Monday, May 18, 2009


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?).


  1. Oh yes, the "fun" part of IF. Or, outsiders seem to think it's fun, when really it's awful. It's embarrassing. It's degrading. I hate when people try to be chipper and say to us 'well at least it's fun trying!', no actually, the "fun" stopped years ago. Now it's all about timing and instruments and medicine. No fun. Nope. So they can take their optimistic joke and shove it.

  2. Hey misfit, I am such an ego-maniac that the mere mention of my virtual name on another blog sends me into the heights of ecstacy...I'd hardly notice if you were saying anything bad about me or not! (Which I totally understand that you were not).

    As to those aweful perforated condoms. We did it once and hated it. We got our results and all, and our drs. keep telling us we should redo it since it was years ago, and we should "check to see how it is now."

    We say, thanks, but no thanks...for they very same things you are posting seemed so adverse to the dignity of our marriage. It is good to hear there are others who feel the same.

    That being said, I believe the Church says it is an acceptable way to collect sperm...there is nothing intrinsically wrong with since it does stay open to life and maybe it isn't so aweful for everyone (ie maybe some couples enjoy it? hahaha! I doubt it but it is possible I suppose). Anyway, they say it allowed, but that doesn't mean preferred, or necessary.

    But you bring up a reall important issue, I is one DH and I discuss a lot...that is, the importance of making sure that the intimate realm is always both unitive and procreative. I think it is is easy for us in the IF universe to make it all about the procreative meaining. Oh the irony that most of the world makes it about the unitive meaning.

    And this officially the longest comment I have ever made. See what happens when you mention my name? (And not even my REAL name!)

  3. OMG, I wish I had been here BEFORE you went through this!!! I had the EXACT SAME PROBLEM- - except it involved more tears on DHs end, when he tried to "do things himself" on our 2nd try appt, and just couldn't. It was HORRIBLE, and yes I felt like it was even more unnatural with that stupid condom.

    I was given AMAZING advice after our failed attempts, and what we did was just ol' fashioned BDing and pull-out. It is NOT contraceptive, because a high percentage of the sperm is in the pre-ejaculatory fluid (plus we teach in CrMS that withdrawal does not work as birth control), but it yielded really good results.

    Unfortunately, when we went for our 1st appt with Dr Toth, we didn't realize we'd need an SA then and there, so DH had to go do the "other" way... BUT, the results of that were right on par with the results of our self-devised natural method, so at least we knew it worked just as well, and we didn't sacrifice results with pull-out.

    Try that next time. I will NEVER look at a condom again, OMG, how horrible, blech!

  4. The male 'contribution' to this stuff is so, so annoying (for lack of an adequate word to express the frustration re: this matter). I'm not Catholic, but I've read about the certain ways in which these things need to be done in the Church, and that obviously contributes to the stress load. There is no dignity in any of this.

  5. Misfit, I am so sorry you're facing this terrible, annoying, soul-squishing bs. While I'm not a Catholic and am in fact a complete heathen (okay, Episcopalian by birth), I feel for you as you're torn in the stupidity of the compromise between IF treatment protocols and the requirements of your faith.

    I wish I had advice, some a ha! way out of this (pull out sounds like a good approach), but instead, can I offer you a hug and a virtual chocolate?

  6. argh. I feel your frustration. DH was not happy about doing the SA, but our marriage is strong and we knew it was necessary to get the info we needed.
    There is a lot about fertility treatments that is degrading and dehumanizing...

  7. Misfit - totally been there as Prince Charming and I are both Catholic. Yes, the "rules" and "teachings" of the church are there, but so is the understanding that for some couples IF is a part of the equation, along with the ugly but necessary testing such as SA's. Our understanding was that because we were in a unique situation (and this was from taking a class on what the church teaches about sex and marriage) was that we were to do whatever we were comfortable with to find our answers.Hope that helps.

  8. We actually had to do an SA this morning. Well, it really was horrible and it lead to me stopping things and getting the preseed lubricant that we use sometimes. We have done quite a few of these SA's and I hate it everytime. I hope this one is our last one.

    As for the friend with the pituitary stuff, Hilgers won't be messing with her brain, just probably her hormones. I think that he uses a pump system to pump hormones into her like a diabetic uses a pump for insulin to get her hormones going.

    I feel bad for your friend that has to have another surgery. I have a friend that had 2 surgeries with Hilgers and concieved 18 months after the 2nd.

  9. I'm curious or maybe I missed something but your friend with the stage IV endo..did she have the first surgery with Dr Hilg.ers too or did another dr perform it? My dr told me that I have a big chance of it coming back if I don't get prego within the year. I'm hoping for a baby....but we'll see. It's in God's hands...and yes... that condom thing was not fun. The pull out method worked best for us too. I told the napro dr to tell other couples that they may need some lubricant with the condoms...they are drier than a desert. Blessings!!!

  10. I just don't feel comfortable getting into details, but would agree with this cross i embrace. We mixed it up a bit, but didn't do the condom, because from the beginning getting an untreated one here would have been a production and a half and dh said he wasn't willing to go through all that. there are plenty of things that could "potentially" get you pregnant in a world where we were all mertiles and i would just say - do that- together - and what ever you can do to give yourself more time - might help.
    i so understand - hedwig

  11. I am so behind on commenting, but wanted to say hi and that I read your last several posts and they've all been wonderful!! I will be back commenting like normal soon!

  12. We're not Catholic, although both our families are - figure that one out? We've done 2 SA within the past couple of years - I can say even without religious guides, it still doesn't get any easier. My DH was completely humiliated every time. It was such an uncomfortable cold experience for both of us.

  13. I am not Catholic but I do understand. I think that your other readers have given you some very good advice. It is hard to describe, and very personal so I don't think I would really want to if I could; But over all what we do is think of it as still being about us; we aren't doing it just for the SA we are doing it for us. We are still using it as an opportunity to strengthen our relationship.

    I also wanted to drop in and tell you that I haven't fallen off the face of the earth again; I promise. I have been working on a post for a few days but it is a difficult one as I have one particular reader who I am trying not to offend. She happens to be the reason why I am writing the'll understand once I get it done I think.

  14. Well, after reading this, I have to say that I am glad to be a lapsed Catholic. Because injecting moral concerns into sperm collection would be a recipe for disaster in our household. I commend you totally on your faith and adherence to it - you are jumping a lot of hurdles. I hope that God rewards you soon.

    That being said, I also recommend the pull-out method. It sounds like it might work better for you two.

  15. Ah yes, the dreaded SA. I think the most important thing has already been said: do what you feel comfortable with within the constraints of your beliefs. For The Boy and I, we had a horrible time of it the first go round, and the second was only slightly less horrible (we went with the condom for the second go round...those things are awful!). We could have done more IUI's, but decided that all the medical stuff was making what was supposed to be one of the most sacred acts into a "procedure" and we weren't comfortable with that. Just do what is best for you and remember that the doctors main goal is to get to pregnant at all costs, but that doesn't mean you have to be willing to do anything.

  16. So sorry to hear things didn't go well. I completely agree with your frustration. I am praying for you both :)

  17. I hate those condoms. We've had to use the things twice for SAs. DH said that next time, he's doing it himself. They're not at all comfortable - for him or for me.

    I have to admit, we didn't bother poking a small hole in it mainly for the reason you've given - we're not able to get pregnant with or without it - and we scheduled the SAs for post peak. There's no way we're getting pregnant a week after ovulation.

    I know it's not dignified or moral in the church's eyes, but I'd honestly prefer that DH do it himself. Or that we try the pull out method. Not the condom again. Given a choice, I prefer never doing another SA at all. Too much pressure to deliver. We don't perform well under pressure.