Male Factor Infertility

We decided to reach out to our Social Worker Hero this week and ask a couple of softer, more rational versions of the questions we were considering a few posts ago. (Not that our questions are irrational, but we desperately want to look more sane than we really are.)  She was off for the holiday and we’ll catch up later this week, but odds are there’s not much info to learn.  We just wait.  So far in November our agency has placed two babies, but they were both from birthmothers who had placed babies before…that means these November babies went to families who had adopted their first babies.  Although it means we haven’t been presented as an adoptive family so far in November, I like knowing that part of the process for us.  If we adopt once and our eventual birthmother gets pregnant again and decides not to parent a second time, we will get the call about adopting again.  It’s hard to imagine the emotions that go into a birthmother deciding not to parent, so to hope for it to happen a second time to someone feels tough.  Having said that, I’d love the opportunity to build a family with two kiddos who are biologically connected to one another.

I spend time every now and then considering that we wouldn’t be doing any of this if I had just been able to conceive through fertility treatment.  I don’t beat myself up for it (any more)…my rational mind knows that there is nothing I could have done differently.  I offered up my ovaries, eggs and uterus and put them on tv in the doctor’s office more times than I care to recall.  I willingly hopped up on the butcher paper of the treatment table.  Cycle after cycle, we checked for egg counts and egg size, we “triggered” the release of as many eggs as my aging ovaries could muster, and bought extremely expensive sperm that was placed in precisely the right place at precisely the right time.  I put up with the ultrasound wand being put so far inside me I was sure they were mistakenly seeing my tonsils instead of my ovaries.  I took the pills, had Laura give me the injections (I can’t do that shit myself), and tried all the Jewish voodoo we could think of during the insemination process to try to influence the outcome.  I balanced family heirlooms over my reproductive organs during insemination.  Once we left for a road trip immediately after being inseminated, and we drove all the way to Gatlinburg with Laura driving, and my feet propped up high on the car window to help the sperm find their way.  One morning I did a shot of alcohol before we went in for an insemination, joking that I had some friends who got pregnant when they were drunk.  As I read what I just wrote about doing a shot, I realize it was not sound logic and maybe a little bit irresponsible, but we would have done fucking anything to make it work.

We could not have been more intentional or precise in our treatments, but it wasn’t meant to be.  It was an uphill battle, though, and for any of the women out there who have done battle this way before…my fertility hat is off to you.  It’s like a secret Fertility Fight Club that we don’t talk about enough, and somehow those of us in the Fertility Fight Club seem to find one another and connect anyway.  Why in the hell aren’t we talking about this more?!  I used to get a little grossed out knowing that I was putting Anonymous Dude’s sperm into my body (but seriously, thank goodness for Anonymous Dude).  After the insemination took place, I would always have to remain horizontal in the treatment room for 15 minutes, and Laura would make me laugh during the sperm heebie-jeebies.  She used to do an awesome sperm imitation.  She would pretend to be one of the little guys swimming around aimlessly, and then her face would get as excited as a little sperm could get when he spied the “jackpot” egg, and she’d pretend to swim toward it with Michael Phelps-level intensity.  (This might be a good time to thank Laura for putting up with the truth-telling in this blog.  I’m sure she never imagined I was going to blog about her sperm face.  Thanks, babe.)  And time after time, two weeks after going on those hormonal suppositories that make you completely lose your mind, we were heartbroken and had to recover from it.  I’m confident the journey is different for everyone, but some threads of similarity connect all of the warriors in Fertility Fight Club.  And to this group of women and men, these sisters and brothers of mine who have walked this road…ya’ll are some badass Fight Club Fighters!  The fertility thing…it tries your sense of ability, your relationship, and your feelings of “woman-ness”.

The toughest part of that journey for us was the insurance conversation surrounding the beginning of our fertility treatments.  At the time, our insurance was through a company who offered some fertility treatment coverage (pretty rare, it seems).   We filed claims for our treatment, and they were covered for the first round, but after that our claims began getting denied.  I called to find out why, and was told a letter was coming explaining the denial.  It did, and for the first time as a gay person I felt discriminated against.  The letter basically said that I couldn’t be diagnosed as being infertile until I tried to get pregnant through traditional means for 12 months.  I called and asked what that meant to make someone say it to me…it meant sleeping with a man.  My best guess at how the insurance company uncovered this misalignment in their coverage is that paperwork from the fertility doctor eventually caught up that showed “male factor infertility” (which was actually pretty clever by our fertility doctor…we definitively had a low sperm count), but we had only females on our insurance plan, and someone noticed. We engaged an insurance advocate, and wrote letters explaining that the company’s request that I sleep with a man for 12 months in order to get coverage was not something we were willing to consider (I mean, are you kidding me?  Is this real life?!), we went back and forth for months, and eventually we tired of the dance and paid for the treatments ourselves.

I can’t say the insurance denial was something that broke me emotionally, but it was another thorn in our sides, another thing to overcome, and another obstacle that only enhanced our resolve to keep going.  Telling me I can’t do something just makes me want it more.  In the fifth grade I was told I couldn’t play the lead in a play about the Continental Congress because the original delegates were all men, and I was a girl.  That fired up both my feisty parents and me, and I assure you that I was the best little George Washington that Pleasant Run Elementary had ever seen.  That’s a funny part of the journey to becoming parents, particularly for people who are hard-wired to knock down obstacles…obstacles just enhanced my resolve to keep going.  Tell us we can’t do something…and watch how hard we try.

Watch how hard we try.

-Jenn

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