news item: for men, infertility often becomes a private heartache

Welcome, this is a special 2-part series featuring posts from myself and my husband. Today I’m going to review a news article that looks at the male perspective of infertility, and share with you about our own personal journey. Tomorrow my husband is going to respond to the same news article with his perspective – what it’s like to be the guy half of a couple facing infertility. So stay tuned!

What is it like to go through infertility? We could all write pages about that one question. But ask it slightly differently and I bet most of us would struggle to find an answer: What is it like to go through infertility as a man? And even harder to answer: What is it like to go through infertility as a man, with indications that male factor infertility issues are at play?

A recent Washington Post article attempts to look at these two questions. What is it like for a man to watch your wife go through injections, invasive procedures, only to not get pregnant month after month? The unspoken rule of silence that pervades men when going through infertility issues, how does a guy bring that up to his buddies? At best it’s just a general comment of “were having trouble getting pregnant” and then averting of eyes and changing the topic.

Why? Because society tells us that infertility is a) ALWAYS the woman’s fault, and b) men are always super fertile. When a couple announces they are pregnant, what happens? The husband gets slapped on the back and comments of ‘good job’, ‘way to go’ and other inane and inappropriate comments are made. The author of the article relates a real life example:

When she considers what men go through, she thinks about rapper Jay-Z. At an awards show soon after wife Beyoncé announced her pregnancy, cameras panned to the expectant mother proudly rubbing her growing belly. Men sitting near the couple jumped up to slap Jay-Z on the back and offer high-fives for a job well done.

And when you do come out of the ‘infertility –closet’, Stephen Yunis, one of the men interviewed in the article says:

Friends would joke he must be doing it wrong. “It’s always a guy thing, like a sexual guy thing. And they think it’s hilarious. Most of them are just kidding. But it’s like, ‘You don’t have any idea.’

Yeah. We got that comment, multiple times, from friends and family. And when you come fully out, when you tell close family and friends your infertility is related to male factor infertility (MFI) issues – wowza – the comments, I was not prepared for the comments we got. Most given in general support, people grasping to say anything. That support is appreciated, the comments, not so much. My husband was actually questioned about whether he was really a “man.”

This is why we, both my husband and I, talk about this. And I will talk about it here as well. My husband had varicoceles. That’s a fancy word for extra veins in his groin. Now, if you remember your sex-ed class correctly you’re thinking ‘but good blood flow down there is a good thing, isn’t it?’ It is, varicoceles don’t impact function, if you get my drift. But extra blood flow heats the ‘boys’ up, so it was like my husband was sitting in a hot tub 24-7. And we all know too much heat causes all sorts of problems. We had poor morphology, poor motility, and DNA fragmentation.

There are many types of MFI, from genetic factors present at birth that render a man sterile, to a missing vas deferens, to lifestyle factors. For the most part MFI is never about whether a man can ‘perform.’ But in some cases, say a man who was abused as a child, or a man on certain medications that, as a side effect, cause impotence, it does come down to function. Now imagine those comments again, and how damaging they can be.

I can’t say our decision to talk about our infertility issues has always been rosy; people for some reason are uncomfortable talking about MFI issues yet are more than willing ask a woman personal questions about her body. But I can say this; my husband’s willingness to address this issue head on has proven to me more about his ‘manliness’ than anything else in our relationship. When we first started having trouble he was there to support me, and volunteered himself to get checked out, saying he would do whatever needed to be done to figure out our fertility issues. That, my friends, is a M-A-N. Confronting the unknown, the uncomfortable, and facing it head on. That is the face of a true man dealing with infertility issues. That is what helped me get through our infertility issues, both mine and his, knowing his was 110% with me and willing to put in the same effort I was.

I hope you’ll read For Men, Infertility Often Becomes a Private Heartache, tell us what you think and come back tomorrow to get the male perspective from my very own husband.

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PAIL headshotChandra is a Mom and Foster Mom. She holds a Master’s degree in Theology and is particularly interested in the theology of infertility. Chandra grew up in the Northeast but she and her husband are raising their daughter in the middle-of-nowhere Indiana. She has 3 chickens that drive her crazy, a huge garden, and a penchant for bacon. She occasionally attempts to make sense of all those things, and more, over at her blog, MetholicBlog. She also shares embarrassing stories about her husband and unicorns.

news item / feature post: “Fatherhood”

This past weekend we got a great news article submission from Kelly at Kellyland regarding fatherhood and the hormonal changes they, too, go through during the parenting journey.

This is your brain on fatherhood: Dads experience hormonal changes too, research shows

She said:

During my pregnancy everyone said a woman becomes a mommy when she first finds out she is pregnant and a man becomes a daddy when he first sees his child. This article explains why that might be true.  I wrote a blog post [“Fatherhood“] with the article and linking it to how Ben first reacted to the gender reveal of our baby and how he has grown as a father since her birth.

It’s a really interesting read that you should definitely check out. According to the article:

Oxytocin has been called the”love hormone,” even though its effect isn’t always that lovely. It’s thought to deepen the bond that a mom has with her newborn. But what about the dads, who don’t get pregnant or breastfeed? It turns out that a father’s interactions with his children produce a similar rise in oxytocin levels.

Researchers have found that emotionally involved fathers feel other hormonal effects: reduced levels of aggression-promoting testosterone; higher levels of prolactin, a lust-squelching hormone that shows up in women during breastfeeding and in men after sexual climax; and higher levels of vasopressin, a hormone linked to bonding as well as the maternal stress response.

The article states that by around 4 months of age, the father’s brain activity patterns have “caught up” to those of the mother – was that true in your family?

Today we are leaving comments open here AND on Kelly’s post that she wrote in regards to this article. Make sure to share your experiences here and check out Kelly’s thoughts as well!

Kelly is an auditor by day and a mommy and a cop’s wife by night.  Originally from Pennslyvania, Kelly now finds herself in Kentucky and learning to like sweet tea and bourbon.  She has a houseful of dogs and enjoys reading, autocrossing, and campfires with good friends.  Petrified of birds, her husband is, of course, raising hundreds of quail/pheasants to be released in the wild.  However, it all makes sense in Kellyland.

the monday snapshot – My New Normal

My New Normal of Finding My New Normal is going to open up the week for us with her contribution to the The Monday Snapshot – an evolution of the MMM feature, meant to bring the PAIL blogroll to life by giving its members a chance to feature themselves and make new connections. 

If you would like to be featured on The Monday Snapshot, please sign-up here!

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My daughter, who I call “Frostina” on my blog is an avid cruiser. She won’t crawl even though she just turned a year, but she loves to cruise. She can only cruise to the right at the moment so I devised this clever “cruising track.” It goes in a circle so I don’t have to keep getting up to put her back at the start like I did before this idea came to me. I worry a lot that she’s not crawling, but I suppose she may just be one of those babies who skips crawling and goes straight to walking. Today, Frostina figured out she can cruise on the outside of the circle which opens up a whole new level of fun. That Frostina is a clever one.

As you can see, in addition to being an expert “cruising track” maker, I am also an excellent housekeeper. No toys laying all over the place at my house (ha ha). I’m still amazed at how much of a mess a semi-mobile, almost-toddler can make. I apologize for the blog logo covering her face but since I blog anonymously, I never post photos of us where you can see our faces. I hardly ever post photos of Frostina on the blog so even with her face covered, this is a pretty big thing for me.
I’m happy to be featured here today in the Monday snapshot If you are the least bit intrigued by what you read here, then why not come visit me at my blog? I’m always looking to make new connections. Especially now that my journey has moved from being lost in my grief to parenting a living child.
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Now, get to know a little more about My New Normal with her answers to the Monday Snapshot “5 Questions”:

1) How long have you been blogging and how did you get started?

I have been blogging for just over two years. I started my blog a few months after losing my son at 36 weeks. I was absolutely devastated and didn’t know what to do or where to turn for help. I needed an outlet for my grief but didn’t know exactly what that would look like. At the suggestion of a friend I started this blog just as I was preparing for our first trip home to see the family since our terrible loss. In the beginning I was just writing for me… literally just for me as no one else was reading. But as time went on I found other women and men just like me, who were struggling with their grief and trying to figure out how to live each day. I found solace in a community of people who were living my nightmare. People who knew exactly what I was going through and people who had lived my nightmare and come out the other side. If not for this blog, I’m not sure where I would be today.

2) Tell us a little about your ALI journey and your family (3-4 sentences):

After about a year of trying for a baby, The Hubby and I were diagnosed with unexplained infertility (which in my opinion is no diagnosis at all). We were also told that we were both carriers for Cystic Fibrosis. It took 6 years of off and on fertility treatments to finally get pregnant with our son. It was a very long and difficult road but we thought we were finally having our “miracle baby.” At 36 weeks pregnant I went in for a growth scan only to be told that our son was no longer alive. I had no idea anything was wrong in the pregnancy. This news was earth shattering. Somehow, despite our grief, we decided to take a huge leap of faith and try again. This time around due to my age and also our genetic issues we decided to use an anonymous egg donor. We got pregnant with our rainbow baby on the second attempt. Our beautiful rainbow baby was born in June of 2012. She is the light in our hearts. We are currently trying to decide if we want to try again for a second rainbow baby or just be grateful for the one we have.

3) What makes you unique in the blogging world? (e.g. special talent, rare diagnosis, life experience)?

I’m not so sure that being unique in the blogging world in an ALI capacity is such a good thing. But I suppose what makes me unique is that I have experienced infertility and a full term stillbirth. I am a fully fledged member of the club that no one wants to join,,, that’s for sure. Plus I’m an American living in London so I’ve had to deal with most of these issues far from friends and family.

4) One word to describe yourself: 

Resilient

5) What blog or website (IF or not) would you recommend to others? Why?

It would have to be Count the Kicks.  If I had been more vigilant in my first pregnancy. If only I had known how important it was to pay attention to your babies movements. Then maybe I would have noticed something was wrong sooner. Maybe I could have saved my son.

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As always, we want to see your Monday Snapshot as well, so please comment below with a link to your post– and of course, go visit  Finding My New Normal.

If you would like to be featured on The Monday Snapshot, please sign-up here!

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PAIL book club, vol. 5

This month’s book club selection is No Regrets Parenting: Turning Long Days and Short Years into Cherished Moments with Your Kids by Harley Rotbart, MD.

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I think a fair bit about regrets these days, having a baby to remind me of all the things I’d do differently if I could start over with the Kid. Five years has given me time to make some mistakes, but it isn’t the big things that I regret. I don’t regret one bit that vacation we didn’t take. I regret the little things that pile up.

My kid is very deliberate in what she does and how she gets from one activity to the next. There is no hurrying her. As her parents, we learned this a long time ago. Knowing it and never hurrying her are two different things, though. That’s my regret – that in the moments where there truly isn’t any need, I rush her and I do it for no good reason other than my own hurry.

But the other end of parenting is what the Kid remembers. She talks about the sprinkles on her birthday cupcakes and the time we made cookies. There’s sure something in the moments that matters, that may be all that matters.

I’m looking forward to this book, to hearing some ideas about how to get into the moments and out of my head where I’m fretting about school or the mess or the budget. Please join us in reading:

If you’d like to participate in the book club, this is how it will work:

1. Fill out the form below to sign up.

2. Pick up a copy of “No Regrets Parenting” Don’t forget to see if your local library has it!

3. On July 10th we’ll send around an email to all of the participants asking you to send in a question or discussion topic, anything at all you’d like to talk about with the rest of the book club. You don’t have to send a question, but the more people who do, the more jumping-off points we’ll have to facilitate a discussion.

4. The question and topic list will be posted on July 11th.  Then, write a post about No Regrets Parenting on your blog – your thoughts, issues you had with the book, new ideas you got, things that surprised you, anything at all. Your post is due at midnight, July 17th.

5. July 18th we’ll post the list and we’ll have some discussion and share our thoughts!

Important dates:

  • ASAP – buy the book and sign up for book club
  • July 10th– submit your questions and/or discussion points
  • July 11th – complete list of questions will posted
  • July 17th – post due to be submitted for the listing
  • July 18th– complete list of participating blogs will be posted on PAIL’s main page

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Ms. Future PharmD is a student pharmacist who blogs over at Mom PharmD, where she’s been talking about life-work balance and secondary infertility since the fall of 2011. She is the proud parent of the Kid and Little Monster, ages 5 years and a few months respectively.

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news item: “Prenatal Testing: It’s Just Information, Not Answers — or a Guarantee”

Prenatal testing. Did you do it?

This week we came across a really interesting article about prenatal testing and the decisions parents make in response to the results they get. It’s written by a woman (Claire McCarthy) who is not only a pediatrician but also a Mom who had a severely disabled child who died at one year of age (they did do genetic testing on him). With that sort of background, I was extremely interested to find out why she chose against doing any genetic testing with her final pregnancy. Click over to her article to read a more thorough explanation of her reasons, but here is the synopsis:

First of all, you can’t test for every single genetic problem…

Second, there are some really wonderful people out there with less-than-perfect genes…

Third — and this is the part that gets left out of the conversation almost entirely — being genetically normal is no guarantee of anything.

She goes on to say:

I don’t mean to sound judgmental of people who choose to end pregnancies when genetic problems are found. These are intensely personal and individual decisions, and decisions that are deeply dependent on circumstances.

When I was pregnant with our first child, we decided against doing any genetic testing, because we were of the mindset that we wouldn’t terminate a pregnancy either way, and with the high rate of false positives, I figured there was no reason to put that chance of extra stress into my life. We plan to do the same (not testing) this time around. However, I have plenty of friends who have chosen the opposite – as the author of this article said, it’s an intensely personal decision.

The focus of Claire’s concern about genetic testing is that she feels not all parents can make calm decisions with clear heads and clear hearts when faced with a potentially devastating diagnosis.

I’d also lived enough of life to understand that control is an illusion. Life, as they say, is what happens while you are busy making plans.

Understanding this, I think, is crucial to being happy parents — and happy people. But I don’t think that most obstetricians are talking about things this way. I don’t think they are putting testing into context for expectant parents, helping them really understand the meaning and limitations of test results.

The pace of genetic research is stunning and exciting. But there is more to life and health than genetics — and when it comes to making decisions about pregnancies, we need to help people understand that.

So what do you think?

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Did you choose to do genetic testing while pregnant? Why or why not?

Do you regret your decision?

What do you think of the author’s argument against testing?

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pail_josJosey is a semi-crunchy mom of a toddler who spent her college years studying business and French and traveling whenever possible. She now works at the local medical center and is continually in search of the optimum work/life/party balance as she cruises through her 30s with her family and friends in Colorado. She is more than a little Type-A and researches the hell out of random things that pique her interest. Josey blogs about her family’s travel and outdoor life adventures at My Cheap Version of Therapy.

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