Fertility Issues and Gratitude

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Soleil Blows out the Cake

On October 29, my beautiful girl Soleil turned two years old.

People that know me understand how much I love my daughter, something I’ve written about before on this blog. But many of you don’t know why I am so grateful.

Of course, normal parental love factors into it. There’s also the very desperate reality I faced about infertility and not being able to father a child.

Rarely do you hear male fertility discussed, and that’s probably because from a guy’s perspective it’s akin to or even worse than erectile dysfunction.

Men want to be perceived as virile, not infertile.

My Story

After five years of trying to have a child, we found ourselves at the fertility doctor’s office.

Because of a prior pregnancy earlier in my life, I was certain the issue had to with my wife Caitlin, who was 39 at the time.

Yet, the doctor looked at me as she started to deliver the bad news.

She told me that my sperm count was abnormally low, extremely low in fact, roughly 30% after testing. And that I had “slow swimmers” (WTF?!?!?!).

Caitlin was going to start hormone treatment the month following to make it easier for my boys because of the short window we both had. It was unlikely they could do it on their own.

In addition, it was suggested that I take several steps:

  • Stop smoking cigars
  • Stop riding bikes (At that time I was riding both a traditional bicycle and a motorcycle)
  • Switch from boxer briefs to old school boxers (cough)
  • Eat healthier
    • I followed this direction. By the grace of God, Caitlin did conceive, and she carried to term.

      You can see why I am so grateful to even have Soleil in my life.

      Male Infertility

      Me, Running the Tough Mudder
      At 40, it’s easier for me to run a Tough Mudder than father a child.

      Women often shoulder the lion share of the fertility guilt, but as my experience and studies show men, too, can become infertile over time.

      The issues span beyond straight-forward conception.

      In fact those same studies show that a man at 40 or older is 5-75 times as likely to father a child with autism, too.

      In my case, at the “ripe old age” of 40, it’s very unlikely that I can father another child.

      I have three more years under my belt, three more years of age, cigars, long bicycle rides, and boxer briefs (hahahahahaha!). Three more years of increasing infertility with degrading sperm.

      Do I feel like less of a man for it? No.

      What this experience taught me was a bit more gender humility. Even though I tend to lean towards feminism, I never understood the shame a woman could feel about the time is ticking conversation. Now I think I get that.

      It also taught me that men need to talk about this stuff more openly, thus this post.

      You know what? Shit happens in life.

      Was my infertility embarrassing? Yeah, but if we don’t address problems directly, shame develops.

      Looking forward, the only likely course for another child would be adoption. And that’s something I’d be proud to do with great love for whomever the child might be. I have several friends who have happily chosen this path to parenthood.

      If you are a man with fertility issues, you probably don’t want to comment. I get that. Just know that you are not alone. I hope this post helps.

      And if you have children, adopted or your own, be very, very grateful.

      I know I am. It means even more given the struggles. When I talk about this matter or Soleil has another incredible moment, I still tear up (big baby) because I did not think I’d ever be in this position.

      What are you grateful for?

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  • http://twitter.com/belllindsay Lindsay Bell

    Wow, brave post Geoff. As someone who went through it as well (my fault – LOL) – I know only too well the frustration and pain it can cause. Hold tight to your beautiful girl. As I do to my Beckett. Or, as I affectionately call him: My one kick at the can!! xoxo

    • geofflivingston

      Yes, and we’re the lucky ones. I think that’s important to remember, too.

      I also have friends who want no part in having a kid. I can’t blame them. What can you say to that? Better to know than not to know, and respect that, too. That’s as valid a path as any.

  • donnapapacosta

    I too am grateful to have my children in my life, and was very fortunate to not experience fertility issues. (A miscarriage was difficult enough!) You’ve shared a brave post here, Geoff.

    • geofflivingston

      Yeah, I can’t imagine the pain that causes. You hear the stories and see friends go through that, but it’s just got to be so hard.

  • http://twitter.com/lorirusso Lori Russo

    Wonderful post, Geoff. Thank you for sharing your story. It is plain to see there is something really special between you and Soleil.

    • geofflivingston

      I am sure it is the same with you, too. I saw the Snow White pics, mama! You guys look great together.

  • http://alphaefficiency.com Bojan Djordjevic

    Oh Man, I feel bummed for you. I don’t know how I would feel about that.

    • geofflivingston

      Hahahahaha! Don’t, it all worked out in the end. And I had no choice but to face it. We all have our crosses to carry.

  • http://twitter.com/KDillabough Kaarina Dillabough

    Wonderful, brave, strong, inspiring post. No embarrassment should be felt, no shame. Look at the beautiful outcome of the steps you took, and how wonderfully generous of you to share your story.

    • geofflivingston

      Thank you! Funny, I really don’t want to see how this post is doing in spite of my TweetEsteem issues! I do hope it helps a few folks. If so, then it was worth pushing “Publish.”

  • http://www.margieclayman.com Marjorie Clayman

    Just when I think I can’t adore you any more.

    It is a sad and seldom discussed fact in our society today that infertility for anyone is extremely taboo. When I was first diagnosed I found a forum board (no social media way back then!) and the stories I heard were hard to believe – couples were guilted by their parents/in-laws, asked accusatory questions, and that was with people who loved them! Even doctors are callous and unfeeling when it comes to telling people that they can’t have children the natural way. It becomes a scientific discussion, and I don’t think doctors are trained to understand the hammer effect it makes.

    Perhaps the most horrific thing, truly, about infertility is that people are made to feel guilty about it like they did something wrong. The advice you were given, when looked at from another side, could make a man feel like he had done something to cause his problems. “Oh, your pants are too tight.” Women are told they’re too fat or this or that. Sometimes, inexplicably, crap just happens.

    I couldn’t be happier that things worked out as well as they did for you and Caitlin. The sunshine of Soleil’s soul is clearly visible in every picture. Couldn’t have happened to a better guy, in my opinion.

    Thanks for this post.

    • geofflivingston

      You know, it’s funny, I felt really bad after that doctor’s appointment. I felt shamed actually by the doctor, who seemed accusatory (at least in my mind). It was clear that she thought it was self inflicted, and given the result, I guess you could argue that. Perhaps they can have the conversation with the jeans and underwear manufacturers, too. LOL!

      But, I just followed the direction and assumed the worst. Guess I still had a little left in the engine, in spite of myself.

      Thank you for your warm comment!

  • http://www.jasonkonopinski.com/ Jason Konopinski

    Why is my screen all blurry again? Dammit, is someone cutting onions in here?

    • geofflivingston

      Sorry! Can’t write a silly TweetEsteem post every week, brother.

  • colinstorm

    A very courageous post Geoff, thank you! I have not only seen family members placing guilt and blame on people, but have seen husbands do the same, even when they are the ones who have been diagnosed. Rather than own it, they go into denial because this concept of male infertility can carry so many misplaced connotations.

    In the end this is a pertinent reminder for me to be grateful as we “deal” with a bit of surprise news on the other end of the spectrum (times 2). So, this is not something I relate to directly, but I feel challenged to consider if I would have the courage to A: own the issue and be man enough to not be ashamed of it or lay undue blame on my wife, and B: to speak openly about it to the benefit of other men in the same boat, and ultimately to women who tend to be “blamed”.

    On behalf of those who may not be interested in commenting openly here. Thank you again Geoff.

    • geofflivingston

      Thanks, bro. Not publicly talked about, but a well read post nonetheless. And keep in mind it took three years to be able to talk about this openly. It was not easy, and I did talk about it with my wife before doing it.

  • http://joshuawilner.com/ Josh

    I have three good friends who went to the “clinic” because they were were “challenged” by male infertility issues. It is not something that most of us think about, but I am glad you shared this.

    I spent a lot of time with one of the guys just listening because he was truly devastated by the news. I don’t know how I would have felt, but I think you have provided a real service with this post.

    • geofflivingston

      Yeah, sounds about right. I was mortified when I found out, but you know, I just did what she told me to and it worked out. I know most aren’t so lucky.

  • KeAnne

    Great post! I dealt w/ infertility for 4 years before having my son via surrogacy. Thank you for sharing your story; the point of view from men suffering from infertility is often missing.

    • geofflivingston

      Thank you for your support. I did debate posting this for a few days.

  • http://milaspage.com/ Mila Araujo

    I am grateful for incredibly genuine and honest posts like this Geoff. There is a certain kind of magic that happens when people share like this, I can’t wrap my mind around it but undoubtedly it creates something very connecting and important.

    This is an issue I’ve certainly never read about, and I think you’ve truly hit the mark. I almost didn’t comment because I’m a woman, lol, but as a woman I can say I think when you love someone it really doesn’t matter – there should be no shame – there should be only admiration in the fact that so much effort and care and worry goes into this by the man. It’s pretty remarkable, we all have our challenges in this human journey of life. It’s a gift to have someone to share it with, like your beautiful wife, and I am so glad for you both you have this beautiful little angel- through challenge- even more so… Thank you for sharing his honest, honest story. It does give much to think about and be grateful for.

    • geofflivingston

      Thank you, Mila. It was a difficult decision to share the story, but the truth is I know this issue causes great shame and as you say there should be none.

      It’s easier for me to discuss it because I got through it. It’s also easier to discuss it because much of it is self inflicted by life style, but not all me are so stupid/lucky to be able to take action. That being said I felt horrible shame and walked through it. In turn, this produced a good story that if shared can help others.

      Sometimes, I think we have to put aside looking good to help others. In fact, whenever possible. So I did. I appreciate that others like you see the value in such a post. Thanks for telling me so!!!

  • Guest

    I love posts by people being thankful in life. I’m thankful for a lot of things. Mostly, I’m just thankful for the general level of happiness I feel most days. At 45, without kids or a spouse, I still feel just as excited about every day, as I did at 18. I love writing, reading, learning, playing, tweeting, and the adventure that is life.

    I’m one of those people who has happily chosen a path that doesn’t include kids, mostly because, well, I don’t believe that people should take for granted that they would be a good parent. If one doesn’t want to feed and clothe and pay attention to an offspring, then one shouldn’t go that route.

    Life is great and I’m thankful for all that I have.

    • geofflivingston

      That’s good stuff, brother. And I like that you shared gratitude without kids. This is an honorable path. Sometimes parents like me look at our navels a bit too much when discussing children!

  • http://twitter.com/TheSalesLion Marcus Sheridan

    Powerful, personal, and as real as it gets Geoff. It’s post like this that make the internet such an amazing tool for good.

    • geofflivingston

      Yes, indeed! And thank you for your support, Marcus.

  • http://womeninbusinessradio.com Michele Price

    Refreshing – open grown up conversations. It still amazes me how we can let others cause of to feel less than. I have.

    My father-in-law made an insensitive comment when I got pregnant with my son. About being overly fertile – like how the hell would he know if I was or not? For some reason he thought it was ok to diminish me because we choose to plan our pregnancy and were lucky we were young and healthy.

    Having lost two babies, I Know the pain it causes to want to be a parent. I know the joy it brings to be fully present being a parent.

    Now, said son makes me a proud grandparent. Watching him be an attentive father is wonderful payback for the hard times as a parent.

    • geofflivingston

      Wow, I’m not sure what family members think. For my part, I really didn’t tell my folks. Hahahahahahha!

      I am so glad things worked out for you, Michele. Losing a child is just terrible. Things always seem to work as they should.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rae.barcus Rae Barcus

    I really agree with your point when it comes to male fertility. It’s not that widely spoken compared to a woman’s fertility. Great story man, keep living life to the fullest.

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