The following piece is written by the husband of frequent Kveller contributer Cara Paiuk. Cara has written about the ups and downs of her fertility treatments, and here, Alejandro offers the man’s perspective.
“Do you have the specimen?” the pretty nurse behind the counter asked me. I timidly handed over the plastic jar with my name on it. “Ummm, I noticed that on this form here it says that we weren’t supposed to use lubricant. Uhhh, I didn’t know that. Is the, er, specimen ruined?”
A few moments later, she handed me a new jar and told me that I had to try again. And so, my one contribution to my wife’s fertility treatment I had managed to screw up. I felt embarrassed to be in that office, embarrassed of what I had to do next, and embarrassed that I had somehow let Cara down.
In Austin, there seems to be only one fertility clinic in town and it is always bustling with activity. It sort of makes me glad that I don’t have many friends here because otherwise I’m sure I’d run into somebody I know. I don’t look forward to our visits. For one, it’s weird whenever we have to take our son along. We get these jealous stares from the childless couples in the waiting room. They look like dingoes eyeing my baby hungrily. Also, the doctor zips in and out of the room, tapping his feet nervously the whole time we’re talking. He looks at my wife’s private parts, and try as he might to be gentle, whenever he has to probe up in there she complains of discomfort. My Neanderthal brain wants to deck the guy. And perhaps the most tangible effect of our visits are the fees. Nothing costs less than $190. I’m convinced we’re paying a dollar a second, but Cara assures me the visits last up to 10 minutes.
But there’s something deeper about the anxiety that these fertility treatments stir inside of me. I wonder: is this right? I get the general misgiving that we’re defying nature. Somehow, for some reason, the Universe decided that we shouldn’t have any more kids, and we gave it the finger. And in my worldview, every time mankind defies nature, we bring disaster upon our heads. When my English professor explained hubris, a light bulb went off in my head, “Yes! That’s exactly what I believe in!” Live in a flood plain? You’re begging to row your house down the stream. You want to cure childhood diseases in Africa? Now you’re going to overpopulate the continent and cause wars. Want fertility treatments? You’re bound to give birth to octuplets and live on welfare.
Are fertility treatments tempting fate? Is nature telling us something by making so many of us infertile? Is it saying, “Hey, you kind of turned me into a toxic waste dump, so your species needs to lie low for a couple hundred years while I recover.” I know I’m probably pretty lonely in feeling this way. In our society, you’re supposed to work hard, take whatever you can get, and not worry about the consequences on something as abstract as “civilization” or “the environment.”
But my wife Cara reeeaaally wants to have more kids. She lives and breathes fertility. For half the month she obsesses over whether she’s ovulating and the other half she frets over whether she’s pregnant. At these times I can’t seem to understand at all how she’s feeling.
One night I revealed to Cara that I was having second thoughts about the fertility treatments. I probably owe the neighbors an apology as well. When the walls stopped rattling, Cara put the fertility treatments into perspective for me. It boiled down to this question: who is Aiven going to have as family when we are gone? Finally, her desperation to have another child made sense to me. We both lost parents at a young age, but whereas I had an older brother to be my rock and my friend, Cara was an only child. And she is determined not to let that happen to Aiven.
Like so many times before, I missed the trees for the forest. Being a father is about being a warrior for your family. It’s about putting their needs first, above all else, above even your own. And I had forgotten that. Having more kids is the best choice for our family, and I need to fight for what’s right for us. Going through fertility treatments is far from ideal. Actually, it downright sucks. And that’s when my wife and my family need me most. So, with all due respect to the Universe, we’re going to be having some more kids soon. And if you have a problem with that, you’ll have to deal with me.