Sunday 15 June 2008

Too much information?

Who do you tell when you decide you want a child?
Aside from each other obviously, pricking pinholes in your condoms or feeding your pill to the geranium plant unbeknown to your partner really isn't recommended.

Who do you tell about a decision to try to conceive ?

Who do you tell when it all starts to go arse over tit and you have to bring specialists, plastic cups, and stirrups into the equation?

In my naivety, I was fairly quick to tell a friend, and for a while it was a trolley full of humping jokes and willy in a sling gags.

Even when we got to the point where samples were being tossed about the place, there were plenty of black slapping and beer spitting moments to be had.

That's fellas for you.

Then things turned serious, and all that stopped. It was no one's fault, but for whatever reason the conversation rarely, if ever, arose once the complications did.

So we are left with a big infertile elephant in the room.

Deciding to start a family is a huge decision for a couple, and to be honest, once we'd made it, I felt people should notice something different about me.

It's big bloody news, and you burst to tell people.

What you don't realise, is that maybe, just maybe, it doesn't all go according to plan, and you are left with something very awkward.
You are left with people who were willing to joke with you about aching gonads, or were willing to turn a blind eye to your late arrival to, or early exit from dinner out somewhere, but are less able to be the support you need when your dreams are taken out of your hands.

It's this possibility that things don't work out like you planned that would make me say, with hindsight, that you should keep it as much to yourself as possible, and don't go shouting your mouth off, even to one person. It's one less person that you find yourself having to explain to 15 cycles down the line why "nothing's stirring".

If I could change the way I did things, I probably would, but there's no use in crying over spilled man milk.

Trying to conceive is an exciting time, a fun time, one of few times in your life where you can feel grown up and overwhelmingly excited at the unknown at the same time.

Infertility, is a far less exciting time. Reality starts to hit home, time goes by far too fast, and what was excited expectation turns to nervous uncertainty.

You used to see a parent and child in the past and look at each other with the 'that'll be us soon' grin on your faces, now you turn your eyes to the floor and look away, from the scene, and each other.

Acknowledging the sadness you see in someone else's eyes only leads to being reminded of your own.

I'm torn between what seems to be an instinctive urge to be frank and open (or immensely idiotic) about this, telling anyone who has a functioning eardrum, and a new gut feeling, an instinct to shut up shop.

Like closing the curtains for the weekend, or not answering the phone for a day, not telling anyone who'll listen that you are trying to conceive is just self preservation.

At a certain point, that's all you have left.

Now if you'll excuse me, the ice pack down my trousers is melting and dampening my chair.


Marylin said...

Beautifully written, I just wish there was something I could DO to help!

Lots of love from us over in Scotland ((hugs))

Anonymous said...

It's certainly a difficult one. I'm not sure I have an answer really, not that you were expecting one.

Anonymous said...

Your honesty and candidness in this post is very refreshing and inspirational - as a reader of your blog I feel honoured that you shared these very personal thoughts and feelings with us :)

No advice other than - there is no right or wrong way to be, just keep trusting your instincts and be true to yourself and your wife. Don't worry what anyone else thinks. Take care

Anonymous said...

It's awkward, I guess. I think you should write a book for other dad's in your shoes, which I hope you will be changing some day soon :)

MarĂ­a said...


Anonymous said...

My hubs and I just very recently made the very grown up decision to start a family. And who have we told? NO ONE. It freaks me out to say a word. Why? Because we don't want to jinx ourselves. Good call, but that's not it. Nope. I am so prudish that I blush at the idea of people automatically thinking of us HAVING SEX that it shames me into silence. Mature.... real mature.

But laughing at others having sex? Bring it on!

On a more serious note, we aren't telling anyone because a friend of mine just had a miscarriage and I know it must have been awful to tell her friends and family THAT news.

Good luck with your ice pack and spilt man milk.

Anonymous said...

Wonderfully written, and heartbreaking, post.

I'm not sure if they celebrate it where you are, but Happy Father's Day. Because while you don't have the actual child just yet, you most certainly have the soul of a father.

Anonymous said...

My missus tells everyone! We haven't shared the specialist visits far and wide but that's probably only a matter of time I guess!

AnnD said...

I thought about you when I posted those pregnant belly pics of my sister in law a few weeks ago. I thought about you when I posted my Weekly Winners this week. I knew these would probably cause you pain. I can't imagine living you and ET's a world forever filled with pregnant bellies and laughing babies that only serve to shove the knives further into your wounds. Through their silence, your friends are trying to protect you but the vicious cycle probably makes you feel even more alienated. But, I would guess that you and ET would be in the same amount of pain no matter who knew your struggles and who didn't. Thank you for being so honest and genuine. We love you!

Tara R. said...

Hubs and I didn't tell any one when we started the whole trying to conceive thing because we had gotten so tired of everyone asking us when we would be having children. (We had been married a while and I guess people - read grans - were concerned that we would never procreate) Even when we did find out I was preggers, we waited. I guess then it was that superstition about jinxing.

What is it that people say about hindsight being 20/20?

Rachel said...

'Acknowledging the sadness you see in someone else's eyes only leads to being reminded of your own.' Heartbreakingly beautiful.
What a powerful line.
I have no advice, just prayers for y'all.

Dondi Tiples said...

You're really waxing eloquent here. Almost poetically so. Left your blog feeling sadly bereft with a sensation of incompleteness hanging in the air.

Anonymous said...

And telling people leaves you open to 'Are you pregnant yet? Well maybe you need to relax' comments.

And 'Just stop trying! A friend of a friend of my sunts uncles cousin tried for 5 years and when they stopped trying, they got pregnant just like that!'

Sometimes, telling no one is a much better option.

Maggie, Dammit said...

and yet here you are, stuck, with us blog readers. We know it all and we hang on your every word, because we're invested in it all. In you.

Weird, huh?

Maybe not so weird. As much as it sucks for you sometimes, you're not alone. And that's something.

Jill said...

What a perfectly timed posting... I am feeling your pain as we speak. After my posting about our troubles in baby making paradise, I heard nothing. Very few family or friends e-mailed me about it. People who usually read my blog didn't leave comments about it... I found it very odd.

We went to a family BBQ yesterday - saw relatives I haven't seen in a year. You could hear the crickets in the background... it was clear they were unsure what to say to me (or my husband). I'm still glad I told everyone - I just thought I'd have more support.

I can completely relate my friend... completely relate.

Karen MEG said...

I'm glad you have us to tell to fill this void. And you tell it so beautifully. I cried for you a bit over this one.

When we were TTC we didn't tell anyone except my immediate family. But of course, others, especially those who knew we'd been together so long, would ask "when are you guys going to take the plunge"... or "what are you guys waiting for"... "you should try it sometime" like we were being so selfish in not wanting a family (which we never said we didn't want). I would always be biting my tongue and die another little death inside.

I wanted to SCREAM, "we have been trying for years now, thank you very much, it isn't f*cking working and it's f&*king killing us!" The odd time we would say we were trying just jokingly, but it got rather stale.

So it's hard to know what's better; if people knew that we were trying would we have avoided all those busy-body, insensitive (albeit unknowingly) remarks?

But thanks for the opportunity to say what I just said above ... finally! Very cathartic!

Ed (zoesdad) said...

You should try the gel ice packs--they don't leave that embarrassing wet spot and you can re-use them.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

I do have a pro blem, don't I? LOL

What I said and neglected to send was; the questions are inevitable. Because of age and the length of time you've been together, people have expectations, you know? Also, they think they have a right to answers.
I think being open and up front is a good thing. It will weed out the nosey parkers from the true friends who will stick by you no matter what you tell them.

Anonymous said...

I know that what you are going through must be painful, frightening and difficult but try not to isolate yourselves from friends by not talking to them about your problems with trying to conceive. They could be a great support network during the bad times and when you do finally have a baby, they will celebrate with you.

B said...

Not the happiest post of all time, I would personally edge towards the not telling anyone option... I'd always have the internet to rant about it on and if I need to tell another human, just pop into a confession box and slot it into the conversation.

Aidan said...

Great post about a very personal topic that affects a lot of couples nowadays.
Personally I never told anybody we were trying for a baby. We were lucky not to have issues but I know many people who had serious problems so what you are experiencing might well be the rule rather than the exception.

Anonymous said...

"...crying over spilled man milk." That's just funny.

Anonymous said...

You've written all the things I've wanted to say about TTC. We have told only a few close friends, but it doesn't stop the never ending questions "when are you..." I'd prefer to never here that again. My thoughts are that someday the sadness will go away and great joy will fill its place

♥.Trish.♥ Drumboys said...

Powerful honest words. Self preservation was us all over. After a while people do stop asking but it is the whispering I hate and the sudden quiet when babies new pregnancies were being discussed.

Hard answer - sharing TMI leads to more questions - who is shooting blanks or has the dodgy plumbing.

On the internet woman tell everyone about their TTC and bedroom adventures and misadventures IYKWIM ...but not so much in real life.
The real folks don't understand when you have trouble.

Fate's Granddaughter said...

You've taken the words out of my mouth again - and probably said it a lot better than I could have.

Only a few family members know we're trying (and about our recent loss), but they make a lot of well-intentioned/totally unhelpful comments like "Just don't get disappointment every month when it doesn't happen" or "Don't get carried away, let it happen naturally," or "as soon as you stop thinking about it it will happen."

Um, how exactly does one stop thinking about it? Especially when people keep making comments like that!

Hang in there, at least the Dutch are on a roll!

Fate's Granddaughter said...


my grammar is getting worse with each comment!

DD said...

There is most definitely a "damned if you do and damned if you don't" application to telling. Obviously you know the damned if you do part, but it's also very difficult to not feel horribly alone if you don't have a couple of close friends who know, even if they don't 100% understand.

One of the closer friends I told a couple years ago was just married and was also trying to get pregnant. Because she had a child from a previous relationship, I had to prepare myself to accept she would probably get pregnant quite easily. That was over two years ago and they are at a loss as to what to do now, and the final irony is now she has to see me every day.

It was an unfortunate turn of the tables, but she is glad she knows someone who she can confide her fears and hopes to. You will be that person, that couple, for someone even when right now you feel emotionally tapped and exposed.

Putz said...

yes the piece was very touching, but my screwed up mind keeps thinking about that very large infertilitity elephant, could it be, may we hope, can we imagine the reason that infertility elephant is so large is because it is pregnant....think of the irony of all that, and the implications for your cycle

Kori said...

You are such a gifted writer that I can really feel what you are going through. Which basically sucks, and I am so sorry.

Jenni said...

I think it's hard. Like you said, TTC is an exciting time and you want to share it. You don't expect difficulties. We've had friends who've struggled (and some that are still struggling) with infertility. You don't want to ask how it's going when it's obviously going badly, and it's hard to know how to be supportive. I'm sure your mates just don't know what to say.

Anonymous said...

unfortunately,some things are impossible to put back in the bag once let loose.

Ian Newbold said...

What a well written piece, and so full of the reality that life throws at you. Hope you continue to find happiness regardless of sperm count.

Momo Fali said...

Stupid elephant.

Stacy said...

It used to make me so mad when people would ask when we were having a baby and it was like OMG if you only knew how bad we wanted one.

Liz said...

Yup with you. I told my sisters and a group of four who have been my mates since I was eleven. I have also told them about my blog so that they can have as much or as little information as they want and I don't have to repeat myself (and lack of news).

The others, like my Dad and not quite so close friends must have guessed we are trying but it is never articulated. And we are very British about it so we carry on as though nothing is missing...

Horse Chick said...

every time I hear about someone recently expecting my thoughts and prayers go out to you and ET! Tell all those non-empathic noisy people to give you guys a break!!! However, I am a "glass-half full" kind of girl so, I agree with PUTZ...what color is this elephant?

Horse Chick said...

every time I hear about someone recently expecting my thoughts and prayers go out to you and ET! Tell all those non-empathic noisy people to give you guys a break!!! However, I am a "glass-half full" kind of girl so, I agree with PUTZ...what color is this elephant?

James (SeattleDad) said...

Well written. I can totally relate. There is no right answer, only to trust your instincts.

Jason Roth said...

Sharing your struggles may create awkwardness amongst friends and family, but there are many people that share your experiences. You've created a large network of supporters that are cheering for you and ET. We want you to realize your dream of parenthood. Imagine if you hadn't told anyone about this, you'd be suffering in silence. That's not healthy. View this as therapuetic.

Anonymous said...

Yup. At least you have your blog for support! I wish I'd have been blogging through my infertility. Tough stuff.

Martin said...

@Marylin - I actually thought it made no sense at all, but thanks!

@Dan - You often have a gem or two up your sleeve Daniel.

@Irish Diaspora - Yep, things will change regardless, you just have to do whats best at any given time.

@Half Past Kissin' Time - Very kind, but I don't see that happening any time soon.

@immoral Matriarch - Cheer up Mitsy!

@kittyconcerto - that's another aspect to it, not many people want to imagine their friends humping 10 minutes before a dinner date...

@praydingtodarwin - I actually wasn't too sure if they celebrated it here on the same date or not. But either way...meh...

@Quickroute - In a way that's great, gets all the buzz out. At risk of sounding ignorant, are you doing all this in BA?

@AnnD - They are everywhere! don't worry. It CAN get you down in the dumps on occasion but those times you just click away. Other times, it's nice to see.
Thank you.

@Tara R - Yes hindsight indeed. I can see the reasoning too. Thanks.

@Rachel - Thank you very much.

@Dondi Tiples - Incompleteness, that's the crux of t all.

@Veronica - There's no knowing what's best. There really isn't.

@Maggie, Dammit - Weird and ironic for sure, here I am questioning whether to tell nearest & dearest and yet every thought is available for anyone who's interested.

@Jill - Well, I would say in their defense, if they've not experienced it before, they have no idea how to handle it with you.
Silence is often better than the unwanted advice.
I fully understand the urge to scream 'this is a big deal dammit' in peoples faces.

@Karen MEG -'you should try it sometime' like a new brand of coffee.
So hard to know. so hard.

@Ed - ah you know by now I'm a sucker for punishment.

@Tiff - Yes, this is what I think in my gut. Be open, the truth won't hurt anyone. It should just better equip us.
Makes the days of pulling the covers over your head harder to come by though.

@Sinead - They 'could' be, but imagine being given a problem by a friend that you have no solution to, how do you help?

@B - No bud, not happy, but just the way it is. if its a few laughs you're looking for, there should be a few chuckles in the archives!

@Aidan - If there are no issues, then everything runs smoothly and the questions and awkward moments won't really arise.
It's quite the rule yet, but 1 in 6 couples experience it, so it's prominent, and under represented.

@Carolyn - Sorry, couldn't help myself ;0)

@Meghan - Hi, what stage are you at now? We are lucky enough to avoid the questions for the most part due to geography.

@baby~amore - Self preservation indeed. Thats also my worry about those who do know, but stop asking. Still no children, but their questions remain, unasked.

@Fate's Granddaughter - - let it happen naturally/don't get carried away. Oh man. Makes me sick.
You can NOT stop thinking about it, ever.

@DD - I'm coming to the opinion that only those who have actually experienced it know. All the best intentions in the world won't help you understand if you haven't experienced it.

@Putz - You crack me up, thanks for the laugh.

@Kori - So I bum you out, and YOU'RE sorry? cool!

@Jenni - True, its impossible for them to know what to say.

@Bettina - Yes, that's what's worrying me now.

@Single Parent Dad - Thank you, unfortunately that happiness is counting very much on sperm count!

@Momo Fali - No need for name calling.

@Snowmanpoop - yeah, it's like 'Well DUH!'

@Womb for improvement - Stiff upper lip eh? try being Irish where no one talks about anything that happens above the landing or below the belt.

@Horse Chick - Thats very kind. Colour? Why, Pink of course.

@James Austin - That's my inclination too. Trust your gut.

@iVegasFamily - Therapy it is, not helping a whole lot but at least moves the crap around often enough to avoid stagnation!

@Nola - I wish more people did!

Sarah said...

It is amazingly hard to know how much to share. I am a very open person, and our struggles were known really before we even truly started trying because we already knew I had the stage four endo. In a lot of ways I think it makes it easier to be open with family and friends. They understand when you are emotional or moody.

For us they have been a huge form of support with all of this. We are really lucky and have wonderful friends and family who might not always know what to say, can commonly say things that are accidentally hurtful, but who truly love us and want this for us. Their support makes this a little easier...

Deb said...

I'm so sorry, hon. It is a terribly lonely experience.

Anonymous said...

as much as i'd hate to see you leave the interwebs, i think that last post would be the most heartfelt, graceful exit ever.

nice work.

Anonymous said...

So are you asking us to start the jokes up again like in the olden days when you weren't into cycling?

I'm terrible at jokes , but I could throw a football insult or two at you if that would help?

Sorry, I'm not good at sympathy or hugging but at least your other readers are.

P.S Is the nation coming together then? Better get in more tissues!

Anonymous said...

I have a friend who had cancer which had spread from her ovaries, to her brain and breasts and she was given a 1/10,000 chance of living more than 3 months. When she was given this prognosis, she had been battling cancer for 4-5 years and I was one of only 6 or 7 people (including her family) who knew. Most of our mutual friends didn't know that she had cancer, let alone was given only months to live. There was nothing I could do for her but listen, try to distract her from her fear and pain and let her know that when things got too much I would be there for her. I couldn't really do anything else, but I was honoured that she chose me to share her problem with. Sometimes just having people to talk with allows you to vent, cry and despair. That can be cathartic.
There is a happy ending here. She undertook some pretty radical/alternative therapy and has now been cancer free for 7 years.

Anonymous said...

This post has brought tears to my eyes.

As one who struggled with fertility but come out the other end with children, I just wish with every fibre of my being that it would happen for you too.

And soon.

Our Crooked Tree said...

My heart aches for you; we had friends that had trouble concieving and carrying to term. We avoided the topic with them after a while because we did not want to keep bringing it up and making them even more miserable. As their twins turned 4 this year we try to remind ourselves that all works out in the end. I know it will for you guys too.

Manager Mom said...

I have some friends who went through infertility treatments and I never truly understood how they felt...thank you for giving me a window into their world. And I will send my thoughts and prayers(for whatever little they are worth) your way...

Malky B. said...

Just wanted to say hi. I've been reading through your blog and think your doing an amazing job. It's always great to see the male perspective. You are right that there's not enough of it out there. You might like "Maybe Baby"
He is also writing a book soon on the male side of the infertility journey.

Anonymous said...

If the Netherlands can beat Italy, France, and Romania you will get the job done. Who knows when, just keep plugging away brother!

Paddy in BA (Quickroute) said...

@ Xbox: re: "Are you doing all this all in B.A." Yes - all here in B.A. - signed up and paid for good health insurance so making the most of milking the system to get my pesos worth.

justmylife said...

A very well written post. Is it easier to share with all us "strangers"?

Unknown said...

I'm kind of speechless, which may be due to the fact that my brain has already surrendered for the day. So instead I'm just going to say that this was an excellent post, and I'm pulling for you.

Have been, actually, for some time now.

Martin said...

@Sarah - that makes an immediate difference, if you know you can rely on the people you tell.

@Deb - Yes, indeed it can be.

@Struglas - I think I'm a long way from packing in this writing lark, it is literally keeping me going.

@Tismee2 - You are quite the 'random' one aren't you!

@Sinead - Remarkable story, honestly.

@Widdle Shamrock - Thank you, very kind.

@Our Crooked Tree - Believe me, if they knew, you knew, they were having trouble, they would in no way be more miserable by you asking how they are doing. Trust me.

@Manager Mom - They must be worth more than mine, so I'll gladly accept. I really do wish more people could understand, it woud make a hell of a difference.

@Malky B - Thanks for the link, sounds just up my street. Interestingly (or not) enough, Ben Elton has a novel called inconceivable which was turned into a movie, 'maybe baby'.
I've been trying to catch up on your podcasts also.

@Wpat - The country is in shock, seriously, I think the world is coming to an end.

@Quickroute - I'm impressed. Is Mrs Irish also or Argentinian?

@Justmylife - Thank you. Yes, sometimes it is, except when I get told to 'just relax', then it's harder to strangle people you can't see.
I think I would be writing all this regardless of whether anyone was listening/reading or not.

@Dorky Dad - Very kind of you to say sir. I know you've been popping in and out here since the early naive days!

Paddy in BA (Quickroute) said...

@ Xbox: re: "Is Mrs Irish also or Argentinian?"

The missus hails from Buenos Aires which kind of explains how I ended up down here.

Jo Beaufoix said...

Beautiful. You gave me leaky eyes.

Anonymous said...

I always say go with your gut. There would be a different answer for every individual. Good luck :)

Tash said...

Here from Mel's Roundup: brilliant post. We didn't tell. For the stupid reason that I like surprises, and figured it would just be a nice one to spring on people. Instead we sprang the miscarriage news. And then people knew. And waited. And sighed. And looked at us askance. Child #1 I waited a while to tell anyone and child #2, much much longer. And since that ended so wildly badly if there is another, I'm hiding in the closet and figuring second-grade portraits will be a nice introduction to everyone.

It is exciting to try, isn't it. Ah, those first few months where caution is thrown to the air. Two years of timed-sex later it's much, much less fun. I'm sorry about the elephant. We have our own version that makes Happy Hour not so much. Thanks for the honesty and humor -- really that's what will save you in the end, I believe. Thinking of you.

Paula Keller said...

Here from Mel's! Great post!

Yes! People probably think we've just given up or something. I told people YEARS ago that we were trying -- and nothing.

Nowadays, I find myself (immensely idiotic) at some points in the cycle being optimistic and wanting to tell everyone, because I'm giddy and excited. And because damn, IVF and IUI take on a big part of your life. However, in other times of the cycle, I want to crawl under a rock and NOT discuss it.

Always so good to hear a man's perspective!

battynurse said...

When I first decided to try having a baby I told almost my entire family and all my friends etc. I seem to have a problem keeping my mouth shut. I do sort of regret telling my family because I have to explain in the Christmas letter each year that "nope it hasn't happened yet". Strangely I don't regret telling my friends and will fairly easily discuss the difficulty of the whole thing with almost anyone.

Martin said...

@Quickroute - that kind of makes sense alright!

@Jo Beaufoix - Hayfever is a bugger eh?

@Kareer Woman - My gut is right more often than not, now if only I could stop my head getting in the way.

@Tash - Hi Tash, welcome.
That's exactly it, it IS exciting, it IS big news to you, and you want to tell people.
But when things don't go to plan, it goes to hell.

Thank you for the story & the kind words.

@PJ - Yeah I wonder what do people think after a certain amount of time has passed, do they think you've stopped or do they forget!
We are the same, even though we know the chances of a natural conception as things stand is poor, we still get a bit fluttery towards the end of the cycle.
A man's perspective indeed, we're not aliens ;0)

@Michell - True, different groups react differently, family or friends.
Hindsight is great as they say.
Best of luck to you.