Poetry from Kathy Wills. Thank you, Kathy, for sharing with us.
They count beads the size of
ovaries into a clay jar.
Beams creak above them,
dust balls roll across the floor.
This is summer, the alive season
at this altitude. They wait
just like those who wait
in the lowlands and cities,
those who proceed in their rituals
of fertility: write a check,
mark off on the application form
what they can or cannot accept.
Will you accept a child of incest,
Or one with a port wine stain on his face,
Will you accept congenital heart murmurs,
Or a family history of felony,
Are you willing to meet the 13-year-old
mother in an office at a designated time,
smile and say,
“Hello, from your biography you sound so
interesting. We are so pleased to meet you”?
The couple on the mountain takes ashes,
covers each other’s naked body.
They face the sun together at dawn,
asking the goddess of grain,
moisture, and light for pity and
a continued place in earthly consciousness.
In her morning, she inserts a
basal thermometer under her tongue
while he sleeps.
Her pelvis churns, seems to hope
About this specious rite.
She dreams of celestial sprouting,
Not the common spawn.
They hope and turn to the sun.
They hope and turn to write another check.
They begin to accept
their specialness through this walking,
waking, bloodless crucifixion.
Burn the baby name book: no Christopher, Caitlin, John, or Joan.
Tie seven sticks into a bundle
Placing them between you for a month when you sleep.
Turn away from each other.
Become philosophy incarnate.
Woman, bury your unborn, unnamed,
Unbaptized child as she seems to punch
her way out of your belly.
Man, as he seems to punch his way out of your head.
Push away with your hand their faceless
forms and accept the death of Gods.
no amulets, mojos, or jujus will help
those who must bury their children alive.
We love getting mail! A few months ago we received a letter from Kristen Fields, who wrote, “I was so inspired by your project that I ended up writing a poem this afternoon about my struggle with infertility this year. It was so therapeutic and I think will be a lot easier to share with friends and family because it’s a more wholistic way of expressing all of the complicated emotions this journey holds. So thank you for existing and showing up in my Google search, because it has seriously restored something inside me and made me feel less alone, and like I could contribute somehow! Please let me know if I can/ how to submit my poem. Thank you! Kristen”
We invited Kristen to submit her poem via one of our artwork submission forms, and she did. So, today we are happy to share Kristen’s poem with you. We hope that it will make you feel less alone, and that you will be inspired to contact us and share your own poetry and artwork with us.
Thank you, Kristen, for sharing your poetry!
Four Seasons in Japan by Masakazu Matsumoto
“Behind every beautiful thing there is some kind of pain.”
– Bob Dylan
There was some kind of pain
In Fall, our favorite season,
Unashamedly reveling in all that was still unshattered.
Making plans with closed eyes and open hearts
Naïve to the coming winter with long nights and a cold sun
Who bites at the things which we expose.
Attending appointments, sitting naked on a table,
Left waiting. Cold. Shivering. Bitten.
There was some kind of pain in Spring
With hope sown in new creation.
Earth poured out her showers
And let out roars from Heaven
Which fell echoed against the walls of this hollow room.
The rainbows dawdled behind rainclouds
But the colored beams always seemed to fade.
Surrounded by new and flourishing blooms,
Our tilled and nourished soil remained
Caked underneath our fingernails,
And in empty tear-soaked patches behind white picket fences.
There’s pain, I fear, in the
Summer’s sun with its warm and inviting glow
That shines of hope, a brighter outcome.
But I find myself after these three seasons lost
To hold myself safe from getting pulled out into the tide.
Afraid to be crashed back onto the shore again,
Rejected by the Sea.
And then to face yet again our Brutus, Fall,
Whose cooler months might be the severest of them all.
But it’s beautiful, you see,
To be surrounded by seasons,
To fall deeply in love with little souls you’ve never seen,
To think up their names and habits and traits and dreams
To peek inside the room that will hold their things
And pray that God would just give them to me…
A note from Kristen,
“I wrote this in the wake of yet another negative pregnancy test. After being diagnosed with PCOS in the midst of us TTC our first baby, every month and every season has been harder than the last as the fear of the unknown, frustration with the wait, and multiplying insecurities grow with each negative test. I chose to write this poem the day I found out about this organization, as I wanted to be able to be a part of something bigger and hopefully resonate with other women going through these same beautifully painful seasons since this whole process can seem so lonely and isolating– that they might know they are not alone and find hope in the beauty that surrounds the pain.”
Learning you will need to turn to third party reproduction in order to have a chance at experiencing a pregnancy is a hard thing to wrap your head around. Tomiko Fraser Hines used the art of poetry to find healing.
We first learned of her poem, “Love’s Conception…For My Boys,” during our National Infertility Awareness Week event in Los Angeles in 2015. Then, the next month, she recited it for us during an Advocacy Day mini interview in D.C. You can #listenup by playing the audio, or reading the poem below. Thank you, Tomiko, for sharing your story! We look forward to seeing you in Los Angeles when we are there for our Men’s Health Month event in June!
“I wrote this poem in November of 2012 when I was about seven months pregnant with the boys. I was in the midst of all of the concerns that come with the way they were conceived, which was via an anonymous egg donor. And, basically, that they would not have (to my knowledge, I’m not a scientist) but to my knowledge they wouldn’t have any of my genetics. So, I had a lot of concerns about that and I needed to find a way to come to peace with it. I write, and words just kind of come through me. I sat down and I wrote this poem for them, but also for me, and it’s called, Love’s conception… For My Boys and it goes a somethin’ like this…”
You won’t have my eyes, but you will benefit from my vision.
You won’t have my mouth, but I will teach you how to use your voice.
You won’t have my ears, but your listening will be finely tuned.
You won’t have my DNA, but my blood will forever nourish you.
You were not my conception, but I will birth greatness in you.
We won’t reflect each other on a physical level, yet we will mirror each other in wondrous ways.
I will guide you.
I will shape you.
I will encourage you.
I will free you.
I will love you.
Hello! My name is Tomiko, and I am your mother.
It’s National Infertility Awareness Week (#niaw) and this year’s theme is #listenup. We’re kicking off the week with two poems from our archive. You can listen to the poetry below to hear perspectives from Tamsin and Michelle. Do you have a poem you’ve written about your experience? We’d love for you to record it and send it to us! #artspeaks #artheals
Tamsin Prasad My Nightmare
Tamsin with her pup at their home in Northern California
“We don’t have insurance coverage for infertility. It’s added stress and guilt that my body is costing us so much money. We moved here with my husband’s work and I’m trying to get licensure as a marriage and family therapist so I’m doing unpaid hours at the moment. It just seems like my fault because my husband is working and his body is working as it should be. I feel like I take a lot of it on myself really.”
“I got my website up and running and did some photography and some poetry and just kind of surprised myself with all of the creativity that was coming out. My therapist kind of likened it to birthing my artistic self. It’s been quite a big thing. It’s been really helpful, I think. Even more so with the poetry. I’ve been writing not just about the infertility but stuff that’s happened in my life and my childhood and friends and I think it’s just brought up so much emotion that’s been cleared out that I didn’t even realize was there to be cleansed so that was really good.”
Michelle Baranowski The Middle Place
Michelle, right, with her wife Mandy on their wedding day.
While other kids were saying they wanted to be an astronaut or a princess, Michelle always wanted to be a mom. She could have never guessed at that age that she would not be able to accomplish her lifelong dream of conceiving a child. As she grew up, her childhood innocence was shattered and she realized that it was never going to be as easy as she thought it would be.
When Michelle was a young adult she came out as a lesbian so she knew that there was going to be a less “organic” way for her to conceive. She just knew she was going to have to go about becoming a mother in a different way. Still, she believed that it would happen and couldn’t foresee the struggles that she was going to face in the future to accomplish her lifelong dream.
She is now 30 years old and, after years of trying, she has still not had the ability to get pregnant. It has been a long journey of pain and sorrow, as well as constantly getting her hopes up only to have them smashed by each negative result. She feels as if she is just coexisting in the middle place between pure joy and devastating pain, which is something that many people dealing with infertility can relate too. She decided to share her poem with others so that they can catch a glimpse of what she is feeling as she continues on this journey to having a child.
Andre and Yolanda Tompkins have waited eight years to have a baby.
After a recent unsuccessful IVF cycle, Andre turned to prayer and music to cope. He created the IVF Miracle Song which you can listen to below.
Afterwards, watch our video interview to hear Andre tell the story behind his music.
This post does include images of babies and the topics of pregnancy and ultrasounds.
Thank you, Andre and Yolanda, for sharing your story with us! We’re thrilled to have it in our ART of Infertility oral history archive.
The Story Behind the Song
“Well, you know, I’m kind of passed the prime age to be pursuing a rap career so let me just throw that out there. I’m a military guy, I’ve been in for 22 years now so this is, that is my career proudly serving my country. But when I was younger, me and one of my best friends, he was actually the best man in our wedding, we used to try to get into the business so from doing that I kind of got pretty handy with the software, making instrumentals, and you know recording yourself.”
“It was thanksgiving week. We were coming off of the disappointing news that the first IVF cycle was unsuccessful. That first failure was so…it was devastating it literally was. I think both of us just sat in the house and we just really just wept all weekend.”
“You know I think going through something as painful as that, you’re obviously are going to have an external reaction but then there’s also that internal reaction that sometimes you just don’t know how to get out.”
“I just started writing. And I was like you know what I’m going to just go ahead and plug the microphone in and just start getting it out. “
“You probably heard how the chorus goes, you know, ‘we’re going to have a baby, we want to have a baby’, and that was really the conversation that I was having back and forth with God. You know, we are Christian. We are firm believers. We were both raised in the south in the Bible Belt and talking to God is something that we both do on a daily basis.”
“So this was almost out of a conversation like you know, ‘I know that I’m hearing you say, Lord, we’re going to have a baby but why did we just experience this? Why is that?’. So I just couldn’t let that go. I refused to give up. I refused to say, well, this is the end. So it was almost like it was more of an edification for myself. We’re going to have a baby, just keep telling myself, we’re going to have a baby. We’re going to have a baby.”
“When I originally heard it, it brought back you know the pain and the feelings that I had originally and it kind of made me feel like you know we’re definitely on the same page. We’re both like okay we knew that this is what we believe God had laid in front of us.”
“It brought hope for me and it became my, I say my theme song because I’m like okay we’re going to do this. I’m not going to give up on this process. So every time that I would listen to it I was like, okay. We’re going to have a baby, you know we want to have a baby, we’re going to have a baby, you know and I think it’s those positive affirmations that you know you tell yourself and eventually, I believe that if you talk yourself long enough, something’s going to happen.”
“So, I wanted to put it on You Tube because I saw that there were IVF playlists but when you would scroll through there was really nothing that would probably be considered urban. So I put it on You Tube and then after that I said, let me just go paste it on a few Facebook pages. I was pasting it on pages in Africa and in India and while I was reading a lot of these posts, I was like, wow, this is really something that a lot of communities just don’t talk about.”
“I can’t speak on behalf of the African American community but as an African American I can tell you that this is something that within our own community, we don’t really talk about a lot. So when you do have these times when you really want a baby but you can’t have one, you feel like you’re challenged in having one, who do you turn to? Who do you talk to? Who can you be transparent with? We tell people all the time, hey this is what I’m praying for but in these areas we don’t be as vocal as we should because we feel like people will judge us or see me as less as a man or maybe less as a female. And that’s not fair.”
“It’s almost like if you’re yelling out into a Grand Canyon, you’re like, ‘Hello out there,’ and you’re just hoping that someone yells back, ‘Hey, I hear you’ you know? And that’s kind of like it was to me. I just wanted to see if in this big open Grand Canyon of doubt and worry and frustration, is there anyone out there that can hear what we’re going through and they can relate and to get all of those responses back was just so positive and so comforting and just encouraging.”
“I actually started thinking maybe I should make a whole mix tape full of… but right now I’m just enjoying this time you know we’re 6 weeks 2 days pregnant today. Yesterday we saw the heartbeat, the little flickering on the ultrasound. My focus right now is just to take care of my beautiful wife, make sure she doesn’t have to lift a finger, and just prepare our family.”
“The fact that I was able to really open my eyes to this community that we’re in just thinking it’s just me and her in this by ourselves and in that moment of pain and in that moment of feeling lost, I found out that I was actually part of a family so to speak, that we’re all in this together and I think that’s just one of the beautiful things that has come out of this.”
“I know everyone is not religious and everyone has different religious preferences but if you can relate to what we’re saying, then don’t lose faith in that message. If that’s what you heard, push through the pain, push through the self-doubt. Push through the failed results, and just believe and trust and know that at the end of the day, God is going to be there for you and your family, and he will keep his promise. That’s the main thing I just want people to take away from it.”
Have you created music or put together an infertility playlist to help you on your journey? We’d love to hear about it! Learn how you can share your story with us. We always welcome your emails to firstname.lastname@example.org and your phone calls. You can reach Elizabeth at (517) 262-3662.
We are working with our attorney to finish up the last of our final paperwork for filing as a non-profit. We are excited about what this will mean for the sustainability of The ART of Infertility (ART of IF) and the work we do to educate about the experience of infertility and provide a creative outlet and community of support for those living with it. For those of you new to ART of IF, or who need a refresher, here’s a link where you can learn more about our mission and our team.
A participant works on a memory box at an art workshop in Ann Arbor, MI.
Our articles of incorporation were filed in June. This means that, considering that our final paperwork is accepted and non-profit status is granted (and we have no reason to believe it won’t be), any donations will be tax-deductible retroactively to the date they were filed. Long story short, you give, it will be a future tax deduction.
However, we have really been struggling with asking a population who has already sacrificed so much, to give more. Many of you have to pay out-of-pocket to even get testing to receive an infertility diagnosis, let alone have an attempt to build your family through treatment or through adoption.
You scrimp and save, give up the large and small luxuries in life, max out credit cards, take out home equity loans, just to have a chance to have what comes so easily and virtually free to most, a child.
So, if you’ve passed the point in your fertility journey where every penny counts, or have access to insurance that keeps your out-of-pocket costs low, then yes, by all means, we could definitely use some cash!
Our current storage space shortly after we moved in. It’s now filled to the brim and we need an upgrade!
Thanks to those of you who have generously shared your artwork and stories with us, we have an urgent need for a bigger storage space for our artwork and art workshop supplies for 2017. Ideally, we’d like a space that also allows us prep area for exhibits and workshops. You can help us by giving to our general fund at this link. Any amount, large or small, is greatly appreciated. Seriously!
If not, we totally understand. Here are some free and low cost ways to contribute to ART of IF to and the work we do to benefit the infertility community.
Ask friends and family you think would be interested in ART of IF to follow us on social media. We’re on Twitter and Instagram @artofif and on Facebook. You can learn how to ask your friends to like our page on Facebook by following these instructions.
Send us your infertility artwork, permanently or on loan, so that we can share it through our exhibits, blog, and website. You do not have to be a professional artist. We welcome any form of expression by those of any skill level.
An image from the series, “Infertility is the Worst” by Kelly Zechmeister-Smith
Schedule a time to share your story with us via an oral history interview. Interviews can be conducted in person or via phone or Skype.
Maria conducts an oral history interview with project participant, Angela, during Advocacy Day events in Washington, D.C.
We consider it an honor and a privilege to collect and share your infertility stories through our art exhibits and oral history project. None of what we do would be possible without your participation and we are grateful every day for what the gift of your stories allows us to do. Please help us continue our work by contributing to ART of IF now.
All the best,
Maria Novotny and Elizabeth Walker, Co-Directors of The ART of Infertility
Today’s guest post is from Darla by way of her blog, Ten Times As Long. In it, she reflects on fears surrounding her twin pregnancy when she knows she’ll only be taking one of her daughters home. This post contains themes of loss as well as ultrasound and pregnancy photos. Thank you Darla, for letting us share your post with our community.
(Warning: this post may get a little heavy at times, but these are the realities we’re facing.)
With only about two months to go until D-Day, it’s really starting to sink in that we’re going to be having our baby girls soon. And that we will only be bringing one of them home with us.
And y’all, I am so scared.
Not just about labor, although I have enough mom friends to be more than a little freaked out about labor and all the postpartum goodness that goes on. I’m full of so many other fears. So in an effort to alleviate some of those fears, or at least ease my mind a bit, I’m going to spell them all out here. Fully recognizing how irrational many of them are.
I have 8 weeks of pregnancy left, give or take. It took only about two hours for my entire world to fall apart when we found out about Cate, so 8 weeks is an eternity on that timeline, and I’m terrified that something will happen to Olivia during that eternity. My biggest fear, for whatever reason, is her getting tangled in her cord.
I’m scared of being pregnant forever. Not literally, obviously, but longer than traditional “full term.” Not because I’m uncomfortable or TOBP (an acronym my doctor used: Tired of Being Pregnant). But because the longer I’m pregnant, the longer I’m literally carrying the weight of my dead child. Not only is there this mental weight that I’m carrying, but there’s a physical one, too, and it feels like it’s impossible to move through the grief while I’m still carrying that weight.
I’m scared of not being pregnant long enough. I know right now that Olivia would be in relatively good shape no matter when she comes, and really my fear isn’t about pre-term labor. It’s about saying goodbye to Cate’s physical form. I’m terrified of the moment Peter and I have to say that we’re ready to say goodbye and that they can take her from us.
Before we even get there, though, I’m really afraid of the what-ifs regarding Cate’s delivery in particular. Olivia’s will go as normally as a routine delivery can go. But Cate? No one can give me an answer. We don’t know how she’ll come out, no one can give us an answer on what she’ll look like. Will we even be able to hold her? Get her little hand and footprints? Will she even have hands or feet? What about her sweet face? I need something to remember her by, and while I’m sure every doctor we’ve talked to is sympathetic toward our wishes, they just can’t say for certain that we’ll get that. And it’s devastating.
The fear of holding my baby girl is overwhelming sometimes. Which makes me feel terrible. But I have no idea how I’m going to feel, how she’s going to look, how I’m going to react to her. So many feels, and I’m so scared that I’m just going to fall apart right when my girls need me the most.
Going home? With only one baby, when we were planning for two for so long? How am I going to handle this? I still walk into the nursery sometimes and think about how there should be TWO cribs in there, TWO names on the wall, TWO sets of clothes. And now we’ll have to take ONE baby out to the car in ONE carrier and put her into ONE crib that night.
At 31 weeks.
I’m afraid this is always going to hurt. And not in the time will make it less painful way, but in the full-on, can’t catch my breath, heart breaking because Peter just asked me “why us,” feel like I’m going to fall apart way. Because I don’t know why us, and I never will. And not knowing makes it that much harder to move through this and get to the other side of the gut-wrenching pain and into the dull ache because my heart is missing a piece.
What if that hurt turns into full-blown PPD? I’m already at increased risk because of my general depression and anxiety. Losing part of a pregnancy only increases that risk. I’ve already requested that Peter and my mother be on close watch, as well as my therapist, but I’m so scared for myself, for Olivia, for my marriage, for everything.
I’m terrified that people will forget Cate. Olivia is going to bring such joy to our family, and I know we’ll all be so focused on her and on loving her. But what about Cate? She needs love, too, even though she won’t be here on earth with us. I’m scared that, as time goes on, people will forget she ever existed, and I can’t stomach that. I need to remember her, I need everyone to remember her, because she was real and was here and will always be a part of our family.
I have so much anxiety going into these last two months that it’s almost stifling at times. I feel like I can’t catch my breath, and when I do catch it and I feel normal for half a second, I feel guilty for feeling normal when none of this is normal. Peter and I met with a hospital nurse in charge of “special deliveries” earlier this week, and every time I looked over at my husband, I thought to myself, “We’re just babies ourselves; we shouldn’t be discussing burying our baby.”
To those of you who have dealt with me during these times, thank you. Thank you for the distractions, thank you for the loving messages, thank you for talking about our girls and remembering that Peter and I are the parents of two beautiful little babies. Thank you for reassuring me. Thank you for letting me talk, vent, cry, talk about morbid things like funeral arrangements with you. You are all such wonderful people, and I know our girls can feel your love all around them.
Darla began her blog, Ten Times As Long, back in 2012 as a way to cope with the sudden surge of anxiety and depression that had plagued her since high school. She found that writing about her experiences and emotions in a way that is raw, unfiltered was her way of facing her problems head-on. The blog has followed her through unemployment, marriage, infertility, pregnancy, and now pregnancy loss. As Suzanne Collins wrote in the third installment of her Hunger Games series, Mockingjay, “It takes ten times as long to put yourself back together as it does to fall apart.” This blog is Darla’s way of putting herself back together, piece by piece.
As Elizabeth mentioned in last week’s blog post, we have been a bit quiet this summer. And as you may have learned from reading her post, while we were quiet, we certainly were busy both personally and professionally.
This summer I spent the majority of my time working on my dissertation titled, The ART of Infertility: Conceiving a Participatory Health Intervention Community. As some of you may know, I am fourth year PhD student in Rhetoric & Writing at Michigan State University. My research then looks at how women navigate an infertility diagnosis and use art as method of personal reflection and activism (read more at my website).
This coming May I will graduate and hopefully take a job as an assistant professor of writing and rhetoric at a university somewhere in the United States. My responsibilities in this role would include teaching writing courses ranging from health and medical writing to rhetorical research methods and multimodal composition. But – to first receive a job offer – I need to have a completed dissertation. Hence, a summer of writing all about infertility.
Waking each morning knowing that I would once again be thinking and theorizing about infertility allowed me to really take time to process my own journey. I actually went back to graduate school when my husband and I were first having trouble getting pregnant. As an English major in college, I had always wanted to go and receive my master’s degree so that I could teach at the collegiate level. With no pregnancy on the horizon, and having just moved to a new state for Kevin’s job, I applied and was accepted into Michigan State’s Critical Studies in Literacy and Pedagogy Master’s program.
In this program, I spent two years taking graduate level composition and education courses as well as teaching sections first-year writing. All the while, I quietly continued to try and get pregnant naturally. Graduate school was simply another distraction, until I enrolled in a course titled “Queer Rhetorics.”
Reading Hennessy’s article made me think how much infertility is tied to the production of materiality – literally being capable of producing a child. What happens though when our bodies can’t make a baby?
This course shifted my entire professional identity. As I read books and articles for this class, I started to see my own struggle with feeling often – abnormal. Especially in the case of sex. Few, if anyone I knew, could understand how messed up my sex life was because of infertility. But in reading queer theory, I could begin to find traces of myself in the other stories shared with me.
I began to eventually write reflections on the connections I was making to infertility and began to feel energized in sharing my own struggles and finding a space for infertility in my studies. In fact, part of my final project of this course resulted in several pieces of creative writing. For example, “The House” is a short vignette that is part of The ART of Infertility’s exhibit. My engagement in this course led me to apply for a PhD in Rhetoric & Writing – and long story short — ended up once again at MSU.
For the past fours years now, I have been writing, researching and presenting on what I call “rhetorics of infertility” which examines the meaning-making process of navigating an infertility diagnosis. Partnering with The ART of Infertility allowed me to explore this topic further by looking at how multimodal composition, such as creating art, opens spaces for personal validation as well surfaces a desire to use art as a method of activism.
Facilitating a micro workshop in Houston with the Coalition of Feminist Scholars in the History of Rhetoric and Composition
As I begin my last year in graduate school, I still am not pregnant nor am I in treatment. But I am part of a wonderful organization – The ART of Infertility. And look forward to continuing this research as a co-director with Elizabeth. Through this partnership, we look forward to building a digital archive to provide greater access to narratives and artwork we have collected for the infertility community as a resource for support groups.
As a project that uses art exhibitions as a method to translate embodied, and often invisible or unrecognized challenges of an infertility diagnosis, we hope to continue bringing the exhibit to a variety of audiences. This summer, we were fortunate enough to travel to The Turek Clinic and share this work with physicians, fertility specialists and therapists. And this fall, we are thrilled to announce that we will be traveling internationally to present the exhibition for Merck’s Patient Day in Switzerland on November 9th. The purpose of Patient Day is to help educate staff members about the experience of infertility, and the other diseases and conditions, treated by the pharmaceuticals made by Merck.
We’ll be flying into Geneva and look forward to collecting infertility stories in the surrounding areas while in Europe.
We haven’t finalized our exact travel dates yet, but for those who follow us in Europe, we will be on your continent for the second week in November, give or take. Please contact us at email@example.com if you would like to be interviewed for the project.
And thank you to all who have supported this project throughout its journey. Elizabeth and I are truly amazed at your continued enthusiasm for this organization.
Sharing poetry today from Jeffrey Tucker. This poem and other artwork and infertility stories of men and their families will be on display at our pop-up art exhibit on Thursday June 16 in San Francisco from 7 – 9 pm at The Turek Clinic. Free registration at our Eventbrite listing.
We’re excited to be partnering with The Turek Clinic and Men’s Health Network for this event in honor of Men’s Health Month which will feature art making stations, food, drinks, and a peek at the new film If I Could Tell You and a Q&A session with director, Rob Clyde. Sponsorship opportunities are still available. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information. Please join us!
Jeffrey Tucker Artist’s Statement
I believe that writing – especially poetry – is an act of confession. Whether the thoughts expressed in art are joyous, sorrowful, or somewhere in-between (or both, in some instances), the act of comitting pen to paper builds a bridge between the reader and the writer’s psyche, often with an intimacy eschewed in normal conversation.
Which is the say that I tell secrets in my poetry. This poem, in particular, allowed me to express something I would never say out loud. It was both liberating and terrifying to write – an experience (in sentiment, if not in practice) that I have heard many people describe passing through in the journey of infertility: on one hand, you want to scream; on the other hand, you want to hide. Thus, this poem – whose writing process inspired the same feelings in me – in an apt form to convey my emotions.
“On Geography and Biology and the Meeting Thereof.”
(Excerpted from Kill February, forthcoming from Sage Hill Press)
– Jeffrey Tucker
My brother-in-law and his wife: gone,
off to cruise Mexico: siesta
or Fiesta, la Riviera Maya, salted latitudes
south. I picture the two white-footed Utahns
quick-stepping down a burning brown beach,
silver hawkers at hand. They have not heard the stories
I have, of endless squatting in jails
for a wrong U-turn, an unpaid bribe.
Yet I am unconcerned. It’s a cruise,
after all, staffed with smiling deckhands
so eager to pass out Turkish towels
or spray palms with alcohol. If they
died, my wife thinks aloud, they would not
leave our nieces – the four girls – to us.
Since we don’t live in Utah, I say,
and she nods. No family nearby,
not for two thousand miles. And I knew
that my body does not allow us pregnancy, morning
sickness, any of that
lovely fecund wreck. But I did not know that geography
conspired against us at the same time
(not that I ever wish for a death).
While we have more men sharing their stories with us through artwork and interviews these days, they’re still underrepresented in our project and in the media as a whole. By participating in Men’s Health Month, we’re hoping to shed light on how infertility affects men and encourage more men to use art as a tool in coping with their disease.
In this post from the blog archives, originally posted in July of last year, we hear from ART of IF interview participant and artist, Chas. We’re sharing his artwork at our pop-up exhibit at The Turek Clinic in San Francisco next week, and I just confirmed that he and his wife, Audrey, will be attending as well! Please plan to join us to check out the show, create something of your own at our art making stations, and enjoy food, wine, and the company of others in the infertility community, like Chas. You can get your free tickets here. – Elizabeth
“We would have cute kids!”
That was the line I said to my wife while we were in college. Forward? Sure. Did I mean it? Yes. Did I know it would take 3 years and 7 IUI’s to finally have a child? Definitely not.
My wife and I wanted to do the things that we felt we had to do before we had kids. You know: get married, careers, buy a house, travel, etc. It wasn’t until my college roommates had their first child in May of 2012 that we sat down and said, “We want a child. We want to experience that kind of love.”
Flash forward 3-4 months of trying, we both felt something was wrong but due to our medical coverage we had to wait a full calendar year of trying to conceive before diagnostic tests could be run. In June of 2013 we were finally referred to our reproductive endocrinologist and the tests began. All of my wife’s tests came back with nothing wrong with her, but I was a different story.
Low motility and low sperm count. That is what my semen analysis (SA) read. I was angry. How could this happen? I have never done illegal drugs, I can count on one hand the times I had smoked a cigar, I workout, eat well, take care of my body, What the hell? Did I do my fair share of the college bar scene? Sure, but it’s not like I drank a fifth of Jack Daniels a night. This had to be wrong. Then the next SA three weeks later had the same results. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Why me?
I was diagnosed with unexplained male factor infertility. When I was diagnosed with male factor infertility I truly did go though the 5 stages of grief. At first I wanted more SA’s because I was a red-blooded American male and nothing could be wrong with me. Denial. Then when all 5 those SA’s came back the same I was angry at myself, and my body for failing me, with my anger directed towards anyone who crossed my path. I would snap at the littlest things and pick fights just to fight. The anger really stayed for a long time. After that came the bargaining: if I take these infertility vitamins and change my diet that should do the trick. It worked for other people it had to work for me. When the vitamins and diet change didn’t work the depression set in. This is when things got pretty bad. I was truly numb to the world. I disconnected from my wife. She would ask me a question about my day and I would give one-word answers. I couldn’t find the joy in the things I use to love doing. I didn’t want to be around anyone, I just wanted to stay home in the dark. After our 6th IUI failed during National Infertility Awareness Week 2014the acceptance finally started. My wife had posted something on a social media site that she didn’t know other people could see, outed if you will, our struggle to have a child to our friends and family. The cat was out of the bag so to speak. After that only love and support followed from our friends and family. With that love and support we did a picture for NIAW and we also made a team for the Northern California Walk of Hope.
Having to watch my wife take pills and get injections probably was one of the worst parts of the whole IUI process. The pills gave her hot flashes and I handled that pretty well I think. I always had something to cool her down. The injections were hard to watch. I know IVF injections are more extensive but watching her give herself Menopur injections sucked. Watching her do the pain dance, as we called it, always got to me, but the bruises afterwards would bring tears to my eyes. I had to helplessly stand by and watch as my wife had to go through this for something my body was failing to do.
The infertility community as a whole has been so amazing. My wife and I have met so many amazing people going through the challenges of infertility. I don’t think I have ever met that many people that truly pull for you to succeed in that capacity. There is such a kinship in the community that you really do have to experience it and cannot be qualified into words.
If putting my story out there can change one man’s mind for the better about Male Factor Infertility I would feel I accomplished my goal for this blog. Unfortunately, there really isn’t research and support out there for MFI. Why is it on rise? Chemical age? Maybe, but there is no concrete proof. This is especially true for unexplained MFI. There is no need to feel ashamed and disconnected from your partner no matter the diagnosis you are in this together.