Jon of All Trades

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This was the original post I wrote, but never finished after our final failed IUI. I wasn’t going to post it, but after re-reading it and writing my real infertility wrap-up, I decided it might have value. I hope you enjoy it.

It was Italy. We had a ton of sex. Why wouldn’t we?

This would have been dandy simply for the sake of itself, but the timing was serendipitous considering Kristin ovulated dead in the middle of our stay in Rome. In conception terms, we hit the bull’s-eye about as well as anyone could ever hit it. If there were a time when it seemed like the tumblers of the universe should line up, this was it.

Romantic, far away European country, a clear mind and relaxed body, friends declaring their love and devotion for each other, an added adrenaline boost thanks to a psychotic cab driver and loud ass pop music, and ovulation timed absolutely flawlessly. C’mon universe, this is the story we want, not the one that includes a kindly Midwestern nurse and me jacking it to Big Tit Boss. I’d rather coyly ask my son when he’s 18, “Ever wonder why your middle name is Giancarlo?” and watch him go, Ahh, God! as he’s confronted with the notion of his parents fucking in Italy and gets to live with that forever.

So we returned home and hoped and waited.

No dice.

Goddammit.

***

You can only chase a dream for so long before you decide enough is enough. And we’d had just about all the infertility fun we could handle before it was time to give up and get on with our lives one way or the other. It was to be our 4th and final IUI capping off two years of trying for a child, and one full year of targeted infertility treatments, including three previous IUI attempts. You might wonder why it was time to give up.

First, infertility is expensive. When we started, Kristin and I both had a full work up which cost a couple thousand dollars, and served as the first time I was ordered to watch pornography in the morning. I was then recommended to take a daily cocktail of vitamins, which was another $150 or so every two months. Vitamins are fucking retarded expensive. And you feel like such a jerkoff buying them too. Oh yeah, I’m just trying to optimize my workouts with a few sups, brah.

And then each IUI is somewhere in the neighborhood of $1,000. I’m told we can write this off on our taxes, which, okay, we’ll see if that actually happens, and if it makes any difference in them, but I’m not holding my breath. So there’s a financial consideration here and it’s starting to feel like we’re throwing good money after bad at a blackjack table that’s gone cold long ago. So you make one last stand.

Second, and more importantly, the emotional toll of infertility becomes too much to bear. You tell yourself you won’t get your hopes up after each IUI or a spirited round of Italian Humpty Dance, but you do. You convince yourself you’ll be prepared once again for failure, but you’re not. And you promise that you’ll remain Zen about the process and believe what your well-intentioned but infuriating friends keep telling you – It’ll happen when it’s meant to happen – but you can’t.

The rollercoaster takes too much out of you, and it’s beginning to affect everything you do. You’re worn out, depressed, and on edge at all times. It’s time to move on, and as hard as that is to accept on so many levels, for the sake of your sanity, your marriage, and remembering that life is still worth living, you do. But…

If this is your last shot, you’re going to pull out all the stops. No regrets, no excuses. I stopped drinking alcohol 8 days before collection. I gave up caffeine and many processed foods. I drank green tea every day. I took my vitamins religiously. I had a cold, but took nothing for it out of fear of polluting my little tadpoles. I kept cycling through sperm per doctor’s orders in order to regenerate them and produce more testosterone (OK, this part was easy), and then abstained for three days almost to the hour. I wanted to make sure my sample was as pristine and robust as possible.

I offered it up at about 9:00 Monday morning, then headed off to staff one of my senior VPs at a press conference that afternoon. Just like all the fairy tales told me the way babies were made. Kristin came in, completed the transaction, and headed off to teach a class and substitute another for a friend. Just like every little girl’s dream.

I then came home and proceeded to get shitfaced.

It was now Kristin’s turn for the abstinence game. No alcohol, no caffeine, almost no processed foods, no exercise (Seriously, it was recommended), and a whole shitload of boredom.

***

As part of the horrible infertility process, Kristin has to give herself a shot in the thigh of pure hormone. She’s now done this four fucking times which is four more times than I’ve had to inject myself with anything, and four more times than I ever want to.

Shortly after doing this for the fourth time, she emerged from the bathroom and said, “I did a bad thing.”

“What’d you do?” I asked.

“The hormone you inject yourself with is the same one that shows up when you’re pregnant, so I took a pregnancy test. I just wanted to see what a positive one looked like once, just in case this doesn’t work. I’m glad I did. It felt good.”

I told her I understood, and didn’t think that was weird. In fact, I dug it out of the trash and looked too. The little window read “Pregnant.” I liked the way that looked and imagined the excitement of what that would be like if it were real. She was right. It felt good.

***

Two weeks later I lay on the bed on the Saturday after Thanksgiving finishing Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. Great book and a super easy read I whipped through in a few short sittings. As I finished the Afterword and scanned the remaining pages that featured an interview with Tony and some other suggested reading, Kristin again emerged from the bathroom.

She said, “Hey babe…”

I was wary of her tone.

“… it didn’t work.”

She started to cry. I withered and felt all the color and strength drain from my body. But I got up anyway and hugged her. “I’m so sorry,” she said to me. I said I was sorry too, although I wasn’t sure what either of us was apologizing for. I guess you just feel compelled to apologize when someone you love’s heart is broken whether it’s your fault or not. And this was definitively neither of our faults.

Either we were having a child after this attempt, or we were not thinking about next steps for a while afterward. Going through infertility will sap you of all of your mental energy and wreck your worldview. I fucking hate everything and frequently am unable to feel anything but jealousy, resentment, rage, sadness and self-pity all at once above everything else happening all the time.

I could let that consume me, and I sometimes do when I’m at home by myself and I just cry my fucking soul out and hate the world in private, but I force myself to press on. I force myself to enjoy things and have fun. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s an important exercise that keeps you sane. You focus on something directly in front of you, and you make yourself appreciate it and enjoy it.

I’ve never talked about this practice with Kristin, but I suspect I don’t have to. In that spirit, after what amounts to our final failure in the infertility realm (for now), I cooked us some bacon, Kristin made some eggs, we split a pumpkin beer, and we headed to the record store to support Small Business Saturday. We came home, popped a couple of beers, listened to our new records, and assembled our new Christmas tree.

I knew at the time I was feeding myself a steady diet of denial, and that I would lose my fucking mind and all control of my emotions at some point, but I was more than fine putting that event on layaway in favor of not facing reality. Given the crushing weight of expectation, good vibes, and the tidal wave of thoughtful, wonderful, and incredible magnanimous prayers sent our way by friends and family, the thought of not only digesting the news that our IUI fucking failed AGAIN, but relaying that news to everyone was too much to bear.

So I packed it down and did my best to ignore it as best I could. Real life intervened, and since we’ve already covered that at length, let’s move along.

***

Why or how would I continue to write silly bullshit here on the interwebs like that goofy Srirachaway article I wrote awhile back?

Chris Hardwick is one of my favorite people in the media in all its many forms, and possibly on earth, and although I no longer watch “The Walking Dead,” I still appreciate Hardwick’s aftershow “Talking Dead.” On the November 17 episode, Hardwick concluded the episode with a brief message about something that had happened to him.

As part of his message he said, “My dad passed away suddenly yesterday. And it was kind of a weird…  I didn’t know if I was going to come into work. But I like this job and it was a nice distraction. But I just want to thank everyone online…”

I have nowhere near the level of fame, audience or notoriety of Chris Hardwick, but I just want to thank everyone for their well wishes, good vibes and positive comments whenever I write something like this. It’s not easy and feels totally self-indulgent, but it’s incredibly therapeutic. I am most comfortable expressing myself in writing, but the risk of communicating in this way is that you never how (or if) anyone is going to react to what you wrote.

You have proven me wrong in this fear. Your support has strengthened my belief in the goodness of humanity and the strength of community that surrounds me. I am overwhelmed by your love and support, and I thank you for it. I hope I have touched your lives and I know you have touched mine. Thank you for your support, your well wishes and your love. You help make a difficult waters more navigable, rough patches tolerable, and an unjust world worth living in.

I love you all, and I promise wherever we end up, whatever we do, we’ll keep everyone posted.

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