Interview with a Dad: Sock-er Mom edition

Last week, I began a new interview series where I learn everything there is to know about being a dad.  Ryan was a real sport during that interview, but unfortunately he answered all my questions.  So even though this is only week two, I’m mixing it up a bit and interviewing a real mom.  Don’t worry though, she kind of has a boy’s name.

Without further ado, let’s get to my interview with Andriana Caradimitropoulo Spence, better known as Andy.  See a boy’s name.

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Men – The Answer To All Your Concerns About Pregnancy Is Here.

Everyone knows that pregnancy can be an anxious and trying time for women.  For years, savvy people have created profitable ideas for helping women navigate the process.

A wise person once said that behind every heterosexual, pregnant, egg-donor-free, “traditionally”-married, monogamous woman is a man.  As one of those men, I can assure you that we can use just as much help as our counterparts.  That’s why today, I’m thrilled to announce the greatest business idea I’ve ever created.

Introducing:  THE MOULA

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Medicinal Masturbation: The Man’s Role in IVF

This is part two of a hopefully lifelong series about fatherhood.  To read part one, Click Here

If you enjoy this, please support me by clicking through to the Elephant Journal:  http://www.elephantjournal.com/2013/01/medicinal-masturbation-the-mans-role-in-ivf-rob-pollak/

The IVF Process for Men:

The IVF process is horribly unbalanced.

The woman visits the hospital on an almost daily basis for monitoring and blood-testing, takes a slew of medications via injection (each with its own warning of side effects that eerily mirror PMS), and feels changes to her body that make it impossible to find the process anything other than all encompassing.

The male, on the other hand, is responsible for much much less.

In my case, I was responsible for parking the car near the hospital, guarding our coats in the waiting room, and making terribly unfunny and inappropriate jokes when I was allowed in the examination room.  (An example: “You could have at least bought her a drink first.”)

An IVF Checklist by Rob Pollak - The Man's Role in IVF

Speaking of inappropriate things . . . That reminds me of the other task I had during the process.  As a male donor, I had to visit the “Boom Boom Room.”

The Boom Boom Room

I visited the boom boom room (“BBR”) three times along the way.  If you’re not familiar with the BBR, it’s a magical place where male patients “provide” a “sample” of “specimen” that a doctor “uses” “for” “IVF.”  

In Japan, there are industries built around the BBR – even for the ladies. Although it sounds like the kind of place that one might want to visit every day, the room is actually equal parts terrifying and uncomfortable.

A typical visit to the BBR proceeds as follows:

First, you’re led to a waiting room where you and other patients desperately try to avoid eye contact.

Drawing by Rob Pollak - A man's role in the IVF process

Then, you wait for the nurse to come return to the waiting room and summon you to your stall.

The nurse then leads you to the room itself and explains the logistics of the room.  For the most part, it looks like a regular hospital room.

It’s cold.  There’s a sink and a generic painting of a tree.  For the fetishists, there’s a blood pressure machine and a stethoscope hanging on the wall.

The primary differences between the BBR and a regular room are that:

  1. the sterile hospital table has been replaced with a big brown barcalounger.  It has a small sheet of paper that “protects” you from the nude man-ass that previously occupied the seat; and
  2. there is a wide array of “recreational materials” around the room.

A drawing by Rob Pollak of the boom boom room:  where the man goes during IVF

The office I visited included an assortment of sources to help stimulate the imagination.   These included fine magazines such as Cherry, Barely Legal, and the aptly named, Juggs.

Or, for those with a more refined taste, a closed circuit television played a constant loop of three movies:

  1.  “The DaVinci Load,”
  2. Spanish Asses (en espanol), and
  3. Something that terrified me and is impossible to describe in either words or stick figures.

Once the nurse leaves, you try to figure out a way turn on the television without touching the remote or read the magazines without touching them.

If you can accomplish either of those tasks, then the anxiety kicks in and your mind fills with weird questions:

  • How long is too long to spend in the BBR?
  • Is the volume a little loud?
  • What does Chupas mis huevos mean?
  • Was the doctor serious when he said that if there were any problems that there’s a surgical procedure to remove the swimmers from the scrotum?
  • Isn’t scrotum a funny word?
  • Why can’t I have a room like this in my house?
  • Was there a DaVinci Load book?  I bet it was better than the movie.
  • Did I lock the door?
  • What’s in the garbage can that says “do not put garbage here?”
  • If I finish now, is the nurse going to judge me?

Next thing you know, you’re all done, so you complete the survey the nurse left with you and place the cup of specimen into a secret panel in the wall (seriously).  A magical fairy — (Please God let it be a magical fairy and not the andrologist who was sitting mere inches from me on the other side of the wall) — removes the sample, and then it’s out of your hands and up to science.

All that’s left to do is hope for a happy ending.

(Get it??  Happy ending?)

(Like the massage parlors)

(No, not the ABC sitcom)

——–

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Epididymis Isn’t a Greek Philosopher and Other Lessons I Wish I Learned in Health Class

A drawing of the IVF process by Rob Pollak

I learned a lot about life in 9th 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:

Train .gif

As it turned out, you don’t get a baby just by watching clips of trains driving into tunnels, geysers erupting, or 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 3 point scale.  If you pee a 1, you watch reruns of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.  If you pee a 3, well let’s just say that one time Anne peed a 3 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.

A drawing of the IVF process by Rob Pollak

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 yamulke 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!

A drawing of IVF by Rob PollakBecause 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 2 – 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)