With a Spoon

Most people don’t have to think about infertility. They don’t have to pause for a single second to ponder that their reproductive choices are entirely in their own hands. They don’t have to think about these things and in turn don’t have to think about how incredibly fortunate they are to have that as a given. And because they’re so fortunate, they don’t have to waste a single nanosecond’s thought on the pain and heartbreak of infertility.

And so, when we, the infertile, wind up feeling insulted or hurt, it’s almost never because of deliberate insult. Often, it’s not even because of a comment directed at us. It’s just because we live in a world surrounded by the fortunate who operate on a lot of assumptions about their own fortune, the fortune of others, and what it means and feels like to be less fortunate.

Ms. Swimmin’s mother, preparing for the wedding of another daughter, makes those little “aren’t I cute and subtle?” insinuations to the bride and groom about how much she wants grandchildren as we sit right there next to her. It simply doesn’t occur to her how every little joke of that sort is like a dagger in our hearts.

Friends, making an effort to be sensitive, tell us they’re pregnant before announcing it to the world at large…and toss out a strange little attempt at a joke about what a horrendous burden it is to have a baby. They don’t mean to offend, they just want to throw a little humor in because that’s “them.”

My brother and his wife – who, yes, of course, clearly got pregnant on their first or second attempt, my feelings about which remain far too complicated and unsettled to go into much depth about here just yet – tell us that we shouldn’t be anxious about Christmas because they’re not going to be talking all baby, all the time. Brother concedes that, yes, “you’ll have to be around a pregnant lady for a few days and if that’s a problem for you, you shouldn’t come.” He is quaintly naive, I guess, about our mother’s grandchild mania, and somehow assumes that if they don’t bring it up at Christmas then she won’t, either.

And what can we do?

It’s a basic fact that we’ve learned over these last months that to be an infertile couple means to swallow an awful lot of pain, to stay quiet and plaster your best phony smile on your face when you’d rather be screaming and crying and smashing everything in sight. It means not talking to people about how you really feel because then you’re the asshole, you’re the turd in the punchbowl, you’re Captain Bringdown stomping on everyone else’s right and proper happiness.

The friends are insulted when we object to their thoughtless attempt at humor, because after all, they were trying to be nice. So who the hell are we to tell them they’ve hurt our feelings when they’re “doing their best?” Brother gets his nose out of joint, reminding us to be oh-so-careful to make sure we don’t hurt his wife’s feelings.

And we swallow it. We keep it all inside, because what else can we do? Our friends and our family deserve their happiness. I don’t begrudge it to them. But…if I slip up, if I have so much as a single moment of saying, “Hey, what about me? What about my wife? Don’t our feelings count, too?”…well, then I’m the one causing drama, and I’m the one RUINING CHRISTMAS FOR EVERYBODY and I’m the bad guy.

And so I take the pain, I take the unintended insults, I take the thoughtless things that everybody else in the whole goddamn world does that remind me a million times a day that for no good reason whatsoever I don’t get the one thing I want more than anything else in the world, and I swallow them.

I worry that swallowing so much can only lead to all of it coming back out eventually, in great gushing, belching torrents of tear-streaked sadness and rage, because nobody else in our lives has to think about it ever, and my wife and I have to think about it all the fucking time. And that’s probably so. But what else can I do? So I take that worry and I swallow it along with all the rest.

Because god fucking forbid that my pain and sorrow and anger, much less my clearly insane desire to have the people in my life give an instant’s actual, real, meaningful thought to all of those things rather than just paying them lip service and pretending that they deserve a fucking medal for “doing the best they can” impinge for even so much as a nanosecond on the warm, glowy happiness of anyone else.

And these are people I love. People I legitimately and honestly love, good people who I believe with every fiber of my being deserve their happiness. People who are and will be great parents, people who have made and will in the future make great, wonderful, amazing kids. But they don’t understand, and nothing I say, nothing I write, nothing I do will ever make them understand. They may have sympathy, after a fashion, but they’re never going to have empathy. They may understand that it hurts, but they’ll never understand how much it hurts. They see my shoes, but they do not walk in them.

So what else can I do? No matter how much it hurts, no matter how full I already am…I just keep swallowing.

The Lengths We Go To

Sitting in the living room on a quiet morning, enjoying my coffee, reading about the winners of the Hugo Awards and vaguely pondering which player I should take next in my on-line fantasy football draft. Y’know, like you do.

Suddenly, Ms. Swimmin pops up from her chair on the other side of the room.

“Hey, do you know where the tape measure is?” she asks.

I look around, spot it not two feet from where she was just sitting and point it out to her. Turn back to my coffee and internet.

“Okay,” she says, grabbing said tape measure, “I need you to stand up and take off your pants.”

Friends, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, one thing I think I know for sure, one piece of Manly Advice that I will pass on to my hypothetical future son, it’s that when your wife tells you to take off your pants, you take off your pants.

Having obligingly dropped trou, I figure she wants to measure my waist or something. Maybe she’s found a pair of sweet vintage grey flannel trousers on eBay and wants to see if they’ll fit me. This has never happened before, and doesn’t seem likely, but I do love me a pair of sweet vintage grey flannel trousers, and there’s a first time for everything.

“I’m going to need better access to certain parts,” she says.

“I…um, what? What are you going to measure?” I am at this point, I must confess, just a wee bit terrified.

It turns out she’s just come across an article about a study that states:

Men who have a shorter perineal length, also known as the anogenital distance (AGD)*, have lower sperm counts, poorer quality sperm, lower sperm concentrations and lower motility, the study has found.

* Yes, that is just a fancy way of saying “taint.”

She explains this and says, “I’m curious, okay?” she says.

“Wait, are you actually planning on measuring from balls to bunghole?” I say.


I prop a leg up on a nearby chair and, fortunately, she is able to get the measurement she needs without actually sticking a tape measure…well. Anyway.

I am pleased to report, and I am sure you are all pleased to learn, that though my count is low and motility is almost non-existent, my…ahem…”anogenital distance” appears to be above average.

So I got that goin’ for me, which is nice.

Insult to Injury

I have to let all the inappropriate, thoughtless and insensitive comments from people we know, all the idiocy from popular culture telling us that people without kids are barely people at all, all the self-righteous, holier-than-thou bullshit from internet commenters on any article in which IVF is mentioned, all the myriad of ways that every single day reminds me of the giant gaping hole in our lives roll off me like water off a duck’s back. I have to do this because if I don’t do it, it’ll all drive me crazy. I have to force myself sometimes to have a sense of humor about, because if I don’t laugh I won’t be able to stop crying.

But then I scan the gossip-column headlines and learn that the King of the Assclowns, the Walking Sperm, the Man Who Impregnates Women Just By Looking at Them, the King of the Douchebags:

Mr. Ex-Britney Spears, Kevin Federline, father of FIVE, in case (unlike me) you're lucky enough not to know who this is

has reproduced again. This guy who’s essentially famous for impregnating Britney Spears and owning a brain barely able to allow him to walk and chew gum at the same time, the guy who makes The Situation look like a Rhodes Scholar, has passed on his DNA to five offspring. Five. And I can’t even do it once.

Thank you so much, Universe. I know the nads aren’t good for much of anything, anyway, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy being kicked in them, all the same.

Thunder Stealing

Ed. Note: Not since February? Really? Good grief. Unfortunately, our financial situation has slowed down our parental situation an awful lot. We’re stuck in a holding pattern and hating it, which makes what follows even more difficult. A side effect of this is that there’s not much to write about right now, so posts are kind of thin on the ground, as it were. Anyway…

Ed. Note 2: Fair warning: what follows is completely self-indulgent, intolerably whiny and will probably make you want to crawl through the series of tubes to my end so you can reach out through my monitor and smack me a good one for being such a self-indulgent, whiny bastard. But…well, it is a blog, after all, so that’s kind of par for the course, innit?

For our entire adult/partnered/married lives, I have been able to operate quite safely on at least one very basic assumption: that my brother and his wife would not be having kids. On this blog’s “About” page, I wrote, “I have one older brother, who does not have and will not have kids.” Everything I’d ever heard from both my brother and his wife led me to believe that this was true.

Strange how quickly such assumptions can be shattered.

They came to visit last week, and we went out camping for a night. As we sat around the campfire, drinking beer and talking about life, the universe and everything, the hour grew late and the subject turned to our fertility woes. I brought the subject up on purpose. My brother and his wife were among the very few when we were first telling family members and close friends what was going on to be simply, plainly and unambiguously supportive. Theirs were the first – and essentially only – contact we received from members of either of our families to just say, “This really sucks that you’re going through this, we’re looking forward to meeting our new niece or nephew whenever it happens, if there’s anything we can do to help you let us know.” So I brought the subject up on purpose, because I wanted to tell them how much their simple and heartfelt gesture had meant to both of us. And so I did.

And then my sister-in-law dropped the bombshell. They’d been talking about it a lot, wondering if they would regret never having kids, realizing that if they didn’t do it now they were going to lose their chance…and they’ve decided that they’re “pretty sure” they’re going to start trying to get pregnant sometime in the next year.

Internet, I’d really love to tell you that I took this news in stride. I’d really love to tell you that I told them how great I thought it was, that I said something to the effect of being certain that they would be great parents. Instead, I clammed up. I was shocked. Dumbfounded. Speechless. I really didn’t know what to say.

Eventually, I told my brother that, so far as we knew, our fertility issue was entirely on me, and I really had no idea as to the source of it, so if maybe it was some sort of genetic thing he should probably go get tested before they started trying, so they wouldn’t waste an unproductive and frustrating year of trying with no result like Ms. Swimmin and I did.

But I remained – and still remain – very conflicted. It makes me feel like a bad person. There’s a bit of me that is a truly awful person, indeed, that is completely selfish and petty and small. Because as much as I say I wouldn’t wish an inability to have children when they want to on anyone…well, there’s a little tiny bit of me – a bit that I hate, a bit that I wish I could make go away – that hopes that my brother does have the same issue I have.

I had hoped that typing it out and seeing it there in black-and-white on the screen would be cathartic, or would make me realize that I don’t really feel that way at all, but it is neither of those things. Instead it is just stark and honest and terrible and horrible and awful, but there it is.

I am a terrible person, because in some small wish-I-didn’t way, I am wishing this awful experience not just on someone else, but on two people I love and care about and want to be happy.

Make no mistake, I want them to be happy and there is another, much larger piece of me who hopes their efforts are easy and happy and successful and knows that they will be wonderful parents. But Mr. Petty Jerkbag Asshole No Swimmin’ is there in the back, being a petty jerkbag asshole and stewing and fuming over the whole situation.

I have, like a lot of people who get pregnant or who would like to be pregnant but aren’t, a recurring little daydream. It’s this little daydream about calling my parents and telling them that they have a grandchild. It’s a nice fantasy, a hopeful thought that I can play like a record for a guaranteed smile even when I’m feeling lowest.

And now in that recurring fantasy, instead of hearing delight and joy, I call them up say, ‘Hey, Mom, Dad, you’ve got a grandchild,” the response is, “Oh, another one? That’s nice. Hey, did you see the latest photos of little Thor that your brother posted on Facebook? He’s just so cute!”

This is all tied up, of course, with my own long-standing younger brother issues of feeling second-best, but even my brother will tell you that he’s observed that I am not entirely off-base in feeling this way.

It’s a terrible way to feel not least because it’s so inarguably selfish. In the end, having a kid or not can’t be about me and my parents and my brother. What my own journey to and through parenthood brings won’t really be affected much at all by what my brother does or does not do in a reproductive sense. It goes without saying that what is most important is my relationship with my wife and our relationship with the child we will have.

But that’s the other aspect of this that’s so hateful and awful: that I can’t not feel this way. I can know all of these things, I can intellectualize them and internalize them and feel them with almost all of my heart and soul. But I just can’t get rid of the inner 9-year-old who’s insanely jealous about all the cool stuff that Older Brother gets to do first and look, here’s just one more thing. It’s just a rotten way to feel not in spite of knowing how meaningless it really is, but because I know that and I still can’t just let it go.

That’s all I’ve got. Again, I was hoping that writing this would bring me around to a satisfying conclusion where I achieve some sort of perspective on the matter, or recognize a silver lining or SOMETHING. That’s how it’s supposed to work because it so often has. But it’s just not happening. I still feel angry and selfish and petty and small. That’s all I’ve got. Sorry.

Just Super

We had some people over for the Super Bowl this afternoon/evening. Couldn’t really have cared less about the Packers or the Steelers…but I like football in general, and hey, any excuse to put on a spread of hot wings and chili, right? We had two other couples over – one couple some of our closest friends, some of only a vanishingly small handful of people we’ve told about the root cause of our fertility woes in real life. The other couple are also really wonderful people, great people, but they were not in the know, as it were.

Until this afternoon.

Somehow, improbably, against all sense or reason, as the Packers and Steelers battled their way up and down the field, the conversation turned to our infertility troubles and ultimately, somehow, improbably, against all sense or reason, to my balls and how poorly they function.

It was weird.

It was uncomfortable.

It was embarrassing.

I didn’t like it one bit.

Fortunately, there was a commercial break (I’m one of those weirdos who genuinely cares about the game and for the most part couldn’t give a rip about the commercials), and I was able to flee to the kitchen to work on the chili for a few minutes.

And when I returned to the living room, I was presented with a stark reminder of just why we don’t tell many people a lot of details about what’s going on, beyond the fact that there aren’t many people I know in the real world with whom I feel all that comfortable discussing my balls.

Having stirred and tasted the chili, I walked back in to what could have served as a commercial for K-Tel’s Greatest Hits of Just Having Found Out a Couple is Infertile:

“Have you tried different positions?”

“It might help if you lose some weight, no offense.”

“You should switch to boxers!”

“I believe that if you want anything enough, it’ll happen.”

“Have you thought about adoption?”

It was weird.

It was uncomfortable.

It was embarrassing.

I didn’t like it one bit.

And since I had just emerged from the kitchen and couldn’t really flee right back there again, and because the game was back on and I was actually interested in watching it, there wasn’t much I could do. I clammed up tight and tried to tune out the whole conversation as much as possible.

It was all I could do because these people are good friends and people who genuinely mean well and weren’t actively trying to hurt feelings or be insensitive, and I’d like them to continue being our friends. So as much as I wanted to scream, “Oh, different positions? Really? Different positions? You mean there’s MORE THAN ONE?! I HAD NO IDEA! Why, you’re a GODDAMN GENIUS, coming up with a brilliant idea like that! Why didn’t the doctors we’ve seen mention that idea? Hey, tell you what, why don’t you come in the bedroom with us and take a look so you can tell me whether or not I’m sticking it in the right hole, since you’re in such a mood to be so goddamn helpful?” I didn’t do that. I clammed up, stared as hard as I could at Aaron Rodgers hurling the prolate spheroid pigskin down the field. It was the only time I can think of that I was actually trying to pay attention to Joe Buck and tune out other noise, rather than vice-versa.

It’s so hard sometimes, because people do mean well. They want to say something helpful, and that they botch the effort at doing so like Christina Aguilera botched the Star-Spangled Banner does not negate their good intentions. And my problems are not their problems, no matter how much they wish to be sympathetic. Sometimes the easiest thing when your friend is explaining why he’s “in general” against IVF is to just nod and smile and not make it into A Thing and try to change the subject (“Hey, look at that, will.i.am looks like he stole a robot’s toupee!”).

To their credit, they realized they may have gone too far and offered sincere apologies for any offense they may have caused. Because they’re good people and obviously not without empathy or self-awareness.

But if I could offer just one bit of helpful advice to anyone out there who has discovered that a couple you know is dealing with infertility, it’s this: don’t try to offer any helpful advice. We really, really don’t need it, and it can be weird and uncomfortable and embarrassing. Sympathy is lovely and appreciated. Saying, “Oh, well, you guys just need to try the Rusty Bike Pump, that’ll do the trick!” is maybe not so much.

And on the plus side, it was a good game, and the wings and chili both came out great.

An Open Letter to Dr. Wendy Walsh

Most of you have probably by now read this delightful little missive from self-important windbag Dr. Wendy Walsh. But if not, brace yourself for a giant pile of thoughtless, idiotic and judgmental garbage and click on over to read what she’s got to say. Here follow some thoughts upon reading her, ahem, oh-so-brilliant-and-insightful thoughts on something that she never has and never will experience.

Dear Dr. Williams,

Fuck you. Fuck you sideways with a rusty chainsaw. Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you. Oh, and just for good measure: Fuck you.

If there’s one thing in this world I simply cannot abide, it’s a know-it-all busybody with a condescending attitide, someone who merrily tells people exactly how they should live their lives and then tacks on, “but that’s just my opinion, take it with a grain of salt.” In short, somebody exactly like you.

Tacking a meaningless, hollow platitude about how your “heart goes out to parents whose homes are barren through no fault of their own” doesn’t make your entire lunatic screed about how people should adopt rather than have a go at IVF any less insulting, any less foolish, any less condescending, any less asinine.

As you yourself note, Dr. Williams, you have not experienced the pain of infertility. So how can you so smugly explain to infertile couples what they ought to be doing? What in the name of Jesus H. Tapdancing Christ do you think gives you even the slightest qualification to tell us what is right in this situation?

Here’s an analogy for you: I’m a young, straight, white male of Protestantish background. I therefore don’t get to tell black people how they ought to feel when the KKK burns a cross on their lawn. I don’t get to tell Jews how they ought to react when they hear someone making tasteless Holocaust jokes. I don’t get to tell gay people what they ought to do when Fred Phelps and his cult of morons show up on the nightly news explaining that soldiers die because God Hates Fags. You get it? I do not directly experience racism, anti-Semitism or homophobia, so I wouldn’t presume to tell those who do how they ought to respond to such things. You, likewise, have no personal experience whatsoever with infertility, so you should, perhaps, not presume to tell those who do what they ought to be doing.

Look, adoption is a wonderful thing. Adoptive parents are, generally speaking, wonderful people who are doing a great thing that should be lauded. I want to raise children with my wife in part because I think we’re going to be pretty damn good parents, and adoption may in fact be something we pursue at some point, regardless of what else happens.

But I also want to have a child with my wife because I want the experience of HAVING a child. I want the experience of sharing pregnancy and childbirth with my wife, and I want the experience of creating and raising a person who is half me and half her mixed together to create something – someone – entirely new. So tell me, Dr. Wendy Walsh, just who the fuck are you to tell me that it’s not okay for me to want these things? Who the fuck are you to tell me that, because of a quirk of my biology, I shouldn’t have the things I want when modern medicine makes it possible? Just who the fuck do you think you are to tell me that I should suppress the single most basic instinct not just of human beings but of all life – to reproduce, to pass on my DNA to another generation – just because what comes so easily and thoughtlessly to people like you is difficult for me?

The smug superiority radiating from your every word astounds me, Dr. Walsh. The utterly baffling idea that those of us cursed with infertility should subsume our own desire to reproduce into some sort of ill-defined Greater Good is so smarmily insulting. You claim some sort of concern for the population of the planet, but then go on to mention that you, yourself, have contributed to the population by having “biological” children of your own. Which is it? Infertile people should be concerned with environmental issues and not contribute further to the population of the planet, but fertile people are under no similar constraint? That’s not just condescending and thoughtless; it’s actively vile. If you’re concerned about such issues, YOU, Dr. Walsh, need to do something about it, not just say, “You infertiles are required to carry this burden for us.”

Your entire column is so thoughtless, so tone-deaf, so judgmental and shows such an astounding lack of empathy that I must say I’m glad I’m not your patient. And truly, I am surprised: I didn’t know that Ringling Brothers Clown College was giving out Ph.D.s in psychology these days.

In conclusion, Dr. Walsh: fuck you. Fuck you running with a splintery broom handle. Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you, fuck you. In the future, please stick to your areas of actual expertise and experience, whatever those may be…because they are clearly unrelated entirely to the issues that infertile couples face. Fuck you.


N. Swimmin, Not a Doctor But Plays One on TV

Beyond Reason

If someone came to me this afternoon and said, “You can pick one sentence that I have the power to guarantee that no one will ever speak or write to you again,” there’s one clear and obvious choice. I think you readers – most of whom are either in the same boat as me and Ms. Swimmin or at least part of the same flotilla – know exactly what it is.

“Everything happens for a reason.”

It is, apparently, one of the standard responses upon hearing of a couple’s infertility. “Everything happens for a reason.” This is often followed by something akin to, “Just wait, it will happen when you least expect it,” and/or, “it will happen when the time is right.”

To which I can only say: Bull. Shit.

I know people often just don’t know quite what to say when confronted with such news. And I know that they probably think they’re being comforting, or offering a pearl of wisdom that will help us through this time…but all I can say is, “Bullshit.”

Nothing happens for a reason. Things just happen. And it’s not going to make me feel better to imagine that there’s a reason behind whatever biological quirk has caused my sperm to be useless, sluggish, lazy little bastards. It’s not going to give me some sort of philosophical perspective on the matter to imagine a world in which there’s some sort of motive or intent behind all of the misery and unhappiness that the situation causes both me and Ms. Swimmin.

If this is happening for a reason, pray tell, O Wise One, what could that reason possibly be? I try my best to be a good person. So does my wife. We both really, really want to have this hypothetical child. When this child comes, I will do everything I can to be a good father. And yet, the world is depressingly full of scumbags who beat their wives and cheat on them, parents who physically, emotionally or sexually abuse their children, fathers who think nothing of raiding their daughters’ piggy banks to buy beer, mothers who don’t bat an eye while telling their sons, “You ruined my life, you’re stupid, I hate you,” and on and on and on. And for so many people like that, the babies just pop out easy as pie. So what, then, could the reason be to make it so goddamn hard for us?

There’s also Everything Happens for a Reason’s religious counterpart, “It’s all part of God’s plan,” about which the less said, the better. Thanks, I suppose, to the circles I generally run in, I haven’t yet heard that one from anyone. If I ever do, I don’t think I’ll be able to nod and smile politely. I think the, “No, fuck you and let me tell you something…” is going to arise with a fury and intensity beyond my control.

I don’t think people who don’t have to deal with it really understand that infertility isn’t a cold or the chicken pox. It’s not going to get better. I’m not going to become more fertile if I rest for a couple of weeks, get plenty of fluids and eat some chicken soup. So talking about how it’ll happen “when you lest expect it” or “when the time is right” isn’t helpful, or comforting, or even particularly intelligent. For so many people of the “my husband looks at me and Ooops! I’m pregnant again” persuasion, it’s a totally foreign concept.

And because they don’t understand infertility to begin with – and they don’t have to, lucky them – they don’t get that IVF or other medical intervention-type solutions aren’t simple and easy. It’s not like getting a flu shot or having your annual physical. It’s a long and difficult process with no guarantees anywhere along the way. It’s a Great Big “If” and can by no means be considered pregnancy “happening when the time is right.”

I know people want to offer sympathy, offer comfort, offer wisdom, offer advice. But telling me there’s a reason that I feel useless, that I feel like a failure – feelings that I know aren’t really true, but that I can’t seem to avoid having from time to time – just doesn’t help. In fact, it hurts.

We were discussing it with some friends the other day, and one of them really did have some wisdom to offer. It was wisdom that came, apparently from that old busybody Dear Abby, who I guess really did have good advice to offer every now and then. There is really nothing wrong with saying, “I don’t know what to say.” It’s okay. It’s honest. It has the supreme advantage of not being an idiotic and meaningless platitude. If you don’t know what to say, say that.

Just don’t tell me that my wife and I can’t have the one thing we dearly and passionately want above any other right now…but it’s okay, because the universe has a reason for denying it to us.

The Boxers

For most of my adult life, I’ve been a boxer-brief man. I like a little support, as it were, but can certainly do without the ol’ tighty-whiteys. Boxer-briefs were the perfect solution.

Until now, of course.

“Switch to boxers,” says the Doc. And so I did. We went to Target and bought a couple of big packages of tartan-print boxer shorts. And I’ve been wearing nothing but the boxers for several weeks now. And boy, oh, boy do I hate it.

My boys, as Cosmo Kramer one said, need a house. And the boxers just ain’t cuttin’ it. I liked my boxer-briefs. I could put on a pair and go running or go for a bike ride and not have to think about it. The other day, without really thinking about it, I went for a bike ride with Ms. Swimmin while wearing a pair of boxers. Paused at one point, dismounted. When we got back on the bikes…RRIIIIIIP! There goes a pair of boxers. They don’t move with me, and in fact they often seem to be working against me.

And the support issue. Oy. I like things to be stable and secure in that region. With the boxers, stability and security are gone. What was once the Midwest has become the Middle East. We go for a walk, things are bouncing and flopping all over the place. And it rubs the wrong way…or, perhaps, too much the right way, if you take my meaning. We’re out walking, I have to pee, and the shorts are rubbing the parts and…well, Ms. Swimmin is introducing me to her old church choir director while I’ve got the kind of unwanted and embarrassing boner I haven’t really had since I was a sophomore in high school. “Nice to meet you,” please don’t look down please don’t look down please don’t look down, “Ms. Swimmin has told me so much about you!” Not good times.

Or how about when I take off my pants and lay in bed with just my shorts on, as I am wont to do. And the fly of the boxer shorts gaps open, as it is wont to do. And of course, the li’l guy peeks out of the gapping fly in kind of a funny way, as it is wont to do. And then I experience my wife pointing at my dick and giggling. Which, though I know she’s just teasing and she doesn’t mean it in a malicious or mean-spirited way, is kind of weird.

No, sir, I don’t like ’em. But these are the sacrifices we make to get the things we want in life. And if a few months of uncomfortable underwear is the worst thing either of us will have to endure during this process, I’ll count us very lucky, indeed.


Hey, look, I’m back! Sorry for the long layoff – just after getting things going – but Ms. Swimmin and I just moved, which was a huge process and during which we had but sporadic access to the internet. So it’s been a while, as Jim Anchower of the Onion would say, since I rapped atcha, but here we are. Sorry also to those of you whose comments on previous posts got hung up in the moderation queue while the move was happening. Things got kinda hairy for a while there.


Last time out, I talked some about an unexpected reaction to a movie advertisement. Unexpected reactions abound these days. Had dinner with my parents (in order to pick up my Dad’s truck to facilitate loading all of our boxes and furniture into the big truck) a couple of weeks ago, and the season premiere of How I Met Your Mother came on. Which, of course, had a subplot about Marshall and Lily trying to get pregnant and Lily explaining to Marshall that things might not happen the way they expect. This mere days after we finally told my parents at least a bit of what was going on with our own efforts to get pregnant. So…yeah, that was awkward. Followed by some other show that we turned off really quickly that began with two characters saying to another, “Thank you so much for agreeing to be our surrogate…” Oy. It never ends. One thing that is guaranteed about television and the movies: nobody who wants to be pregnant will accomplish it easily; anybody who doesn’t want to be pregnant will get knocked up at the drop of a hat.

Another unexpected reaction came the other day while listening to NPR news in the car. They were doing several stories related Robert Edwards, the developer of in vitro fertilization, winning the Nobel Prize for Medicine. And one of their interview subjects, Dr. Randi Hutter Epstein, author of a book about the history of pregnancy and childbirth called Get Me Out, said: “Everything we do is considered horrible and weird and scary. And then when it works, because so many couples are desperate to have a baby, we just go with it.”

What an idiotic and thoughtless comment.

We’re “desperate to have a baby?” Desperate? Really?

Look, I know it doesn’t really mean anything, and I know she wasn’t trying to be offensive. It just struck me as really thoughtless. When I think of desperation, I don’t think of infertile couples. Desperation, to me, is the gambler at the horse track putting his last three bucks on a long-shot Superfecta bet as his only chance to make the rent. Desperation is a drug addict who’ll do anything for a fix. Desperation is entirely negative. To be desperate, to experience desperation is related, linguistically, to “despair,” and that’s one thing I just can’t let myself feel.

I don’t despair. I don’t feel, to borrow the Oxford American Dictionary definition, “the complete loss or absence of hope.” Hope is the one thing we’ve got going for us.

I hope that the Magic Beans I’m taking help kick things into gear. I hope, failing that, that we are able to find a way to afford the financial aspect and weather the physical and emotional turmoil of IVF. I hope that, when we do IVF, it works and Ms. Swimmin finds herself pregnant. I hope that she gives birth to a beautiful and healthy baby. But I don’t despair. I don’t lose hope because right now, hope is all I’ve got.

To lump those of us who find getting pregnant to be a medical process in with gamblers and alcoholics and junkies and such is just plain thoughtless. Better to say, “…because so many couples who can’t get pregnant the old-fashioned way are still hoping to have a baby…” or, “…so many couples are dealing with infertility and are always looking for anything that will improve their chances of getting pregnant…” or just about anything, really. Any way of saying, “in vitro fertilization is an amazing thing that is responsible for eight million parents getting something they want more than anything else in the world” that doesn’t make infertile couples sound like junkies on the prowl for a fix.

It’s a small thing, and like I said, I’m sure Dr. Whosiwhatsis meant no offense. But it stuck in my craw. And I don’t like hearing something that is as close as possible to a genuine miracle without actually being one discussed in such negative and dismissive terminology.

On a related note, there’s this utterly moronic, idiotic, facile, stupid, and blatantly offensive piece from Cathy Lynn Grossman of USA Today, pure twaddle of the highest order. To borrow a line from Billy Madison, Ms. Grossman, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever read. At no point in your rambling, incoherent column were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having read it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

To cleanse yourself after reading such idiocy, I recommend PZ Meyers’ response, especially:

And it’s incredibly offensive to go further and suggest that the parents of these children, who have gone to extraordinary expense and trouble to conceive, are mere “shoppers”, as if people who get pregnant in a casual evening’s rut are somehow necessarily conscientious ethical philosophers and serious about their children, while someone who sinks $10,000+ dollars into invasive medical procedures and subjects their body to a few months of stressful hormonal treatments must be getting pregnant on impulse.

Thank you, PZ Meyers, for saying what we’re all thinking.

The Great Big But

First, a note: Thanks to everyone who has read and commented so far. It has been encouraging and energizing to get so much positive feedback right off the bat. In spite of this community being one that none of us really wants to be a part of, y’all are pretty fantastic, positive and supportive people. Thanks for reading!


It’s weird how things will just up and blindside you. Last night, I was watching TV and happened to see an ad for this new movie Life as We Know It.

First off, it looks like an awful movie. I’m not anti-chick-flick by any means – heck, I was watching Gossip Girl when I saw the ad, so I’d say my willing-and-able-to-enjoy-female-oriented-pop-culture creds are safe – but this just looks like a collection of horrible clichés and stereotypes and Idiot Plotting and, gee, I wonder if Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel* will hate each other at the end of the second act and then get together at the end of the third? Do you suppose perhaps they’ll be brought together by the important lesson that only having children can possibly validate you as a person?

* Interesting star pairing here. She doesn’t have enough vowels in her name and he’s got too many.

I mean, all you really need is a look at the movie’s poster to learn all you really need to know:

Men are dumb and slobs and kind of like big kids, yanno? Which one’s the baby and which one’s the grown-up, amirite? Oh, it’s funny because it’s true. Or something.

Also, Josh Duhamel’s tighty-whities and black high tops combo there is kind of disturbing.

But none of that is really the point.

A medical diagnosis of infertility has had a curious effect. During the last few months of the trying-without-succeeding year, I said on a couple of occasions, “I don’t think my life will be incomplete if we don’t have a child.” I said that with the luxury of being able to still think, “We’ve just had bad luck, and things will work out eventually.” It was a statement without any real weight behind it.

Now I’m forced to ponder the reality of that. What happens if the Magic Beans don’t work?** What if we decide that we just can’t afford IVF, or if Ms. Swimmin just can’t/won’t put her body through that stress? What if we go for IVF and it still doesn’t work? What if, what if, what if…?

** Yes, I’ve started taking Magic Beans, operating on the “Well, it can’t hurt anything” theory, those being the verbatim words of both the Reproductive Endocrinologist and the Urologist.

So I remind myself of all the things about a child-free existence that are good. We can travel. When the right opportunity to go to Egypt or Norway or Japan or anywhere else that sounds intriguing comes along, we can just up and go without thinking about school schedules or whether we can leave the kids with Grandma for a week or anything else like that. We can have a little more fun with our money – buy a new TV instead of making sure there’s enough for the kids to play soccer or go to camp or things like that. We can go to the movies or a concert or out to dinner at a restaurant that doesn’t purchase crayons by the gross or serve chicken nuggets without ever thinking about getting a babysitter or feeling the need to call home to check in (because the cats sure as hell aren’t going to answer the phone). We can, in short, live our lives knowing that our only responsibility is to ourselves.

And, in spite of the message of every movie or TV show about having kids ever to come out of Hollywood – a cultural monolith that is, collectively, deeply conservative and traditional and terrified of offending Middle America down to its very bones in spite of the bleating of right-wing blowhards – I truly believe that having and caring for children is not the only meaningful way to validate yourself as a person. People are perfectly capable of living rich, interesting, meaningful and completely fulfilling lives without children. And if that turns out to be the case in our lives, I’m sure we will do just that.


Oh, there’s that great big but. There’s always a great big but.

But…I see this ad for this awful-looking movie, I see the moment when Josh Duhamel (clad, thankfully, in more than tighty-whities and black high-tops) accidentally gets the baby crying, and I can think only of one thing. I want that. Not the crying, necessarily, though obviously it’s kind of a package deal. But the idea that there’s this small person for whom the world is frightening, confusing and upsetting and that I, of all people in the world, might be the one person who makes things less frightening, happier, calmer…that’s an idea that pleases me immensely.

I want it in spite of the detriment to my own personal freedom.  I think that, at first, back at the very beginning, well before the pulling of the goalie, I wanted kids mostly because Ms. Swimmin wanted kids, and I didn’t not want kids. In the beginning, that was enough for me. Now, things have changed. I still want kids in part because she does – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I think she’s going to be an absolutely fantastic mother. But beyond that, I want kids because I, myself, really and legitimately want them. I want them because I really do think I’d be a pretty good father. I may not succeed at any of the other things I do or want in life…but I really do believe I’d be a success at just that one thing.

And just how much I wanted this on a purely personal level, independent of Ms. Swimmin’s own wants, needs or desires, is something I had never really realized before. No matter what happens from here on out, I don’t think I’ll ever again be able to say honestly that I won’t feel like my life is incomplete without children. It was an astonishing revelation, equal parts incredibly exciting and terribly sad.

Hard to believe. All that from an ad for a bad-looking movie that aired during a trashy soap opera aimed at teenage girls. Life is full of these little surprises. That’s kinda what’s so great about it.