Sperm Day was a total bust. Without OD'ing on the TMI, let's just say, condoms - not so hot. At all. I think I wrecked two of them (they appeared to be fused together, however. Surely that's not how it's supposed to work?), no sample, no nothing, and my DH was kind enough to drive me to work so I wouldn't be later than my leave slip said for the appointment we cancelled, but we were barely speaking. I get that this would be, at least, more straightforward if we collected the stupid sample in the "ordinary" way. But neither of us is cool with that. Fidelity to our marriage means no dirty pictures and no "individual activities." And to break that commitment to have some lab poke and prod us further seems even more disordered and wrong than it would be by reason of temptation, or weakness, or anything else. My God, we're human beings. We're supposed to have some sort of dignity. What a crock that is.
Meanwhile - and I would be genuinely interested to hear the reactions of others who've done this already - the collection method that's kosher with the Church seems almost more wrong, if that were possible. I suppose this could be sour grapes because it didn't go so hot for us, but first of all, we're not the only ones (more on that later), and second, I think there are good reasons it didn't work. How, I ask you, are the unitive and procreative aspects united by engaging in some parody of sex just to fiddle with a stupid condom and hightail it to a lab with a jar of sperm in one hand? What's loving and unifying about that? And the stock response (which I do not want to hear) is that it's ultimately ordered to a baby. Well, lots of things are ultimately ordered to a baby, including IVF, turkey basters full of sperm, and abduction, just off the top of my head. The Church isn't cool with those, because while necessary to the moral equation, the ultimate ends do not justify any means. The means itself has to be morally acceptable before the importance of the end can outweigh any other drawbacks of the means. (I think this mode of analysis crosses religious lines. At least, it sounds like good common sense to me. It's when we get to specifics that it becomes specifically Catholic. If you follow.)
Which brings me to another point. The whole unroll-a-condom-in-a-jar-with-a-popsicle-stick method is supposed to be kosher because it's open to life. I get how, the condom having holes in it, the method is open to life. That does sound like an extreme legalism - honestly, I'm not going to get pregnant without the condom, so the holes are kind of angels on the head of a pin, you know? But not having the holes wouldn't solve the real problem I'm positing, which is this: since when did openness to life become the only moral norm worth considering? I mean, I could have sex with someone else's husband, and be totally open to life. Obviously, that wouldn't cut it. So there has to be a further analysis before we can determine whether something is morally ordered. I would say that the with-condom sperm collection activity is bordering on morally disordered by its very nature. How many professionals do we need to have giving directions, and then making post-hoc commentary, on the activity in our bedroom? How many devices should be implemented so we can have sex? (We had three at hand - one condom, one collection cup, and a ruler to turn the darn thing inside out. And eleven-step instructions.) At what point have you crossed the line from a loving marital sexual relationship into some other kind of activity entirely, which could best be described as deviant?
I know I said I would be brave. Even increasing, beyond my hoped-for lifetime maximum of one, the number of men who would closely examine my reproductive organs. Even though a lot of the procedures were painful. Even though I hate taking time off for procedures I am uncomfortable naming to my boss. Even though I am sick to death of doctors. But this isn't brave in the face of embarassment or pain. This is our marriage this garbage is marching into. And it's not right.
After I left for work (to react with rage to the slightest provocation at any inconvenience in my projects, I might add), my DH called a friend of ours who's down in Nebraska at Pope Paul VI Institute right now. She had the crazy-thorough endo removal surgery about 18 months ago. She got married just over a year ago. She knew she had Stage IV endo, so they got on the ball with fertility treatment immediately. They've been ttc, obviously. She's not pregnant. PPVI has reviewed her charts. She went down for - whatever, a consult? They found out the endo has all come raging back and she needs another surgery. (Which is going to be effective where the last one wasn't because...?) They're out of pocket $8k for this visit. Not counting the surgery. Not counting the adoption fees they will pay, because if her idiot doctors can't stop cutting her open long enough to treat her, they will never get pregnant.
She ran into a third mutual friend down there, also in town for treatment (no, none of these people lives in or even near Nebraska). This gal (who's like 24, BTW), isn't even ovulating. H.ilgers doesn't even know why. He suspects it's "something in her brain," says DH - I believe the hypothalamus controls ovulation, so that could be. Now she may have an OB/GYN (granted, a darn good one) messing with her brain. This is why I preserve the option to have a hysterectomy and fax the lot of the medical profession the bird when I have had enough. (Which may be today.) Meanwhile, we've heard from another couple who are ttc (the wife also has endo) who tried the whole sperm/condom method and just couldn't bring themselves to do it. I don't know whether they pulled it off on a later try. The gal with the recurrent endo and her husband also had a bust their first time; so the second time, they rented a hotel room next to the clinic. Apparently that time worked. (I originally assumed they meant that the first try didn't work for them because the sample didn't survive that long, but now, I suspect that was not the reason. Anyway, I don't think there are hotels next to our clinic. And this is NOT romantic and I am NOT spending money on a hotel in suburban Northern Virginia and taking an entire day off from work for this BS and the clinic opens at 10 and we'd have to check out within minutes of "collecting the sample" - like that would be any less stressful and unnatural - and I am going to RIP SOMEONE'S HEAD FROM HIS SHOULDERS. ANY MINUTE NOW.)
Finally, lowly has a charming quote from St. Josemaria on her blog about how "God is asking more" from the infertile [N.B.: This is not directed at lowly, as I hope will become clear...]. I think that's the sort of darling platitude that one can utter with confidence only if one has never been there, but I will tell you all, since you're burning up with curiosity, what God is asking of me. To be a good and virtuous and loving and pure Catholic woman and wife, and, should any babies ever show up on my doorstep, delivered by some exotic bird, a good mother. I do my best not to swear. I dress modestly. I don't spend money excessively on anything (except fertility treatment). I need to pray more and get up early enough to go to daily Mass in English. I need to be kinder and less self-centered, and less angry (HAH!). I need to put my DH first more than I do. I need to call people back, even when I don't want to talk to them. I do not need to learn to have sex with a condom, perforated or otherwise, on a schedule with a stupid clinic with stupid hours. If that's the "more" God is asking of me, He's cracked. Motherhood is a vocation, not some sort of grotesque contortion.
In other words, St. Josemaria, if you're listening, you're completely full of crap. Or, you were - I bet you know better now. And thanks a lot on that job my husband prayed a novena for. He's now been unemployed for four months. That's helping a lot, too.
P.S. I'm slightly less mad now, and considering apologizing to St. Josemaria, about the job part anyway, on the basis that God might have something better in store. I still think the IF quote is shortsighted. If the Church wants to honor IF as an additional cross, then she and her priests need to take on some pastoral responsibility for the infertile. 'Cause as of right now, we're completely on our own ('cept no AI or IVF. Now we know what we can't do. What else you got for us?).