What to expect when you're not expecting: a man's view

<i></i>
 Photo: Getty Images

Kim and I have been married for five years now. We're both in our early 30s. Most of our friends have kids, amd some of them are on their second round already. And in an ideal world, we'd be there, or thereabouts.

But we're not.

Because infertility.

It's not something that's talked about a whole lot.

Deciding to have kids is exciting, terrifying, crazy, magnificent. You realise you're an adult now, you're comfortable with your place in the world (relatively speaking), and you want to bring in someone else to join your family because your cats just no longer cut it.

Kim and I made that decision coming up three years ago. Graphic details aside, we were trying for quite a long time and without a skerrick of success.

If you are showing signs of infertility you need to be shagging for about a year without success before your GP will refer you to a fertility doctor. We got the referral.

The first thing they check is the dude. I got a ball ultrasound and a sperm test. I went to the hospital and the radiologist put me in a gown that didn't quite cover me. I looked pretty. Then they made me hitch my gown up. Quite why I had to put the gown on at all is beyond me, but I don't set policy.

Then they gel up the machine and gel up … me. There was a TV screen above me, and while I was being scanned, the radiologist asked if I wanted the screen switched on so I could see what they were seeing. Oh my god, yes. It's fascinating. I got a full biology lesson about my testes and learnt things I should probably have learnt years ago. Given it was December, I asked if they could print out a screenshot and write "HAVE A BALL THIS CHRISTMAS" on it so I could use it as a Christmas card. They could not. Sad.

Advertisement

The next test was the sperm sample. I was given a wee jar and told to have at it.

The next day my GP rang me to tell me my results. "Ultrasound is absolutely fine," she said, "so that's good news ... Sperm count and motility is also good, so that's also fine."

This meant we turned to Kim to review her condition. Following a number of tests, it was discovered that Kim has one of the most fascinating things you'll ever hear. It's official name is "uterus didelphys" – and it means that where someone would usually have one uterus, my utterly amazing wife has two. Twice the human!

She also has two cervixes. She still only has two ovaries, but each ovary services a separate uterus. The whole thing is incredible. (Read Kim's story here.)

During the op they did to discover Kim's condition, they also found a bunch of endometriosis, which was probably a large barrier to conception.

Kim also had to take some medication to ensure she ovulated good and proper. This had the by-product of really, really messing with her hormones.

It had already been 2½ years of trying without success. And people all around us were filling our Facebook feeds with photos of their newborns, and then their toddlers.

This is hard to bear. You want to be supportive and happy for your friends – and you are, and this is a really important point. When you see your friends celebrating their children, you celebrate too. But at the same time, you start getting angry at the universe. Because you feel like you're missing out on what looks like a wonderful and amazing experience.

Social events were becoming harder to attend because they'd now be filled with children; children of others. It was impossible not to become slightly socially withdrawn. And it's hard for people to properly empathise if they're not going through it. We were told repeatedly, "Oh, don't worry, it'll happen for you," and, "Appreciate this time that you don't have kids, because you don't have your own time after that!"

Some people didn't realise that we would happily give up all the time we had to be able to successfully have our own children. But we just couldn't.

So this medication Kim's on, it's brutal. And I can't do anything to make it easier. She'd cry and rage at things that normally she'd laugh at. Once she was staring out the car window, looking at the ocean, and she started crying.

"Why did you make the water so rough?" she asked, in between sobs.

And this hurt. Not because I was being blamed for something I obviously had no control over (though she may have just mistaken me for God, an easy mistake to make), but because my wife, who I love so much, is hurting in a way she can't control, which is a layer of hurt on top of the hurt that already exists from us not having kids.

I learnt coping mechanisms for a lot of the struggles – if Kim blamed me for roughing up the ocean, say, I'd just apologise and support her. Hold her hand. Give her a hug. Tell her I loved her. This flies in the face of 30 years of me being an argumentative piece of s*** who would die in a ditch over anything I believed was right. But she's my wife, not a debating opposition. And she's going through something that I can't fully empathise with.

As all this is going on, we're still trying. We had a new routine in place. On days 3-7 of her cycle Kim would take the medication, then days 10-20 were what we both referred to as "f*** fest", and then came the waiting phase, followed by, what has been every time, crushing disappointment.

And let me tell you, if you want to find a way to make sex with your loved one less fun, make it mechanical and with one desired outcome. This is also wonderful for messing with your head about the whole sexual side of a relationship.

All of this would be interspersed with visits to the doctor to just check in. No news, nothing different to try, just, "Oh well, keep going." More tears. More disappointment. It's a sucky time.

Which brings us to today. After three years of trying, crying and not succeeding, we're now moving to the next stage. I sat yesterday in a little office in horror as I listened to what Kim needed to do over the next month for our first round of IVF treatment.

And I just have to take one pill and deposit in a jar. Pregnancy is not an equal deal is it?

IVF is a whole new level of stress – and it's not cheap at all. And it's almost a 50/50 coin toss. So it's the most expensive coin-toss I'll ever do. But if it works out, it'll be the best coin-toss I've ever done.

Because right now, I'm sick of it. I'm sick of not succeeding. I'm sick of my wife having to deal with awful medical treatments, I'm sick of her hurting, and I'm excited that there's a possible solution just ahead.

Now we wait and see.

So why have I written this? Because people don't talk about infertility much. At high school, we're taught that if you so much as look at a girl strangely, she'll get pregnant.

But it's not that easy, and if you want a kid and it's a struggle then you often don't have a lot of places to go. So I'm trying to talk about it out loud to show anyone else who might be struggling that you're not alone. We're not alone.

This is an edited extract from a post published on The Ruminator.