We all know that infertility affects both partners, but few men talk about it. So I’m thrilled to share another guest post from my husband Dan about his perspective of our experience these past two and a half years…for those out there who are still childless like us, we would so very much love to hear from your partners…
There has been a whole cavalcade of disappointments over the last few years over what should be something simple: having a kid. The regular way wasn’t really a choice so what we had were two choices, either IVF or adoption, or both. Sounds relatively simple but no.
International adoption always appealed to both of us, even before finding out we were infertile. Being an international family already (my wife from the US, myself from Australia), continuing in that direction was of great interest, so we found an agency with a good success rate matching kids from Ethiopia, a country we’d always been hugely intrigued by, with couples who wanted to adopt.
Fast forwarding a bit, I was excited things were going ahead. We went through the interminable hoops of both governments to make sure everything was in order, smiling at the irascible and seemingly non-logical processes, worked our tails off to pay the many fees involved, but even while feeling the anxiety, we were ultimately reassured by others that the endgame is what counts, not the moves towards it.
After all of the approvals were in and our paperwork sat on a desk in Addis Ababa awaiting a match with a little girl in the agency’s orphanage, we amped up our research, reading up as much as possible about Ethiopia, planning side trips around the country for the visits we’d be taking to meet our little girl before we finally took her home. We studied Ethiopian style culture, and even took a home class in East African cuisine. We met with other parents who had adopted from Ethiopia and who gave us their full support of the agency we’d selected. Already a fan of Ethio-jazz for years, I was regularly blasting Mulatu Astatke around the house.
We awaited the match, which we knew would take 6 to 18 months, and continued on the road with DEIVF, with the hopes to also bring home a little one from my wife’s belly before heading off to Africa to bring home our little girl.
Before there were none, there was one.
For however short a period, there was one.
And it was great, and scary.
I’d never been there before, but now I was there and it was something important. It was like being grown up finally. With the mindfuck of going through big fat fails so many times, first with IUI then multiple rounds of DEIVF, I was getting more cynical, and the possibility of success faded further into the distance. I was almost back to the ‘fuck it lets give up and travel’ idea. But we did it and on the 4th round of in-vitro, we got that second faint pink line. She was carrying our baby.
The practicalities of it all then started to make sense to me. I wanted to start to make things for the baby’s room. I made a sea shell mobile for the baby’s room, and a bookshelf to hold all the books we would read together. The changing table tray I’d made earlier by hand started to make sense. I saw the rain barrel with the crazy looking animals we’d painted on it in a different light, and the cartoon mural pictures we had painted in the basement.We told a few people close to us who knew about our struggles. We started planning the next chapter of our lives.
Our search for a midwife fell into place, and we sat on our sofa with a doula in late July and knew she was the one to guide us through the pregnancy and delivery of our little one. I was never comfy with a hospital birth, not wanting to unnecessarily spend time in a hospital watching that kid come into the world. I mean, you go to hospital when you are sick and neither pregnancy nor having a baby is an illness! We wanted to do this in the comfort of our own home, just as folks had done for thousands of years before us, and had two great people on our team to get us there safely and peacefully.
Then came the clanger that stopped us dead in our tracks on week nine when our doctor looked at the ultrasound and told us we had lost our baby.
I didn’t know what to do. I was devastated. It wanted to remain strong for Aimee and solve this but this one was impossible to solve, not only for her but for me. I felt usurped and powerless at trying to make sense of this loss. The weeks following were a blur.
I had seen our baby’s fucking heartbeat for fucks sakes. This was not a grainy weird photo they hand you in the waiting room. Our baby was alive and its pulse was pushing life around the little grape-sized body. I wasn’t sure if it was a boy or girl. Aimee knew it was a boy. Either way our baby didn’t exist anymore.
Driving home and waiting for the drugs to begin the miscarriage a couple days later was mind fuckery at best. I wanted to cry, I did, but I couldn’t. I wanted to be strong but couldn’t be, I wanted to be weak but didn’t want to either.
What the fuck do you do after that? I mean what. The. Fuck. Do. You. Do? There is no game plan for this, there is no guarantee, there is no instruction manual for dealing with loss. And being a male the support, both formal and informal, is fairly thin on the ground. I shudder to think how tough it would be for blokes back in Australia.
We tried two more times at DEIVF over the next eight months, and lost four more embryos in the process. A total of nine embryos from our proven donor failed, and watching my wife’s grief intensify each time made me feel so helpless. I couldn’t make things better.
And the day before the final round failed? We found out that Ethiopia suspended all adoptions, leaving us in the cold after 2 years (not to mention losing a massive amount of money we’d spent…not many folks know this is not a refundable thing and we gave up a lot to head down this road. We have no savings – DEIVF and adoption has taken away all of our savings and spare income – and we already live pretty simply). We were brought to our knees. No pregnancy. No adoption. No family.
So what is left?
Hoping we’ll be able to save up the money as we go along, we have started out on the path to domestic adoption and are waiting for a birth mother to choose us. We briefly entertained the option of open adoption but to us, the local agency’s legal visitation contracts and talking about the birth mother like an in-law (yeah they used that term) seemed way too much like co-parenting, and potentially way too messy. The semi-open adoption style fit us better, with an agency that worked both locally and nationally, where we could meet the birth parent(s), keep them updated, but could play things like visitation by ear.
I am so immensely burnt out but still have the energy to know that a little one is out there waiting for us. Despite the cacophony of mindfuckery that has been going on over the past few years, I do know one thing: I am prepared, well as prepared as can be, no matter how long it takes to be a good dad and show our kid how to battle their way through the world
Sail to me, sail to me,
Let me enfold you
Here I am
Here I am
Waiting to hold you
~ Tim Buckley ‘Song to the Siren’