Category Archives: Purgatory

That stage of feeling lost, when you’re not sure what you must do next.

Is IVF destructive?

The decision to attempt IVF is not an easy one to make. For most it is a financial gamble on a dream that will take years to recover from. But this is nothing compared to emotional struggle a couple will face when IVF is their last option for a biological child.  Moral, ethical and religious questions weigh heavily on the minds of any couple facing IVF.

There is a disturbing need by some to connect embryonic losses during IVF with the concept of destroying a life through an abortion. Regardless of your view on abortion, not all losses during the IVF process are cases of destroying life.

Even more insulting is the assumption couples attempting IVF are blasé about these losses; we only care about the take home baby. Nothing could be further from the truth. When my Wife and I heard 9 mature eggs were harvested, realistically I thought 5 would grow after being fertilized. Reading the statistics from other IVF couples, I knew 5 was a reasonable number, even if still optimistic. The fact is our Reproductive Endocrinologist, the Embryologist, the nurses, techs, my Wife and I were all HOPING every one of the 9 eggs fertilized would result in a viable embryo.

If a farmer plants 15 corn seeds, and only 6 grow into stalks of corn, we don’t say the farmer “destroyed” 9 plants do we? Why do some feel the need to label these losses as destroying or killing innocent life when everyone involved was doing everything they could avoid it? Clinics don’t transfer multiple embryos hoping all but one survives, it’s simply the odds the doctor’s are dealing with. Most clinics are responsible about the number of embryos transferred into the womb, a few aren’t. We can’t let the case of Octomom tarnish and warp how IVF is viewed to those not dealing with infertility.

To be honest, my biggest fear during the IVF process wasn’t ending up empty handed. My biggest fear was facing the need for selective reduction.  A situation our clinic tries very hard to avoid. Holding clinics responsible for relying too often on selective reduction is certainly a cause I could get behind. However, transferring two embryos into a womb that both split isn’t a situation any doctor could have predicted. Selective reduction would be needed for the life of the mother and to avoid risking the lives of all the children.

There is one aspect to IVF that is sadly destructive. The discarding of frozen embryos.  Our clinic provided us with the option of what to do with our remaining frozen embryos should we decide to stop having children. To discard or donate for embryonic adoption? There should be more literature provided discussing the benefits of choosing donation to help other infertile couples. An option all clinics should provide to their patients.

I’m not defending the IVF process against all the ethical questions against it. It disturbs me to think how this process could be abused to select designer babies with the right eye and hair color. Or when I hear about it being used for gender selection.

The limited destructive aspect of the IVF process can be reduced through education and holding clinics responsible to keep the number of selective reductions needed as low as possible. But we must fight against the idea that all embryonic losses are destroying life. The majority of losses are because they didn’t survive when everyone involved were hoping they would.

IVF is overcoming an obstacle preventing a couple from conceiving. That’s all. We don’t withhold glasses from those with poor eyesight because they see the way God intended. Nor do we condemn those with a genetic disorders and prevent them from treatments. We treat children suffering leukemia, cyanotic heart defects causing “Blue Babies”, those with cleft pallets, all natural conditions we have overcome using science.

Unlike embryonic stem cell research, none of the embryos created during the IVF process were done so with the intent of being destroyed. The IVF process is about creating life.

With only about a 20% success rate for a couple trying naturally to conceive, the success rate of IVF is much higher. But we have statistics we can point to regarding the losses during IVF. We just don’t know why a fertile couple only has a 20% chance of getting pregnant. While a large number of them are cases of the egg not actually fertilizing…we just don’t know how many did fertilize and didn’t implant like we do with IVF.

I understand the choice of attempting IVF is a difficult one. But don’t let anyone tell you it is against God’s will. If God were that against IVF, wouldn’t its success rate be zero?

Staring down the infertility train

Sweet Santa Fe Railroad Engine at the Dallas Railroad museum.

The challenge for this week is to write about a moment when our lives changed in an instant. Couples struggling with infertility are all too familiar with these life changing moments. For the infertility journey isn’t a single instance, but a series of life changing instances.

We start with a dream, built into our instinctual biological fiber, to procreate so a form of our DNA will live on. To have a family of offspring to raise and guide into adulthood hoping they too will continue the process. Thus allowing our DNA to survive our own mortality. A need shared by all living creatures.

After a year of attempting to naturally fulfill this dream, I was asked to submit a semen sample for analysis. The results started the train of life changing moments. Finding out I have a “very low” sperm count and I was the reason behind our struggle to start a family was truly a shocking moment. This left me dazed and confused about my own masculinity, but there was still hope. Hope the problem could be fixed.

This hope led me to a Urologist and was my rookie experience with the infertility waiting game. No longer were these life changing moments a surprise, I knew they were coming. There was a time and place on the calender advertising the event. “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst” became my motto. There was nothing to prepare me for the utter devastation I felt with the news my Urologist couldn’t find anything correctable. I was left picking up the pieces of a shattered dream and told to take them to a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE).

I never knew anyone who had tried IVF before. I had little experience with the procedures available to help infertile couples get pregnant. My high school health class was about how the reproductive system worked, nothing about what must be done if it’s not working. The internet was a scary place of confusing abbreviations and high ticket prices to even play the IVF game. My wife and I carried our shattered dream to our RE. With my low expectations, the RE pieced together our dream with information on procedures where men like me could still become a father.  He then presented a price list with rates we could reasonably afford despite our lack of insurance coverage for IVF treatments.

We agreed to give IVF a try. Our hopes now rested with a team of doctors to get my wife pregnant, with a backup plan of a few frozen embryos remaining to be used in a second attempt if needed. For 12 days I administered injections into my wife’s lower back, tricking her body into produce more eggs than nature designed it. When the day arrived to collect the eggs, we were so happy to have 9 mature eggs harvested. Followed 2 days later with the terrifying news only 6 fertilized and none of them were growing as expected.  The elation the next morning when we arrived for our early transfer and discovered one of the embryos grew to be a top grade, making our RE very positive about our chances.

For 3 days we waited, hoping the remaining 4 embryos would continue to grow to the point they could be frozen and stored. Hearing zero embryos would be frozen guillotined our back up plan, leaving us with our one hope. The date marked on the calender said September 17, 2012 and it would be our moment of truth.  The day blood would be drawn to see if my wife was pregnant or not, and it was still 10 days away. Friends and family were reading my blog looking for the latest news. I promised I would update it with the information as soon as we heard from the RE. If the news was good, the writing would come easy. However, a negative result…there was no way I could bring myself to write anything afterwards.  I began writing the poem A Dream Lost, pouring all the emotions I thought I would be feeling, but still hoping it wouldn’t be necessary.

The day finally arrived, blood was drawn for testing, and my wife and I sat impatiently by the phone. It barely had a chance to ring when I answered and heard, “We received the results and I’m sorry……….” I hung up, then looked at my wife shaking my head. I held my emotions together long enough to sign in and press “publish” before snapping the lid closed allowing grief to consume me.

The dream was lost.

Relatives offered to pay for another IVF attempt, but the news from the RE was my sperm just isn’t healthy enough to keep embryos growing after the 3rd day. I’ll never have a biological child. Fatherhood may still be in my future, and I will of course raise it as my own. Right now I just need time. Time to grieve my loss. Time to accept my fate. Time to open my heart to other possibilities.

© copyright 2011-2012

Demon Battles

On a beautiful Saturday afternoon, I was feeling pretty good. I’d just finished taking Bandit for a walk and the three of us were sitting on the couch enjoying a movie when my phone buzzed. The wife is the only person I text with on a regular basis, and since she was sitting next to me…I was curious who it was from. I picked up the phone and saw, “Text from +1 (555) 555-8203.” Okay the 5’s were really other numbers, but you get the point it was a completely strange number to me.

Me: “Babe, Do you recognize this number?”

Wife: “Uh, no”

Naturally I unlocked my phone and saw…

Not the actual photo.

 

At which point my Jealous Infertile Demon burst out of its cage and immediately started typing…

Thanks you jerk for reminding me I can’t have children and completely ruining my day by sending your baby picture to the wrong number!

Before he was able to hit “send” I managed to wrestle the phone away and quickly deleted the message. He was raging with fury and I knew I had to get this demon back in restraints before he hurt someone!

“Now look here JID, you’re not going to tell off some stranger for sending you a baby picture! They have no idea you’re infertile. They aren’t doing this to you on purpose. Get a grip!”

The Demon just stared me down. Seeing the wisdom, but he would not be appeased. In a flash the phone was snatched from my hands and he grunted, “Then they must be educated.”

Cute baby, but you should be more careful who you send these pictures too. I recently found out I won’t be able to have kids of my own and your mistake is causing me a lot of pain…

“NO!” I shouted in my head as we fought for control of the phone. “You’re not doing that either! It’s probably some grandparent happily sending photos to friends and sent it to you by mistake! These are your issues! There is no reason to make these folks feel bad over a simple mistake! Let them be happy…”

To my surprise the Demon was now cowering back in his cage. Swiftly I closed the door and set the latch. Then proceeded to erase what was written.

Exhausted by the struggle, the tears began to flow. I mustered my remaining courage and wrote…

Cute kid, wrong number

And pressed SEND.

© copyright 2011-2012

Wife Pressed!

I’ve found blogging to be a big help dealing with the emotions throughout this process. The problem I’m facing is previously there was always a new step in the process to talk about. A funny story to share about an uncomfortable Urology visit, or being attacked by an overhead cabinet. Now I’m struggling with what to write about without every post turning into, “woes is me…I’m infertile and IVF didn’t do donkey balls to help me.”

The Dear Ivfmale posts are fun to write. But it’s really hit or miss if I have anything good to talk about.  Twice now I’ve given up and posted something anyway, just to have a plethora of search gems pop up later that day. So I decided to start participating in the weekly “Daily Post Challenge” to keep the blog interesting and relevant to it’s purpose about issues dealing with infertility.

But another part of me wanted to do these challenges in hopes of getting Freshly Pressed. I know I can bring the emotion and I’m pretty sure if the right people would read one of these posts, it would be a good candidate for being selected. Sure it’s simply an ego boost. Frankly, after the dark thoughts running through my head this past weekend, I’m not ashamed to admit I need some ego boosting right now.

So I wrote the poem and posted it hoping that maybe being Freshly Pressed, it might raise my confidence and make me feel there is more to my future than just having a child.

With all the positive comments the poem received, it was a big help in bringing me out of my funk. I felt maybe I do have a shot at being chosen.

Then on Tuesday, my wife read the poem. She loved it! She loved it so much she posted it to her Facebook not caring who read it. It doesn’t matter hardly anyone has clicked her link. It doesn’t matter whether I’m chosen to be Freshly Pressed or not. I was Wife Pressed. She loves my poem and she loves me. And that’s all that really matters.

© copyright 2011-2012

It’s not easy being green

Green with IVF

By Matthew Wanner

Green is the money spent on a wish,
for a child to call our own.
Purple are the bruises on my wife’s back,
just inside each hipbone.
White are my knuckles as I readied each shot,
frightened I am causing her pain.
Red is the love I feel for my wife,
for a resolve that never did wane.

Green are my wife’s beautiful eyes,
I once hoped a child would share.
Brown would be fine, just like mine,
eye color I no longer did care.
Yellow is the road of our hopes and dreams,
wondering what it’s gender might be.
Blue are the tears, hopes replaced by fears,
for a child we never would see.

Green I am with envy,
watching coworkers ask off to give birth.
Black is my shame for feeling that way,
tying fertility to my own self-worth.
Orange will be tomorrow’s sky at dawn,
certain the sun will rise.
What color comes next is anyones guess,
waiting on life’s next surprise.

This weeks challenge is to add a splash of color to your blog.

© copyright 2011-2012

Unsuccessful vs. Failure

I know I’ve mention this before, but I feel this concept deserves a closer inspection. It bothers me when I see the words “failed IVF” used. In my eyes our IVF attempt was unsuccessful, not a failure. Being unsuccessful and failing may seem like the same thing, but I think the difference is huge.

Consider a student in college dealing with a test coming up. This student plays football and needs an “A” on the test in order to participate in this weekends game. Foregoing the idea he could cheat, which I would view a failure for cheating his education over a sporting event, most would view him playing in the game this weekend as a success or failure outcome. I do not. I see three outcomes: successful, unsuccessful and failure.

Successful is obvious, but what is the difference between unsuccessful and failure? The difference is how the student prepared for the test. If he avoided parties and spent his free time studying for this test, the fact he doesn’t get an “A” I would view unsuccessful. However, if the student blows off studying to party with his friends, only to cram 2 hours before the test, I would view a grade lower than an “A” a failure. See the difference?

We did everything the doctor’s asked us to do to the best of our ability. Why should we consider the fact we fell short of our goal a failure? We didn’t smoke crack during the process. We didn’t skip injections because we grew tired of them. We didn’t go bungee jumping during the two week wait. If we had, I’d have no problem calling our IVF attempt a failure. But we didn’t.

That’s why I use the term “unsuccessful IVF” to describe our outcome.  What do you think?

© copyright 2011-2012

My guest post for the lovely ladies at Two Good Eggs.

Two Good Eggs

We have already made so many friends and been touched by readers’ stories of loss, hope and miracles.  We asked IVFmale to be a guest blogger during Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month, as he has a very unique perspective.  Here is his story:
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October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month and the two lovely ladies at Two Good Eggs requested a guest post talking about our unsuccessful IVF attempt. I’m honored they asked me and it got me thinking…what have I lost?

I never watched a child be born only to lose it as an infant. I haven’t heard it’s heartbeat only to suffer a miscarriage. To be perfectly honest, I’m not grieving the loss of the embryos any more than I would grieve the loss of my sperm wasted in a cup, only to be counted and discarded. It may sound cold, but I couldn’t look…

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The Insemination Games

I’m really not good at speaking with strangers. Small talk just bores me to tears.  I gave up trying to socialize at bars, because I can’t stand it. I’ll sit there and watch two people carry on a conversation when clearly, to me, neither of them knows what the hell they are talking about. I’ve tried joining their conversation if the topic was one I found interesting. Politely steering them away from ideas like hurricanes are government conspiracies. Only to be looked at as the jerk for ruining their fun conversation of ignorance. Sure there are a few interesting people to talk to once in a while.  But you never know until you actually talk to them if they are a person who actually knows their facts, or one who just makes stuff up as they go. That being said, I do enjoy once in a while pretending to know more than I actually do. 

Obviously since I’m actually dealing with severe male factor infertility, I must know more than those who’ve actually studied it for years right. (Hey, quit ruining my fun and just go with it as fact!)

Anyways, during our meeting last Thursday with the doctor, I realised how fundamentally flawed the sperm selection process for ICSI truly is. The process is completely superficial.

The doctor explained the process to me and it goes something like this. The semen is taken out of the cup and spun around so the sperm cells are concentrated. Under a microscope, they find the sperm then add an agent to increase the viscosity of the liquid the sperm are swimming in. This slows the speed of the sperm allowing them to be caught and injected into an egg. How does the specialist choose which sperm to catch? The ones that “look good” based on experience and training of the person. Somehow they just know which sperm are healthy.

I immediately thought, “Well obviously looks aren’t everything or this wouldn’t be the reason for our failed IVF.” As the doctor moved onto topics my ADD found boring. I considered ways to isolate the few healthy ones (I’m sure I have some in there somewhere) from the duds. Just like searching for a good conversation at a bar, you can’t expect to find one just based on looks. Sure your chances of a good conversation are better with someone who looks healthy.  But would you really want to spend thousands of dollars looking for a good conversation for the next 20 years based on looking at the individual for only a few seconds?

Then I thought about how it happens naturally. The army of sperm is deposited in the arena. They fight and race for the finish line where there can be only one winner and the rest die. Nature has already figured out how to eliminate the unhealthy ones from the rest. Now that doesn’t mean the winner has the best DNA. We all have that one relative where we wonder how their sperm form ended up winning the race. But I’m guessing it is more likely to have what it takes to create a baby.

Why not have the Insemination Games? In the simplest form it would be a race.

Put whatever attracts sperm at the finish line and as they hit the viscous solution, pick from those for ICSI use. I would feel better about my chances if my sperm actually had to prove themselves in some fashion besides “looking good” to someone under a microscope. There has to be something out there.

While looking for information on poor sperm quality I found a new test that checks DNA fragmentation and there may be possible treatments to help reduce the oxidative stress causing the DNA fragmentation.  Now I’m left with how do I find which fertility firms are using this process and do I just go with them? Or do I contact our current doctor and see if they are considering an upgrade that could check for DNA fragmentation?

Where would I go to find this information? The internet isn’t being helpful and I feel weird asking our clinic to help us find another firm that is more advanced in treating Male Factor Infertility.

I guess I’ll just keep googling until I find something.

© copyright 2011-2012

Preparing for a Showdown

Last week had some helpful distractions to keep our minds off thinking about the future. Well…most of the time. We had a lovely time with my sister and her boyfriend during their visit early in the week. The rest of the week was all about the new puppy. Training him on what he can and can’t chew on. Teaching him where to do his business. For a 10 week old puppy he is doing as well as can be expected. He knows when we go outside it is time to do business first. But hasn’t caught onto letting us know he must go out. Probably still early, but he is learning and we are learning, and I think Bandit will be a very good dog.

But now we are closing in on our WTF appointment with the doctor and we have come to one realization. This relationship with the doctor is like any other. There must be some compromises. While they may be the experts in what is best in general to help a couple get pregnant, that doesn’t mean it will work for us. One of the directives the first round was to eliminate all Class C medications. So my wife, under her psychiatrist’s supervision, eliminated her anxiety medication. I see now that was a big mistake. I’m not watching her suffer anymore without the help of her medication.

I used to be one of those people who downplayed the idea of suffering from anxiety. Now I know better and I know her suffering is real. The stress the anxiety creates is as much, if not more harmful to any baby than medications would be to help her. We will gladly try to work with medications the doctor thinks are less risky, but going without is not an option. That’s where we stand at the moment. Our showdown with the doctor is this Thursday at 2pm.

© copyright 2011-2012

IVF Purgatory

The sadness has given way to numbness. I’m not sure if that is progress or not. The few bright spots this week were the BFP’s of other IF travelers. My heartfelt congratulations to all of them! 🙂

But for us right now it feels like purgatory until our Why The Fail/What The Fuck (WTF) meeting on October 4th. We’ve had an offer from family to pay for the next attempt and we are considering the offer. The idea of putting someone else in debt and still end up with nothing is leaving a knot in my stomach. While we would like to try again…knowing the emotional toll this cycle took on us it isn’t something we are looking forward too. Much less get excited about. I mainly want to find out if the Doctor learned anything from this cycle they feel they can improve on with another cycle. We will then talk it over and make sure the family understands the risks before committing to another attempt.

In other news my sister and her boyfriend are coming to visit on Monday and we are going to Universal Studios to celebrate her Birthday. We are looking forward to spending time with family since we live several hours away from both our families. Should be fun.

We are also looking for a puppy. The wife has been busy searching while I’ve been getting everything squared away with the Landlord. I think it will be a good distraction if we do try for another IVF cycle, so I caved and said yes. So look forward to that announcement soon.

I’ve also had some further musings about the moon. I’m putting together a post about that to keep my mind occupied. Saturday I’ll be properly half-ass researching this one.

Sorry for the jumbled mess of a post, but that’s sort of what this feels like right now. Stuck in no-mans-land with nowhere to go. All we can do is try to stay busy while waiting. At least this wait doesn’t have the anxiety the 2ww did.

© copyright 2011-2012