When you undergo fertility treatments (mine was by far the most fun and didn’t involve anyone sticking anything inside me, which was not the case for my wife), the doctor then compiles the results of all those tests, reviews them with you, and provides you several options for next steps.
One of those options is an intrauterine insemination (or “IUI”), and that’s the option we chose based on the data provided by our doctor. Here’s what it’s like to go through an intrauterine insemination.
Our test results indicated that neither of us had anything egregiously wrong with our biology. Kristin had regular cycles, produced eggs like clockwork, and created what appeared to be an optimal environment for fertilization.
My sperm count was above average, and all my glucose, pH, and related levels were normal. I had slightly below average motility (ability of these little fuckers to swim forward) and below average morphology (meaning some of these idiots probably were misshapen and had two heads and shit). To fix this, the doctor prescribed me a vitamin cocktail to take every morning.
You certainly feel like Captain Men’s Health Douchenozzle when you take 8 vitamins per morning with your fiber supplement. But one of the vitamins I took had the added benefit of weight loss (bonus!) and the combo of them all certainly brightened up the inside of the toilet bowl. So I got that goin’ for me… which is nice.
Considering this was roughly March, I needed some time for the cocktail of vitamins to work, and Kristin’s next cycle would basically preclude us from trying in April anyway, we targeted early May for the first IUI attempt. What we didn’t know at the time was the pace at which we would put our house on the market, accept an offer on that house, find a new house, place an offer on it, go through the endless rigmarole associated with both of them, pack up all of our shit, and then move Mother’s Day weekend. I think it was sometime on Saturday the 11th that Kristin noted,
“Y’know, based on the timing of my cycle, today would have probably been the day we tried an IUI. That would have been good considering everything else going on, wouldn’t it?”
Not to mention that she would have also been on Clomid two weeks previous to this giant move, and we’re hemorrhaging money throughout this process (as everyone does)… yeah, let’s try to make a baby right in the middle of it, too.
We’re reasonably settled in the new house, less stressed overall, and Kristin’s done well on the Clomid. She’s only gotten a little weepy two or three times, and they were strange happy tears and not quietly weeping because your toothpaste fell off your toothbrush, as one of our friends humorously told us.
We’re scheduled for our IUI on a Sunday. The night before, we have a quiet, but fun evening eating gourmet hamburgers and playing trivia with Brad and Jason. It’s a hard quiz, but we come in third. It was the sort of perfect low-key, but distracting, evening that prevented us from dwelling on the high stakes of what we were doing the next day.
And what were we doing? If you watch any TV show that features discussions of high end cuisine, you’ll be familiar with “a dish deconstructed.” At Bistro Vendome for Kristin’s birthday, I had “cassoulet deconstructed” which is basically all of the elements of the quintessential French dish “cassoulet” (goose, sausage, beans, etc) laid out separately, and not in their typical casserole form.
An IUI is basically “sex deconstructed.”
You take all the elements of sex, disconnect them from one another, and tackle them separately. It’s a fuckin’ weird process. Here are the steps:
1. Kristin has an ultrasound. If you’ve ever seen an ultrasound, I don’t know what to call it… wand, I guess, you know how phallic it looks. They lube that thing up, put it inside her, and basically confirm that she’s ovulating. Furthermore, they confirm her ovary hasn’t turned into a broken gumball machine and released like a half dozen eggs. We’re certainly not down for going from zero children to FOUR in a matter of less than a year. That’s not cool.
The sex equivalent of this step is taking an ovulation test, and, if one is feeling incredibly generous in their description, foreplay. I sincerely doubt Kristin would classify it this way, but in viewing this as a deconstruction of sex, the description works in an abstract way.
2. With clearance from the tower, I’m once again off to rub one out. As I’m now, ahem, an “old hand” at this, I shouldn’t be nervous. But since I’m a neurotic freak, I am. It’s 83 degrees outside, and once again my hands are freezing. The hell is wrong with me? At least I’ve learned a few things since last time.
a. When entering, I do not begin a sentence with “Can I ask you a weird question?” Rather, I politely and directly respond to the lab tech’s instructions. FYI: This was a different location, and therefore no valet stand.
b. I look forward to that goofy towelette, and am not disappointed.
c. Since it’s warm out, and because fuck it why not, I go full monty and decide to get totally naked in this little room. I feel a bit like a too-nonchalant old man in a public locker room, but oddly feel more at home since this is my usual wardrobe for baby making attempts.
d. I’ve learned from last time, and when the big finish arrives, I propel myself forward to my feet and fire downward into the cup. I’m lurched forward awkwardly and imagine I look like some half-man/half-animal that’s either dying or at least wounded in my horrific convulsions, but I don’t miss any of the ammunition this time. Not one drop. That’s good value, people!
I completed my end of the sex deal (with actual nudity!), and now it’s time to wait.
3. Kristin and I have done the No Pants Dance literally more than a thousand times in our 8+ years together, but never in any one of those times have we stopped in the middle and gone to Chili’s for lunch only to pick back up later. Such is the way of sex deconstructed. Which, as long as we’re here, if you find yourself at a Chili’s unexpectedly and you’re looking not to blow up your diet, get the Sweet ‘n Spicy Chicken. De-lish!
4. While you’re enjoying a basket of chips and salsa and watching golf, the lab techs at the clinic are washing your sperm and gathering your strongest swimmers into a test tube for insemination. I have no idea how they do this, but they take the roughly 50 million or so you deposit into your cup, whittle those guys into the strongest 17 million or so (fantasy draft?), and give the test tube back to you sealed inside a little Ziploc baggie, which is then placed inside what looks like a miniature leather dop kit so you can transport it to a different room. Only one other time in my life have I wanted to abdicate ownership of something that quickly, and it was the interminable 8 hours between picking up Kristin’s engagement ring and placing it on her finger. Just as an additional FYI: The vitamins worked and put my numbers through the roof. My sperm can now beat up your sperm.
Anyway, back to the Tube of Importance. It’s not like they put an obstacle course between this room and the room where they do the insemination, or like you’re Eddie Murphy trying to navigate that weird path in The Golden Child without spilling a single drop of water, but still, all I could picture was dropping this fucking thing, breaking the tube, and rendering the day pointless.
5. So after a harrowing (read: uneventful) trip to the next room, your wife takes off her pants (giggity) and climbs into the stirrups. All things being equal, and mind you, I was a total gentleman the entire time we were in there, seeing your wife in that position goes right to your caveman brain and all you can picture is all the unspeakable acts you could do to her in that position despite just having rubbed one out not 90 minutes previous.
Then the kindly Midwestern nurse enters, gratefully takes the fragile test tube from you, grabs a terrifying instrument that looks like a metal duckbill, and you get to watch your wife grimace in pain (or at least discomfort). She then grabs the syringe and finishes the deconstructed sexual transaction by injecting your soldiers directly into the uterus.
There are 17 million contestants in there, amazingly, and sort of depressingly, only a 20% chance of one winner. So what do you do?
If you’re us, you continue working on your new house. What else can you do? We bought a new 50” TV, went home, hooked it up, and continued putting our basement together. I remember thinking, and possibly even saying to Kristin, “If this is the day we conceive a new baby AND get a new big screen TV, then it’s the BEST DAY EVER.”
As the day wore on, I couldn’t help but feel a bit disconnected from the process. As I thought about conception stories, and by extension, teaching my new child about where babies come from, the less I wanted the day I described above to be the whole story. I didn’t want our child to be born solely as a result of me watching something called “Big Tit Boss” (the guy in this film went through the greatest performance evaluation ever, btw), and a kindly nurse violating my wife with a long syringe bookending a trip a trip to goddamn Chili’s. I don’t know my own conception story (nor anyone’s really), but I’ll bet it doesn’t involve some lady talking about the optimal way to open a cervix and baskets of tortilla chips.
So later that night we did things the old fashioned way, and I sent in a wave of reinforcements. I think we both felt better after that for a variety of reasons.
And then began two long ass weeks of waiting. You’ve done your part, lined everything up as best you can, been assured that all the conditions are as close to optimal as they’re going to get, and now all you can do is hope one of these microscopic motherfuckers captures the microscopic flag.
The only thing worse than the waiting would be to put yourself through the indefinable but persistent waiting only to find out you waited for nothing.
Cut ahead 13 days later.
I’m sitting in our living room when Jax decides to say good morning by swaggering up to me, and hacking up a nice brown glob of partially digested food right at my feet. I thank him for this, grab some paper towels and scoop it up, as I’ve done many a time over the last 6 years. As I’m throwing it away, he goes for round 2 near the kitchen table, and I scoop that up too while I quietly appreciate his yakking on the hardwood floor.
I opt to alert Kristin, who is in the bathroom preparing for work, to this development to find out if Jax has anything else wrong with his health and if I should be concerned, or if he’s just being the pain in the ass little puker who eats too fast as always. As I crack the door, I find her blow drying her hair with bloodshot eyes, a pained grimace on her face, and tears dotting her cheeks. She knows that I know exactly what that means, and chokes out only the following: “I don’t want to talk about it right now.”
I oblige, close the door and turn around. I’m crushed. And I can’t bear the thought of facing it. So after Kristin leaves – we don’t talk about it as we say goodbye, but we acknowledge it with our looks – I bury myself in activities.
We’re having company the next day, so I do all the shopping and prep work for that. I post about it on Facebook. I tidy up the house. I hunker down in the basement with my work laptop and fire off about 30 work emails and get ahead on a bunch of projects. Just to clarify, I’m a good employee, but I NEVER fucking bang out a shitload of emails just to get ahead of things on a goddamn Saturday night. I drink. Dale’s Pale Ale. I play with the cat. I put on RAD. Another Dale’s down. Twitter. More Dale’s. RAD ends. I throw on a Rise Against documentary. A 6-pack of Dale’s is now relieved of its refrigerated gulag.
It’s then I can’t take it anymore. I’m shitfaced. I’m petting the cat. The guys from Rise Against are all talking about how hard it is to be on the road away from their kids. They show each other their “dad phones,” and I fucking lose it.
I break down crying and start sobbing uncontrollably. Jax hates it when you cry. He’s like a high school science teacher suddenly faced with consoling some poor adolescent girl whose boyfriend cruelly dumped her just before 3rd period. So he bites me. This is what he does when you cry.
I dial it back slightly, but it won’t stop. I vow to have it under control by the time Kristin gets home because I want to be strong for her, but I’m so drunk at this point, I’m extremely self-conscious of my behavior and totally paranoid about how stinking plastered I am. So I get about 10 seconds into greeting her, and then the whole night just comes spilling out of me and I’m sobbing all over again. She cries. We cry together.
We want something the universe seemingly isn’t willing to grant us and it’s like we’re constantly experiencing all five stages of grief all at once all the time.
The next day we talk about how to proceed and make a path forward. We re-assert our commitment to each other, and we press on. That’s all anyone ever can do, so we do it. And we’ll see how we do. We’re hopeful but understandably weary.
I’ve thought about this process a lot and what it means. To you. To me. To my marriage. To anyone finding this for the first time. And it likely means something different to all of us. And while the final outcome certainly isn’t determined, my only hope at this point is that my willingness to share has some value to you. If you’ve been through this, are going through this, or can simply relate on a human level to feeling like I do as I share this with you: my heart goes out to you.
I don’t know if it gets better. And I don’t know if everything will work itself out the way we want it to. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. But at the risk of offering up mere platitudes in the face of continued heartbreak, I urge you to press on. You are certainly not alone, and no matter the result, there has got to be some meaning to the journey.
I adore you for joining me in mine.