For three years, Dan and his wife Leah tried to get pregnant. And for three years, the couple from the Cincinnati, Ohio found themselves caught in a seemingly endless cycle of struggle and perseverance. There were hormones for Leah. Intrauterine insemination, needles, and anxiety-ridden ultrasounds. Insurance issues. Financial strain. The fact Dan and Leah were in their late 30s, and “clocks are ticking.” Not to mention those awkward moments when other people would ask when they were going to have kids.
It was a lot to handle, to say the least, but together Dan and Leah pressed on.
Recently, Dan took to Facebook to pen an open letter describing the journey towards pregnancy — from a very detailed description of what it’s like to make a sperm deposit, to trying to put into words the heartbreaking experience of miscarriage. Dan’s message is so brutally honest, so raw and real, and so eloquently (and even hilariously) written that it’s going viral and starting a whole new conversation about pregnancy.
“Do you have a minute? I’ve got kind of a long story,” Dan begins.
Trust me, you want to hear this.
“Do you have a minute? I’ve got kind of a long story.
Leah and I have been trying to get pregnant for over 3 years. I’m not sure when, exactly, we stopped the birth control. Like all our plans, we didn’t start with a plan, but instead decided that if we got pregnant, that would be great.
And then we didn’t get pregnant.
I mean, look, when you’re in your twenties, it feels like you can’t look at someone else without getting pregnant. We’ve all heard about someone who got pregnant through 2 condoms, spermicidal lubricant, and an IUD. Right? But we didn’t get pregnant. No big deal.
We’re in our 30s. Things are probably a little bit dusty, and a little bit rusty. So, three years ago, we started using apps and calendars to track this and that. Ovulation test sticks. Old wives’ tales of positions and timing. We got some late periods. And some periods that never came!
But we didn’t get pregnant.”
“So, off to the doctor we went. His and hers appointments for collections of blood and semen and measuring parts and such. Medical science being what it is, we got the answer to all our problems: ‘You’re fine, and there shouldn’t be a problem.’
Do doctors ever tell anybody, ‘This is what is wrong, and this is how to fix it,’ and then give them pills, and they’re fine? This is not my experience. My experience is: ¯_(ツ)_/¯
We didn’t get pregnant.
So then came the hormones for Leah. Along with those hormones came the realization that little-to-none of this would be covered by insurance, and that the coverage rate would go down as we went deeper into the process. See, insurance companies look at getting pregnant a lot like getting sick. Why, they can’t imagine, would you try to get sick? Well, f**k you, insurance companies. That’s why.
But we didn’t get pregnant.
So maybe we’re bad at timing, or something, or god knows. Usually that’s fine, but we are in our late 30s, and clocks are ticking. The doctor told us that certain hormone levels were low, lower than they should have been, and that meant our egg supply was dwindling.”
“Let me tell you something. There is nothing you can tell a woman that will make her feel more young, beautiful and vibrant than, ‘You have a dwindling egg supply, and it is time to pick up the pace.’ You should try it. Maybe at a bar.
And that was when we began IUI, intrauterine insemination. IUI is – colloquially – the turkey baster method. When they told us about it, I tried to really hear what the doctor was saying, but all I could hear echoing around the room, off of the oyster-y pearlescent floors and the alien-vagina wallpaper, was ‘dwindling.’
For Leah, we eventually figured out, this meant a regimen of hormone boosters to facilitate egg production. Are you aware of what happens to people when their hormones go out of the norm? They are not happy. Unless they are happy, in which case, they are very happy. There is no mild. There is no average day. Her job was to feel like her brain and soul were on fire.
My job was to try and not say anything dumb, because she also needed to be calm. I tried to avoid triggering phrases like ‘Hey,’ or ‘Good morning,’ or ‘I love you,’ but I kept f**king up, and opening my mouth, or allowing Leah to see TV programs, or commercials, to read books, and interact with the world in any way.”
“The best was when someone would ask her when we were going to have kids. That was just the best.
Then, after one or two ultrasounds to make sure eggs were there, and in their right places on their little follicles, I would give my needle-phobic wife a shot in her thigh to set ovulation in process. She says she’s not so much afraid of needles as she is afraid of being stuck by me with a needle, but same difference, right?
Over time, I developed a method where she would look away, close her eyes and cry, while crushing all the bones in my left hand, and I would count to three, and inject her with my right. I wouldn’t inject her on three. I tried to pick a random time. She usually didn’t even feel it.
After all that romance, you would think that abstaining from sex for a few days would be hard, but you would be wrong. You might also think we should be having massive amounts of sex, but it turns out that you have to let your seminal stash build up for a few days before collection.”
“Over the last couple years, I became pretty professional about my sperm deposits. My first one was a few paragraphs up, for testing. Man, is it ever weird. You can do it at home if you want, but then you are under a clock to get your sample to the lab on time. I don’t need that kind of stress.
I don’t talk about it much, but I like to think I’m pretty good at taking care of business in the art of sperm production, but I had never entered a room designed specifically for masturbation, while people waited outside, hoping my masturbation went okay. Perhaps that is what Eddie Murphy’s life was like in Coming to America, but I was less familiar with it.
The room was like a combination of a hotel room and an office. It had a big picture of The Ohio State University football stadium, filled with fans, on the wall over a small vinyl sofa. There was a neatly folded sheet, fresh and crisp, hanging on the far armrest. A clock radio on the side table, tuned to local political talk radio, sputtering away beneath a low-lit lamp, was paired with a little wooden cube that had one tiny drawer, specifically made for storing your collection cup.
Under the table were four or five magazines that I didn’t really want to touch. Usually two Playboys, a Penthouse, and a Swimsuit Issue. Across from the couch was a TV/DVD combo with a DVD preloaded. I didn’t want to touch the remote either, really. It sat on a wicker chest.
Wicker struck me as the worst possible material for a room designed for male masturbation. Everybody’s aiming for the cup, I know, but I also know there have been enough accidents in that office that it required a laminated sign about what to do in case of an accident.”
“The first step, in case of an accident, is to not try to hide it by scraping your mess into the cup. Big no-no. This makes your sample corrupt, which may mean that your partner could end up being impregnated by carpet fibers if I understand correctly, but it is also unsanitary.
The second step is to tell the front desk staff that you had an accident, which seems horrific. The people who work at the lab are people who, by my calculations, deal with upwards of 80 men per day who have just masturbated, or are about to, and their sperm. Sure. They are professional.
But, still, everyone is a little bit tittery, a little bit anxious. We all know that this is all very silly, and that I just touched my penis, and you are someone’s grandmother, and that even though you have a pin in the shape of a little sperm fella to help break the tension, we all – if we really had the choice – would probably prefer to burst into flames than discuss any part of this, let alone the fact that someone missed. Whoops!
The DVD would change over time, but still be of the same variety. Usually some kind of early 90s Eurotrash boat fantasies, or oily faux-lesbian scissorhands scenes, starring fingernails that made me very nervous. I would check every time I went in, and it was always awful. Everybody’s got their thing, I guess. My thing is that I am thankful for the Internet.
Oh. And you are supposed to go in dry if you can help it. Lubrication, as it turns out, can mess with the quality of the semen, which seems like a pretty big jerk move on the part of lubrication.
But, yeah, I’ve got my routine down.
When your sample has been washed and spun, or whatever it is they do with it, they put it in a paper bag that you carry over to the doctor’s office for the procedure. We long-timers can always tell the new couples. Their discomfort and optimism is cute. They smile and look around on their walk, hoping no one notices the bag they have pinched in their fingertips.
Me, I carry my paper bag like a sack lunch. The same turkey sandwich I’ve had every day for years. With hope, yes, but the skepticism of routine. The IUI itself is pretty quick, and from what I understand, painless, if not the normal amount of demeaning of going to an OB/GYN. You get one more ultrasound to make sure everything is in place, and then they pour the gravy all over the giblets.
Sorry. I know. I’m hung up on turkey metaphors.
And then we wait.”