks) along our arms and bellies, scheduling date nights around work and clinic visits, weeping for a kid that isn’t and ritually day-dreaming a child to life during each and every two-week wait until, at long last, (s)he’s real. Ours.
PS) Join us and the fabulous folks at RESOLVE in marking National Infertility Awareness Week: April 24-30, 2011! Improve your IF know-how or learn what you can do, right now, to raise awareness and lend support.