I’ve been putting off writing this post. In part because it’s really personal, but mostly because I feel like someone has taken a proverbial sledgehammer to my masculinity, Gallagher-style.
I told you all that MJ and I began looking into IVF following our inability to either get pregnant or sustain a pregnancy since Will was born. With all the trouble we’ve had both before Will’s birth and afterwards, I kind of just figured if there was a medical problem, it would have something to do with MJ. Don’t get me wrong, that’s not me blaming her or being mad at her. I was just thinking of all the shit and procedures she’s had to endure, and logically it stood to reason something had happened in one of those surgeries that caused a problem with our ability to conceive.
I went in for what I thought was a routine specimen check. But it turns out, I’m the problem.
I won’t bore you with all things sperm morphology-related. Even I’m creeped out talking about it and it’s my baby batter. But I do think it’s important to talk about how this whole thing made me feel, because I know for a fact it’s something men in this situation struggle with, and putting it all on the table is the best way to deal with it.
First of all, it helps if you have a doctor who isn’t an inadvertently offensive ass clown. I understand they deal with this stuff all day and they want to move quickly so they can help. I get it. But it doesn’t matter how often you’ve broken bad news to someone, because it’s likely the first time they’re hearing it and dealing with the flood of emotions. So, in the future, you might want to avoid sounding like a condescending jerkoff while explaining the problem as you would to a small child.
“Well, basically the shape of your sperm is a little off and they’re confused. Instead of swimming to the goal — which is the egg — they’re off running around in circles some place they’re not supposed to be. So all we’re gonna do is make sure the best ones are in the right place at the right time.”
Golly gee Capt. Kangaroo, thank you for that wonderful explanation. Granted, I didn’t go to medical school, but I’m sure even my feeble mind could’ve handled a slightly more comprehensive explanation. But hey, not only did you talk down to me, I also feel like shit about myself. About my manhood. About the very thing that makes me a man and allows me to reproduce. Now for the rest of my life I can rest easy, knowing my swimmers are zombified, miniature versions of the 3 Stooges. Moe, Larry, and Curly smacking each other around over in the corner like a bunch of drunken frat boys.
But that was nothing compared to the immediate flood of pure shame I felt. Women have to do EVERYTHING during pregnancy. Her egg inside her body is fertilized, and she goes on to literally house and shelter the baby for nine months. My only job — the only early role I have to play — is to (literally) plant the seed. That’s it. And now, I’m not even able to do that.
Unfortunately, things got even worse when we got in the car. Because my wife is not a man, she saw no reason for me to be upset, nevermind completely devastated. So instead of being understanding, she was pissed that I was pissed. Ladies, I know it’s probably hard to understand. But if your guy is anything like me, he feels worthless and emasculated. Biologically speaking, men are put on this earth to spread their seed and procreate. So when a doctor sits there and tells you something has gone haywire with your primordial ooze, it’s a blow to our caveman DNA. We don’t feel like men. And so we pout.
And then we get ridiculous. Or at least I did. Because I was hurting, I felt like lashing out. And given the news I just received — which involved learning that I have a roughly 2% chance of successfully conceiving a child, my mind stupidly wandered to (what I believe to be) one of the biggest and most irrational fears fathers have.
“Since we know I’m now a man in name only, is Will really even mine?”
There are lots of questions you shouldn’t ask your wife. “Are you really wearing that?” “Have you put on weight?” “Do you realize you’re starting to act just like your mother?” I wish I had asked one, or even all, of those stupid questions. But instead, I vaulted myself right to the top of Asshole Mountain by asking my wife if she cheated on me, was impregnated with another man’s baby, and lied to me about it for 4.5 years. Yeah…I’m THAT guy.
To her credit, MJ remained pretty calm. And then she pointed out the silver lining that should’ve been completely obvious to me the moment I heard the news.
Will. My sweet, healthy, fantastic, perfect son. Made even more perfect by the fact that it’s a minor miracle we could even have him. Against some truly staggering odds we didn’t even know we were facing, we got the lucky break of a lifetime and were able to conceive a healthy child without IVF.
I immediately felt very sheepish and selfish. How many couples out there have been trying — either with or without IVF — for years with nothing to show for it? I can’t even imagine wanting a child so badly, trying so hard for so long, and enduring heartbreak after heartbreak. I can’t fathom walking by an empty nursery that’s been set up for years, just waiting for a brand new boy or girl to occupy it. Sure MJ and I have dealt with our share of rough times, but we have Will. Sweet Will, who constantly brightens our lives and gives us purpose. Even when he’s being a shit I’m still beyond thankful I have him. And now that I know he’s a longshot baby, I appreciate him even more.
To be honest, I still feel like half a man. I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help it. I feel like all of this struggle is my fault, and I feel incredibly guilty for being the cause of our inability to complete our family. Is that ridiculous? Of course. If the tables were turned and something was physically wrong with MJ, there’s NO WAY I’d ever blame her. It wouldn’t even cross my mind. And she doesn’t blame me either, but that doesn’t stop me from blaming myself.
I don’t really have any advice for the guys going through a similar situation. In fact, I could probably use some. All I can say is there’s a bunch of us out there and we’re probably feeling the same way. So let’s rest easy in the knowledge that we’re all being unnecessarily stupid and hard on ourselves together.
Next up, to see if our insurance will cover all of this, and what type of IVF we’re eligible for. Stay tuned.