Go­ing through IVF.

GQ (Australia) - - INSIDE - DAN ROOK­WOOD

THOSE WHO REG­U­LARLY READ THIS COL­UMN (BOTH OF YOU) MAY RE­CALL I’VE TWICE WRIT­TEN ABOUT TRY­ING FOR CHIL­DREN IN THE PAST FEW YEARS. The fact that I have not sub­se­quently men­tioned the ar­rival of a sproglet may lead you to sup­pose those at­tempts have so far proven un­suc­cess­ful. And you’d be right. When you’re grow­ing up, you never imag­ine hav­ing any dif­fculty in The Down­stairs Depart­ment. Most young men pre­sume they’re as vir­ile as Black­ad­der’s throb­bingly pri­apic Lord Flash­heart, whose vul­gar boasts would be ac­com­pa­nied by pelvic thrusts: ‘The last per­son I called ‘dar­ling’ was preg­nant 20 sec­onds later. Woof!’ You ar­ro­gantly as­sume that as, and when, you and your part­ner de­cide the time has come for kids, you’ll just dis­pense with the usual pre­cau­tions and let na­ture take its course. But na­ture’s course can be more cir­cuitous than ex­pected. Wrong turns, dead ends, break­downs can all crop up along the way. And, if you take the sign­post marked IVF, so too does mas­tur­bat­ing into plas­tic cups. ‘Do you have kids?’ It’s a ques­tion I’m of­ten asked as a man in my mid-30s. ‘Not yet, but we’re try­ing,’ I re­ply. Fact is we’ve been try­ing for the past fve years – and we’ve given just about ev­ery­thing a go. As a younger man, I was dis­mis­sively scep­ti­cal of any­thing con­sid­ered ‘al­ter­na­tive’ or ‘new-age’, or bull­shit. But as time’s gone on, I’ve (had to) be­come more open-minded. Some of it – yoga, med­i­ta­tion, a daily zinc tablet – has been bene­f­cial for well­be­ing if not in cre­at­ing an­other hu­man. Other ideas – my wife’s place­ment of crys­tals and fer­til­ity stones around the bed, for ex­am­ple – not so much. We may be able to or­der a taxi, a movie, din­ner or a booty-call at the swipe of a phone. Ba­bies, how­ever, aren’t so easy to de­liver. At times it’s felt like we’ve been star­ring in our own dis­ap­point­ing rom-com, or­gan­is­ing our di­aries around my wife’s monthly cy­cle. The joy of sex is dif­fcult to main­tain when it be­comes a per­func­tory trans­ac­tion, per­formed to or­der when the ovu­la­tion sticks and fer­til­ity apps dic­tate op­ti­mal con­di­tions. And it’s hard to stay pos­i­tive when the home preg­nancy tests keep com­ing back neg­a­tive, month af­ter month. Things be­come in­creas­ingly stress­ful, which is coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. And as the pain in­ten­sifed of see­ing oth­ers suc­ceed where we fail, we self-im­posed a Face­book ban. In­fer­til­ity. It’s a scary, emo­tion­ally charged taboo. For a long time, it re­mained un­said in our house, the ele­phant in the room to ex­plain the ab­sence of an in­fant in the womb. Med­i­cally, in­fer­til­ity is defned as ‘the in­abil­ity to con­ceive a preg­nancy af­ter 12 months of un­pro­tected sex­ual in­ter­course’ (which sounds like the mother and father of all Tantric ses­sions). It af­fects more peo­ple Down Un­der than you might think: one in six Aussie cou­ples of re­pro­duc­tive age strug­gle to get preg­nant, ac­cord­ing to the Fer­til­ity So­ci­ety of Aus­tralia. And it’s a trend on the up: in­fer­til­ity ex­pected to im­pact one in three cou­ples within a decade due to us all leav­ing it later, de­ter­mined to live our own lives frst. But Sam and I started early enough: she was 30 when she came off the pill, I was 32. We’re ft and healthy. We’ve done all the tests and there’s no med­i­cal rea­son for our strug­gles – ours a frus­trat­ing case of ‘un­ex­plained in­fer­til­ity’. And so, inevitably, in­ex­orably we ended up at the IVF clinic. Th­ese days test-tube ba­bies are in­creas­ingly com­mon: 1 in 50 births the re­sult of IVF, and ris­ing each year. Still, this wasn’t how I en­vi­sioned con­ceiv­ing a child. Sat in a greige wait­ing room flled with cou­ples on cheap two-seater so­fas, all around the same age, all with sim­i­lar ex­pres­sions of pained hope. We each flick dis­tract­edly through out-of-date mag­a­zines, avoid­ing any con­tact, wait­ing our turn. All of a sud­den, I’m called. They check my name and date of birth. I’m asked to ini­tial my name and date of birth on the test-tube stickers that will en­sure my baby gravy isn’t mis­taken for any­one else’s. I’m then shown to a cu­bi­cle. In the cor­ner sits a leather arm­chair cov­ered in a dis­pos­able sheet. A sign by the sink tells me to wash my hands. I press the Ap­ple TV re­mote con­trol and the screen comes to life with a menu of adult movies. There are some sorry-look­ing porn mag­a­zines in a drawer be­neath the TV. I try hard to block out thoughts of those who’ve come be­fore in this wipe-clean room. I re­ally don’t want our child to ar­rive into the world via the aid of pornog­ra­phy. If I must do it this way, it’s im­por­tant, to me, that the only per­son I think about is my wife. Some­how I feel it will make a dif­fer­ence. Job done, I screw the lid on the cup and hold it up to the strip­light. Is that enough? Is my child in there? Was that an ap­pro­pri­ate amount of time to take? I open the hatch in the wall and place the cup in­side. For some rea­son I give it the thumbs up as I close the hatch. And then, sheep­ishly, I leave the clinic and go to work. The men get off lightly, so to speak. IVF is much more in­va­sive for women. We re­turned to the clinic a few days later for the em­bryo trans­fer. Six eggs had fer­tilised. We de­cided to place two em­bryos to in­crease our chances of preg­nancy and freeze the other four for pos­si­ble use down the track. And then ev­ery evening for the next three weeks, I flled a 4cm-long sy­ringe with the hor­mone pro­ges­terone and in­jected my wife in the but­tocks to in­crease the like­li­hood of suc­cess. Par­ent­hood isn’t for ev­ery­one. But you at least hope to be able to make that call, not have it made for you. Hu­man na­ture dic­tates that the harder you’re made to work for some­thing and the tougher the strug­gle, the more you want it. Hell, I’m des­per­ate to be a dad. And all be­ing well, by the time you read th­ese words, I will be. Like buses, you wait ages for one, then two come at once. We’re ex­pect­ing twin girls in April. n

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