Before the Beginning

My husband Ryan and I met in 2008 when bartending together.  We’ve been a good team from the start, especially in business: he, the jovial, outgoing, bartender keeping the customers wildly entertained, and me, quietly keeping everything stocked, ordered and perfectly organized.  Over the years I proof-read his writing and encouraged him to work hard and stay focused.  He urged me to dream big, speak up and get noticed.  Today Ryan works in medical device sales and I am a CPA.

We were married in July of 2012 and 6 months later decided I’d stop taking birth control.  We weren’t quite ready for kids but had this totally foretelling discussion that “getting pregnant could take a long time” so the sooner we start, the better.  Why such ominous thoughts? Well at the time Ryan was 37 and I was 29 and neither of us were getting any younger.  We weren’t in perfect health; both of us could stand to lose a few lbs and I am a recovering epileptic who takes seizure meds morning and night. We knew a few couples who’d struggled to get pregnant.  We wanted a head start, and after all they say you never “feel” ready anyway.

So over a year went by, but no babies.  In February 2014 I contacted Kaiser to meet with an Infertility Specialist (lucky for us my insurance is great) who ordered blood work for me and a semen analysis for Ryan.

Much to my surprise my blood work came back totally normal. With my history of seizures, migraines and fainting I was half expecting Kaiser to finally discover what was “wrong” with me.  But nope, everything totally perfect.

Ryan’s semen analysis came back bad, really bad.  Pretty much everything they test in these things wasn’t where is should be.  My heart broke for my larger-than-life husband as he got quiet and hovered over the computer screen, trying to block his poor test results, as if it were evidence he were less of a man.

At the follow up appointment the Infertility Specialist was clear: With numbers like these, we weren’t going to get pregnant.  Furthermore we weren’t even candidates for IUI, not with these results, even though my insurance covered it 100%.  IVF was an option, but first she suggested combating infertility with lifestyle changes.

And so it begins.  First it was diet, exercise, vitamins and quitting the steam room (an almost daily gym ritual for Ryan).  No pregnancy.  Ryan met with a urologist and was encouraged to quit drinking alcohol, which he did.  No pregnancy, though now all our friends found out what was going on because the life-of-the-party suddenly switched to ginger ales.  One of his friend’s wives later reached out to me and shared she and her husband had silently been suffering chronic miscarriages for the last year.  1 in 8 is a true statistic, and it was wonderful to have someone to talk to.

We took a break in fall 2014 while we traveled to Europe and enjoyed the holidays, complete with alcohol and all the food and laziness we wanted. Early 2015 we went back to Kaiser, who put Ryan on a DIFFERENT cocktail of supplements and urged diet and exercise once more.  Which brings us up to date.

Today, June 2015:  I am 31, Ryan is 40 and I am not pregnant and never have been.  Thus far virtually all the effort, inconvenience and outcome of infertility has been Ryan’s burden.  He HATES giving a semen sample (understandable) so much that he drags his feet, kicks and screams and procrastinates. Our first three years of marriage have been fine despite these issues, and I am optimistic as I finally take the reigns of Infertility and do the only thing I can right now: tell Kaiser enough is enough, we want IVF.

So here, at the beginning, I will work and push and force Ryan into the next semen analysis Kaiser is asking for.  And then be the squeaky wheel that demands a solution other than vitamins.  I need to balance Ryan’s ego with my determination and try to sell him (and myself) on how we’ll afford this.

Who knows where the end may be, but for now we will go on to that semen lab.  Wish me luck.

Begin at the Beginning

When life gets hard and overwhelming my mom has always told my sisters and I the same advice: It’s like eating an elephant; just do it one bite at a time.  My favorite variation on this sage theme is from Lewis Carroll in Alice in Wonderland.  The King says to the White Rabbit: Begin at the beginning, go on till you come to the end, then stop.

Simple, right?  One step at a time.  The problem is when you aren’t sure what the end looks like, it’s hard to know if you are still at the beginning and how far to go on.  I feel I’m preparing for battle with no map, no battle plan, no guaranteed outcomes, in fact no guarantee the battle will still require fighting next month.  Not to mention it’s a battle I would never expect I’d fight.  You see I am one of those emotionally tough girls and always rather ambivalent about children.  Sure, I assumed it would happen one day, maybe unexpectedly, maybe planned, and I’d grow into the foreign role of Mother as millions of the not-so-maternal have done for generations before me.  I did not forsee a baby as something I’d have to fight for, tooth and nail, and at the expense of many emotional, mental, physical and financial resources.

Nonetheless here we are: an infertile, middle-class California couple surrounded by embarrassment, dodged questions and poor test results.  I’m not alone but let’s be honest, every bit of planning and execution in this marriage is all me.  As I said I am a tough girl, and I can do this.  I’ve got a rock solid faith and a pragmatic, business mind.  Not a lot in life has come easily, and I’m no stranger to working hard. Starting from this infertile beginning I will navigate a way and go on until the end, whatever that may be, and then I’ll stop.