January 4, 2013

Epididymis Isn’t a Greek Philosopher & Other Lessons I Wish I Learned in Health Class ~ Rob Pollak

The IVF experience from a man’s perspective.

I learned a lot about life in ninth grade health class.

I learned that condoms go on bananas, drugs are bad and girls immediately get pregnant if you look at their boobs instead of their eyes.

Through a lot of trial and error—and one horribly embarrassing conversation in which I insisted that the Fallopian tube was part of a trombone—I now realize that health class didn’t teach me everything. Particularly when it comes to pregnancy. That’s because a wrestling coach who was coerced into teaching one semester of health may not have been the best person to teach me.

All of this is just a long winded way of saying that my wife Anne and I have spent the last few years trying to have a baby. It all started when we realized that there were times when kids could actually be cute. (Overalls, yes. Spit up, no. Sunglasses, yes. Afterbirth, no.)

And since the entirety of my knowledge of human biology came from that health class, I was surprised at how difficult it was to add a little one to the family.

Believe me, after we pulled the proverbial goalie, we gave it a valiant effort:

As it turned out, you don’t get a baby just by watching clips of fireworks exploding in midair. The real process involves way more than that.

For many people, it can take years, involves elaborate scheduling, and includes a monitor that measure ovulation on a three point scale.

If you pee a one, you watch reruns of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. If you pee a three, well let’s just say that one time Anne peed a three while she was in Delaware and I was summoned across three state lines.

It was perhaps the greatest moment of my life.

And for us, none of that seemed to work, so the process involved asking for medical help in the form of in vitro fertilization (IVF). As if pregnancy wasn’t already scary and overwhelming enough, the IVF process is complex and intimidating. When Anne first called to set up an informational meeting, the nurse walked her through the schedule of an entire IVF cycle, our child’s birthdate, the theme for his first birthday party, the song he’d dance to at his wedding and the massive inheritance he would receive from the proceeds of my million dollar blog.

If you’re freaking out at the level of oversharing that’s happening in this post, don’t fret.

My intention in writing this post is to remove the veil of secrecy that prevents people from talking about this process and to help others navigate it. Because, for me, it took a while to realize that the lesson from high school Health class—that pregnancy is easy—turns out to be wrong. Pregnancy and fertility are way more complex and terrifying than I had ever imagined.

Orientation and Background Testing


If you also didn’t pay attention in your high school biology or health classes, then you may be in for a surprise when you start the IVF process. Thankfully our experience began with orientation, which consisted of an extremely patient nurse walking us through an interminable PowerPoint presentation.

After the orientation we were herded into the blood room. I call it that because it’s the room where women go to provide vial upon vial of blood to a staff of nurses who constantly ask for their birth dates. That first day, I watched a nurse remove 25 gallons of blood, one 2-ounce vial at a time, from Anne’s vulnerable little arm. The experience looked terrible, and I thanked my lucky stars that I didn’t have to participate.

A moment later, however, the nurse asked me if I was Jewish. She probably had racially profiled me based on my massive schnoz, superior intellect and yarmulke tan. I answered “yes,” but was unprepared for what happened next. She sat me down in the chair, alcohol’ed up my arm, and stabbed me in the vein with an Olympic javelin sized needle.

Moments later, when I came to, a group of amorphous blurs in scrubs were shoving smelling salts in my face. My shirt was sopping wet with sweat, and I had achieved a level of paleness that bordered on translucent. Our IVF experience was off to a great start!

Because I had thoroughly embarrassed the family, I was pleased to find that, from that day forward, my only responsibility was to hold Anne’s coat. Anne, on the other hand, was the subject of constant examination. Most of which involved a small army of doctors sending the Hubble telescope into areas of Anne’s body that she would be uncomfortable having me mention on the internet.

Up next: Part two—Actually, there was one other thing I had to do… My trip to the Boom Boom Room! (Follow my Facebook page to receive an update when I post.)


Rob Pollak plans to get famous via the internet.  You can follow his journey, writing and drawings at www.robpollak.com, twitter.com/robpollak, or facebook.com/PollakComplains

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Ed: Kate Bartolotta

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