As part of Resolve’s National Infertility Awareness Week, I am participating in their bloggers challenge.
One of the many reasons I started this blog over two years ago was to connect with others going through similar journeys. Though statistics show that one in six couples go through infertility you run into few of them in real life. Of those infertile couples one third of them are due to male factor (despite the myth that infertility is a woman’s problem).
Men by nature are not transparent when it comes to emotional topics. We are raised to be tough, keep things on the surface and push any emotions beneath the surface. Thus there are very few men who are infertile who do speak up about their journeys.
I recognize that I am not every man and not every infertile man out there. I am unusual in that I’m comfortable in speaking up about infertility and male infertility. That doesn’t make me a better man than those infertile men who aren’t. I’m just different though I am not alone.
Society’s stereotypes of men has created this stigma with being an infertile man. Though personally I have not felt it there are many men who are infertile feel like they aren’t man enough to get their wives pregnant.
For the infertile men out there, I am here to tell you that you aren’t alone even if it feels that way.
There are many infertile men out there. Men like Tom Arnold and Gordon Ramsey who have had the courage to speak up. You aren’t alone when you feel inadequate that you are unable to get your wives pregnant the way most men are. You aren’t alone when you are the only one of your friends who isn’t a dad because of your body. You aren’t alone when you struggle to put the smile on your face when deep down you hurt. You aren’t alone when you feel hopeless that infertility isn’t something that you can fix. You aren’t alone when you are scared that you’ll never become a dad. You aren’t alone when it feels like a bad nightmare that you cannot wake up from.
Rather than thinking you are alone, the reality is you are part of a Fraternity that is made up of many great men. Regardless of whether or not you go onto become a dad you will always be a brother in this Fraternity. I am proud to be a part of this Fraternity and hope the other infertile men out there are as well. Because none of us are alone.
My anxiety along with depression has been out of control lately because of the upcoming appointment with the urologist. The last thing I wanted to do was push it back when I had waited two months to make the appointment. I wanted to just get it over with.
Recently K started a new job after a two year hard search. Due to her starting that new job she wasn’t able to take off next Wednesday which would have left me going to the appointment alone. I thought about going alone but I didn’t feel it would be right to. This is our journey and it impacts her just as much as it impacts me. The goal is for us to become parents together not just me alone.
So I have moved my appointment to Tuesday May 5th when K will be able to take off to come with me. It’s not what I wanted to do but what I had to do. A lot of this infertility journey for a lot of us is doing what we have to do rather than doing what we want to do.
The challenging part will be controlling my anxiety as well as addressing my depression another two weeks. It’s been hard enough as it is and will be even harder. But nothing about this journey has been easy so I don’t expect it to now. I actually expect it to get even more difficult.
I have been sitting on this post for a few weeks with me working through depression and the anxiety of my upcoming appointment but a conversation came up that made me get back to it. A recent post I wrote about a few weeks ago about friendships impacted by infertility led me to getting together with that group of friends two weeks ago. I felt I needed to not let my infertility get in the way of great friendships that have meant a lot to me.
Going into the weekend I thought I could handle being in the presence of my two friends that are dad’s, my friend who will become a dad in the next few months and his pregnant wife. I thought I could handle them bringing up topics concerning their kids and getting ready to become a parent. But I was wrong. I’m not that strong at least not at this point if I’ll ever be.
There were only 2-3 points that weekend when these topics came up. Yet each time it came up it got me thinking how I will never be able to have their experiences because of my body. I felt I had nothing to contribute to those conversations because of my body. All the deep dark feelings I’ve been feeling came up as I sat there in silence or playing with my phone.
In case one of those friend’s reads this, please don’t apologize for anything you said. You don’t have anything to apologize for and neither do our two other friends. The reality is this has nothing to do with you and everything to do with the shitty hand I was dealt and how it’s brought up feelings of having little self worth.
I don’t think it’s fair for any of these friends to avoid these topics around me as it is a big part of their lives. I feel like I would be denying them their happiness and sharing of their life. I feel like they’d be walking on egg shells around me. I would feel like I am a burden being around them.
As much as it sucks unless my situation changes I don’t think I can hang out with them much anymore. Our lives are very different today and we have very little in common. That’s not anyone’s fault either it’s just what has happened in our lives.
I know there are those who feel people with children should be more sensitive and empathetic. I agree they can be but at the same time there is only so much they can do. They can be empathetic (my friends definitely are empathetic) but at the same time they can’t pretend they or their wives aren’t pregnant. They can’t pretend that their children make up almost their whole life. Asking them to avoid talking about these topics around us is unfair to them.
This is one of those situations where I don’t know if there is an easy answer and its different for each person. For me the answer is to communicate how I feel without lashing out at others recognizing my hurt has nothing to do with them. I also recognize that for me I just don’t fit in with people who have children. It’s too tough for me and I don’t want it to all be about me. That’s not a friendship to me. It’s best for me to distance myself from those social situations. I know it sucks but it is what it is. And it has nothing to do with them and everything to do with me.
The last two years have been a roller coaster some highs and mostly lows. This year has been no different. Except this current low I’m on has brought on the worst depression I’ve faced since my infertilty diagnosis and the deepest darkest place I’ve been in since I was a teenager and went through a serious period of depression.
Lately with me appointment two weeks away I’ve gone through my mind about the fallout of a worst case scenario of being told there is nothing that can be done. I’ve had thoughts about whether there was a reason I’m not able to have children and questioning my self worth. I’ve doubted the type of person I am and that I’m just not good enough to have children. That I’m too weak and not worthy of having a legacy. That I would suck at parenting and damage the child we raised. That society is better off that I don’t become a parent.
This has led to me starting to think that there is no point to living life. I’ve accomplished all I can and there is nothing left to do. Understand I could never harm myself. I fear death already. Going down that road on my own is something I’m not strong enough to do. But I’ve gone to bed some nights thinking it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if I didn’t wake up the next day.
These thoughts go back to growing up with ADD struggling in school and socially. I never thought I was good enough. I always had high expectations of myself because no one outside of my parents thought I was capable of succeeding when challenged. Infertility has dug those feelings up as an adult only worse because unlike back then my whole life isn’t ahead of me. This is my life and without being able to have kids it tells me that once again I’m just not able to accomplish much of anything.
This all maybe just irrational thoughts for nothing and on April 22nd I find out there’s a chance we could have kids. But there’s a good chance I could be at the beginning of a middle aged depression that I never get out of. I thought I would be better prepared mentally and emotionally for this appointment than I was two years ago. But right now I don’t think I am.
Back in October 2012 K and I purchased our first iPhones (the iPhone 5). Being a guy who loves gadgets I loved it. I no longer needed an iPod for my music. I had my phone for that and everything else. But that phone would be the phone where I would have some of the most devastating conversations in my Adult Life. It’s the phone where I got the call on about my negative sperm analysis and blood test results. It’s the phone when I first heard the phrases Non Obstructive Azoospermia and Y Chromosome Microdeletions.
Don’t get me wrong I loved that phone and how much it let me do. It was the phone that was my guide in my half marathon training last summer/fall. Over the last few months the battery started to weaken and I knew it’s time with me was coming to a close. Today my new iPhone came and has been set up.
Which brings me to the title of this thread which is a quote from the great Eli Manning from the 2007 America’s Game done on the Super Bowl XLII champion NY Giants. The part of the show where Eli talks about how before the NFC title game against the Packers in sub zero weather he asked his fiancé to sit outside rather than a suite because the Giants had a better record when she attended games where she sat outside and a bad record when she sat in a suite. He had the quote “I’m not Supersticious but I’m a little Sticious.” On a side note she sat in the Suite for the game without telling him……but the Giants won the game anyway.
So at a time when I need some good luck I hope that getting rid of my old phone and going with my new phone will bring me some good luck. Though I’m sure to some people it may sound crazy and that’s ok because I admit I’m a little crazy.
It took me two months to finally do it but I have scheduled my appointment with a new urologist to seek a second opinion. I will be going on April 22nd. Unfortunately this urologist is out of my insurance’s network but he is one of the best in his field and I have HSA dollars saved up to cover the out of pocket costs. Of the things I’m dealing with the money is the least of my worries.
Coming to terms with being depressed has been hard. Doing it while going for a second opinion is even harder. Locating my test results from two years ago and looking at them brought back all of the worst feelings I felt two years. It brought back the bad memories of how it all went down from the negative semen analysis to getting the calls at work with my test results that brought my world down and changed my life forever.
Looking back on that has brought back my worst nightmare going back to that deep dark place I was in 2 years ago. This was all back before I blogged here and connected with so many wonderful friends on Twitter. Back then I was numb and in shock. Sure I was sad but I was still processing the level of hurt I was in. Prior to the first urologist I saw I remember having my first therapist appointment (the first in a seven month stretch) and telling the therapist that all I was looking for was a little bit of hope and a chance that K & I could conceive a child some how.
This time around I’m more aware of what I’m feeling and why I’m feeling it. I am scared about this appointment. I am scared I will be told the same news that there is nothing that can be done. All the research out there says the recommendations won’t be any different. I don’t know how I can deal with knowing the only option we have on the table won’t happen. Two years ago with donor sperm and adoption on the table I felt better knowing we had other options.
I’ve thought about it a lot lately and I don’t think I can live childless for the rest of my life. There is nothing wrong with living childless, I just don’t think I can do it and I don’t want to do it. The fear of this continues to enter my head and has made it hard for me to be hopeful.
I want to experience a positive pregnancy test with K and hold her while we soak in the moment. I want her to experience a pregnancy and to be there for her and take care of her throughout the journey. I want to create and build a nursery with her as we prepare for the arrival of the child. I want to hold her hand during the birth of the child and look into her beautiful blue eyes. I want all of the challenges of parenthood and to take them on with her. I want to raise a child with her and have that child become the adult that they want to and were meant to become.
I know sometimes in life you can’t always get what you want but having a child with someone you love seems like such a basic concept that the majority of adults experience. Knowing that my body is the reason why that can’t happen for us makes me like less of a person. It makes me feel like I’m not good enough or strong enough to pass down a legacy to the next generation. It makes me feel like there is something wrong with me.
Right now all I can do is hope that we are given some hope and a chance on April 22nd. But based on past experience it’s really hard to have hope.
On a side note I would like to thank Jay from thetwoweekwait who was kind enough to look into urology practices that specialize in my condition and connect me to the practice I will be going to. You are a great friend and a special person in the infertility community fighting for us all.
I think anyone who goes through infertility experiences the bi polar emotions that come with it. If you weren’t bi polar before infertility you experience it during infertility. In the last six months I’ve gone through at least two high periods of feeling great and two periods of feeling awful. Right now I’m in one of those low periods of feeling awful. But it’s more than just feeling awful, I think I’m in denial that I’m depressed.
For me depression isn’t where I can’t get out of bed and perform everyday tasks. Instead it’s me going through the motions of everyday life but lacking energy, lacking happiness in the good in my life, lacking motivation and wanting to be alone. It’s having a hopelessness approach to life and feeling like this is what it is and there is nothing I can do about it. Right now I’m experiencing all of this.
I’m able to get up everyday and do what I have to do but I’m not able to go beyond that. I lack energy and motivation. Despite me landing a new job within my company that I’ve wanted for the last year and after six weeks of physical therapy now I’m running again, I’m not able to enjoy those things because I’m just down in the dumps about things in other parts of my life. Getting back into running is both a good and bad thing. It helps with my self confidence but also gives me time alone to think about things which puts me in an even worse mood. I just want to be alone rather than surrounded by people even those closest to me. I’m not hopeful any longer that things can change. Seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is getting harder to see.
All of this points to me being depressed. I don’t want to admit it out loud to those in my life (though I’ll definitely bring it up with my therapist). I was in denial that I wasn’t depressed for months. But it’s something that I’m just now recognizing. Maybe I had trouble recognizing it because unlike two years ago, I do have things in my life that are going well. Unlike two years ago I’m more physically active and have activities that I didn’t have two years ago. That still doesn’t change the fact that I’m not a parent and my body is the reason why I’m not a parent. I feel like a lesser person because of it. I won’t have any legacy that I will pass on. I feel like I’m not supposed to have a legacy that is worthy of being passed on. If there was I would have been born with the ability to do so.
I know some of you are wondering whether I’ve made an appointment with the urologist for a second opinion. The answer to that is not yet. It’s been on hold due to things going on in my life that I can’t get into on this blog. But I will be making that appointment at some point. That could be the thing that turns things around but it could also be the thing that sends me to a deep dark place that I never get out of.
Right now I don’t believe I can or want to live a childless life. Sure others have lived fulfilling lives w/out children so I’m not going to deny its possible for someone who is infertile to live a fulfilling life w/out having kids. I would be disrespectful to those who have. The idea of being childless forever with no legacy has me depressed and I don’t know how to get out of this depression. I’m hoping I can but two years later when nothing has changed on the becoming a parent front it’s impossible to think that it ever will change.
I’ve been very fortunate that almost all of my friends and family have been extremely supportive over the last two plus years since I received my diagnosis. I’ve had very few insensitive comments that have upset me. I’ve had friends step up and go out of their way to be their for me. I know there are many people going through infertility who aren’t as lucky to have such a great support system. I am truly grateful for the support I’ve recieved. Though I can’t say that despite that great support that it hasn’t impacted many important relationships in my life.
Last week I spoke with a close friend of mine. He’s a friend who reads this blog and I’m hoping that he is able to read this piece. We have known each other for 14 years dating back to college. We’ve had many memorable times and nights together. We’ve also had many great nights that neither one of us can remember. If anyone has seen the movie Old School he was “Frank the Tank”. Though unlike in the movie, this “Frank the Tank” did die but for the better. He became a Dad almost five years ago (can’t believe his daughter is going to be 5 in May) and since then he and his wife have gone on to have their second child. Since my infertility diagnosis though we haven’t spoken much or seen each other as much (we live six hours away) the times we have spoken he’s been very supportive of me and we’ve still had good times (though they’ve been more tame). I hadn’t really thought much about why we hadn’t spoken other than life getting in the way.
We connected last week to catch up as it had been a while since we spoke. It was a tough conversation as I had to let him know about something difficult I’m working through right now (it’s not something I can discuss here on this blog). The conversation led to him apologizing for seeming distant over the last two years because he didn’t know how to interact with me and what I have been going through. With him being a parent his family is his main focus in life and rightfully so, it’s what makes him a great parent. That is a big topic of conversation in his life as it is for anyone. How to balance that became a struggle for him interacting with someone going through infertility.
Right away I stopped him and told him that he didn’t need to apologize. I really did mean it. He has nothing to apologize for. It upsets me that he even felt he had to apologize. He did what anyone in his position would have done. Heck if roles were reversed I would have taken the same approach. Though I’m glad he brought the topic up because it reminded me how important his friendship is to me. His friendship is not something I would want to lose.
In interacting with so many people going through infertility I don’t think this situation is uncommon and it highlights one of the many reasons infertility sucks. It impacts so many things in our lives including repationships that mean so much to us. In some cases we maybe distant to protect ourselves and in other cases others become distant to not hurt us. I don’t think either side has to apologize to each other. We are all doing the best we can in life with what we have to work with.
I hope for myself and others in similar situations that our relationships are able to rise above the awkwardness and tension. I hope that the relationships we cherish survive the troubled times and grow old together. In my situation I’m not going to let infertility be the cause of a losing a friendship that means a lot to me (even if “Frank the Tank” is dead).
This is another one of my posts that is going to be hypocritical based upon what I’ve written in the past. Back in December I wrote a piece on “Hope” and “Not Giving Up”. The argument that I made is that we shouldn’t tell each other to have hope and to never give up because it can set a person up for disappointment because there is no guarantee things will work out.
Fast forward almost three months. The decision to not pursue adoption was made. The idea of moving forward childless/free was explored. Then finally I have begun to think about exploring something I didn’t do two years ago in going back for a second opinion and possible biopsy to see if there is any sperm hidden in my boys. In the middle of all of this I had to stop running and go to Physical Therapy as my calf and Achilles’ tendon didn’t get any better plus my back started acting up again. And I found out the last of my childless college friends wife is pregnant leaving me as the only one in the group not a member of the “Dad Club”.
In that three months despite dealing with all of that my perspective on hope has changed. I’m more hopeful that things will work out in some way. Not being hopeful wasn’t getting me anywhere. It was just leaving me empty. I wasn’t ok and I’m still not ok. But I’m hopeful I will eventually be ok. I’m not sure what that ok will look like but it will be ok. I’m hopeful that ok ends with K & I becoming parents together. What’s helped me and what I need from my support system is that continued encouragement of hope and belief.
I think we all need hope that things will work out. Maybe that hope won’t lead to me becoming a parent. Even if we are down, yes feelings should be recognized and not dismissed. It’s justified to feel down and hopeless when things are not going well. Infertility is not easy to go through. It’s one of the most difficult things a married couple could face besides separation and divorce.
In addition to support and recognition of feelings each of us needs others around us to encourage and support us. We need to have hope for each other to help us believe that we can do this. Everyone needs hope that things will work out. Because if you don’t have hope or believe what exactly do you have?
In the words of Tug McGraw “Ya Gotta Believe!”
The last two years have been the toughest and strangest of my adult life. The peaks, valleys, range of emotions and how it’s changed me is not something I ever expected to experience in my life. One of the important lessons it’s taught me that it’s ok to be vulnerable and ask for help. Two years ago I recognized that we had been dealt a huge blow and that I couldn’t get through with my piece of our situation on my own. I recognized I needed therapy to help better understand the situation and work through the feelings I was going through.
Two years later not much has changed in terms of my situation with K and the question of whether or not we’ll attempt to become parents. However, at some point in the near future we are going to make a transition to something new. Recognizing how significant that change is going to be and the fallout that will come with it I have decided to go back to therapy. It has been something I have been debating over for the last two months ever since the decision was made that we would not pursue adoption.
Admitting that I needed to go back to therapy was not an easy decision. I hate having to ask anyone for help. The idea that I can do things on my own and accomplish great things are something I take pride in. Feeling vulnerable and exposed to the point where I have to ask for help makes me feel weak. It makes me feel that I can’t do things on my own. I recognize that flaw in myself and it’s something that I have worked on the last two years that it’s ok to ask for help.
Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but rather a sign of strength. I understand that as a person I have limitations and that while I can challenge myself I can’t do it all. There are certain challenges I will face where I will need to seek the help of others. That’s ok too as tough as it is to accept.
I’m not going into therapy expecting to find all of the right answers. I will be looking to therapy to help me work through the upcoming transition whatever that is. No matter what the transition is to in my life the issues that I have from the fallout with infertility will need to be worked through. I am confident that no matter what the transition is to that I will be able to figure it out and be ok. I know that I am ready to move forward into the unknown and take on the challenges that come with it. I don’t expect it to be an easy transition in my life but I hope that therapy will be that help along the way.