Still in the Trenches on Father’s Day

Today, during Father’s Day and Men’s Health Month, we offer you the perspectives of three men whose path to fatherhood has been blocked by infertility. For resources on male factor infertility and men’s health, we encourage you to visit The Turek Clinics and Men’s Health Network.

Matt Quarterman

We lost a child almost before we knew we had one.

My partner had an ectopic pregnancy that ruptured. We had been trying to conceive for about six months, but the hospital was the first that we knew of it. She was bleeding internally. She lost parts of her body in surgery.

So our experience with infertility – tests and procedures, questions from friends and family, their baby showers and birth announcements – was colored by losing a child we didn’t know we had.

I’ve learned that every infertility journey is unique. The details might seem inconsequential to the outside observer, yet each of the specifics makes the story your own. I hope that by examining my own experience through these poems, some of my fuzzy logic or murky feeling might ring true for others.

Even when we’re alone, we are not alone.

Excerpt from Babyland
Matt Quarterman
poetry

It’s expensive enough that not everyone
can go. We know the time saved up
we know the long journey
We know returning empty-handed
is hardest. Trade a plastic cup
of tokens for tickets to earn the prize.
There’s the ultrasound screen,
there’s the wheel of pills,
there’s the calendar app, reminders and
still not enough. Not enough can be offered,
report card clean, but no-one here judges,
the problem is ours together to create,
to solve. Some get there unexpectedly,
an osprey dives through empty oxygen,
the force of the flower the green fuse drives,
fool’s gold, cruise boat, news reel,
the heat death of everything, passengers waving.
They’ve run out of options. They hope
for the best at the turnstiles,
the monorail speeding away,
always away. Forget it – it’s Baby Land.

Nathan Chan

“Sometimes on the way to your dream, you get lost and find a better one.”– Lisa Hammond

Nathan’s passion for the surrogacy and egg donation field started in 2009 as a young male when he pursued single parenthood. It was a complicated process which he found difficult. He had always been a source of assistance to his friends and he felt a calling to join. This calling led him to spend 2014-2016 working at another leading Canadian Surrogacy and Egg Donation consultancy, where he played a large role in many of the success stories.

Nathan has spent more than five years pursuing single parenthood in India and Canada. At one point in this journey, he was even lucky enough to use a known Egg Donor. His journey to parenthood is still in progress. He is empathetic to the Intended Parents’ journey to surrogacy because he personally understands the challenges.

Nathan takes great pride in supporting Intended Parent(s), including many single men who are now proud fathers using his surrogacy and egg donation services. Participating in this art exhibit has been very important for him as this process of sharing his infertility journey through art has been very empowering. Nathan lives in Calgary, Alberta, Canada where he is the Managing Director of Proud Fertility, an inclusive surrogacy and egg donation consultancy. He is also an accomplished musician and visual artist, best known for his Aurora Borealis series.

Angst of an Infertile Caterpillar, 2010
Nathan Chan
painting on canvas

Angst of an Infertile Caterpillar, 2010 by Nathan Chan

This piece was created when I was feeling lost after my first early miscarriage. I questioned the steps that I have taken, the money I spent on IVF and surrogacy, and it was during a time in my life where I was resentful and hateful of myself and the choices I made for my desire to have a child.

Is there more to life? Have I moved too fast in life to spread my wings quicker than anyone else? Many days, I feel like a very beautiful monarch butterfly, but many other days I feel as though I’ve lost one of my wings.

I have a lot of re-energized moments where I feel I can start over again, but like the caterpillar, I see my past where I’ve flown as a butterfly with broken or missing wings. Or, I see that there are too many difficulties and challenges to overcome and it doesn’t help when I’m a caterpillar exposed to so many issues in the past and the many problems that I have seen so closely in my life.

They say there is little communication between the caterpillar and butterfly, but I wish that in my life, there could be a better relationship between the two. It would be tremendously amazing if I could see a symbiotic relationship between the two because I want my caterpillar and butterfly to see and learn from each other’s experiences and perspectives.

Memorializing My Losses, 2013
Nathan Chan
mixed media

Memorializing My Losses, 2013 by Nathan Chan

This piece was created when I came to a point where I wanted to memorialize my losses through surrogacy. I needed a way to honor those losses. Each figure represented an embryo transfer attempt in India and Canada. It was very important for me to contextualize everything and capture it onto a canvas. These losses make up who I am and what I have become. These losses were not small, and not to be minimized.

The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side, 2013
Nathan Chan
mixed media

The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side, 2013 by Nathan Chan

“The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” is a common phrase that everyone knows. It refers to the way we tend to look at other people’s lives and other things that we don’t have. All throughout my life, I compared myself to others. Whether so and so has a bigger house, so and so had a higher grade on their assignment, so and so visited XYZ country in the world, so and so has a higher paying job, and finally, so and so has a partner and children.

This painting is of two simple houses in the shape of an “N,” my first name initial and there is an inverted sunset. The inverted sunset represents the state of turmoil I am in. These two buildings are deliberately sitting on plots of grass that are of different shades of green. As I pondered over this common phrase, I have never really understood what “greener” means. What shade of green actually denotes “greener grass” As I thought more about this, I realized this shade is darker green.

Through my reflections, I have learned to be grateful for all my experiences, including my experiences of infertility – my experiences of pregnancy loss as a single male Intended Parent. As I rebuild my life I call “home,” I can only make two choices. I can either be resentful and miserable and loathe everyone else around me, or I can be grateful for the life I have led and will continue to live. I must acknowledge the growth I have experienced. I have a diverse set of skills and talents and I have family support in my endeavors.

“The grass is greener where you water,” is perhaps another idiom that has been overused. But I need to water my own lawn by simply focusing on the things I do have, and count my blessings. It’s either that, or I am going to drive myself miserable and upset with the things that what others “appear” to have that I don’t. I hate these clichés, so I want to come up with my own – “The Grass is Always Greener on My Side.”

Jeffrey Tucker

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 committing 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, from Sage Hill Press)
Jeffrey Tucker
poetry

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 Utahans
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).

 

IVF Miracle Song – How a conversation with God led to writing a rap and finding community

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 info@artofinfertility.org and your phone calls. You can reach Elizabeth at (517) 262-3662.

 

 

Picture Your Fertility: An Interactive Art Event for #MensHealth

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Chas’ story was featured in the exhibit on Thursday night at The Turek Clinic in San Francisco. Photo by Rebecca Wilkowski.

If you logged onto Facebook this past Sunday, you could not help but be reminded of two cultural events. One, the Warriors vs. Cavilers game. Two, the fact that it was Father’s Day. Both events though shared images and remembrances of healthy, strong men.

Yet, the reality is that in the American men are dying at epic numbers because of their reluctance to see the doctor and be screened for preventable disease (see Men’s Health Network). The suicide rate of men is nearly four times that of women (see AFSP). And, yet,  the United States still does not have a National Office for Men’s Health (see Men’s Health Magazine).

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Attendees at Picture Your Fertility transform specimen cups using duct tape and alphabet stickers. Photo by Rebecca Wilkowski.

Last Thursday, the ART of Infertility took a moment to draw attention to this gap in American men’s attitudes towards health and medicine. “Picture Your Fertility: An Interactive Art Event for #MensHealth” featured stories and artwork created around issues of infertility and men’s health. Below you will find some of the pieces of art created at the event, as well as some of the stories that were featured at this unique event celebrating Men’s Health Month.

A special thanks to The Turek Clinic for hosting, our media partner, Men’s Health Network Reproductive Science Center for their sponsorship, Janet Reilly for wine, Rob Clyde for his Q&A of If I Could Tell You, and all those who donated to The ART of Infertility before, during, and after the event. We’ll be sharing more photographs from the event soon. See the photos below for a little sneak peek from Rebecca Wilkowski Photography.
Dr. Paul Turek welcomes guest to the clinic.

Dr. Paul Turek welcomes guest to the clinic. Photo by Rebecca Wilkowski.

Guests could create their own comic strip. Photo by Maria Novotny.

Guests could create their own comic strip. Photo by Maria Novotny.

Rob Clyde talks about his film, If I Could Tell You.

Rob Clyde talks about his film, If I Could Tell You.

Photo by Rebecca Wilkowski.

Photo by Rebecca Wilkowski.

Artist Jamie Turri with her piece, What It Takes. Photo by Rebecca Wilkowski.

Artist Jamie Turri with her piece, What It Takes. Photo by Rebecca Wilkowski.

Teaming up with Hollywood for Men’s Health

By now, I hope you all know about our pop-up art exhibit next Thursday, June 16th from 7 – 9 pm at The Turek Clinic in San Francisco. Tickets are free but it’s important that you visit our Eventbrite listing to reserve your spot! We’ve been extra busy this week getting our artwork, portraits, labels, and supplies around and working out last minute details. I have some exciting news to share as there’s been a new development this week!

if i could tell you movie posterDr. Turek is the Executive Producer of a new film about infertility called If I Could Tell You. Earlier this week, I had a chance to speak with the film’s director, Robert Clyde, about how the film was inspired by his own experience with infertility. We bonded over our shared passion for the arts and using them as a creative outlet for dealing with our own emotions around being diagnosed with the disease. So, a decision was made that Rob would fly up to San Francisco from Los Angeles to share a preview of the film at our pop-up and host a Q&A session.

The Turek clinic, If I Could Tell You, and The ART of Infertility all intersect on the importance of creativity and healing re: infertility.


– It was because of their personal experiences with infertility that Rob and his cast made this film.

– Maria and I began creating art and writing around our own infertility diagnoses, which led to the creation of The ART of Infertility.

– Dr. Turek is passionate about both projects because of the creative expressions they represent and the opportunity for dialog that they invite.

I’m excited about this collaboration for creative expression, the awareness it has the potential to create, and the conversations it will start about infertility, particularly about Men’s Health. So, please join us at The Turek Clinic on the 16th (remember, you can get your tickets at our Eventbrite listing. We look forward to seeing you there!
-Elizabeth

The Aftermath of a Male Factor Infertility Diagnosis

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.

DSC_5682s

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?

DSC_5470s

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.

Chas_NIAW 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.

Chas_Preg

Take a Moment and Picture Your Fertility: A Guest Post from Dr. Paul Turek

Today we feature a guest blog post from Dr. Paul Turek of the Turek Clinic. An award-winning urologist and Men’s Health Advocate, Dr. Turek explains the importance of thinking about male fertility and how Men’s Health Month (in June) serves as an reminder of the particular challenges men face in regards to their fertility. We look forward to joining Dr. Turek on June 16, 2016 from 7:00 – 9:00pm at the Turek Clinic in San Francisco. This event is free and open to the public! You can reserve you spot here.

Read more about Dr. Turek’s commitment to male fertility and the way art can begin to express many of its challenges.

***

How do you solve tough problems? Maybe you pick at them until they’re gone. Maybe you dance around them until they’re contained. One thing I like to do is to step away and examine them as an outsider, from a completely different perspective. In other words, get out of the trees and look at the whole forest. It’s amazing what you can learn from taking a new angle.

Inconceivable by Aine Quimby. Oil on canvas. Part of the ART of IF collection.

Inconceivable by Aine Quimby. Oil on canvas. Part of the ART of IF collection.

Honing Heuristics

There are quite a few problems in the field of men’s health that need solving. To me, this is more than just trying my hardest to solve the infertility or sexual health problems of patients I see daily. There are other, equally important but more diffuse, issues with which I am also obsessed, including:

What better time to think about these issues than during Men’s Health Month, which is now upon us. And what better way to start off the month than by taking a completely different perspective on things.

Pop Up Art

For millennia, art has struck every emotionally charged chord in the composition that is life. Using caricature, satire and symbolism, it has dished vanity, excess, corruption, greed, and politics. At the same time, it has memorialized life, love, sex and everything else under the sun that holds human meaning. I admire what Pablo Picasso said about art: “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” It seems natural, then, to have a Pop-Up Art Show about men and fertility.

Elizabeth Walker is founder and curator of The ART of Infertility, a travelling infertility artwork, oral history and portraiture project. I attended a show she held in LA last year and was deeply moved by the emotional rawness and creative expression in art made by those affected by the scourge of infertility. Sculptures of beautiful flowers made from IVF needles and syringes; a lovely baby’s crib filled with empty fertility medication vials, bottles and boxes. If you don’t believe that the epidemic of infertility affects lives like cancer or the plague, you need hear these stories, told through art.

And now you can. Please join me for the next Art of Infertility Pop Up Art Show entitled Picture Your Fertility: An Interactive Art Event for #MensHealth to be held in my San Francisco office on June 16th. Be sure to reserve your space by registering here. Plan to be there as we share the infertility journeys of men and their families through artwork and stories. Partake of food and drink, and feel free to tell your own story at our art-making stations. Maybe, just maybe, in some small way, this brief evening-of-art will wash away the dust of daily life from your soul and thereby render it reachable and realizable.

The Art of Infertility, The Turek Clinic & Men’s Health Network present:
A Pop Up Art Show
“Picture Your Fertility: An Interactive Art Event for #MensHealth”
June 16, 2016 from 7:00pm to 9:00pm
The Turek Clinic San Francisco
55 Francisco St, Suite 300
San Francisco, CA 94133
Tax-deductible donations welcome!

#startasking What about men and infertility?

Infertility is often looked at as a disease that only affects women. In reality, infertility is caused by female factor and male factor equally at 30% each. In the balance of cases, the infertility is the result of both partners or unexplained. Even when the disease is not a direct result of issues with a male partner, infertility has a huge impact on men. Unfortunately, men’s stories are not heard as frequently.

ART of Infertility is interested in telling diverse stories of infertility, and is always honored to share the stories of men. We’re very excited to have been invited by Dr. Paul Turek of The Turek Clinic in Beverly Hills and San Francisco, to hold a pop-up art exhibit in his clinic in San Francisco on Thursday June 16th from 7 – 9 pm, in honor of Men’s Health Week. We’ll be sharing the artwork and stories of men and their families along with food and art making stations. If you’re in the area, we hope you’ll attend. In the meantime, you can learn more about male fertility and infertility from Dr. Turek here and read and listen to the personal story of Bret, an ART of IF participant in Southern California, and his family below. Bret reflects on the experience of miscarriage and trying to decide whether to continue or end treatment.  This post does contain images of children and parenting.

– Elizabeth

Bret with his son Cole, who was conceived via Inter-uterine insemination, or IUI.

Bret with his son Cole, who was conceived via Inter-uterine insemination, or IUI.

“I knew the moment the doctor came in to do the ultrasound. I saw his actions and he didn’t even have to say anything. I’ve done enough ultrasounds with him before and I kind of knew how they went and he was triple checking everything and I knew, this was not good. She didn’t want to accept it the first time and it was difficult. I kind of knew the writing was on the wall. Maybe we also approached her second pregnancy in a different way. I didn’t want to tell anybody until the end of the process. She was just so happy being pregnant and I tried to advise her, this is nobody’s business but ours. It was tough because I had that in my mind that it wasn’t going well and she was so ecstatic being pregnant. We were in two very different places at the same time. I just tried to do what I could. There was also a lot of work stuff going on at the same time so I wasn’t here for the 3 weeks when this all happened. I was at work almost he whole time so it was not a good time, at all, for anyone.”

“The only thing I can do is support her. Be there for her, a shoulder to cry on. She needs to get these emotions out so that’s what I try to do. I’m not very good at it but I try.”

Bret_004_men-and-infertility“I guess I don’t have a support, I guess I don’t. I don’t really talk to anybody about it. I have my ways that I guess I try to let things out and deal with it but I don’t talk to anybody. I like to go out in the wilderness and I usually go with a group of friends and we go backpacking or go walk up a mountain or something cool and well, last July we had our family vacation. We did a little anniversary thing and got away and we came home and I just said, I’m leaving. I’m going. I just went and walked out in the mountains by myself for about 4 days. This was about 6 weeks after the miscarriage. It helped. It wasn’t the cure I was looking for but it was helpful and that’s it and then it was back to work and back to the grind and I really haven’t dealt with it, I just try to put it behind me.”

Bret, Erica, and Cole at their home in Southern California.

Bret, Erica, and Cole at their home in Southern California.

Click on the clip below to hear audio of Bret and his wife, Erica, discussing whether to continue or end treatment.

 

 

Friday News Round Up – April 1

Here are some stories that caught our eye this week.

Elizabeth

Study: Plastic May Interfere with IVF Success

by Pacific Fertility Center Team

Published by Pacific Fertility Center

“BPA is a chemical used to make plastic hard and shatterproof—and it can leach from containers into food and drinks. Acting as an endocrine disrupter, it mimics the hormone estrogen—and can derail reproduction and other systems dependent upon hormones to work well.”

Shuls to help spread ‘hope’ to the childless. Yesh Tikva leader ‘turns light switch on’ for those coping with infertility

by Debra Rubin

Published by New Jersey Jewish News

The organization is running a variety of infertility awareness campaigns including the “Mikvah Infertility Awareness Campaign (which) places posters in ritual baths; for many observant women, performing the monthly immersion is a repeated painful reminder of their failure to become pregnant.”

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Reining in sperm could lead to unisex contraceptive

By Aaron Heinrich

Published by Gizmag

“The researchers found that the key is a type of protein receptor that sits on a sperm’s tail and responds to the female sex hormone progesterone.”

“If the receptor protein doesn’t recognize progesterone, you would be infertile,” said Melissa Miller, a postdoctoral fellow at both UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco and the first author of a paper reporting the discovery. “This gives us an understanding of another pathway that is involved in human sperm activity.”

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‘Baby deadline test’ aims to help women predict infertility problems

Male Factor Infertility – Cindy, Paul, and Max’s Story

Today we’re sharing just a tiny bit of Cindy, Paul, and Max Flynn’s story. After three years of infertility, repeat semen analyses and a testicular biopsy, Cindy and Paul received a definitive answer that Paul had Azoospermia, or no sperm count. They made a decision to try using donor sperm to conceive and Max was born. Paul reflects on the experience below. The post does include images of a child and parenting. Thanks, Cindy, Paul, and Max, for sharing your story!

“I was thinking about donor sperm, adopting. I would have loved for the child we had to be biologically mine and Cindy’s together. I don’t have any feeling that the Flynn line should be extended. There’s no pressure there. We don’t need anymore generations of biological Flynns.”

“My biggest fear, honestly, and I felt this with Max, is that I want to be this child’s daddy. In my mind, I would never be the daddy unless it was biologically my child. I realize now that that’s not (the case). I wake up every morning and Max says, ‘Hey, Daddy’. I come home from work or on lunch and he exclaims, ‘Daddy!’ and it warms my heart.”

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“I thought somehow that I wouldn’t have that connection and that even scares me now. I’ve become a lot more comfortable. I’m so happy to have him and I just feel so blessed, but it’s the feeling that somehow he’s not going to consider me his dad. There are no words to describe that. This is kind of an irrational fear I have but that’s that. It’s not on my mind as much these days but it still is on my mind.”

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Going the Distance for Infertility Coverage – Reflections on Advocacy Day from Brooke

Today, Brooke Kingston shares why she travels 2000 miles from home to Washington, D.C. for Advocacy Day each year. Thanks, Brooke, for sharing your story!

Elizabeth

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Brooke after sharing a portion of her story with ART of Infertility during our mini interview sessions before Advocacy Day, 2015.

Two years ago this May, I boarded a plane in Phoenix, Arizona destined for Dulles International Airport in Virginia, a place I’d never been. I picked up my rental car and drove to a home in Sterling, where I would be staying for the next week. I was about to meet someone I’d been online friends with for 3 years, but had never met face to face. Our plans were to get pedicures, eat good food, and spend a day in Washington, D.C. talking to members of Congress.

You’re thinking I’m crazy, right? Maybe a little.

When I think back to the leap of faith I took flying across the country, meeting (and planning to stay with) someone I’d never met and committing to walk the halls of the Capitol, I’m still a bit surprised with myself. I’m a homebody. I hate public speaking. Why would I do something like this? To explain that, I need to back up a little more.

Five years ago this summer, my husband and I were diagnosed with joint fertility issues. We were given a 2% chance of ever conceiving on our own. Having agreed ahead of time that we wouldn’t do IVF, we spent the next year coming to the decision that we would choose a childfree lifestyle as our resolution to infertility. It was the hardest choice we’ll ever make as a married couple, but we made it together and committed ourselves to each other and began to heal.

Part of my healing process is creating. I took up new crafts and converted what would have been the nursery into an office and craft room. I learned to knit and returned to painting, something I’d enjoyed in high school. I baked and decorated cookies and cakes. I dabbled in photography and sewing. My Pinterest boards grew exponentially. When our first nephew was born in the summer of 2014, I learned to quilt and made 7 quilts in as many months, gifting them with love to friends and family. I poured myself in creating to fill the void.

The fifth quilt Brooke created.

The fifth quilt Brooke created.

The other part of my healing process is taking action. Infertility left me feeling helpless, and then angry at that feeling of powerlessness. To face that anger, as well as to find community and support, I became involved with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association. I started as a support group attendee shortly after our diagnosis and eventually became a group leader. I became involved in fundraising through the Arizona Walk of Hope, and eventually became the chair of the event. Later, I would become an Ambassador and assume the responsibility of being a positive face of RESOLVE in the community.

Brooke with fellow Advocacy Day attendees at the welcome reception in 2015.

Brooke with fellow Advocacy Day attendees at the welcome reception in 2015.

In the midst of this volunteer work, I heard about Advocacy Day. In 2013, I remember posting on Facebook that I would be there in 2014. I didn’t know what all was involved, but that was my goal, and I would not fail. Those were my words: “I will not fail.” I spent the next year saving for airfare. A friend who I’d met through infertility message boards and become close with – thanks to our spectacularly matched wit and diagnoses – offered her home as my place to stay and agreed to join me at the Capitol. I was beyond excited and nervous, but on May 7th, 2014, the day of my first Advocacy Day, I achieved the goal I’d made over a year earlier.

Brooke at Senator McCain's office during Advocacy Day 2014.

Brooke at Senator McCain’s office during Advocacy Day 2014.

It’s hard to describe the exact feeling of being at Advocacy Day. It’s awe-inspiring: from meeting the staff of RESOLVE, to hearing the empowering speeches of the event chairs at the morning training, to being in the Capitol building amidst the hustle and bustle of staffers and trams and security points. It’s intimidating sitting in front of a congressional staffer (most of whom were younger than me – you kind of want to ask if their parents know where they are), telling them you’re there because you’re infertile and you want their boss to support legislation that will make life better for people like you. It can be difficult to remember all the statements you carefully rehearsed and the facts about the bills you memorized when you’re nervous and your mouth feels dry and your palms are sweaty. Their political philosophy may be wildly different and you may feel like you’re talking to a wall.

But your voice is HEARD.

Whether my congressperson agrees with me or not, my voice was heard, and it was heard on behalf of 7.3 million Americans who weren’t there in that room that day. That’s an incredible sense of accomplishment. Even if they don’t agree to co-sponsor a bill, when we tell them that we’re there with a group of over 150 people from all over the country, that makes an impact. That tells them that we are a force, and that we matter. That’s the incredible feeling that drives me to attend Advocacy Day, to set aside my fear of public speaking for the greater good of my community. This May will be my third consecutive year attending, and I have no plans to quit.

Brooke and her online turned in-real-life friend, getting pedicures before Advocacy Day 2015.

Brooke and her online turned in-real-life friend getting pedicures before Advocacy Day 2015.

As for the friend I stayed with that first year, I’m doing that again, too. We’ve become the best of friends, and this is something we’re committed to doing together, along with the growing number of advocates we meet each year. Advocacy isn’t only about the message we deliver directly to congress. It’s about our community and how we foster it and make the environment better for those who can’t speak out. It’s about being with other people who understand the emotional complexity of the disease and using those emotions to drive action.

It’s about taking a leap of faith and believing that you can create a difference, start a conversation, and make things better for others.

Please consider joining Brooke at Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C. on May 11 this year. You can learn about how to get involved at resolve.org.