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.

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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.

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!

Anyway…


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.

But…

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.

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.

Expectations

Now there’s a book I’d buy!

Back in the earliest days of this endeavor, Ms. Swimmin came across a copy of the ubiquitous pregnancy manual What to Expect When You’re Expecting in a used bookstore and bought it, figuring it’d be handy to have and might as well be prepared for the inevitable pregnancy, right?

I leafed through it at the time, figuring I’d actually read it later during the inevitable pregnancy. But as I recall, there’s a big section in the book on what to do if things go pear-shaped (as it were) during your pregnancy.

What does not exist – so far as I know – is any authoritative set of instructions about what to do if things go pear-shaped before you even get to the “pregnant” part.

For example, what do you tell your families?

As I noted in my first post, we haven’t yet even told my parents that we were trying to get Ms. Swimmin all knocked up. There are a variety of reasons for this, but mostly because once they knew, my Grandma, hoping for just one great-grandchild to compare with her sister’s dozen or so, would know, and once my Grandma knew, the entire damn state would know, and half of the next state over…and, well, privacy counts for something, y’know?

And speaking of privacy… Ms. Swimmin’s Mom knew we were trying (as also noted previously), as did her sisters. So after we got the first test results last week, we told them what we decided we were ready to tell them: that we had gotten some test results that indicated that getting Ms. Swimmin pregnant was going to require outside help, and potentially help of an extraordinary degree.

That’s what we told them not just because it’s what we felt comfortable telling them, but also because that’s all we really knew for sure, and all we still know for sure now.

And so, expectations: what reaction should a couple in a situation like ours expect from family? Maybe we were foolish to expect sympathy and support. Maybe we should have known that wasn’t what we would get.

Ms. Swimmin’s Mom’s first thought – one of the very first things she said after hearing our news: “Are you going to be upset if one of your sisters gets pregnant before you?”

There’s history behind that statement too complicated – and detail-revealing – to get into here (though anyone with siblings probably has a general idea of the basics), but the upshot of it was that her Mom’s first thought on hearing news that’s really distressing on a very deep and personal level to her daughter: Gee, I hope this doesn’t cause more family drama.

Thanks, Mom. That’s really comforting.

She called again last night to talk more about the situation pry and try to lay a guilt-trip on Ms. Swimmin. “Your sister wants know if she should be tested for anything.” Well, you know what? Ms. Swimmin’s sister is an adult, a college graduate, and has Ms. Swimmin’s telephone number, e-mail address and is friends with her on Facebook. There’s no shortage of avenues of communication, and if Dear Sister wants to ask Ms. Swimmin questions pry, she’s perfectly capable of doing it directly, rather than using Mom as a go-between.

The refrain from the phone conversation that really sticks in my craw, though, is: “You’re being so secretive about this!”

In Mother-in-Law’s worldview, secrets are bad, and being secretive is bad. She has, I suspect, some amount of valid reason behind feeling that way, but “secretive” is one of the big guns in her arsenal of guilt-trip words.

But the thing is, we’re not being secretive. We’re exercising our right to privacy when it comes to our own medical issues. We told her family as much as we feel like telling them right now. As we learn more and this process continues, we will undoubtedly tell them more. But for right now, it’s none of their business, and it frustrates me to no end that Ms. Swimmin’s Mom doesn’t seem to get that. We get to keep some things to ourselves, and her curiosity and obsessive need to know everything about her daughters’ lives don’t trump that. And if she doesn’t like it, tough. She can go jump in the lake.

The thing is, right now, we don’t need her harassing us for details, we don’t need her suggestions about something she read about on the internet to make my boys swim better, we don’t need her telling us what our astrological charts say about when we should be doing it, we don’t need her peering over our shoulders. We really just want to hear her say, “I’m sorry, that’s really awful, if there’s anything I can do, please let me know.” Why is that so hard?

Number 9…Number 9…Number 9…

So the good news is that the semen analysis results got put into the computer system, so I was able to view them on Kaiser’s website.

The better news is that the motility number this time around is NOT ZERO. It’s 9. That’s still not a very good number, but it’s better than zero.

The bad news is that the count is much lower than it was in test #1; 6 million this time around vs. 12 million in test 1.

The worse news is that Kaiser is pretty much closed for the holiday weekend, so I still won’t be able to talk to the Doc until Tuesday, and I really don’t know what these numbers really mean, other than that I’m pretty sure that NINE is better than ZERO.

But that fact will be enough to get me through the rest of the weekend.

1 Guy 1 Cup

So, twice in the last week, I’ve jerked off into a cup.

Having had now a good 20 years experience in jerking it, this has been an unusual experience. During my teenage years, a huge part of the masturbatory experience was finding a convenient and easily concealable way of disposing of the end product. Old socks, tissues, doing it in the shower…that sort of thing. And, well…like a lot of guys (most guys, probably), I got a lot of practice at disposing of the evidence.

And now twice I’ve carefully contained the evidence in a sterile, labeled jar, written down the time when I produced the sample and delivered it to the lab at the local Kaiser-Permanente facility. I suppose I shouldn’t have been embarrassed by the lab tech asking, in her outside voice, “Is it a urine sample?” and then, when I shook my head, “Oh, a SEMEN sample.” But it’s hard not to be. I wasn’t even about to turn around to get a look at whether the people sitting around in the lobby, waiting for radiology appointments (radiology and the lab being right next to one another), had any reaction to that…much less the old lady in line behind me, waiting to get her blood drawn.

I shouldn’t have been embarrassed because ultimately there’s nothing really to be embarrassed about. Ordinary medical process, medical facility, probably nobody cares. But it’s a little weird making something that was always so private – something that was to be hidden, thrown out, run down the drain or through the laundry – so strangely public. Here I am, handing over a paper bag containing a cup into which I have ejaculated to a perfect stranger. I know what’s in, she knows what’s in it, and now everybody in radiology knows what’s in it, too.

Fortunately, it was a different lab tech the second time around, who managed to ask what kind of sample I was presenting in a much more discreet manner.

Unfortunately, I dropped off my second sample on Thursday afternoon, and business hours have come and gone on Friday without me hearing a peep from the lab or the RE’s office. And now we’re headed into the holiday weekend. So, in all likelihood, I won’t hear results from the second test until Tuesday.

You ever try not to think of something? You know, the old “whatever you do, don’t think of pink elephants” trick? The harder you try not to think about something, the more you think about it. And now I’ve got three long days to try my best not to think about the results of the second test. That should go well. And given how well I slept last night anticipating getting results this morning, I should be feeling FUCKING GREAT by Tuesday morning.

On the plus side, like I said before, I’m not expecting much in the way of a different result this time around. This is just a hoop to jump through so we can all make absolutely sure we know what we’re dealing with before I get shipped off to the urologist to start seriously discussing terrifying terms like “testicular biopsy.”