Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.

“Um…yeah.”

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.

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.

Sincerely,

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

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.

Desperation

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.

Anyway…

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.

Eggshells and Tightropes

Some of our very good friends have a 20-month-old boy who is maybe the cutest kid ever. Her pregnancy was not the thing that kicked off the whole “let’s have a baby” idea for us, but it certainly kicked us (and especially Ms. Swimmin) into overdrive. He’s our wedding baby – he was conceived the same week that his Dad served as a groomsman in our wedding. If we’d conceived a child immediately after our wedding – like Ms. Swimmin’s parents did – that kid would be the same age as our friends’ kid.

Yesterday, the kid’s Mom posted a video of Kid and Dad reading a book together. Pretty cute stuff. And, unexpectedly, watching it left me a bawling, sobbing mess. Recognizing that whether I would ever get to have a simple moment like that of my own remains a very open question just wiped me out.

Not the fault of Mom, Dad or Kid, of course. And in the end, I was delighted to see the video, because the three of them are some of my very favorite people and it was great to be able to peek in on such a nice moment.

It’s kind of the flip side of what I wrote about in my last post. I don’t want the people who know about the difficulties we’re having to be callous and insensitive to how tough it is, of course. But on the other hand, I don’t want our friends and/or family members who do have kids to feel like they have to walk on eggshells around us. I want our friends to be proud of their kids, talk about their kids, show us their photos and videos and tell us their funny stories and everything else. How I feel about it is my own row to hoe, ultimately.

I guess I just don’t want my desire for some level of sympathy to come off as self-centered. When Mother-in-Law asks “Will you be upset if one of your sisters gets pregnant before you?”, the answer isn’t nearly so simple as maybe she thinks it is. Say one of Ms. Swimmin’s sisters gets pregnant while we’re still figuring things out, still waiting, still hoping. I’m going to be happy for them, because I absolutely want them to have that experience if they want it. I’m going to be excited for them and maybe start brushing up on my sleight-of-hand so I can be the cool uncle who does magic tricks.

But, hey, guess what, Mom? I also reserve the right to be upset about it, and there’s not a goddamn thing in the world you can do about. I wouldn’t dream of saying anything about it, of telling pregnant Sister-in-Law that I’m insanely jealous or kind of sad, because none of that really has anything to do with her, ultimately. But nobody’s desire for family harmony or hope to avoid conflict and discord trumps my right to feel the way I honestly feel about things. If confronted with such an immediate and stark reminder of the things I can’t have, I get to be sad about the things I can’t have. And I get to be a little jealous.

This is all hypothetical, of course. Sisters-in-law aren’t pregnant or planning on being pregnant anytime soon. But we do have a kid who’s something of a nephew…and it’s a tightrope walk. It’s a balancing act of being proud of the Kid and happy for his parents and enjoying vicariously the joy he brings to their lives, and allowing myself the luxury of being kind of sad about it, too.

And the worst part is that whether I like it or not, it’s a tightrope walk I have to perform without a net.