Assisted Reproduction: A Man’s Perspective on that Small Room and Big Cup

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Paul Ford writes in The Age of Mechanical Reproduction (here) of his experiences with assisted reproductive technology and the quest to have a child via IVF:

When I tell people what we are doing, they want to hear about the room where you produce. I tell them that there is a lot of paperwork. That they take your picture and look at your license. Then they walk you back to the room. You are handed a list of instructions and some stickers and a plastic cup. The cup has a forest-green lid.

In the room is a VCR. I like to write down the names of the videos so I can share them with my wife and friends . . . .

No one sets a clock, but there is a sense of time passing. You get to work and try not to think about things.

The things not to think about are: the money you are spending. How they can’t find the problem—my sperm is better now, once I quit hot baths and Diet Coke, and my wife’s plumbing looks normal on the hysterosalpingogram. Don’t think about the other dudes jacking it five feet away. Just try to keep the chair from squeaking. Try to hit the cup.

When it is complete you screw on the forest-green lid, write your name and your wife’s name on the label, put it all in a biohazard bag, and ring the buzzer. Along comes a woman, another nurse. She takes the bag and holds it up to the light. If you read the paperwork there is a request that you don’t make any jokes during this moment.

The worst thing that can happen in that room is “failure to produce.” They warn you about it. Men go in and hours later have not come out. They’re sobbing and their arms are sore. Their wives or partners are out in the waiting room, surly from hormone treatments. No one has sympathy for a man who can’t produce. They should have sympathy but they don’t. You do not want to be that guy. And so far I have not failed. Just in case, I have special videos on my phone.

The full piece is here, in  The Morning News.  Mr. Ford’s story will resonate with anyone who has ever visited (or worried about visiting) a fertility clinic.  The intense stress of infertility crackles in every paragraph.

-Bridget Crawford

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