Bloody Christmas

So Dr. McScreamy, when not wielding sarcasm and fury at my testicles, gave me what I refer to as his “Bloody Christmas List,” he suggested my primary physician perform the blood tests. He said it would be cheaper, but I have a sneaking suspicion it would be a waste of his time. Of course I do not have a primary physician because I am male and this means: NO DOCTORS! It's really supposed to be a guy code thing, but I'll admit that, even after all of this, it's more a fear thing for me. But money saved is money saved, so I find a local doctor who, ironically is about to go on maternity leave. I make this appointment despite my total and completely rational fear of needles and the havoc they wreak. And of course the list of tests McScreamy wants ran is a mile long so I imagine that my arm's going to be hacked to pieces.

“You know, if you guys are out of needles, I really won't be upset,” I tell the nurse as coolly as possible. “I can always come back another time.”

“I don't think that'll be a problem,” she replies and there is no mistaking the bloodlust in her eyes.

The doctor comes in and she's really cool. Fonzie cool. She explains the tests in greater detail and without all the screaming. There'll be regular blood screens, a cystic fibrosis screening, and some in depth looks at my genetic code. A cornucopia of tests, if you will.

“You know, you can have irregularities in your genes and still look normal,” Fonz shares. Finally, a medical opinion that I am possibly almost normal looking-ish!

This test is to find if there's something deep down that might be messing with seed quality, if ya know what I mean. Makes me feel like an X-Man whose power is producing freakishly unviable sperm. Like Steve.

After giving up on them being out of needles, I man up and ask Dr. Fonz exactly how many times I'm going to end up getting stabbed with a needle. She assures me that there'll only be the one stabbing.

“Um…is there going to be a prostate exam thingie as well?” I ask cause I will NEVER be blindsided again. She looks at me quizzically. “No…not unless you want me to?”

“No thanks, Doc. I'm good.”

Enter the nurse again, carrying two trays filled with vials of different sizes like she just came from Willy Wonka's medical supply torture cabinet.

I eye her suspiciously as she says, “OK, if you can roll up your sleeve for me? We're going to be taking nine blood samples.”

NINE?! But Fonzarelli said….

Oh, yeah. There's only one needle. They just change out vials.

Well played, Fonz. Well played.

Nurse Bloodthirsty asks if I've eaten anything. Nope. Nothing. Sweet! I'm gonna be all woozy after this bloodletting!

But no. No woozy. No hallucinations. No cookie. No nothing.

I get a message from the nurse a few days later: Slightly high cholesterol (“cut down on red meat,” the nurse says like I'm some kind of heartless machine), no cystic fibrosis, and just negative on any bad DNA stuff. And no answers!

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Meet The New Boss…Same As The Old Boss

“TELL ME WHAT YOU WERE TOLD ABOUT YOUR SEMEN SAMPLE!!!!”

This is what an accented voice bellows as the door bursts open to the office where my wife and I sit. Our new doctor tosses our medical records onto the table in front of and sits down. My semen sample analysis is very conspicuous on top of the papers.

I think we'll call the new doctor: Dr. McScreamy.

We notice an immediate difference in manner between Dr. K and Dr. McScreamy. If Dr. K was a serene, calm, cloudless day at the beach, then Dr. McScreamy feels like Hurricane Katrina.

“Zero,” Dr. McScreamy says. “You have zero. This makes things very difficult, if not impossible.”

He gives us all the information on the blood work and deposit facility. He performs a sonogram on my wife which comes back great and i find that apparently you can just go and do sonograms at a moment's notice. She gets scheduled for an ultrasound “to get a complete picture” of what he's working with.

“Well,” I stammer, “I have a diminished number of motile sperm…”

He scrawls numbers on a piece of scratch paper. Some numbers are levels of various hormones that create ideal “sperminess” in men. Then he writes the levels that my blood samples indicate of these same hormones, allowing a side by side comparison. And the weird part? All my numbers are within the normal brackets. Hmmm…

Yet my sperm numbers are still alarmingly, strangely low. Low enough where Dr. McScreamy feels like he should keep repeating how low they are. Low enough for Dr. McScreamy to walk us through what might hinder the IVF process. It's odd that Dr. K looked at these same numbers and gave us a 70 to 80 percent chance of success…

His next question throws us for a loop. “Have you given any thought to donor sperm? It's just an option I want to put out there. When I see numbers like these…,” he trails off. “I just want to open that door and let you think about it.” I don't really need to think about it. It's a bad thing, but I think we both feel negatively on the topic. After coming all this way, the last thing on our minds is the idea of using donated sperm. Even if it can swim.

“Well,” he sighs and looks at me, “I think we need to do a few more blood screens on you.” Great. More needles.

“I would also like to get multiple samples frozen to see if we can find more motile sperm.” Wait-multiple? He writes the name of a hospital. “I'd like for you to go to this facility in the morning and make a deposit. Then go downstairs. Have a cup of coffee. Go back up and make another deposit. Then go to the mall and wander around a bit. Go back again and make another deposit.” I must've been looking at him like he was crazy because he tries to explain this by saying, “Just remember your college days, ok?”

Now, I'm not sure what he's heard about my college days, but it seems my reputation is highly exaggerated. I mean I know I look like a stud, but really?

Here's the second major difference between our two doctors. Dr. McScreamy's office makes Dr. K's look like a set from the Flintstones. Now Dr. K had all the equipment he needed. His labs and office were great, fully equipped, and there was nothing wrong with them. They fit his personality. Quaint and comfortable. Older decor, older tools, tried and true and good as new.

McScreamy, however, has essentially tricked out his office. The waiting area is that fancy model home decor, there are widescreen HD monitors in the exam rooms, and music piped in everywhere. This is a technological fertility Narnia.

By the time it's all over, and believe me, we couldn't wait, we leave heavier than when we came in. We thought the appointment was going to be a conversation, a glance over the medical information, and then an in-depth discussion of getting this IVF party started. Dr. K was already at that point and ready to go pending 15 grand. Dr. McScreamy wants more tests and samples and data. Which I'm sure is a good thing, just not what we wanted to hear.

So we get the ball rolling again.

And there's a definite bright side if you ask me: at least I didn't get sodomized again.

 

Sperm Week 2012: What To Do With Leftovers

I know that Sperm Week 2012 is over and, boy was it one to remember! I mean it was almost two and a half weeks long for starters!

In my Google travels across the vastness of the internet landscape, I have discovered that there is a LOT of information out there about baby making. To be more specific, do not just Google “sperm.” You will need one of those industrial chemical eyewashes. However, I found loads of articles, blogs, what-have-you out there to share here! It’s possible this internet thing may be worth the trouble.

Here is an article detailing what unraveling more of the DNA sequence in sperm cells could mean for fertility issues. This information is far too new for any impact in our case. It also touches on how these discoveries can make the process of infertility detection, and maybe even correction, easier in the future. And we can always hope easier translates into affordable, right?


And, full disclosure, although this article extremely interesting, I cannot read it without the fifth grader in me laughing that one of the researcher’s names is Wang.

 

Sperm Week 2012: Time Travel or Sperm Solstice?

Well, it appears that I have forgotten how to tell time. Sperm Week 2012 has gone on now for almost two weeks and been silent on the back end. My wife’s birthday, car troubles, and new, stricter financial situations around the ol’ homestead make for quite the time suckers when it comes to this blogging gig! Why was I not told that doing something I enjoy and wish to improve in would require time and practice!! Not to mention the psychological and emotional beat down I try to squash with some of these.

All silliness aside…it is a bit trying when the only subjects to write about regarding to our journey deal with more roadblocks and less achievements! Nevertheless, this is something that I have dedicated myself to do and work on, both as a writing exercise and cathartic release. And connecting with you wonderful people has been more uplifting that I could begin to explain without needing even more time to write and wipe away comforting tears! And that is a good thing!

So back into the breach! Rededicated and renewed! And finally an end to the longest week of the year: Sperm Week 2012!

Dr. K has analyzed my collection results and mails us another letter. I start to view each one with more foreboding. It's not really anything we wanted to hear. Essentially, what the microscope showed us previously is true across the board for my sample. There just aren't enough mobile sperm or correctly shaped sperm present to be conducive for our desires. Dr. K is befuddled by this given my blood work, but this is what the test showed. Coupled with our ages and the MTHFR problems, he feels our chances of getting pregnant the old fashioned route are very, very slim. It can be accomplished because we've achieved it before. Realistically speaking, the odds are not in our favor.

Dr. K wants to discuss in vitro fertilization with us which is curious. Dr. K told us before he really doesn't like going in vitro because he feels as though he failed. But given all our issues and time table, it could be a very successful process for our case. He cares so much about helping us accomplish this that we don’t feel so alone. We haven't made an appointment yet, but I think we're at least going to go and get the information.

We've also been giving adoption some serious consideration, in a fact collection mode only for now. We know it's a long process and financially, there's a cost just as there would be with in vitro fertilization, but we've only just begun getting our Google on.

Despite all the things that seem like setbacks, I don't feel like this door is being closed. I feel very confident about us having a child. But I wonder if that comes across as prideful or arrogant. I don't think that it's wrong to pray for a miracle, but I also know telling God exactly how He should fulfill my request is a foolish thing to do. Sometimes it feels like holding onto this dream causes more harm than good. The crushing monthly disappointment is hard for both of us and here I am setting us up for more hardship next month. I'd be lying if I said it doesn't make me second guess what I feel like God is saying. I wonder if I'm being fair. I continue to pray about it and I still feel like it's a “just wait” kind of scenario.

We hear so many wonderful stories from amazingly supportive people about other couples who have been in similar situations and God just blessed them with a child that's it hard not to put ourselves in that situation. To think that it's going to happen for us in the same way. Quite simply, getting pregnant the good, old fashioned way and give birth to our child is just something incredible that we want to experience together.

Being patient can be excruciating. I guess the overall point here is where do our hearts lie? Are we dedicated to continuing in prayer over this? To continue trying? To accept however God is working here? I know that keeping in constant prayer keeps that relationship open not only between my wife and me, but between us and our Lord.

And I know that whatever comes from this, He will be glorified.

Sperm Week 2012: Really? Prozac Sperm?

I need to preface the next article I’m sharing as a part of Sperm Week 2012. If the 3-D sperm was the work of super nerd researchers, then this sperm study is the work of misogynistic, chauvinist frat boy researchers. I stumble across this through Gawker of all places and, after following a series of links, finally found one with less of a sarcastic edge. But I must insist that the views expressed in this survey DO NOT reflect my own opinions or views.

This sperm study sets out to prove that semen contains mood elevating chemicals that can work as an anti-depressant. Most telling to me is that this study used college aged women, some who engage in protected relations and others who do not.

I think this one is quite disgusting and really only chose to share it to showcase how women are still being objectified. Most of the comments on all the sites point out what I noticed as well: that left out of the findings is that the surveyed who are being “inseminated” are in monogamous relationships. Could the stability they experience in their relationship be the source of happiness and not just getting large doses of Prozac Sperm on a regular basis?

Furthermore, if sperm has such incredible effects on moods, then it stands to reason that men could benefit from receiving dosages as well!

And as a man dealing with possible fertility issues, this study seemingly dismisses the most important quality of all: its role in pregnancies and bringing new life.

So, to recap: this “study” suggests that sperm can improve moods, I find it insulting to women, only sharing it here as part of Sperm Week but DO NOT share its views, and to call attention to the fact that, although it is 2012, respect for women is still in short supply.

What is your opinion of this study?  Am I way too sensitive here?

Sperm Week 2012: Gotta Collect ‘Em All!

“So, um, how does this whole thing work?” I asked the receptionist when I set up my clinic appointment.

“It’s $135 and we don’t take American Express!” she tells me quickly.

Ok….”Well, I’ll be heading over on my lunch break from work. Should I expect a long wait or…?”

“No, sir. You’ll come in, give us $135, you’ll collect, and you’re free to go!”

Collect! So the code word is collect! Nice. And she’s obsessed with getting that $135…

The night before my wife asks me if I’m going to be ok with doing this. Honey, I got this thing in the bag! She’s the one with the painful and humiliating tests! I get to…collect.

Collection Day is upon me, which means more paperwork, of course the $135, and some waiting despite what my informant said before. My time comes and I am handed a small container and led to what I dubbed the Tug-O-War Room. She tells me to write my last name on the jar and, when I go, to leave the cup on the counter and ring a doorbell inside the room, which signals them that I left. (Full disclosure: it takes me a few minutes to realize I should write my name on the jar before collection commences.)

Now the Tug-O-War Room is essentially a glorified bathroom. It’s a little bigger than normal with the typical bathroom requirements, a few lounge chairs, and a television/VCR combo mounted on a corner of the ceiling.

Oh, and porn.

Did anyone mention there was going to be porn? I guess I always heard there would be “mood enhancers,” but I didn’t really think about it. I didn’t notice this stuff because it looked like normal bathroom furnishings! But on closer examination, that magazine rack is full of girlie magazines!

That little cart has VHS tapes all over it!

Turns out this stuff is called “The Kit.”

Curiosity gets the best of me and I pull a few magazines up to see how recent they are. These are current. Who goes into the bookstore and picks up the new porn? Dr. K? A nurse? Do they have a subscription, which I guess would be the wiser financial move?

And VHS?!? We get new magazines, but no 3-D Blu-Ray plasma screens?!?

Even more creepy is this:

I can’t even begin to form a theory about why there’s a picture book of Scottish golf courses.

Men are sick.

Panic hits…how much should I be collecting? Are they watching my time? How long is too long? Crap, how quick is too quick? Do they memorize what porn is where and they’ll know if I moved something?!? Does nervousness and neuroticism affect sperm quality?!?

Be cool, man. Be cool.

So I calm myself down as best as I can.

And to make an awkward story short(er), time passes, I ring the bell and return to work, with a bad feeling I just can’t shake…

Sperm Week 2012: Sperm in 3-D

So let’s kick off Sperm Week 2012 with an article that I found on the National Geographic Twitter feed called…

Sperm Tracked in 3-D- A First!!!

I have to admit that I had no idea that there was still so much unknown about sperm and its activities.  Maybe it’s just not that shareable of a subject?  It gives me a small amount of hope, or at the very least, removes some of my personal chagrin regarding my “boys.”
Jealousy did erupt when I read about the different the swimming styles.  Poor Steve was left out!  Did none of these show offs having swimming issues?!?  I guess when you’re chasing your tail, there’s not much pride.  Truth be told, I probably left pride behind some time ago, at least as far as Steve is concerned.

And these researchers!  How did this idea come into this world?

Researcher 1: Dudes? Check this out…what if we put semen on a camera computer chip, shine colored light of it, and film it?

Researcher 2: Whoa…yeah, man!  And we can write a program that like, extrapolates the swimming patterns of sperm, man!

I think I’m a reasonably smart man, but I’ve also tried to turn the kitchen faucet off with the garbage disposal switch.

Twice.

Here’s hoping that these studies lead to some amazing new discoveries for fertility.

Me?  I’m holding out for Apple iSperm.

You know they’ve gotta be itching to do this.  Streamlining the design, implanting, who knows?  Maybe by the third generation, when they’ve upped the speed and added a camera or two.

Because we are living in the future…