Over the last year I’ve met so many wonderful people in the infertility community online who I’ve learned so much from. The majority of them are women but there are a small group of men of connected with who have influenced me being open. Back in February just after I learned that I would never be able to conceive a child I found a blog called “Life as a Dad to Donor Insemination Kids” it’s written by Eric Schwartzman who as the title of the blog says is a dad to two children who were conceived through donor sperm. I was really intrigued by it as it was the first blog or resource I came across that was written by a man who dealt with male infertility.
It was through this blog that Eric referred me to his yahoo group that he created called “DI Dads“. This is a men only yahoo group made up of men that are either dads of children conceived through donor sperm and men who are infertile that are considering starting a family through donor sperm. You won’t find a more supportive group of men any where on a topic that is as sensitive as male infertility is. This was my life line early on in being able to connect to other men who knew exactly what I was going through emotionally. Although my wife and I have not decided to pursue this route, I can’t thank Eric and the members if this group enough for the support and guidance they provided me. IMO, any man who is dealing with infertility who is considering building their family through donor insemination should join this group.
With there being few resources and support groups for men going through infertility, Eric Schwartzman is a pioneer in this field for providing something that is lacking. Though I am not one to tell other men they should be as open as they are with their infertility as I am, I wish there were more guys like Eric out there to provide more resources and support groups for men like us.
The internet and social media have been a blessing in going through this infertility journey. It’s been a great resource for information as well as being able to connect with some great people that I’ve learned so much from. However, it’s also been a curse specifically with Facebook. Facebook for me has been a reminder watching friends and family sharing pictures of their children of what doesn’t and may never exist for my wife and I. I’ve been able to limit its impact by blocking the newsfeeds of certain people who do nothing but post pictures of their kids. It’s not that I am not happy for them it’s that they are just triggers for me.
Recently I came across a piece written by a woman who runs an infertility site called “Baby Hopeful“. I highly recommend her site for anyone going through infertility as their are a lot of great pieces on the site. In her piece “Facebook: The Enemy?” she analyzes many of the range of emotions people who are infertile go through being regular Facebook users. Like her I thought about closing out my account but that addiction she talks about kept her coming back:
A few months ago I decided that it was unrealistic to quit FB when I have so many friends on there, especially ones who live far away who I don’t see often. So, I’d literally share a few holiday snaps now and again, but did not look on peoples pages anymore. The odd baby or bump picture that popped up on my page was not too hard to cope with (although I have to admit, seeing friends with their second pregnancy or baby was pretty tough).
Well, I went on Facebook again today… why did I bother? Now I just feel sad. I have no bump photos to share, no pregnancy symptoms to moan about, no baby pictures to post, no lack of sleep complaints (because of my newborn) and no happy family outings to comment and share photos of.
For me the blocking newsfeed option has made my Facebook experience more enjoyable. But I understand where she is coming from and why she quit Facebook because a lot of people in our shoes are and have been going through the same thing. It’s just the curse that balances the blessing of the internet and social media for those going through infertility.
If you would have asked me 10 or even 5 years ago what my life would look like at 33 it would be very different than what it is. I would have thought my wife and I would have conceived a child and we’d be working through the grind of being two working parents. I would think we would be getting ready to host Thanksgiving this upcoming Thursday and preparing to buy Christmas presents for our child. But what you think your life will be down the road is very different than what it actually becomes.
My life is very different than what I pictured it would be. Instead for the second year in a row my wife and I will be vacationing this Thanksgiving together. We won’t be preparing to buy presents for our child and instead it will be another ho hum Christmas as we watch our friends and other family members post pictures of their children on Facebook. It’s just depressing especially with this being the first set of holidays since our infertility diagnosis. This time last year we were making an appointment to see a Reproductive Endocrinologist trying to find out why our attempts to conceive a child after 18 months had been unsuccessful. Within a matter of weeks we would find out the worst case scenario. Actually I take that back, the worst case scenario would have been something life threatening to either my wife or I as being the reason for our infertility.
Despite the disappointment of what our lives aren’t there are things that I am thankful for this Thanksgiving. First is my wonderful wife who I care more about than anyone in the world. She has hurt and gone through just as much if not more grief than I have this past year and yet our bond is as strong as ever. Second is our dog Lila who brings us so much joy and love. My favorite part of each day is when my wife comes home from work and Lila goes crazy because she is so happy her mommy is home. It brings a smile to my face. Third are our close friends and family who for the most part have been very supportive of us. Fourth are the many people on line in the infertility, adoption and donor conceived communities that have taught me so much and have engaged with me despite me being a pain in the ass at times. I’ve never met any of you in person but I feel like I have at times. And lastly I am thankful for the therapists I and my wife have worked with in 2013. If not for them I don’t know where we would be emotionally individually and as a couple.
We are still not sure how we will proceed either becoming parents through adoption or continuity to live a childless life. There are certain things that we need to figure out and work through first before making that decision. To be honest I’m very scared in making that decision especially if it ends up being continuing to live a childless life because I have no idea what I will do to fill that void. But either way I am hopeful we’ll make that decision sometime in 2014.
I am thankful that we’ll have that opportunity and thankful for the people and support in our lives that have helped us work through a shitty 2013 and hope 2014 is a better year.
I’ve been debating on whether to make my blog public recently. Most of our friends and our families already know anyway. Plus if you follow me on twitter it has my full name on there. But I thought I would be fun to open up more about me the person here for those who don’t know me. So I figured for you all who read my blog I would share some random facts about me to get to know the guy behind the blog:
-I am short, only 5’4″.
-I am 100% Italian which means if I ever had joined the mafia I could have been made.
-Although I have lived in NJ since I was 2.5, I actually was born in NYC and lived in Queens before my parents moved to Jersey.
-I have one younger brother who is 6 years younger than me.
-I went to college in Virginia majoring in Political Science.
-I interned on Capital Hill in the Spring of 2002 in an office that was two doors down from an office that received Anthrax right after 9/11
-I worked on a Congressional campaign after I graduated college and actually got a chance to meet Former VP Al Gore.
-My Social politics are liberal but as I’ve gotten older my economic politics have become more conservative.
-I am a huge sports fan who loves the Mets, football Giants and hockey Rangers.
-As being a big fan of those teams, I hate the Yankees, all teams from Philadelphia, teams in the NFC East, Devils and Islanders.
-My favorite athletes include Mike Piazza, Adam Graves and Mark Bavaro.
-My most hated athletes include Roger Clemens, Martin Broduer and Michael Irvin.
-I am a big Howard Stern fan. I know some people find him offensive but I find his show entertaining. He makes my hour and twenty minute commute more bearable.
-I am a big Bruce Springsteen fan (I know surprise surprise I’m from Jersey).
-I also love Pearl Jam and saw them for the second time in concert in Philly last month.
-I am not really coordinated which is why I swam and ran long distance as a kid.
-If I like a person and become comfortable with them I will joke around with them. Those I don’t like I won’t joke around with.
-My favorite movie of all time is Goodfellas.
-I love dumb movies with lots of dumb guy humor that I love to recite lines too. My favorite comedy is The Big Lebowski.
-My favorite stand up comedian of all time is George Carlin.
-My favorite city in the world is Florence, Italy.
-My favorite city in the US is San Francisco.
-Before I got married I had little cooking experience in fact a few months into marriage I once cooked a cucumber thinking it was a zucchini. Now I can cook well just not as well as my wife.
-Speaking of food I once ate 4 Philly Cheesesteaks from Genos within an 8 hour period.
-I’m an Apple person and I’ll never go back to a PC or non Apple phone.
-My wife is an attorney who does Family, Bankruptcy and Real Estate. I joke with people if I ever mess up I’ll end up in a card board box.
-Speaking of my wife, I proposed to her in Paris at Luxembourg Gardens. When I asked she said “Of course”.
There you have it, that’s me in a nutshell.
I’ve been rather fortunate that the friends and family I’ve come out to about my infertility have been nothing but supportive. Earlier today I had another positive experience. A friend of mine who I used to work with recently gave birth to her first child. Last night she sent out an invitation on Facebook inviting people to her house on Saturday to meet her son. I didn’t want to be rude and decline so I sent her a message explaining our situation. She was very understanding and even explained how she had a miscarriage two years ago. She explained that after the miscarriage she avoided friends with babies and ones who were pregnant. She said that while her situation is different than ours she understood why.
I was very happy with the response I received but sad what infertility has done to me. Her and her husband are good friends and I am very happy for them. I would have loved to see them. But the wounds of infertility are still open and I’m afraid that it would be triggering for us.
Overall I can’t point to one person I came out to where it was a negative experience though coming out to my one boss was negative in that he then turned around saw it as an opportunity to have me travel more. But that is just one exception. Even though outside of two friends everyone family and friends had no experience with infertility they’ve all been supportive of us and very rarely have insensitive comments been made. I’m very thankful for that.
This post has been a long time coming where I rail on those groups of people who come across as enemies of infertility. They are the ones who refer to infertiles as being bitter, entitled and selfish. They are the ones who had no problem conceiving their own children yet judge those who are infertile for the decisions they make to create their families. However, I’ve instead decided not to rail on them but to reach out to help them better understand where the infertile community is coming from. Because I’ve learned that ranting and attacking doesn’t make anyone want to listen to you or be empathetic to your cause.
When I first got my diagnosis of non obstructive azoospermia, I did a lot of research on donor conception. One of the groups I came across was one called the Center for Bioethics and Culture network. Their issues range from euthanasia, abortion, cloning and assisted reproduction/third party reproduction. They are against assisted reproduction, which is something that allows couples who are infertile have children. It’s something that their two heads Matthew Eppinette and Jennifer Lahl as well as other employees at their organization never had to deal with and are very uniformed when it comes to the emotional tool infertility takes on its victims.
Please don’t get me wrong, I understand where these groups are coming from. I respect that they have moral and ethical issues with assisted reproduction and I do believe we need to study the long term impacts of these procedures. However, where Mr. Eppinette and Ms. Lahl completely miss the boat is their lack of empathy for the infertile, recognition of the emotional pain infertility causes and why is infertility on the rise. The lack of empathy in their work is evident even though they try to go around it with things like we feel bad for those going through Infertility and will finish off the piece with comments like “Adult selfish desires trumps again”. So that also ties into their lack of recognition of the emotional pain that we go through. They don’t understand what drives individuals to go to the lengths they do to have children. People who have children will never ever understand it. But the least they can do is recognize it.
My biggest issue with this group is that for all the research that this organization does they to next to no research on the rise in infertility and the environmental factors that are contributing to it. Instead Ms. Lahl’s tactics are to shame those going through infertility such as she did in this piece. What she fails to realize is that the majority of people going through infertility are in their late 20′s and early 30′s not their 40′s like she would have you believing. I believe her organization if they truly care about the health of the human race should investigate the companies that pollute and add toxins to our environment that have contributed to the increase in infertility.
As I said earlier I respect this group’s passion I just believe if they were more supportive and recognized certain aspects of infertility that I would support their organizations cause. Their tactics of shaming infertiles don’t gain the support of the infertility community but instead anger it which will lead to both sides becoming enemies rather than working together.