The Measure of a Man

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Modern medicine is a marvel. Today, scientists and doctors can see, count and even photograph things at incredibly tiny scales, and measure such a vast array of metrics, characteristics and processes that it truly boggles the lay person’s mind. (Or at least mine anyway.) This is wonderful, amazing stuff. It can, however, get a wee bit uncomfortable when the stunningly powerful lens of modern science is pointed squarely at oneself, and more specifically, one’s private parts, private thoughts, and private fears.

Allow me to present a concrete example. As you may already know, and if you don’t you soon will, one of the first steps in evaluating your fertility (I’m speaking to the men here, ladies) is that you will… ahem… “provide a sample.” I shall, for now, set aside the peculiar and no-easy-way-to-say-it particulars of how this may happen. There are several options of course, but I assure you none of them are ideal dinner conversation. (They do, if you have a sense of humor, make for a potentially amusing blog post, but that’s for another week.)

For now, let’s set aside the collection process and all its potential for awkwardness, discomfiture and inadvertent hilarity, and focus on what happens when you get the results back. Now I would not for a moment presume to provide here any real medical knowledge or expertise – the wonderful staff at Conceive are here to aid you in this. But speaking just from the patient’s point of view, you will learn a whole new vocabulary of metrics, measures, “healthy” ranges and what’s “normal.”

Here again, I’m sure the Conceive staff can tell you the correct, detailed and proper version of these performance metrics. Here’s my idiot-off-the-street version:
– Sperm Count: Do you have enough of the little guys to stand a chance of getting the job done?
– Motility: Can your boys swim?
– Morphology: Do they “look funny”? Size, shape, aspect ratio, etc. Even at this tiny scale, there are metrics of handsomeness, and this tests to see if your boys cut a dashing figure in a suit.

There are many more. Volume, white cell count, liquefaction time and on and on. I was prepared for the many strange and awkward aspects of the sampling process. I was even earnest, attentive and prepared for the education about the metrics and their meaning. But a funny thing happened when we actually sat down to review the results with our doctor. I wasn’t fully prepared to interpret and internalize what those results meant. I mean, sure, I get it intellectually. I’m a data-oriented guy, I work with computers and numbers. It all makes sense in principal. But then your time actually comes, and your doctor will take you through those numbers that, in one very real sense (see my previous post), it is literally taking your measure as a man.

For those of you whose numbers come back as good news, this can be a huge relief, a source of elation even, that one of the major possible root causes of infertility isn’t a problem. This can help keep your momentum and spirits up through a difficult process. To some of you though, this will not be a good day. For some, absolutely lousy. In my case, again to summarize in layman’s terms, the news was almost literally “the very few sperm you do have are ugly, and are mostly lethargic idiots that swim around in circles.” Not a good day.
While this was, and remains, depressing news, I will end where I began, with the admonition that modern medicine is a wonder. While there are no guarantees of course, know that even with numbers like mine, there is a vast array of options and help your Conceive staff can bring to bear. I won’t lie that the journey is easy or without setbacks, but I have always believed that forewarned is forearmed. My hope is that knowing these days will come, and understanding that you can forge ahead and be successful even if the news isn’t ideal, that will make dealing with those days at least a little bit easier when they do arrive.

– Eric

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