Well, that was awkward…” – Understanding papa’s role in the IVF Process
Hello Internets! Eric here again. I’ve spent my last few contributions here on the blog talking about some of the emotional aspects of the process; feelings, internal monologues, coping strategies. This week… not so much.
Nope. Today is all about the male perspective on the process in the real world. The actual. The tangible. Something you can really put your hands on. And I did.
Yep. I’m going there. Because (boys), if you haven’t already, you’ll have to go there to. I’m talking of course about your one critical, biological and unavoidable role and responsibility in this whole physical process. Your primary contribution. The very essence, literally, of your part in this journey.
I’m talking about, as they say in the biz, “providing your sample.” Prepare yourself fellas, because I promise you, this is gonna be about as un-fun as one of life’s (usually) funnest things can get. And why am I going down this particular path, you might ask? Like, “Oh god, why are you even talking about this?!”
The answer is because it’s a really important part of the process, one that raises a variety of unexpected questions, tasks and timing issues, and if you haven’t thought about it ahead of time, it can put one more speed bump in the road of getting the job done. And trust me, when you’re having trouble making a baby, you better clear as many obstacles as you can.
This process is hard enough without tripping over your role in all this because you’re prudish, squeamish or haven’t thought it through. This whole process is all about messy, icky, sticky biological stuff. Maybe you haven’t really thought about this part. Or would really rather not talk about it. Get over it. You’ve got a job to do, partner. Man up and tackle it head on.
So, let’s cut to the chase. There are three things, at least based on my experience, you need to think about as the process gets going. First, you need to understand timing. If you’ve consulted with your doctor, or, you know, didn’t sleep through eighth grade health class, you probably understand the criticality of timing. You may now know more than you want to about ovulation cycles, temperature charts and timing your relationship with a calendar and a stopwatch.
You know that, starting with scheduling egg retrieval, every single step of the IVF process has to run with Teutonic precision to maximize your chances of success. That means there is a specific day, sometimes a specific hour, for everything. Even you doing what you need to do. Do you know where you need to be? And when? This stuff has a shelf life, and requires fast and proper handling. Make sure you’re clear-eyed and planning ahead when it comes to schedules.
There can’t be any “can we do this tomorrow?” or “Something came up at work”. Not for this. Your job, darn near your ONLY job, in all this emotional trauma and physical discomfort, is to be where you need to be, ahead of schedule and ready to go (as it were).
Which brings me to the second key point – Logistics. Let’s be blunt. There are only a couple of ways to get the required inputs out of you and into the process. Some can be done at home with the help of your partner, but this option requires very careful planning, fast transport and the proper choice of method and containers. (If you’re not getting me here, talk to your doctor. I really shouldn’t need to spell out the risks in trying to team up and make a sample at home.)
The other, and far more common option, is to provide the sample on your own, in situ in the doctor’s office or fertility clinic/hospital. I assume every male over the age of 12 understands how this process works. What you probably hadn’t thought of was the added wrinkle of tackling this with helpful folks eagerly waiting outside for you to finish. It’s a little different being politely escorted to a little room, taking the politely offered specimen jar, and being offered a politely encouraging smile to “come on out when you’re done.” Everyone is unfailingly polite, yes, professional, even diplomatic. But still, a waiting technician kinda takes the romance out of it, if you know what I mean. Trust me when I tell you that this is going to probably be less fun than this particular activity has ever been. Too bad, boys. You’ve got one job to do. Tough it out.
Which brings me to my final bit of advice here. Plan ahead. Seriously. I know for many of you, the required process isn’t something you normally give days of forethought to, but in this case, make an exception. There are guidelines for this (no kidding). You should get good sleep in the days before. Eat properly. You should also have taken care of this (one way or another) pretty recently (stale swimmers are bad swimmers). But not too recently. We don’t want to be drawing from an empty well, if you know what I mean. Your doctor will have specifics for you based on your biology and their experience. Do what they tell you.
I’ll sum it up this way, fellas. Yes, IVF treatment is a team effort. Yes, there will be stress and worry and fear and emotion for both of you, but in the real, physical world, remember that nearly all the poking, probing, prodding and discomfort will fall to your wife or partner. In the real physical world, this is your one critical, existential job. (And while it may be a bit awkward, really, you’re being asked to do something most of us like most of the time.)
Plan it out. Plan ahead. Be on time, and do what the doctor tells you. You’re gonna be a dad. But first you’re gonna have to be a man. So grab life (and whatever else is required) with both hands and do what you need to do.