men

Let Me Shut Up for Once: Philip Cottraux: A Guy Goin' Thru It All

I’ll introduce you to Philip in a sec. I just wanted to say: Women dealing with infertility publicly torment themselves and each other with the torture that is Mother's Day. But what about the men and Father's Day? Do we think that just because they're not publicly announcing their anguish they don't feel it? Or is this just a woman's view of what a man is feeling? Are they all like my husband whom I begged and pleaded to "let out all of his bottled up emotions" to which he replied following my ten minute-long tirade: "What are you even talking about"? Here’s Philip. He’s a guy. He’s going through it all. Let him tell you what he’s feeling. What do you need me for?

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The Horror-Comedy of Infertility

By Philip Cottraux

I met Lori on Twitter when her book on infertility randomly showed up in my feed.  She’s asked me to contribute some thoughts for her Father’s Day blog.  Because as you may know, women talk all about this stuff but we men are notorious for staying hush-hush about it.  Or as she said in her blog dedicated to me, “acting like it doesn’t bother us.”

So trying to break my usual act, here’s our story, such as it is.

My wife (Beth) and I met online.  She was a young widow.  Well, sort of.  Her fiancé had died tragically a few months before their wedding.  It was four years before she was ready to date again.  I’m originally from Atlanta, and she is a North Carolina native.

We were both 26 when we got married.  We were so excited about having kids, we already had four baby names picked out!  Two boys, two girls.  I’m an only child, so I couldn’t wait to have a big family to make up for my lonely childhood.  I’m also the last Cottraux.  So if I never have kids, my family name is going extinct forever.  Maybe I should be placed on the endangered species list?

Beth is the youngest of four, but she was still as enthusiastic as I was!  We didn’t wait too long, maybe less than a year.  People had already started asking if we were trying.  Back then, we would answer by looking at each other and giggling like idiots.

When talking about infertility, I usually start by asking “You know what the worst part is?”  Then after explaining the worst part, I’ll follow up with “But you know what the worst worst part is?”  Before long, I’ve described everything we’ve gone through for the past eight years, and all of it is the “worst part.”

I had a common condition among men called a varicocele, an enlarged vein in my…nether-regions…that can cause low sperm count.  The doctor told us to keep trying for a year, and if we still hadn’t conceived, I might need to think about surgery.

The following year got very awkward as people started asking why we didn’t have kids yet.  We were still trying to keep hush-hush about my condition, so we would just give a generic shrug and say “Who knows?  Maybe soon!”

A funny thing I observed was that people automatically assume that the husband doesn’t want kids.  As time kept passing, my mom would tell me that women from our church gossip circle were wondering “I wonder why Philip doesn’t want any kids?  Poor Beth.  She’s probably begging!”  As if I’m Daffy Duck trying to shoot the approaching stork out of the sky with a shotgun and rigging the house with booby traps.

Despicable!

The doctor determined I needed surgery.  I found out that my grandfather had had the same condition and had the operation before my mother was born.  Over the phone, he told me to prepare for my balls to swell up as big as golf balls.  I thought, nah.  He had his surgery back in the olden days, when they bopped people on the head with a mallet for anesthetic and used rusty bone saws.  Turns out he was right.

I tend to be curious by nature, which did me no favors.  The night before the operation, I was glued to YouTube watching videos of “varicole-ectomies” that involved a “laparoscopic ligations along the spermatic chord.”  Or something.  Not exactly what I needed to see, since I’m a bit squeamish.

“They’re going to do that to me?  No!  Don’t cut it!  Don’t…ack, he cut it!  I can feel it already!”

Early the following afternoon, I was wheeled into the OR.  They put the mask on me, I looked up at the anesthetic dripping through the IV bag…and then next thing I know, I was waking up in an upright position, feeling like I’d been hit by a truck.  Beth was worried to death since I hadn’t eaten all day.  As I opened my eyes, groaning “Wha…happened…?” the first thing I saw was an apple being shoved into my face to my wife’s voice saying “Eat this apple!  Hurry!”  I thought I’d died during surgery and gone to apple heaven.  It didn’t matter, because they had forgotten to administer the proper amount of anti-nausea medication, so as soon as my mangled body was wheeled to the car I barfed it all back up.

But, at least it was over.  A week-long recovery, and a follow-up sperm count, and I was good.  Ready for action.  Locked and loaded.  Look out, Beth, cause I’m about to put a baby in you!  After about two years of trying, we’re going to make it now!  The first time we tried was like playing with a loaded gun.

And…it still didn’t happen.  Weeks passed.  They turned into months, which turned into more years.

About 3-4 years into our marriage, the people (most of whom still didn’t know about my surgery) asking about when we were having kids reached a fever pitch.  Then it sort of waned.  Obviously, my parents know.  But all the family/friends/coworkers/church members started asking less and less.  Now, they act weird around us, like walking on eggshells.  Do we have an incurable disease now, or something?

Doctors have determined that since my surgery, Beth must be the reason we can’t get pregnant.  But unfortunately, that’s as far as we’ve gotten.  We were very fortunate that the insurance covered my operation; but they refuse to touch testing, artificial insemination, or IVF.  These things can cost a fortune (and I’ve contacted my company’s benefits department begging on bended knee for help), so we’re stuck for now

As a result, Beth has sought natural treatments.  Over the years, this has gotten ridiculous.  Everything from slathering castor oil on her stomach, to acupuncture and getting her tailbone cracked by the chiropractor, to doing weird nightly belly massage rituals, to a medicine cabinet filled with dandelion extract and whatever else miracle cure for infertility she can find on the internet.  You can’t make this stuff up.  And as of yet, none of it has worked.

The only people who ask anymore are random acquaintances.  For example, the dental hygienist when I’m getting my teeth cleaned.  Or a fired coworker I run into that I haven’t seen since the wedding.  I call it the “dreaded question” now.  It’s almost like they’re flirting with you.  Their eyes get big, they bat their eyelashes, then give you a sneaky smile.  It’s like they’re prodding for some kind of major secret.  Then, in a low voice so no one will hear, they whisper, “So?  Have you guys…talked about…maybe…just maybe…starting a family???”

Instead of beating around the bush, now I just croak “Infertile.”  It’s amazing how fast their demeanor changes to wide-eyed horror.  “Oh!  I’m so sorry!  I shouldn’t have asked!  Oh, I’m such a horrible person!  Please forgive me!”  I have to reassure them that it’s okay while they beat themselves up.  Then it’s time for an awkward subject-change!

Anyway, as you can imagine, it’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly is the “worst part” of all this.  It could be how I feel like we’ve let so many people down that were excited about us having kids.  It could be the horrible combination of guilt-jealousy-trying-to-be-happy-for other couples that announce they’re expecting.  It could be how fast time is flying by, and how hopeless it makes you feel as the years sift through your fingers, like grains of sand.  Or how you picture what your kids are going to look like, and fantasize about pushing them in backyard tire swings and holding their hands while they ride a bike for the first time or take them to their first day of school and read them bedtime stories. The fantasies that are ripped away from you every day by cold hard reality.

Or the fear that you might be slowly turning into your crazy aunt who never had kids.  You know the who I’m talking about; we all have one.  The one who sends out Christmas cards every year with pictures of her bichon-frises sitting in Santa’s lap.

But instead of focusing on what hurts the most, let me describe what helps the most; meeting other people such as Lori who have been through this and knows exactly how we feel.  Especially if they can put a humorous spin on what has otherwise been life’s most crushing disappointment. 

Philip Cottraux is a Pentecostal Christian Blogger, Bible Teacher, Writer for Jesus and Husband. http://www.depthsofpentecost.com/

**Update: A new doctor recently diagnosed Philip’s wife, Beth, with a thyroid issue and they are optimistic. .

**Please continue reading for more Father’s Day / Male-oriented posts… And if you’d like to get more laughs at infertility’s expense, please subscribe to my newsletter and check-out my books @ http://laughingisconceivable.com

Laughing IS Conceivable: One Woman’s Extremely Funny Peek into the Extremely Unfunny World of Infertility

Laughing IS Conceivable: One Woman’s Extremely Funny Peek into the Extremely Unfunny World of Infertility

Laughing IS Conceivable No Matter How Many You’re Carrying: Insanity in its Infancy

Laughing IS Conceivable No Matter How Many You’re Carrying: Insanity in its Infancy

Expert Advice from a Therapist: For Men & The Women Who... Oh Whatever

helen adrienne.png

Helen Adrienne is a well-respected therapist in NYC who specializes in individuals and couples dealing with infertility.So what you'll be getting from her today will be tried and true sound advice unlike the smart-ass remarks you typically get from me. She talks about both men who have their own fertility issues as well as men dealing with an infertile wife who's turned into a nutjob. (I don't think Helen actually uses the word "nutjob", but, as many of us know from personal experience, that's exactly what you turn into.)

NEWS MEN CAN USE

by Helen Adrienne, LCSW, BCD

Making your way through an infertility struggle is an ordeal in so many ways.  The emotional component of the journey tops the list.

Men – there are two little factoids to consider:

First, it’s no secret that women are generally freer to feel and express their emotions than men.  You may be at the mercy of the cultural scuttlebutt that emotions in men are looked upon as   weakness.  But, Father’s Day is a reminder that you are not a parent yet either.  On top of that, if the difficulty in conception is due to male factor, you may be in a tangle based upon a failure to separate fertility from masculinity.

Despite what you may be feeling yourself, you still may feel obliged to take a posture of strength for the sake of your partner.  Every crisis is an opportunity and you now have an opportunity to free yourself from what might be an emotional prison so you can be there for yourself as well as your wife.

Second, whether you can claim your right to experience your upset or not, news you can certainly use has to do with how to feel more at ease with the emotions of your spouse if you are feeling unqualified in this realm. This may be especially true if she seems inconsolable and wants you to “fix” not only the conception issue, but also perhaps a financial issue, a who-to-tell- or-not-tell issue, and so much more.

How can you find relief from the many demands?  Let’s take a peek at what might be your history.  See if this resonates:  As a small child, did you have a mother who was often frantic or tearful about situations?  Did you intuitively sense that your mother specifically demanded that you “fix” her upset?  If so, you would have been tossed into a place of panic and helplessness. A small child cannot make mommy’s life better.

If this was your history and you have not “worked it through,” then as an adult, you would be vulnerable to and maybe avoidant of anyone who is overwrought emotionally.  It would become an unconscious reflex for you to want to remove yourself from those early imprinted feelings of panic and helplessness.

Now, if your wife, like any wife in a quest for a baby, is thrashing around with her emotional reaction to all-things-infertility, you may unwittingly be tossed into this ancient place, without either of you realizing what’s happening, creating distance when what you need is closeness.

When I explain this to men, women or couples, I watch the tension release like air from a balloon.  Why wouldn’t you feel triggered, wanting to literally or figuratively run away, get annoyed, judge or scold?  Here you are again, feeling the pressure to fix a problem as if you are back in that untenable place of your childhood.

Compassion needs to go in both directions.  You each have every right to expect understanding from each other and you both have an opportunity to develop coping strategies that take the needs and emotions of each of you into consideration.

Words are unsatisfactory when seeking to fix this issue – now!  Simple words can matter, if you say, for instance, “I know how hard this is. It’s hard for me, too. We’ll get through this.  Let me just hold you.”  For now, living with uncertainty is a bane.

What is called for—feeling and showing a strong connection, determination to make it through, and love, may not seem sufficient, but it is.  The only real and satisfactory fix is coming home with your baby.

The infertility journey has its own timetable.  It gets resolved as it can.  Meanwhile, you both need to keep your love for each other at the center of this story.  Love thrives best in truth – the   truth of both of you.

Helen Adrienne

mind-body-unity.com

Helen Adrienne has been the go-to professional for over three decades for women who are struggling with infertility.

As a seasoned psychotherapist, trained in mind/body therapy and clinical hypnotherapy, Helen is uniquely qualified to teach field-tested, effective techniques for managing stress, rediscovering inner strength and resources and reclaiming control on this journey. Her best-selling book: On Fertile Ground: Healing Infertility. https://www.amazon.com//dp/1452853754

And while you're on Amazon anyway, you may as well check out my book: Laughing IS Conceivable: One Woman’s Extremely Funny Peek into the Extremely Unfunny World of Infertility. It’s the meek, unassuming one down below that Helen’s book is towering over trying to intimidate.. https://www.amazon.com//dp/B007G9X19A/,

Laughing-Is-Conceivable-Finalfront-cover-small.jpg

Let's Hear it for the Boys: & Helen Adrienne

Helen Adrienne is a well-respected therapist in NYC who specializes in individuals and couples dealing with infertility.So what you'll be getting from her today will be tried and true sound advice unlike the smart-ass remarks you typically get from me. She talks about both men who have their own fertility issues as well as men dealing with an infertile wife who's turned into a nutjob. (I don't think Helen actually uses the word "nutjob" though, but I know from personal experience, that's exactly what you turn into.)

NEWS MEN CAN USE

by Helen Adrienne, LCSW, BCD

Making your way through an infertility struggle is an ordeal in so many ways.  The emotional component of the journey tops the list.

Men – there are two little factoids to consider:

First, it’s no secret that women are generally freer to feel and express their emotions than men.  You may be at the mercy of the cultural scuttlebutt that emotions in men are looked upon as   weakness.  But, Father’s Day is a reminder that you are not a parent yet either.  On top of that, if the difficulty in conception is due to male factor, you may be in a tangle based upon a failure to separate fertility from masculinity.

Despite what you may be feeling yourself, you still may feel obliged to take a posture of strength for the sake of your partner.  Every crisis is an opportunity and you now have an opportunity to free yourself from what might be an emotional prison so you can be there for yourself as well as your wife.

Second, whether you can claim your right to experience your upset or not, news you can certainly use has to do with how to feel more at ease with the emotions of your spouse if you are feeling unqualified in this realm. This may be especially true if she seems inconsolable and wants you to “fix” not only the conception issue, but also perhaps a financial issue, a who-to-tell- or-not-tell issue, and so much more.

How can you find relief from the many demands?  Let’s take a peek at what might be your history.  See if this resonates:  As a small child, did you have a mother who was often frantic or tearful about situations?  Did you intuitively sense that your mother specifically demanded that you “fix” her upset?  If so, you would have been tossed into a place of panic and helplessness. A small child cannot make mommy’s life better.

If this was your history and you have not “worked it through,” then as an adult, you would be vulnerable to and maybe avoidant of anyone who is overwrought emotionally.  It would become an unconscious reflex for you to want to remove yourself from those early imprinted feelings of panic and helplessness.

Now, if your wife, like any wife in a quest for a baby, is thrashing around with her emotional reaction to all-things-infertility, you may unwittingly be tossed into this ancient place, without either of you realizing what’s happening, creating distance when what you need is closeness.

When I explain this to men, women or couples, I watch the tension release like air from a balloon.  Why wouldn’t you feel triggered, wanting to literally or figuratively run away, get annoyed, judge or scold?  Here you are again, feeling the pressure to fix a problem as if you are back in that untenable place of your childhood.

Compassion needs to go in both directions.  You each have every right to expect understanding from each other and you both have an opportunity to develop coping strategies that take the needs and emotions of each of you into consideration.

Words are unsatisfactory when seeking to fix this issue – now!  Simple words can matter, if you say, for instance, “I know how hard this is. It’s hard for me, too. We’ll get through this.  Let me just hold you.”  For now, living with uncertainty is a bane.

What is called for—feeling and showing a strong connection, determination to make it through, and love, may not seem sufficient, but it is.  The only real and satisfactory fix is coming home with your baby.

The infertility journey has its own timetable.  It gets resolved as it can.  Meanwhile, you both need to keep your love for each other at the center of this story.  Love thrives best in truth – the   truth of both of you.

Helen Adrienne

mind-body-unity.com

Helen Adrienne has been the go-to professional for over three decades for women who are struggling with infertility.

As a seasoned psychotherapist, trained in mind/body therapy and clinical hypnotherapy, Helen is uniquely qualified to teach field-tested, effective techniques for managing stress, rediscovering inner strength and resources and reclaiming control on this journey. Her Best-selling Book: On Fertile Ground: Healing Infertility. https://www.amazon.com//dp/1452853754

helen adrienne's book on fertile groun.jpg
Laughing-Is-Conceivable-Finalfront-cover-small.jpg

And while you're on Amazon anyway, you may as well check out my book: Laughing IS Conceivable: One Woman’s Extremely Funny Peek into the Extremely Unfunny World of Infertility. https://www.amazon.com//dp/B007G9X19A/ And PLEASE, if you want / need more “Screw Father’s Day” shenanigans and some non-shenanigan posts by dignified people who may actually help you get thru it, keep reading and stay tuned.

Let Me Shut Up for Once: Philip Cottraux: A Guy Goin' Thru It All

I’ll introduce you to Philip in a sec. I just wanted to say: Women dealing with infertility publicly torment themselves and each other with the torture that is Mother's Day. But what about the men and Father's Day? Do we think that just because they're not publicly announcing their anguish they don't feel it? Or is this just a woman's view of what a man is feeling? Are they all like my husband whom I begged and pleaded to "let out all of his bottled up emotions" to which he replied following my ten minute-long tirade: "What are you even talking about"? Here’s Philip. He’s a guy. He’s going through it all. Let him tell you what he’s feeling. What do you need me for?

philip cottraux.jpg

The Horror-Comedy of Infertility

By Philip Cottraux

I met Lori on Twitter when her book on infertility randomly showed up in my feed.  She’s asked me to contribute some thoughts for her Father’s Day blog.  Because as you may know, women talk all about this stuff but we men are notorious for staying hush-hush about it.  Or as she said in her blog dedicated to me, “acting like it doesn’t bother us.”

So trying to break my usual act, here’s our story, such as it is.

My wife (Beth) and I met online.  She was a young widow.  Well, sort of.  Her fiancé had died tragically a few months before their wedding.  It was four years before she was ready to date again.  I’m originally from Atlanta, and she is a North Carolina native.

We were both 26 when we got married.  We were so excited about having kids, we already had four baby names picked out!  Two boys, two girls.  I’m an only child, so I couldn’t wait to have a big family to make up for my lonely childhood.  I’m also the last Cottraux.  So if I never have kids, my family name is going extinct forever.  Maybe I should be placed on the endangered species list?

Beth is the youngest of four, but she was still as enthusiastic as I was!  We didn’t wait too long, maybe less than a year.  People had already started asking if we were trying.  Back then, we would answer by looking at each other and giggling like idiots.

When talking about infertility, I usually start by asking “You know what the worst part is?”  Then after explaining the worst part, I’ll follow up with “But you know what the worst worst part is?”  Before long, I’ve described everything we’ve gone through for the past eight years, and all of it is the “worst part.”

I had a common condition among men called a varicocele, an enlarged vein in my…nether-regions…that can cause low sperm count.  The doctor told us to keep trying for a year, and if we still hadn’t conceived, I might need to think about surgery.

The following year got very awkward as people started asking why we didn’t have kids yet.  We were still trying to keep hush-hush about my condition, so we would just give a generic shrug and say “Who knows?  Maybe soon!”

A funny thing I observed was that people automatically assume that the husband doesn’t want kids.  As time kept passing, my mom would tell me that women from our church gossip circle were wondering “I wonder why Philip doesn’t want any kids?  Poor Beth.  She’s probably begging!”  As if I’m Daffy Duck trying to shoot the approaching stork out of the sky with a shotgun and rigging the house with booby traps.

Despicable!

The doctor determined I needed surgery.  I found out that my grandfather had had the same condition and had the operation before my mother was born.  Over the phone, he told me to prepare for my balls to swell up as big as golf balls.  I thought, nah.  He had his surgery back in the olden days, when they bopped people on the head with a mallet for anesthetic and used rusty bone saws.  Turns out he was right.

I tend to be curious by nature, which did me no favors.  The night before the operation, I was glued to YouTube watching videos of “varicole-ectomies” that involved a “laparoscopic ligations along the spermatic chord.”  Or something.  Not exactly what I needed to see, since I’m a bit squeamish.

“They’re going to do that to me?  No!  Don’t cut it!  Don’t…ack, he cut it!  I can feel it already!”

Early the following afternoon, I was wheeled into the OR.  They put the mask on me, I looked up at the anesthetic dripping through the IV bag…and then next thing I know, I was waking up in an upright position, feeling like I’d been hit by a truck.  Beth was worried to death since I hadn’t eaten all day.  As I opened my eyes, groaning “Wha…happened…?” the first thing I saw was an apple being shoved into my face to my wife’s voice saying “Eat this apple!  Hurry!”  I thought I’d died during surgery and gone to apple heaven.  It didn’t matter, because they had forgotten to administer the proper amount of anti-nausea medication, so as soon as my mangled body was wheeled to the car I barfed it all back up.

But, at least it was over.  A week-long recovery, and a follow-up sperm count, and I was good.  Ready for action.  Locked and loaded.  Look out, Beth, cause I’m about to put a baby in you!  After about two years of trying, we’re going to make it now!  The first time we tried was like playing with a loaded gun.

And…it still didn’t happen.  Weeks passed.  They turned into months, which turned into more years.

About 3-4 years into our marriage, the people (most of whom still didn’t know about my surgery) asking about when we were having kids reached a fever pitch.  Then it sort of waned.  Obviously, my parents know.  But all the family/friends/coworkers/church members started asking less and less.  Now, they act weird around us, like walking on eggshells.  Do we have an incurable disease now, or something?

Doctors have determined that since my surgery, Beth must be the reason we can’t get pregnant.  But unfortunately, that’s as far as we’ve gotten.  We were very fortunate that the insurance covered my operation; but they refuse to touch testing, artificial insemination, or IVF.  These things can cost a fortune (and I’ve contacted my company’s benefits department begging on bended knee for help), so we’re stuck for now

As a result, Beth has sought natural treatments.  Over the years, this has gotten ridiculous.  Everything from slathering castor oil on her stomach, to acupuncture and getting her tailbone cracked by the chiropractor, to doing weird nightly belly massage rituals, to a medicine cabinet filled with dandelion extract and whatever else miracle cure for infertility she can find on the internet.  You can’t make this stuff up.  And as of yet, none of it has worked.

The only people who ask anymore are random acquaintances.  For example, the dental hygienist when I’m getting my teeth cleaned.  Or a fired coworker I run into that I haven’t seen since the wedding.  I call it the “dreaded question” now.  It’s almost like they’re flirting with you.  Their eyes get big, they bat their eyelashes, then give you a sneaky smile.  It’s like they’re prodding for some kind of major secret.  Then, in a low voice so no one will hear, they whisper, “So?  Have you guys…talked about…maybe…just maybe…starting a family???”

Instead of beating around the bush, now I just croak “Infertile.”  It’s amazing how fast their demeanor changes to wide-eyed horror.  “Oh!  I’m so sorry!  I shouldn’t have asked!  Oh, I’m such a horrible person!  Please forgive me!”  I have to reassure them that it’s okay while they beat themselves up.  Then it’s time for an awkward subject-change!

Anyway, as you can imagine, it’s difficult to pinpoint what exactly is the “worst part” of all this.  It could be how I feel like we’ve let so many people down that were excited about us having kids.  It could be the horrible combination of guilt-jealousy-trying-to-be-happy-for other couples that announce they’re expecting.  It could be how fast time is flying by, and how hopeless it makes you feel as the years sift through your fingers, like grains of sand.  Or how you picture what your kids are going to look like, and fantasize about pushing them in backyard tire swings and holding their hands while they ride a bike for the first time or take them to their first day of school and read them bedtime stories. The fantasies that are ripped away from you every day by cold hard reality.

Or the fear that you might be slowly turning into your crazy aunt who never had kids.  You know the who I’m talking about; we all have one.  The one who sends out Christmas cards every year with pictures of her bichon-frises sitting in Santa’s lap.

But instead of focusing on what hurts the most, let me describe what helps the most; meeting other people such as Lori who have been through this and knows exactly how we feel.  Especially if they can put a humorous spin on what has otherwise been life’s most crushing disappointment. 

Philip Cottraux is a Pentecostal Christian Blogger, Bible Teacher, Writer for Jesus and Husband. http://www.depthsofpentecost.com/

**Update: A new doctor recently diagnosed Philip’s wife, Beth, with a thyroid issue and they are optimistic. .

**Please continue reading for more Father’s Day / Male-oriented posts… And if you’d like to get more laughs at infertility’s expense, please subscribe to my newsletter and check-out my books @ http://laughingisconceivable.com

Laughing IS Conceivable: One Woman’s Extremely Funny Peek into the Extremely Unfunny World of Infertility

Laughing IS Conceivable: One Woman’s Extremely Funny Peek into the Extremely Unfunny World of Infertility

Laughing IS Conceivable No Matter How Many You’re Carrying: Insanity in its Infancy

Laughing IS Conceivable No Matter How Many You’re Carrying: Insanity in its Infancy