Saturday, 22 October 2011

All Hail The Magnificent 7!

For those of you who complained that the link to my Irish Times article (17.10.2011) didn't work, here is my spermy tale of woe once more...

8.05: Good, she's awake. In 40 minutes she needs to be at the clinic, where the egg collection procedure must go ahead at precisely 09.00. Timing is vital today. She needs tea and toast before the procedure, so I'll make that and go upstairs.

8.20: Lying on the bed. All I need to do is something I've done countless times. How difficult can it be, compared to what she's been through over the last few months? She has sniffed hormones up her nose, swallowed hormones in tablets and injected her own belly with yet more hormones, stoically suffering a panorama of nasty side effects. Day after week after month her mobile has chimed reminders to take another nasty drug, so that she might produce fertile eggs and prepare her womb for carrying.

All I have to do is produce a sample. That's all. Over the last two years almost everything about this process has quite rightly been about her body. My sperm count is a low but tolerable 2 million, however my lads are no longer lively young things. They have little chance of fulfilling their natural destiny, so rather than IVF we're doing ICSI, where the sperm are injected directly into the eggs.

8.25: As I look down on my mature meat and two veg, they visibly shrink. I'm watching a time-lapse film of my own puberty in reverse. Over the last two minutes my penis has shrunk to the size it was when I was seven, while my testicles are on a mission to rise up through my body and hide in my rib cage.

8.30: Time is ticking. My mind is all over the place. Can't concentrate. Can't relax. No, this isn't going to work. We have to get going. I'll just have to provide my sample at the clinic. Not a very appealing prospect.

I'm silently hoping I'll be able to have my sample done and out of the way before the egg collection process starts. That would be great. The last thing I want to do is make a fuss. It's only a bloke knocking one off, so what's the bother? Try being a woman, Sir, and have someone put a foot-long stiletto needle up your netherly noodles.

8.45: I hold her hand as they sedate her and do unspeakable things to her in a gentle and professional way. And lo, her body has produced miracles! There are now eggs in a container, waiting to be inspected for quality; maturity; whatever it takes for life to begin.

By now I just want to scream out loud: “I'm feeling under massive pressure! I must get my sample done as soon as possible!” but not one part of me feels comfortable saying a word.

: She's safe in bed. I ask a nurse if I can finally give my sample.
“Sorry, no!” she says, “There's another man using The Room at the moment.”
The Room? Oh yuk. How absolutely not sexy.
I sit by her bed, hold her hand and try not mention how much I dread letting her down; about how devastated I'll feel if I can't do one simple thing, after all she's been through.

11.15: The nurse tells me The Room is free.

11:17: I'm in a dimly lit sperm collection room designed by women. There's a chair, a pile of fairly unpleasant soft porn mags and a specimen jar that's way too fiddly for the job in hand. My bare buttocks are stuck on the same plastic seat that was occupied by another man's buttocks a mere few minutes before. I could not feel less able to produce a sample, but I simply have to, otherwise, quite apart from all the major life factors, we've wasted a massive amount of money. Nothing small at all. Just life-changing issues and huge amounts of money.

11.45: Simply by being a male of the species, hotwired to be able to prioritise sex, I have somehow produced a sample. Thank God! Oh good grief! Relief floods over me. I'm so happy not to have let the side down. Phew!

12.45: A nurse pops up by her bedside.
 “Well, there's really great news! You've produced 10 mature eggs! Fantastic! You can go home now, but take it very easy for the rest of the day. Now, Charlie, not such great news. There was nothing in your sample, I'm afraid!”


“Nothing at all. There's no reason to it. Last week a fella gave one sample that had zero and another he delivered two hours later had 90 million. It just goes like that. We don't have a clue why. Thing is, time is now a factor.
We need another sample in the next two hours? Can you drive her home and bring another sample back to us?”

Another one? Please no. I am utterly wired. Another sample, with added real time pressure? Great!

13.15: Back home, I'm trying to avoid a panic attack, whilst trying yet again to supply a sample. Knowing there are now 10 eggs out there and that her body has worked magnificently is not diminishing the pressure I'm feeling.

14.15: Back at the clinic with another sample. The nurse suggests I wait while she tests it. I sit in the waiting room, surrounded by women thumbing magazines, feeling tremendously lonely. Any minute now somebody will walk into the room and tell me whether I've written off any hope of parenthood for good, or that everything is back on track. Of course she will use delicate rational language, but I'm not feeling the slightest bit rational.

15:15: Back at the house, relieved and exhausted. I tell her how the nurse managed to find 7 healthy lads. Not 90 million. Not 2 million. 7. Already my infantile male mind has named them The Magnificent 7. She reminds me that throughout the process, we were told that 'Quality not Quantity' was the maxim whenever eggs and sperm were mentioned.

I love her for reminding me of that. Now we are in the hands of fate. Despite the way that as a man I felt marginalised throughout this process, the boy in me feels rather proud of The Magnificent 7.

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