news item: “my 20 minutes in fertility hell”

Dick jokes. Coming up with a good one is hard… There! I did it. Ice broken?

I came across this third-hand via some blog hopping that is a little fuzzy now. Warning: For some reason your browser tab will just say “Masturbation –”. But that’s not all this article is about! Only mostly.

Last week, featured (re-blogged? re-posted?) an article by Greg Pollock titled “My 20 minutes in fertility hell” (originally titled “In the JO Room” on his Tumblr). Twenty WHOLE minutes you say? Do GO ON! Eyeroll completed, I make a sour duck face at the subtitle: “When my wife had trouble conceiving, I had to stare down my fears in a room filled with porn DVDs and Hustlers.”  My actual thought was “OMFG. Please don’t be a dick about this, dude.”

He wasn’t – I actually had a few giggles while I read this. Afterwards, I really started thinking about what it must be like to be the male partner on this journey. Not necessarily emotionally, which is a whole other, somewhat elusive perspective to gain, but the nitty gritty of their part in various treatment protocols.

She gave me a sterile cup, a thick white plastic bag like you get at the dentist, a form to fill out and a pen. (I immediately wondered how sterile it was.) Maybe I was nervous or maybe she waited too long, but I asked, “So, do I go home … or … what?”

She sort of laughed and said, “Oh no, we have a special collection room with materials” or something like that. Whatever she said was totally professional and alluded to the fact that this would be a good JO room.

Now, I need to interject here. When my partner went for his first SA, it was not at our RE clinic (as we weren’t “there” yet). It was at the regular lab, at the regular hospital. He was met with a “You’re here for what?? Ummm….” response at the lab. He ended up in a “room” which was really just those shitty office divider panels next to someone coughing up shit for a lung something or other. It was decidedly NOT a JO room. He was quite upset when he came home. He declined to comment further on any of this when I brought up writing this post. When I think about it,  he has never talked about his experience with this at all.

I put the plastic cup, form and pen down on the counter. There was another copy of the instructions — laminated, ew — which I read again to make sure I didn’t screw up. The sterile container had a piece of tape that broke when I twisted the cap, exposing its heretofore pristine interior to the harsh world of a JO room. Bad news, plastic container: It’s only going to get worse.

…I could get the engine to turn over but not to start. My heart was going ape-shit. I don’t know if it was from physical strain (I kept sinking into a sort of squat and I was pumping furiously) or nerves (I was very nervous even during the drive) or what. The more I thought about failing at JOing, the harder it — the JO, not my dick — became until I was the sweat-drenched Cathy of JO rooms.

Reading this article, while funny and a little embarrassing, helped give me some perspective into what goes on behind closed doors for the men. It helped me gain a little more compassion for what they have to go through to physically contribute to the process, whether it is for an SA, or for an actual IUI or IVF procedure.

BUT. I must also admit that for the most part, my reaction to having to go “give a sample” is…too effing bad dudes. Oh… the JO room isn’t comfortable enough for you? I mean, I get that it isn’t ideal conditions and all but… really? REALLY? With all the people who have had their hands, and their lubricated/condomed wands up my vagina? All the shots I’ve had to take? All the humiliation I have had to endure, ALWAYS in front of impassive strangers? I am more than a little resentful when I consider what my partner had to ‘endure’ physically and what I did. Even emotionally, it was always harder on me (um, says me). Sure, he had to deal with my expression of said emotions, but ain’t nobody shoving wands up his nether regions is what I’m saying. Yes – I’m playing the Pain Olympics with my own husband here. Yes – that continues to be a source of pain in how we are healing from this journey.

I realize that every case is different, and some of our male partners did have to go through invasive procedures along the way. In my professional life, I know a lot about varicocele surgery, sperm extraction techniques, and the like. My second-hand experience with the JO Room in our case leaves me with little sympathy, but I would never actually wish any more than that on my partner so that we could somehow be “even”. I suppose what I really wish is that my part of the family building process could have included an orgasm too.


Did your partner share his experience in the JO Room (or…similar) with you?

Have you written about your partner’s experience with giving a sample? Anything you would feel comfortable sharing with the class today?

Did you discuss it? Did it lead to further discussion of how he was coping emotionally?

Do you think reading an article like this might help or hinder a male partner at this stage of the journey?

As always, please feel free to add anything else you like in the comments below.


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  1. I did not realize this was the article my husband just told me about the other day. omg.

    I’m dying laughing over here, mostly from embarrassment.

    I would love to get a bunch of these guys together in a room and overhear them comparing “war stories.”

    I agree– it’s not about the Pain Olympics, but I definitely teased my husband when he complained about his very (understandably) weird and awkward experience. But I still appreciate it because honestly? I would MUCH RATHER redo my shots and IUI (which hurt, for some reason!) than have to go to the JO room! I would turn purple and die of shame!

  2. findmynewnormal says:

    I’ve actually written about the collection room a few times on my blog. Over the years, The Hubby and I have had many conversations about the subject.

    In this ( post I wrote:

    “At the same time, the hubby was whisked away to provide his sample for freezing. After all the complaining he did about the last clinic’s lack of and “reading” materials I was wondering how this one would go. Well lucky for him, this place has the Rolls Royce of collection rooms. *Warning,,,, TMI alert!!! Reclining leather chairs, adult TV channels, plus nice wide collection cups so not much aim is needed. I’m told that aim can be an issue at times. I kid you not! His only issue was that at first he couldn’t figure out how to use the remote control. So he was quite pleased.”

    In this ( post where I write a super classy (or not) glossary of infertility terms I wrote:

    “Collection Room- The one and only sacrifice our dear husbands have to make. And when I say sacrifice I am laughing hysterically. This is the room where you hubby goes to wack off into a cup. My hubby has been in many of these and tells me that the quality of both the accommodations and reading material can vary widely depending on the facility. From the bathroom of a lab with no dirty magazines to the Rolls Royce of all collection rooms which has leather reclining chairs, porn on demand on the TV, and a remote control. He thinks that a tour of this room should be done before final clinic selection.”

  3. I read that article over the weekend. Yeah, there were some times I chuckled when I read it, but his tone was horrific. Poor baby, 20 entire minutes?!?! Bless your heart! My husband and I talked about his experience in general terms, but he didn’t really want to talk about it too much. I would be mortified to have to go into that room and have everyone know what I was there to do.

    I’ll have him read the article and see if he wants to talk about it 🙂

  4. As some of you know, I use poor humour to cover for the ridiculous situations that we’ve been in over the years. I distinctly remember my husband coming out the JO room and I was waiting outside the room with a smirk on my face and remember saying “so, was it Jenna Jensen leaning over the convertible or me on the couch, afro bun in my hair asking you if you want to get it on before the biggest loser come on tv?”

    Good man had the decency to say it was me 😉

    That was the most we ever talked about his experience in the JO room.

  5. “I suppose what I really wish is that my part of the family building process could have included an orgasm too.” — AMEN!

    I’m copy/pasting what I wrote about this before. 🙂

    I should really write a post about my husband’s experience with this some day. The short story is this – His first SA was done back on my OB days at a local hospital that doesn’t specialize in RE work, and to this day I don’t know if it was a screw up by admissions or the young kid working the desk or what, but my hubby had to JO in the fucking regular men’s bathroom next to a guy taking a 20 minute shit. My poor husband was so afraid of my wrath if he came home without having completed his part of the deal that he powered through. I honestly don’t know how he did it. *gagging*

  6. I feel like I’m going to write a novel on this topic, but I’ll try and keep it short. First of all, my husband had to do it three times. The first time was the initial SA, and the second and third were for our IUIs. The first time I was in the waiting room when he went back to “the room.” It was just me for a while and then another couple came in and sat down. You could tell they were there for the same thing, and apparently there was only one “room,” so all three of us were sitting next to each other waiting for my dear husband to come out so proud of what he had just accomplished. We waited…and waited…and waited. I was starting to get embarrassed. I reached into my purse to send him a text only to find he had already text me with “you might want to go get some breakfast, this is gonna take a while.” Even as I type that it cracks my shit up. A little longer passed and the nurse called me back into the hallway. She told me they had someone else waiting and that I needed to go in and tell him to wrap it up. I just sent him a text back saying he was out of time and to come on out. He emerged a few minutes later and we left. He didn’t even try in there!! He was just playing games on his phone. Um, hello! We needed that sample for a reason! He said there was no way it was happening in that room. They didn’t have magazines or videos or anything. Anyway, long story short, he had a VERY hard time waking up bright and early to do the deed. We ended up bringing the cup home with us for the two IUIs so he could at least do it in the comfort of our own home, but we live 30 minutes away, so as soon as he was done, he’d have to hop in the car (sample in his pants or under his arm to keep it at the right temperature) and haul ass through rush hour traffic to get it to the doctor’s office. It was a mess and he will bitch and moan about it all day if you ask him. I have not written about his experience on my blog, but I think I just shared enough here, haha!

    • Playing games on his phone?! JJ!!! I would have flipped out. Yikes. You’re a nicer wife than I am. 🙂

      • Ha, I know I guess I wasn’t all that surprised. But I did ask him when he came out how long he planned to stay in there if he wasn’t trying at all. He didn’t have a good answer, just a shrug and an “I don’t know.” He sometimes brings it up on occasion how it was pretty impossible for him to do it according to the IUI schedules (first thing in the morning) so for that reason alone I hope we never have to do it again.

  7. My husband mentioned it in passing on his blog:

    I left it to him, and only wrote my complaint that the RE ‘didn’t see any need’ for an SA because ‘we know what’s wrong with you.’

    So he had to see his family practice doctor, where they don’t have a special room, just the public restroom. I felt so bad for him.

  8. I was furious with my hubby when it came time for his SA. At our RE they send a cup home with you. You take care of business, put the cup in your pocket to keep it warm, and deliver it to the lab within an hour. Hubby kept putting it off and putting it off. I finally made him do it but he had to call me for “help” in the bathroom. And then he complained about it. It was all I could do not to kick him where it hurts but that would have defeated the purpose I suppose…

  9. Well, it is an interesting perspective. I have written on my husband’s walk of shame on a couple of occasions. The first JO room at the first RE was the Rolls Royce Findingmynewnormal talked about. At his first collection, I went in to help “get things started” because, well it can be a bit nerve wracking. And then, well, aim does matter. I had already left before he did the deed, but apparently he missed. Think about it ladies….Do you really want to think about aim when you’re orgasming? Ya, neither do guys.

    The new RE home office has a room, but it’s certainly not as fancy as the firsts, but the IVF clinic downtown is apparently AHHH MAZ ZING….

    So yeah, I’ve compared with my hubs what he has to go through and what I have to go through. Part of why I don’t understand why he so willing to give up when I’m more than willing to put my body through hell again.

    BUUUUT…. I do agree I wish my contribution to procreation included an orgasm…or 2 🙂

  10. Well, I guess I’m going to be the one and only woman who says this, but I totally wouldn’t have a problem going into a JO room. Seriously, I’ll take a vibrator over a injection any day! I like sex a lot, almost too much. That’s the only perk of IF, when you get to BD all the time. 🙂 Twice a day if it wouldn’t ruin sperm count… But I digress…

    My husband didn’t think it was a big deal. More complaints about traffic to the clinic, and parking shortages… though he did say that the waiting room was a bit awkward, as all the men looked shiftily at each other and tried not to have mental images of the man who was leaving the room ahead of him. Also he was concerned about making sure the room was “all the way” clean. Like did the guy before him wash his hands before he used the doorknob? But the actual jack off? Meh. Not a biggie. Quick and clean, and out the door. Though he did lie nicely and say he was only thinking of me… I choose to believe him. 🙂

  11. Had to laugh at that last sentence. 😉 I am certain for most men it’s not exactly something they look forward to having to do (omg, I can’t believe these stories about, um, acquiring, a sample in a public restroom! WTH!?!?) My memory fails me, but I’m pretty sure we were able to get all our samples (for testing and our IUIs) here at home because we lived close enough to home to run it over to the lab while things were still fresh.

    This particular part of the process is not something the hubs and I reminisce over often. *eye roll*

  12. I’m thinking I might actually have to write a real post on this subject… Stan and I have talked in depth (okay, not like in REAL depth) about his multitude of experiences in the JO room. With B2B IUIs for 3 cycles plus the initial SA, he was an old hand (bahaha! See, I can do it too!!).

    • Also, poor BJB and the other guys who’ve had to do this is less “enticing” locations. That’s just ridiculous. I know men are more physical than women, and likely once they get going it’s not so hard (snort) but still!

  13. When we were at Cyrobank with the two gynaes we did our IUIs with there was a decent room with a bed, videos, etc. Imagine our surprise when at the fertility clinic there is only one room with a bed. There was only a room like a bathroom left over for us. My DH refused to use the place. (he is like that, I’ve gotten used to it now) and we landed up doing the sample at home.

  14. We do not joke about this in our house. I am actually quite bitter about the whole thing given what I went through with pre-testing, 2 IVF’s, and 1 FET all the while not being “the problem” in our equation. I was fine with our MFI, because his infertility is my infertility, etc… but we got to collect at home and he wanted my assistance. Umm… really? I’ve had countless vibrating wands up my V*, saline in my ute, dye in my tubes, needles in my ass, needles in my stomach, sticky patches all over my back, and blood draws like crazy – all of which I did on my OWN, and he wanted HELP???

    I’m bitter. It’s true. I did not help with our FET. But keep count, ladies… 2 SA’s at the OB, 1 SA at the RE, 2 IUI’s (one they didn’t do because of horrid count) at the RE, 2 IVF’s, and 3 sessions of just freezing semen because he could be sterile by now – so that’s 10 JO’s and 9 in which I had to assist.

    No laughing here. But I’m so glad the rest of you can 😉


  1. […] by the most recent article showcased over at PAIL, I thought I’d take a moment out of my Thursday to talk about Stan’s experience with That […]

  2. […] her thoughts on the ins and outs of “The JO Room” and touched on what this experience must be like for the men folk. We had a good-natured […]

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