How ART of IF Intern Kristen Mahan will #FlipTheScript this Men’s Health Month

As most of you already know, we The ART of Infertility will be in Los Angeles during the month of June for Men’s Health Month. We are thrilled to be collaborating with Dr. Paul Turek of The Turek Clinics and to have Men’s Health Network as a Media Sponsor. Throughout the next few weeks, we will have a series of announcements sharing specific programming we will be hosting in conjunction with the exhibit. Here is our first “mini announcement”: we got a grant!

Maria, left, with Kristen at University of Wisconsin Oshkosh

Throughout this year, The ART of Infertility has been working with Kristen, our undergraduate intern who is majoring in marketing at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh. Kristen worked with Maria to design a research project that studies how social media campaigns can be better targeted at men with experiences of infertility. This work represents a new direction The ART of IF is embracing — mentoring young students about infertility and engaging in small research projects to provide an educational experience that responds to real, world issues in the fertility world.

We will have a lot to learn in this process but are excited and hope that we can #FlipTheScript to learn how to better include men in conversations of reproductive loss. Read more about the research project and Kristen’s take on it.

What is this grant?

With the help of Maria Novotny, I have been awarded the 2018/2019 Undergraduate Student/Faculty Collaborative Research Program grant. The research grant through the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh will allow me to travel to Los Angeles with the project and learn about the challenges men face when experiencing infertility. As a young college student, I really do not know much about this experience. But working with the project for a few months, I have become more acutely aware that even if I’m not infertile — a friend or family member in the future most likely will share in this experience.

What is my research project?

Because The ART of Infertility tries to support marginalized populations experiencing infertility and that the Los Angeles event is held in conjunction with Men’s Health Month, my research project is focused on men.  Meaning, I am researching what educational resources men are in need of when experiencing infertility. We know one issue is a lack of male-focused infertility support. So, my research as a digital marketing student is interested in using social media as a way to foster a sense of support and community for infertile men. I plan to create a social media campaign, run that campaign after the opening of the LA exhibit, and then test the effectiveness of that campaign through a targeted survey. This means, that I need participants! So guys, this means I need you!

Why focus on social media?

A 2010 study found that media campaigns can greatly produce positive changes and prevent negative changes in health-related behaviors. I hope that my social media design and survey results will illuminate a series of findings and recommendations that describe methods of how to improve health-related resources for infertile men. Thus, reducing the isolating, stressful, emasculating, and stigmatized experience of male infertility.

What I’m looking forward to:

As a newer member to The ART of IF team, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity this grant from UW Oshkosh is allowing me to experience. Finally being able to see one of the exhibits that Maria and Liz put so much time and energy into will help me grow as a communications intern for ART of IF as well as a marketing/digital major in general. Throughout the first few months of interning with ART of IF, I have mostly seen women share their experiences with infertility. Having the chance to shift gears towards what males experience as well will be beneficial for my learning of the topic of infertility.

 

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).

 

Picture Your Fertility: An Interactive Art Event for #MensHealth

009_ArtOfInfertility_M3A3185

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).

037_ArtOfInfertility_E4A3743

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.

Men, Infertility, and Depression

We hear a lot about how infertility affects women’s emotional well being and less about how it affects men. It’s important that we pay some special attention to how men’s lives are impacted by the disease, especially when, according to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide is the 7th leading cause of death for all men in the United States and there are 4 times as many deaths to suicide for males than females.

men_depression_vectorstock_51405_web

We have found that art and writing can be a great outlet for dealing with the stress of infertility and are excited to team up with The Turek Clinic in San Francisco for Picture Your Fertility: An Interactive Art Event for #MensHealth. It’s an opportunity for men to let out some frustration through guy-friendly art and writing stations, get information about health and well being, and learn they aren’t alone in their infertility through the artwork, portraits, and stories of other men and their families dealing with similar situations. This free event is open to the public and will be held on Thursday June 16 from 7 – 9 pm. You can get your tickets here. We hope you will join us! In the meantime, check out this great info, below, from Austin Klise’s HuffPost Healthy Living Blog 4 Strategies to Help Men Get through Depression.

4 Strategies to Help Men Get Through Depression
by Austine Klise
HuffPost Healthy Living Blog

Tip #1 Understand His Depression “There are wounds that never show on the body that are deeper and more hurtful than anything that bleeds.” ― Laurell K. Hamilton

One of the largest misconceptions about depression is that it is a feeling – which is part of the reason men are so reluctant to talk about it. Yes, it is a feeling but it is also much more. Not only does it effect people on an emotional level but it also drains them physically and psychologically. The chemical imbalance in the brain slowly causes the body to shut down. That is why if your partner is depressed, he will be lacking the motivation to hit the gym or to pursue a once cherished hobby. With this in mind, the first thing you can do to help is make sure he is eating a balanced diet and is exercising. Buy fresh food, avoid stocking the fridge with highly caffeinated products and booze, and see if he will go walking with you. These are all easy and are tremendously helpful, but won’t necessarily combat the depression itself. For that, we go to Tip #2.

Tip #2 Acknowledging His Depression  “Never ignore the elephant in the room. That’s rude; play with it and introduce it.” ― Donna Lynn Hope

Confronting his depression will be tough but is absolutely necessary if you are going to help reverse its course. What you’re going to be doing here isn’t confronting him and telling him he is depressed. Trust me, he knows he depressed or at least that something is wrong. The goal is to show him that you acknowledge he is going through something and that asking for help is okay. I’ve broken it down into
four steps –

  1. Approach him where he is comfortable, at home or maybe your favorite date spot. Make sure you have privacy and enough time to talk (at least an hour).
  2. Tell him you noticed he has been “feeling down” lately. I would avoid using the word “depressed” because it could trigger the walls to go straight up. Bring up examples – but do so in a gentle way.
  3. Explain your mutual goal – you BOTH want him to feel better.
  4. Depressed men feel isolated in their pain and hopelessness. Explain that asking for help is a sign of strength not of weakness.

Tip #3 Self Care  “The Best Health Care Plan Is A Self Care Plan” ― Nina Leavins

“In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your own mask first, and then assist the other person.”

If you’ve ever been on an airplane you’ve likely heard some iteration these words. While growing up they confused me because it seemed like it would make more sense to help the helpless and vulnerable first, but with age I realized that if you are incapacitated you won’t be of any help to anyone. The same goes for caring for a man with depression. You need to secure your own mental stability before you can help him.

The difference in a situation with male depression as opposed to other diseases is that the frustration and stress isn’t going to come in the traditional way. You won’t be stretched thin providing medical assistance to him or running back and forth from a hospital. But, rather the emotional connection you have with your partner will be taxed. Because of the nature of depression he won’t be as connected or invested in your relationship as he was when he was healthy. He might become more combative or more withdrawn, depending on how the depression affects him. Don’t get pulled into this or take it personally. Do what you need to do to stay healthy. Connect with friends, exercise, or shop – you have an identity outside of your relationship.

Tip #4 Involve the Professionals

Getting professional medical personnel involved is the most critical step as it is the most effective way to cure the depression. I understand it can be incredibly hard to get a guy to see doctor, for even the most routine of checkups, let alone getting him to see a therapist or psychologist for depression. Here are some ways to make it easier:

  1. Ask him to do it for you or your family. Tell him it will bring you peace of mind if he sees someone.
  2. See the right doctor – Ask if you can set up an appointment with your family doctor so they can go over the problem. It will be an easier push for him to see a family doc as oppose to a “shrink.”
  3. Call ahead – Tell the doctor what his symptoms have been. Your testimony might bring up things your partner could miss or will neglect to share.

June is Men’s Health Month: Fertility is Not Just a Woman’s Issue

Today we join Men’s Health Network and kick off Men’s Health Month. The goal of this health advocacy campaign is to educate the public about the many preventable health problems that affect men and boys, and empower them and their loved ones to move towards a healthier, happier life.

The ART of Infertility views this campaign as a reminder that behind every baby is a male. Men’s health is a family issue. It affects wives, mothers, daughters, and sisters. Thinking about #MensHealth and encouraging our male partners to see a fertility specialist can often be a step towards building one’s family. 

Knowing this, today feature a guest blog post from Sean at Men’s Health Network who talks about the importance of having healthy dads. And remember to join us June 16 from 7:00-9:00 for an interactive art exhibit featuring stories and art about Men’s Health and their fertility at The Turek Clinic

Building healthy men means more healthy families

By Sean McCalley, Men’s Health Network

1994 was a rough year.

John Candy passed away. Someone attacked Nancy Kerrigan at the Olympics. Major League Baseball went on strike. The album of the year was the soundtrack to The Bodyguard.

It wasn’t all bad, though. The show Friends and the band Weezer debuted. So did the movie Forrest Gump. Jack Nicholson even used a golf club to show a car who’s boss.

More importantly, Congress also passed a bill declaring “National Men’s Health Week” to Men's Health Month Bannercoincide with Father’s Day and raise awareness for a global crisis. President Bill Clinton signed it into law; now, it’s an annual call to action for people around the world as part of Men’s Health Month.

Men die five years younger than women, on average. They also die at higher rates for nine of the top ten causes of death in the United States. That includes heart disease, cancer, suicide, accidents, etc. Men simply have a harder time staying healthy.

Part of the problem is cultural. We men are fighters who laugh in the face of danger. It’s partly genetic, as some racial demographics have a higher risk for certain diseases. Sometimes, it’s personal; like getting so mad you do something you might regret later.

Whatever the reason, men need all the help we can get to have long, healthy lives – even if we don’t want to admit it. That’s why Men’s Health Month is so important, and why it’s still going strong after 22 years. The campaign is centered on education and outreach than spans from the community level to Congress.

Governors and mayors issue proclamations for Men’s Health Week in their jurisdictions to promote and highlight Fathers Day. Private businesses host health screenings, as do government agencies, churches, fraternities, and many other organizations. People share their personal stories on social media.

The hope is to persuade us stubborn men to take at least one second (but preferably a MHM-no-date-dark-red-0415month) to look at our health situation, make inventory, and figure out how to make it better. Sometimes men just decide to make a family member happy and finally see a doctor for that mole; for others, it’s a question of maturity or finding financial flexibility.

Whatever the reason, the goal is to make us better men. Luckily, it’s worth the effort.

Here are some tips on how we can make this Men’s Health Month the best one yet:

  1. Fathers can set an example for their kids by making an appointment for a checkup. Healthy men make healthy families.
  2. Let someone know that asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness or lack of ability. Men are just as likely as women to suffer from a mental health issue; however, they’re less likely to be diagnosed, and four times more likely to commit suicide.
  3. In the public health realm, make sure the connection is clear between a man’s health and the health of his family and community. Most people intuitively understand the role mothers play in supporting their children’s health. Too few however, understand that having a healthy father is just as important.
  4. Participate in the Men’s Health Month #ShowUsYourBlue day on Friday, June 17. Send in pictures of you and your friends wearing blue and post them on social media using #ShowUsYourBlue.