As I stripped down for the lovely Jules of Queen Bee waxing on Culver Blvd. I noticed her checking me out. It wasn’t my exposed thighs she was gaping at, however, but the gauze and band-aids at both of my inner-elbows. “What happened to you?” she asked. This was my first time with Jules, but I’ll admit I was eager to share the details of how I had spent my afternoon. I’m the type who likes to get it out, as evidenced by this blog post. This doesn’t entirely stem from a need to be understood, but also a need to understand. If a half-naked girl stood before me, bruises that resembled track marks peaking from behind glaring white bandages, I’d be dying to know what ailed her. You get what you give, so I was ready to dish it. “Well, let’s just put it this way,” I answered, “You’ll be the second woman today to touch my lady parts.” “OBGYN?” she inquired. Nothing fazes a proprietor of the Brazilian Wax. “Nope. Fertility specialist. And they took 6 viles of blood!” I answered, getting on her torture table cautiously, as if my tentative movements might encourage her to go easy on me. It’s safe to say that I am more afraid of my monthly waxing ritual than of the more invasive medical procedures that are sure to mark my next three months. Hormone shots in the ass? Sure! No problem. Hair being ripped from my nether parts? GASP. (Though the Queen Bee staff are far and away the BEST I’ve ever had). “Tell me everything,” she replied. And I knew Jules would be my waxer at Queen Bee from then on.
Trouble in Make a baby land
Jules got the short version of all of this, but the details of how we ended up at Southern California Reproductive Fertility Center are a bit more complicated. The Oxford Journal section on Human Reproduction says that if you have been trying to conceive for more than 6-months you may be considered sub fertile. More specifically, this means that “Most pregnancies occur in the first six cycles with intercourse in the fertile phase (80%). After that, serious sub fertility must be assumed in every second couple (10%).”
For us, almost a year has flown by. I’ve been able to mark hubby and I’s trying time by the beautiful happenings I’ve seen unfold on Facebook. Bump pictures, labor and birth announcements, and newborn baby pics were reminders that oh yeah we were supposed to be making one of those! And the celebrity bump pages in every gossip rag, who’s not pregnant in Hollywood right now? Further hammering the point home, two particularly close friends have given birth in the last month or so and I’ve had the privilege of hearing about the ups and downs of new motherhood: Their breast-feeding woes, their sleepless nights, their changed bodies. It’s frightening and exciting in the way that only things so tightly intertwined with the purpose of life can be, like falling in love, getting married, and of course, being pregnant and having a child. Just thinking about these events can make your gut tickle with anticipation, delight, and awe-inspired fear because through them your life can change forever in deliciously painful and meaningful ways. Gulp.
So it wasn’t until baby making didn’t happen that I realized how much I really want it to. I was ambivalent about having children before, as if I were making the choice between two drab paint colors for my guest room. “Maybe. Maybe not,” I’d tell people nonchalantly when asked about having kids. Then to others, “Only one please.” While later sharing my anxiety with the hubster, “I mean, do we really want the responsibility? Little brats try to put their fingers in light sockets and stuff.” I could picture our unborn three-year old son buzzing with a blue electrical current, hair frizzled out like a cartoon. I could picture all kinds of horrific scenes that involved kidnappers and rare childhood diseases and… So I, we, just tried not to think about it. We planned not to plan, to “see what happens” and to “let nature take its course,” without dwelling on the horrors of parenthood. The expense. The weight gain. The crying. The aforementioned neurotic nightmares. We wouldn’t let fear stop us from trying, but we felt it was best to leave it up to chance.
And then something changed, as somethings are apt to do. The part of me that was unsure about being a mother disappeared. I began to realize that the fears and sacrifices of parenthood would be totally worth the reward of seeing 1/2 me and 1/2 him combined into one NEW person. One that we could love and nurture and help grow into a productive, hopefully proactive, member of the human race! Around that time our friend’s babies were born and it was clear that nature’s course wasn’t flowing in the direction of a positive pregnancy test for us. “Something is wrong,” I told my doubtful, doctor avoid-ant husband. The calm man that he is tried to reassure me. Had we been doing it at the right time every month? Had we been trying long enough? Should I be standing on my head after intercourse? Yes. Yes. and No. Later, however, I tried the head standing anyway just to appease him, while secretly hoping that this pose would be the magic baby bullet. (Baby and bullet probably don’t belong in the same sentence, so forgive me).
Our unfruitful trying time, coupled with my borderline obsessive compulsive internet research, made me come to terms with the fact that further exploration was needed. To me exploration should be reserved for long hikes in the Sierras and wandering through unfamiliar towns in search of the best coffee shop. Adventures into the great unknown of my uterus are not my idea of a good time. Since tubes and dye and x-rays would be a part of the medical profession’s mission to unearth the jewel of fertility from my va-jay jay, hubby and I agreed that heshould be explored first.
The Great Mystery of Spermatozoa
The Free Dictionary defines spermatozoa as: “The mature fertilizing gamete of a male organism, usually consisting of a round or cylindrical nucleated cell, a short neck, and a thin motile tail. Also called sperm cell, zoosperm.” Zoosperm? Really? Can you imagine if I shouted that out during baby dancing? “I want your Zooooosperm!” But seriously these mature fertilizing gamete are half the battle when it comes to making another human being. According to the University of Iowa, “in 50 percent of all infertile couples, a male fertility problem plays a role in the couple’s inability to conceive.” To me this statistic seemed like common knowledge. After all, it takes two to tango and we are no longer medieval pawns trapped in a culture where delivering one’s spawn, specifically a son, would instantly elevate a woman’s status from threatened to respected. Unfortunately, however, the vilification of women for fertility problems continues to be an issue internationally.
It wasn’t my plan to discuss this here, but I can’t resist. “When a Kyrgyz couple remains childless,” the Institute for War and Peace Reporting explains, “it is generally the wife who is encouraged to seek fertility treatment. Husbands commonly reject suggestions they might be infertile, and some even remarry in the hope of having a child.” Yikes. How would you like to be dumped because you can’t serve up a baby at your husband’s command? Talk shows in the middle east must put Jerry Springer to shame. Reason number 5,000 than I am grateful to be an American. Yet, even in modern lands like the UK women are blamed for a failure to procreate on demand. One article from 2008 titled, “Why women can be blamed for their own infertility,” would probably cause a riot if it were published today considering the 2009 spike in social media use. The author says, “Although male infertility is on the increase, and men must consider the role their lifestyle plays, too, many women simply need to relax a bit more.”
The article may make some decent points about stress, drugs and alcohol use, but this statement reflects an ideology that is still prevalent in western society. On several occasions, friends and family members have told me, “Just stop worrying about it so much.” I wonder how many women out there trying to conceive have heard these same words, only to find out that their partner could be to blame? Or that there really is an underlying medical condition? That they were right to worry? In our case, being “right” never felt so bad.
Rather than spending paragraphs explaining how our general practitioner’s office sent us clearly abnormal sperm analysis results on a Friday (right before closing) without an explanation or a phone call, I’ll simply tell you one 1/2 of the Case of the Missing Brooker Baby was solved that weekend. Apparently hubby’s sperm are wacky looking and sleepy, with only 5% rapidly progressive. Rapidly progressive sperm are those that “[have] more fertility skill due to their capability to reach the oocyte and to penetrate the membrane. Normally [these] are the ones selected with the swim-up procedure for [artificial insemination].” While 78% of hubby’s sperm also have a mid-piece defect, hours of research revealed little more than his sperm may not have the energy they need to make it to my eggs.
My weekend of crying and freaking out, was completely warranted unfortunately. The following Monday, we received an emotionless email from my husband’s doctor (we will be switching by the way), with a list of urologists she recommended. She didn’t explain what we could expect. She didn’t assure us that these things could be treated. She simply sent the email with no regard for how Friday’s results might have made us feel. Combining this information with my concern that I may have endometriosis, a condition I’ll get into in a later blog, we were shattered. The American Society of Reproductive Medicine explains that, “A totally normal couple at our ages (30 and 31) has about a 20% chance per month of getting pregnant.” What then are the odds when you’re abnormal?
Abnormal is the New Normal, but only if you’re a sitcom
This fall the New Normal debuted, a show about two gay men who engage a surrogate to help them realize their dream of having a child. Hilarity ensues as the media does its best to portray healthy homosexual relationships and blended families. NBC talks about how this show helps demonstrate the “reshaping” of the American family as we know it. I haven’t watched yet, but I’ll admit I’m curious and I appreciate anything that can help legitimize same-sex unions. Love and let love, I say. Unfortunately, my life and the lives of so many others struggling with fertility issues cannot be compartmentalized into a 30-minute slot of well-timed jokes and perfect hair and make-up. The journey to having a child has only just begun for us at the realization, two weeks ago, that we were not the new normal at all, but instead her underpaid and less-celebrated sister – Abnormal. Yet, once we stopped feeling sorry for ourselves we snapped into problem solving mode. Can we improve hubby’s sperm?” we mused, researching Walnuts, and Maca Root, and Pynogenol. “What if something is also wrong with me?” we wondered, perusing articles on infertility and endometriosis. The questions keep coming like cars down the 405, but the answers have been more difficult to obtain. Join us on our journey as I explain what happened at the urologist in Part 2, then talk about my HSG, a procedure to view the inside of the uterus and fallopian tubes, in Part 3. My goal is to be a resource to others, while I attempt to sort out my issues with infertility and potential motherhood through fertility treatments (fingers crossed). Abnormal may not be the new normal as NBC would like us to believe, but it’s our normal. And here’s to discovering the blessings that working with Southern California Reproductive Center and being abnormal might bring.