There’s a great deal of air time devoted to what women go through in the quest to make a baby but, as we all know, it takes two…
During one of many appointments leading up to an IVF cycle, I offhandedly lamented that women do all of the heavy lifting in infertility procedures.
“That’s not true,” the nurse snapped back. “You should see what men who can’t produce sperm in the normal manner have to go through. Just as we retrieve eggs from less fertile females, we have to retrieve sperm from less fertile males.” Yikes. Let’s just say I learned not to rush to judgement after that conversation.
Guys, as a rule, are not chatty. They are not likely to be actively blogging about their reproductive capacity. But what I learned from the nurse is that the options for men aren’t exactly a choice between the Oakland Raiders and the San Francisco 49ers. No, what’s required of infertile men is a set of less than gentle options. First there’s the needle biopsy to try to retrieve sperm directly from the source. Option number two is to do a conventional biopsy of the same to try to get sperm from the tissue samples. Option three is to insert a needle into the epididymis, a small tube in which sperm complete development. Or, there’s option number four, which is to do a surgical procedure called a “microdissection” to try to locate tissue that is producing sperm.
Okay, I’m confident in saying that no male who isn’t seriously interested in becoming a dad would subject himself to that kind of discomfort. But equally noteworthy is that these types of medical stories are not bandied about in the same way that “tough decisions” such as when to induce, or natural or cesarean, are by fertile couples.
March 9, 2007 1:49 pm
D. did not have severe male factor, so no need to go through the procedures you mentioned, but something I noticed was that the same friends and relatives who shrugged off my irregular cycles and failed IUIs and casually suggested IVF and adoption were startled/speechless/maybe even a little humbled by the idea of D. having surgery (varicocelectomy) to improve his fertility. Everyone said, “Wow, he must really love you” or “I don’t think my husband would do that for me” or (in the case of men) “I could never do that.” It was the one time that others have seemed to consider D. as “more of a man” despite his subfertility.
I think, as you said, we are so used to the idea of it all being on the woman. And it also seems there’s a greater reticence, both in the media and in society, to talk about what some guys go through. It seems a combination of awe and shame.
March 12, 2007 3:18 pm
Thanks for this post. As someone whose husband is going through these procedures it is nice of you to recognize the severely infertile male. He is open about what we are going through, but really has no one to talk to because it is so rare. I am constantly amazed at how excited and willing my husband is to be a father and it brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it now!