What's IVF like for the male partner? We spend a lot of time talking about the experience of infertility treatment for the person going through treatment, but what about their partner? We talk with Keegan Prue, the author of "The IVF Dad." He and his wife Olivia went through two rounds of IVF and suffered two miscarriages before welcoming their daughter.
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Welcome, everyone to Creating a Family talk about infertility. I'm Dawn Davenport. I am the host of this show as well as the director of the nonprofit, creating a family.org. Today we're going to be talking about the IVF process from the male partners perspective. We'll be talking with Keegan Prue is an educator and author from upstate New York. And he and his wife, Olivia went through two rounds of IVF and suffered two miscarriages before welcoming their daughter into this world. And Keegan wrote a book about his experience called the IVF dad. And this book shares their story, and also discovers the process of infertility and offers tips for both men as well as couples to support their mental well being through what can be a challenging family building process. So welcome Keegan, to Creating a Family. We're so happy to have you.
Thanks so much, Dawn, it's really an honor to be here. And I'm so happy to talk about this really important topic.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book, the IVF dad it, I don't think we hear enough from the mint males perspective. So thank you so much. It's a it's it has been well received.
Oh, it really has. It's been just a thrill to hear from people really all around the world in Australia and the UK, and of course, here in the states who are at various points in their own journey. And then hearing from both both men and women and couples who have read the book and who have said it's really helping them understand how to approach the process, understand how to stay connected with each other, and how to support each other. That's just the most meaningful thing in the world to me, because I certainly know how lonely it can be. And so it's been really wonderful to get that reception to hear from folks about how it's been helpful.
You know, IVF can be an isolating and emotionally draining experience for both males and females. But I think that the professionals have spent much more time focusing on the experience of women or the person trying to conceive that on their male partner and and it's understandable, I mean, they are the ones going through the the treatment. I think that that's a mistake, however, because when there is a male partner, who is involved, their experience, influences everything, including their ability to support the person going through the actual treatment. Yeah, let me pause for a moment. And just for a word on terminology, you know, this is a tough one, because we're going to be referring to male and female man and woman. But we do know that many different configurations can be involved with making a baby. So we're going to try to make our language reflect that reality. But when we say male, female or man woman, that does not negate that others who the others who are experiencing this but not identifying as male or female. But this is a tough one, because we are specifically speaking of the experience, your experience, and the experience, the more the more usual experience, which is the woman is going through a woman is going through the treatment, and she has a partner who is a man. So let's start by telling your story to parenthood.
Sure, so our path to parenthood started just about five years ago, it was the summer of 2017. And we were in the process of moving from New York City, which is where my wife Olivia and I met to upstate New York, which is where we're based now and where I grew up. And at the point that we made that move, we had just gotten married, we, you know, had our jobs upstate, and so forth. And we said, I think we're ready to start growing our family, we definitely known that we wanted to have kids hope to have at least two or three more in our early 30s At this time, so we knew we, you know, would probably need to get started sooner rather than later, we wanted to meet that goal. And so just started to try to conceive, six or seven months went by and nothing had happened. So at that point, we, you know, had to have a conversation between ourselves to kind of understand, you know, how are we feeling about this, it seems like maybe something isn't working. We certainly read sort of the research and recommendations and saw that you should try for a year before pursuing health. But we also knew again, that we were in our in our early 30s, approaching our mid 30s and knew what our goals were. And so we decided to be proactive. At that point. I went to get checked out I got my semen analysis, Olivia went to her OBGYN and asked for a hormone workup and other testing. And basically everything at that point came back normal. You know, there was no adjustment if there was any issues, you know, between either of us so you know, the OBGYN said let's try three cycles of time intercourse with letrozole. See if that works. And hopefully we'll be we'll be done and hopefully that's all we need. Simultaneous to this, we sort of you know, maybe call it intuition, we'll call it just planning. But we reached out to a couple of the fertility clinics in the area decided on one that we thought would be a good fit and just made an initial consultation appointment for a couple of months down the road. Just with that, you know, foresight, we want to get this on the books just in case, obviously, we hope that the letrozole would work. But spoiler alert, it didn't. So we were glad that we kind of were very proactive at that point to say, We're gonna make this appointment, because everybody knows that it can take a while to get in, you know, with any sort of medical things. So, when we finally made it to the care, they redid a lot of the testing, it had been about five or six months since our initial testing, then we had that first conversation with our fertility doctor, and found out something kind of interesting, which was that Olivia has an H level was actually low for her age. And so this contradicted what we had heard from the OBGYN. And so that was a first kind of big takeaway for us was that, you know, a reproductive endocrinologist really has a different lens that they're bringing. So we're glad that we had been proactive. And so what resulted from this was, you know, the recommendation to go straight to IVF, given our age, given our family building goals, and so we dove right into it and started the IVF process got our first egg retrieval in the fall of 2018, did a fresh embryo transfer, which unfortunately resulted in the first miscarriage, regrouped for a couple of months, went back and had some additional frozen embryos. So we did a frozen embryo transfer the following February, which again, unfortunately resulted in a miscarriage of 12 weeks. And that was really the lowest point in our journey, that was a really difficult time when we had to really kind of reassess and regroup, which was good in some ways, it gave us some time to just reconnect, to do some travel to do some things that we had put off because of treatment, and also gave us some time to look into what other family building options were out there, we got to meet with some really wonderful adoption support groups in our area who were just tremendously helpful and really gave us a lot of hope during that time. But once we had kind of settled out, we went back to the RA, they did some additional recurrent Loss Testing for Olivia, which was helpful that revealed a blood clotting factor. So she said, let's add Lovenox, a blood thinner for future cycles, went back for another round of IVF and other retrieval, and then did PGT testing on those embryos, because we knew there was a genetic genetic factor to our losses. And then in October of 2019, did our third embryo transfer with a PGT tested embryo and that resulted in the birth of our daughter, and then now we're really happy to be expecting our second daughter next month, actually, again through IVF. So that is the journey.
Excellent. And your second daughter, congratulations, thank you, was she a frozen embryo that from the second cycle, she was
actually a frozen embryo from the first cycle. So she's a little bit unique, and that she her embryo was frozen and defrosted twice, which is not typical practice. But the research on double frozen embryos sort of shows that there's a pretty minimal effect now on, you know, the degree to which that affects implantation and ongoing pregnancy. So again, fortunate to work with a great clinic that has a great lab. And so yeah, a little bit unique there and that this embryo was actually created before our first daughter was born. So just one of those funny things that can happen with the the amazing science of fertility treatment,
I am sure your girls will have fun with that. And the younger one is going to use that to her advantage. And someday I have Lisa. All right. You know, one of the things I think that gets in the way oftentimes is for both men and women, quite frankly, is the imagined role that that that we think a male partner is supposed to bring to any situation. And that, of course, bleeds over into infertility. So what are some of the roles that you as well as other men, based on everything, the media, our society, the way we're raised, the stories were read? What are some of the things that we imagined that men are supposed to do, and be in any relationship and how they're supposed to approach? Anything, any message? Any, any, anything that we're doing, including IVF? Yeah, those
messages are so powerful. And so some of the ones that are probably sounding pretty familiar to everybody listening, you know, men should be strong. Men don't need support, they they help themselves, real men, you know, are able to, quote, get their, their partner pregnant, that Real men don't show emotion, you know, all of these messages. We're not saying they're true, of course, but they're very powerful. And as you said, Dom they're reinforced by media. They're reinforced by books we read, they're, they're reinforced by, you know, songs and really like everything that we hear in our lives. So whether we personally kind of feel like we believe in these things or not. I think there's a real power to them. And we we do bring those ideas into fertility treatment. And one of the things I really try to put front and center in the book is that those mindsets can actually be really limiting and may fertility treatment even harder?
Absolutely, and are not helpful to the female partner even I mean, you know, we'll meet another one that that, that we often miss me just if you just think of the commercials, we see real men take action, they fix the problem. If there's a sink broken the man, a real man anyway can fix it. And so it's hard to and so you approach infertility with, Okay, I'm going to fix this problem, but it's not within your power to do that.
No, that's not and there's so much that we that we can't fix, you know, and there's there are things that are within our control, but so much is out of our control during infertility. And so that can be a real challenge, I think for for those ideas that men tend to bring to it. And certainly I experienced this, you know, one of the ways that showed up for me was, you know, I felt I could take action by doing more research or finding things that you know, maybe Olivia or I could do to in terms of lifestyle changes to maybe increase our odds of success. So, you know, during one point in our treatment, I got really into researching how thyroid levels affect infertility, because Olivia has sort of minor hypothyroidism. And so I got into this mode of, you know, having 3540 tabs open up on my computer, looking at all these research studies and really getting obsessed over, you know, if I can just find that one thing that can fix what's going on. But of course, again, you know, that's that's not the case. And that only made me more anxious. And then, of course, made Olivia feel more pressure because I was, you know, going crazy, looking at all these studies, so So that certainly didn't help. Then Then again later, you know, kind of found some some research or suggestions or people posting on social media that you know, going gluten free help to solve their infertility issues. And then, you know, had one one crazy night where I got really down that rabbit hole and went to the grocery store and get all this gluten free stuff and had it all laid out before leaving, I got home from work. And she walked in and just took one look at me and was like, What are you doing? It wasn't helpful. But again, I think it goes back to that message of men fix things, men have to take action and do something. And so that was really not helpful for me. And actually, you know, it was we can laugh at it now, but was not the best action for me to take time for me or for Olivia,
I appreciate that. Because I tend to also think that I can solve problems through research. And it's a way of trying to take back control, obviously, when you feel out of control. But I did appreciate that it brought a lot of research to the book, the IVF dad, so one of the things can you share some of the things that you learned through your research and through discussing it with your RA that a male partner can do to improve the quality or quantity of their sperm?
Yeah, this is a great area where we do have some degree of control, you know, a couple of facts I always try to share to make sure that men and couples know is first of all, the most current research suggests that up to 50% of infertility issues where couples are experiencing infertility have some degree of male factor causing them, which I don't think is what people would expect with me again, you know, here's your messages have stereotypes, I think most people believe that most of the treatment is focused on the female partner, but that that research shows that, you know, there's a big contributing factor of male factor infertility. So I think that's really important for people to know. The second thing that's really important for people to know is it is possible to over time increase the quality and quantity of your sperm it takes about two to three months for the body to generate the sperm cells. And so over that time, you can see there's there's actually an opportunity to make some choices and make some adjustments in your own life that can optimize your your fertility. So a couple of things men can do, you know, first definitely is regular exercise. And I always say that can look however it makes sense for you, right, and you don't have to be going to join a crazy CrossFit class, although of course, you know, knock yourself out if that's for you. For me, I really like to walk I like to hike I like to get outside. It doesn't have to be something crazy, but just so it's things that can, you know, keep you healthy are really good that you know, the second thing that goes along with that, of course, is making adjustments to our diet, you know, it's, you know, not anything that is probably too surprising. But you know, high levels of smoking or alcohol intake or sugar intake, not generally good for sperm health. So if you can make some adjustments to include more fruits, vegetables, healthy proteins, that can all contribute to improving your sperm health. And then of course, talk to your doctor to there, there are certain vitamins, supplements, other things that may help. There's of course, a lot of information out there, some of which is more suspect. So make sure to talk to your doctor about that. But the important takeaway is it really is possible to optimize your sperm health and it's not always going to be a fix. You know, if you have an extreme case where maybe you don't have any sperm, or you have an extremely low sperm count, it may not make much of a difference, but anything that we can do to optimize our fertility is really important. And so, you know, there are some choices that we can make to do that.
Okay, excellent. So going back to the emotional side of things, what are some, when your wife was starting to go through treatment? What were some of the emotions that you felt and that others you've spoken with have felt other men have spoken with our men or those who are supporting a person trying to get pregnant? What are some ways that you felt when Olivia your wife was beginning infertility treatment? Yeah,
a lot of a lot of emotions, you know, first, definitely a lot of fear, fear that maybe the thing that we had really hoped for, we both wanted children so much. And we're both the type of people who wanted to be parents for really our entire lives. And so first was just that fear of, you know, something that we thought was kind of a given in our lives, and that we were told through so much of our lives is just something that will happen, was really threatened. And that was scary that that definitely brought in a lot of fear. And then, you know, of course, it made me angry, too, you know, I was, I was angry at thinking about, you know, the possibility of not having kids again, it seemed like something that was so certain was taken away, then then, of course, that that leads them to feeling a shame, because this tends to happen at a point in your life when everybody else, you know, is also kind of in their family building journey. So that can be a lot of pressure. And then, you know, there was also just feeling sort of worried for Olivia, right, I was very mindful of how she was feeling through this. And I knew what a toll it was taking on her. And so that I think kind of blends back into what you'd asked earlier about men and their roles, you know, I think, helped, or made me put a lot of pressure on myself around trying to be the strong partner, as you know, is that stereotype for men, because I was very mindful of how Olivia was feeling, saw what a toll this was taking on her. And, you know, that kind of pushed me sometimes to feel like I had to play that strong supportive role. That is the stereotypical role for the male. So yeah, it was it was all of these emotions of oneness and, of course, really, really difficult.
And also, the worry over the cost. I mean, let's be honest, you had insurance, and everyone does. But even with insurance, there are costs associated with infertility treatment, and not cost that you've been planning for for years and years, because you weren't planning if this is going to be a part of it. So yeah, that's another worry, that
can be a huge stressor. And again, we were so fortunate to have an insurance coverage for three cycles, because that can be such a huge source of worry. And again, going going back to kind of those, those stereotypes, I think a lot of men absorbed that message that you're supposed to provide for your family and, you know, take care of those sort of things. So that can really be a stress. And I think that's a big thing, that that people who haven't gone through infertility don't realize is that there are all these associated parts of your life that get affected by it from worrying about finances, too, you know, for somebody who potentially has to travel for treatment. Again, we're fortunate to have 30 minutes down the road, a fantastic clinic, but we know many people who travel, you know, two hours to get to their clinic, three hours, you hop on a plane and go, you know, across the world, in some cases, two minutes. So having to add all of those pieces in on top of just your everyday life where where it's, I think it's almost impossible to forget that you're going through this experience, you know, it's something that kind of runs through every part of your life is just really difficult. So that can put a lot of pressure on you, of course and on your partner to.
Absolutely, you raised a really good point that for most people, when they are for many, for many people, when they are going through infertility treatment, it is at a time of their life, where they are surrounded by their peers who are getting pregnant, seemingly getting pregnant quite easily. And some getting pregnant when they don't even want to be getting pregnant. And did you are Olivia are both feel jealous. I mean, that's a it's a tough emotion to feel. And it's an it's an isolating emotion. So yeah, talk to me about that.
It is we absolutely felt jealous. You know, I have one experience of some memorable I wrote about it a little bit in the book, but we had a New Year's Eve party and we had a bunch of friends over and you know, we're having a good time, it was sort of just as we were realizing that maybe we're having issues. But you know, this was a big party that we have every year with some close friends and was really nice. And I remember kind of stepping away for a moment and doing a quick scroll through social media and seeing one of our really good friends who had a pregnancy announcement. And, you know, despite how much fun I was having and how much you know, I'd look forward to getting together with everybody that just puts such a black mark on that night and I just remember that instant feeling of jealousy and anger, which which is so hard because these were also people who were really close friends and the ultimate irony of this is we later found out that these friends had also done IVF to have their their children so but it was definitely real and certainly you know, there were times in the grocery store to where we you know, walk down an aisle. On see a pregnant person down the aisle and do an about face and turn around. That was a very real experience. And so it was it was hard. And, you know, as we kind of opened up and talked to more friends about what we were going through, we we did find out that actually there were far more people than we could possibly have known or anticipated who had also have losses had fertility struggles. So that made us feel certainly less alone. But but that jealousy was very powerful at first.
And a lot of people don't want to share what they're going through because of all the things we've just talked about the the the emotions that you're feeling or that feeling like that there is something wrong with you, or just because there's more private people, but then there's, it's a catch 22 Because then they're not available for hearing. Now, in your case, it's your friends had had a successful IVF treatment, or are somebody else has gone through a miscarriage at 12 weeks, or two months or whatever. So it's it's a catch 22 To know how to do that.
It isn't I think it can be really hard for for men in particular, because of that, that kind of stereotype around not asking for help. Again, I think that whole idea of self sufficiency is something that's really looms large in the psyche of men. And so that was that was a hard lesson, certainly for me, and I think can be harder for male partners to learn is that you do need to reach out and hopefully what you'll find on the other side is similar to what we found that there are people who want to support you. And of course, people who have walked the same path before we're gonna be there for you in a different way.
And I think, especially if it is male factor infertility, but even if it isn't male factor, I do think a lot of men fall into this embarrassment of, I'm less of a man because I'm not able to eat produce sperm, or that is of a quality that can get my partner pregnant, or for whatever reason, even if you're producing sperm, I'm not doing it right. You know, there is something and I think that that, you know, we're talking about sex, and that is embarrassing. And so I think that that also plays in with men's ability to want to share.
Oh, yeah, yeah, absolutely. That that, again, feeling that, you know, to be a man, you have to be able to, you know, get your partner pregnant is something that can be pervasive ideas as wrong, as we know, that is right. And the one thing that really helps that I would encourage men to think about there is, you know, understanding that you can define for yourself what it means to be a man to be a father, and start to challenge the stereotypes. As hard as that is as pervasive as these stereotypes and ideas are in the media, we can start to change them. And that's another piece of research I always try to mention is there's so much exciting research out there about how we can change the way we think and how how our brains can really adapt and how the the ideas that we've maybe worn in over the years, we can start to change those by challenging them. So, you know, we can start to think about what does it mean to us to be a good father? What does it mean to us to be a man or manly man, I think a lot of the ideas that we come up with might sound a lot different than those stereotypes that we talked about earlier. Yeah,
Most assuredly, either. We do think and we mentioned at the beginning, that there's a lot of ideas, there's a lot of discussion about the person going through the treatment, and taking care of themselves. They're often thinking of doing some, you know, do massage, do acupuncture, do going to therapy, doing things that that support them take care of their mental health. But we don't spend much time thinking about taking care of the mental health of the supporting partner. What are some ways that the supporting partner can take care of themselves when their partner is going through treatment? And quite frankly, when they're going through treatment? Because if you're a couple, you're both going through it?
Yeah, absolutely. And first big thing for magazine, you need to know it's okay. And it's important to take care of yourself to again, you can you can easily fall into that idea of I need to be the one to take care of things, I need to be the one who's taking action. This is an instance where you really have to step back and say I need to support myself and my well being too. So a couple of really good ways you can do that. First, a big game changer and thing that I have found really effective is meditation. And I say meditation, but this can look different for different people. Right? If if prayer is meaningful for you, that might be you know, your form of meditation, if going out in the woods and hiking is something that gives you peace of mind. It's any practice that gives you a chance to kind of ease your mind find some peace can be really important because it's so easy during this time to fall into just that hamster wheel of anxious thinking of what's next. How are we going to pay for this? Where do we need to go? What's the next treatment? How's it gonna go? Whatever doesn't work, that I think anything that gives you some mental peace is really important. So So that's the first one. The second one is I definitely think that that physical activity can be a big, big help for Are men going again, find something that works for you. But certainly for me just being able to get out and walk or hike or get out in nature was really important to be able to kind of calm down. And then certainly the third big thing. So I think it's also really important to have somebody else to talk to, we spend so much time often during fertility treatment, only talking to our spouse to our partner, and it can be so isolating the gift that can be a challenge, right, you don't spend all of your time only having your partner as the person who you kind of have that emotional outlet with. So I really encourage men reach out to somebody, just one person who can kind of be an external ear for you, even if you're not having a conversation, just the act of telling them how you're feeling. And what you're going through can really be helpful. And this can be anybody who feels comfortable. It can be, of course, a therapist or counselor, it could be a friend, it could be maybe a family member, if you feel comfortable with that it could be a faith leader, if you're comfortable with that, or a coach or you know, another expert that you find out there. But I think it's so important to just take that step of having somebody to share what you're going through with. And again, men can feel that self sufficiency. So getting out and having somebody who can help you is so important. And again, just that act of sharing can really take a big burden off your shoulders.
I want to take a moment to thank Prayas international sperm and egg bank for their support of this show and our mission, quite frankly, of providing unbiased medically accurate information. They have been with us for a long time and we truly appreciate their support. cryos international sperm and egg bank is dedicated to providing a wide selection of high quality, extensively screened frozen donor sperm and eggs from all races, ethnicities and phenotypes. They prepare it for both home insemination as well as fertility treatment. Prayas International is the world's largest sperm bank and the first freestanding independent egg bank in the United States, helping to provide the gift of family. We also want to thank RMA associates of New York, they are one of the largest infertility practices in that state, as well as one of the largest in the country. By combining the latest innovations in reproductive sciences with compassionate and customized treatment plans, RMA of New York is able to provide the very best possible care. And now let's talk about the role of the shot giver. Now, not always does the partner give the shots, but very often the partner does give the shots. Most often that person is not a trained shot giver, or certainly wasn't trained before this. So what was that experience? Like? Again, we focus on the woman's experience of being the receiver of the shots. And then of course, that's a real thing, and also the hormonal fluctuations and the emotional impacts. I'm not negating that in any way. But I do think that we don't spend much time thinking about what it's like for the person to have to learn and then impose pain, albeit not huge pain, but still, shots are not pleasant. So and just not knowing what you're doing. So talk about what was that experience like for you?
Yeah, it definitely brings up a lot of complex feelings. I mean, on one hand, it certainly made me feel more involved. And like, there was something I can do because Olivia was very potent, really didn't want to give herself shots, which I think is something a lot of people can relate to, right, the the idea of having to give yourself dozens or hundreds of shots is not the most comfortable thing. And so at least on one hand, it was a way I could help. But certainly on the other hand, I felt very hesitant, very anxious about as you said, you know, caught doing something that was gonna make, it was gonna give Olivia pain, right, it was gonna be a painful shot, we had to do multiple shots every night during our IVF cycles. We now as I had mentioned earlier, Olivia also does Lovenox during her pregnancies. So we're at the point where it's literally been hundreds of shots because Lovenox is a daily through her pregnancies. So it was very, very complicated, I would say, but I think there are a couple of things that can help prepare, you know, first is generally your fertility clinic is going to provide some good resources for you to help you really understand the whole process and procedure for giving those shots. Take some time to review those, I must have watched the instructional videos and materials they sent, you know, probably 10 or 15 times before we even got to that first shot, just making sure I really understood everything that I had everything well in hand and well prepared. You know, the second thing I did that really helped was I made myself a checklist of just sort of the dosages, the preparations, all the materials I needed. You know, that's that's something that worked for me. I'm a checklist maker and kind of all parts of my life. But having that in front of me really helped me just kind of stay calm, stay present in the moment and when I was feeling anxious about having to give Olivia shot, you know whether this was going to going to hurt her, you know, that whole experience of doing it. It helped me kind of understand, Okay, I'm doing everything. I'm not gonna let that At whatever I'm feeling in terms of anxiety or worry get in the way of making sure that we do this, right? Because of course, you have that feeling to where you maybe you've paid 1000s of dollars for these for these injections that you're giving, and you're like, I don't want to mess up a single dose because that's hundreds of dollars that, you know, the beat would be thrown out. So layer that on top of everything.
Yeah, exactly. Talk about pressure. Oh, yeah. Yeah, liquid gold is what your score it again?
Oh, my gosh, yeah, it's, it's crazy to think about it, you know. But yeah, and the last thing that really helped us was just creating kind of a fun, tradition or thing to kind of take our minds off the shots, we always listen to some good music, while we were doing while we were preparing for the shots. And that just gave us a little bit of ease and peace of mind. And something that could calm us down a little bit as we're getting into it. And of course, it becomes a routine, you know, after you do do it 10 times you will feel like an old pro. But especially in those first couple of times preparation is so key
I know of of couples who do an audiobook, and during the seems to me that would take the mind, it would take the partner person giving the shots, I'm not sure I would want that, but they do not end there. So they semi looked forward to it every evening. So wherever it finds her away, what is speaking of of the relationship and what you can do to support that. What are some tips for staying connected with your partner through the stress of fertility treatment?
Yeah, I always say view the fertility treatment process as much as possible as an opportunity to work together to work as a partnership. Because the more you view it that way, the more it's going to be something that keeps you connected. So that's that's sort of the first thing is just, I really encourage men to just stay involved in the fertility treatment process. And that's attending appointments to the extent that you can doing research, I spent a lot of time as we were sort of early in our in our process, just listening to podcasts, and reading blogs and learning about all the different types of treatments and diagnoses. And that just helped me a lot because it helped me feel like I could participate in conversations with our RA and our medical team more. More cogently is an active participant in that I could support Olivia. So I'd really encourage folks first to just, you know, do that research. So you can be involved. But then as you get into the process, you really need to make time to stay connected with your partner. And so a couple of things I would definitely recommend and, you know, continue to to make time for date nights, you know, trips away special time, that's just for you and your partner. And it's not related to fertility treatment, because we know it can be so all encompassing. So set aside those times to do the, you know, whatever is meaningful for you, whether that's, you know, going out for a hike and a picnic or you know, going to a nice restaurant or going to, you know, a movie and dinner, make the time to do those things as much as it can feel sometimes like we have to put all of our time and effort into the next treatment or the next cycle, it's so important to still have that dedicated time with your partner. I think the other thing to keep in mind too, just in terms of, you know, remaining connected in terms of intimacy during this time is there going to be points when you know, your partner may be very uncomfortable if you're doing IVF before an egg retrieval, it's a very uncomfortable time after an egg retrieval can be uncomfortable to so think of ways that you can maintain your intimacy, you know, whether that's maybe just cuddling up on the couch and watching a movie or things like that, I think it's very important to keep that in mind. But also to know that there are points in the process where that happens. And then the last thing certainly is just along the lines of of maintaining that partnership, you know, if your partner is making efforts to maybe, you know, go to some workout classes or make some dietary changes, be a participant in that, you know, don't don't make that something that your partner has to do alone. I think it's a great opportunity to connect and work together you know, go to the gym together, find some recipes that you can cook together and then share I think anything you can do to to work as a partnership and and you know, do this together will help you stay connected.
As you mentioned, you and Olivia experienced two miscarriages one relatively early, but one at the 12 week point where you were expecting to affect we're graduating to a leaving the leaving the infertility clinic and miscarriages is devastating. It's devastating for anyone who is wanting the pregnancy. I personally think it's doubly devastating when you've worked so hard to get pregnant. But nonetheless, it's it's it's a tough time and it's a time that's I think from the we don't give men permission to grieve it when we allow the woman or hopefully we allow the woman to grieve this loss. So talk about how did you deal with the miscarriage for yourself while still supporting your partner?
Yeah, It was, it was such a difficult time, because that was certainly a time where it were felt like there was a lot of a lot of kind of rushing to check in with Olivia and support her and a little bit less for me which again, totally understandable, right, she, she does a really difficult experience, you know, the DNC procedure at the hospital, which is just, you know, all really, really difficult, but it certainly felt like I was a little bit on my own at certain points there. And so, you know, the first thing I think is so important is just, you know, for men that can bring up something like a pregnancy loss can bring up a lot of those emotions, that we are really particularly encouraged or discouraged, I should say, from showing, you know, it brings up sadness, disappointment, maybe depression, and those are things in particular that I think, you know, it can feel not okay to show those things as men. So if you're going through a miscarriage, I really encourage you to make sure that you have an outlet for those emotions. And that can be a few different things, you know, you could see a therapist or counselor that would certainly help you could do some some journaling or writing I think sometimes for men, it can feel a little bit more comfortable to write down what you're feeling, rather than feeling like you have to tell somebody about it. But then, you know, eventually make sure you make space to talk with your partner too. And I think you can also kind of think about, you know, what's a meaningful way for you to commemorate work sort of process the grief of the miscarriage. You know, I say in the book for me, I was, you know, out in our garden one morning after our second miscarriage, and just kind of, you know, as I was planting a few flower seeds really just took a moment and kind of, you know, sent up a silent prayer, if you will, just kind of saying, Thank you for the experience, you know, we're, we're so sorry, that we lost you little on. And that for me, just kind of was a really small moment that just helped me kind of commemorate, because I think that's something that can feel so difficult about miscarriage too, is, you know, when when we lose other people in our lives, there's some sort of commemoration or celebration. But there's, there's not always that when you have a miscarriage, and whether it's, you know, a miscarriage at five weeks, or 12 weeks, or wherever it is, that still feels like a tremendous loss to and so make time to commemorate that loss in some way. You know, maybe it's writing a letter to that, you know, maybe that can be really meaningful experience for some people. But whatever you do make that space to really process those feelings and commemorate it. Because if you don't, you know, those feelings are just gonna stay inside and while up, you really need to make space to let them out and then talk to your partner about it, too.
Yes. Interestingly, one of the things that I appreciated the most about the book, the IVF, Dad, is that you spend time discussing the role of infertility nurses, I say all the time that I think that infertility nurses plays such an important role in the process of treatment. And they're often the ones who have the most direct relationship to the couple to the patient to the patient's partner, if there is one. But we again, we it's like, their role is totally overshadowed by the the role of the ar e. And I really appreciated that you talked about your experience. You've had various different nurses and various different experiences, and I thought it would be helpful to talk about for one of the one of your nurses, you said you wanted to nominate her for sainthood? Yeah. And so, so Okay, so let's talk about her. And then we will contrast her to some that were not as helpful. But what did I think you felt her? Jennifer? What did she do that made the very stressful experience of infertility and its treatment more bearable for you, as the male partner?
Yeah, well, you know, she was just so wonderfully compassionate and clear with us. And we always really appreciated that, you know, at every step in the process, and as you said, you know, the infertility nurses were really 90% I would say, of our communication and support, we of course, loved our sorry, but, you know, we are already at sort of the big points in treatment. And day to day we we spent a lot of time on the phone with our infertility nurses getting updates on growth, a number of growth and next steps for treatments and so forth. So so they were really the front lines and we, you know, developed a real relationship with Jennifer as I call her, but she was always really wonderfully compassionate, you know, during our losses was always had just the kindest words, and it's just as simple as acknowledging them, but also really helped us she was very clear about explaining different steps in the process. You know, when we were going through embryo growth, we always appreciated how clear she was about setting our eye expectations. You know, I think that's that's such a key thing for fertility treatment, is we have to have realistic expectations. And, you know, she was always very clear about that, you know, and say we had this many, you know, embryos fertilize, here's what we expect over the next few days, you know, we're not necessarily going to have all of those continue. We hope they do, of course, but that's not the norm. So she was always very clear about those things, and really just went above and beyond to stay in contact with us. You know, I've certainly heard from other folks who've been through fertility treatments that, you know, sometimes it can be as very common with health care in general, it can be very difficult to get in contact with the real person, but we never felt that way. We certainly felt like our fertility nurses were always there for us always, you know, returned calls returned messages where we had, you know, a sort of a portal with the clinic. And even when we had kind of silly questions, we felt like along the way, never never, you know, belittled us or anything like that, you know, I think we had one time where we maybe got the the time for our trigger shot during, during retrieval cycle. And, you know, had some question about, like, you know, just clarifying the time, even though they'd said the time very clearly, I think we're just like double checking, and, you know, and this was on a Saturday, so, you know, they, they took time out to call us back on the Saturday and say, Yeah, that's the time, you know, if you're, you know, maybe five minutes on either end, that's okay, just keep it as close as possible to that time. So, you know, even when we had silly questions, I just felt very, very welcome and supported. So we just appreciated that so much. And again, just just going above and beyond, you know, this particular nurse, Jennifer. So there was even one particular time where Jennifer, on her day off, we had one of our beta blood draws to determine whether our transfer had worked. And she said, You know, I'm going to be off that day, it's a Saturday, but I want to be the one to call you, I'm going to call you with with good news, knock on wood. And so taking that extra step, just to really be there for us, although, of course, we, you know, we want people to have their lives too, and don't expect necessarily for, for people to the, you know, for nurses to be taking their days off. But, you know, we just felt that connection. And it really felt in every action that she took that she was rooting for us. And she was part of the team and never felt like it was just another sort of, you know, going through the motions or that we were a number we always felt very personalized, and that she knew our case, knew what we were going through knew our history. And so all of that was just a real support, because again, we spend 90% of the time communicating with her.
And you talked about giving the pregnancy report. And that is something having talked with nurses that I know that they often dread, if it's a negative one, obviously, everybody wants to be the one sharing good news. But how can a nurse make it better when they have bad news to report?
Yeah, I think the biggest thing is just showing some compassion and recognition that it is such a hard news to hear to the people that you're sharing that news with, you know, with this was sort of a different nurse. But the one experience we had that wasn't so good was after one of our losses. Our first miscarriage was a blighted ovum in which there was just sort of no development of an embryo. And so that one was a little bit more difficult. And that we it took a few weeks of drawing betas doing ultrasounds to determine whether there was going to be any development and ultimately, there wasn't any and the last conversation we had with the nurse who kind of did the final diagnosis, there just wasn't a lot of compassion there. It was very sort of clinical, went right on to next steps. And of course, amidst this conversation, Olivia and I are sitting here, you know, in the clinic, practically on the verge of tears, realizing that this pregnancy is not going to work out. And we've already gone right on to, you know, hearing your options for termination. And so that really just was with a difficult experience and left up a worse taste in our mouths. Because, you know, it was such a contrast to to, you know, the vast majority of nurses we interacted with, who were so compassionate and so helpful, that always took time, you know, if they were sharing bad news to say, even just I'm so sorry about this, you know, we'll we'll make sure to, you know, be back in contact to talk about next steps, but we're very sorry. And just that small show of compassion made such a difference, in contrast with that experience after the first loss where it was a very clinical description, and didn't really acknowledge that there was also a really difficult emotional experience going on with us.
And I think sometimes nurses do this as all medical professionals do, to protect themselves and you know, NuForce and they deal with this more often, but just being and also just being uncomfortable with the emotions that are surrounding, but by not recognizing And to, in fairness to her, she probably thought that telling, you know, the next steps were would probably be helpful. But, but you have to recognize the emotional component of what the patients are going through.
Yeah, yeah. And definitely, that's, that's so right, like we did. And looking back now it's easier to see, you know, the urgency of the situation that we do want to resolve, you know, and, you know, complete this, this pregnancy that unfortunately, hasn't developed. But yeah, at the same time, just just those small kind of kindnesses of saying, I'm really sorry about this, you know, and offering other other forms of support. You know, after our second loss, I think we're seeing sort of a different nurse and said, you know, we have therapists who we can recommend who specialize in supporting couples through loss. And so just little things like that really helped to make us feel supported, and helped me to feel supported to as part of the conversation
and did and how did the better nurses that you dealt with? How did what did they do that made you feel included? made you feel like you are a vital part of this other than just the producing the sperm?
Yeah, well, they certainly always talked and had a conversation with with both of us, I've definitely heard from other other couples who've been through IVF, that sometimes you can get in a situation with a clinician where the entire conversation is directed at the female partner, and, you know, the man's kind of sitting on the sideline. And I think, of course, you know, the male partner has a role in that too, you have to do your research so that you can participate. If you don't know, if you don't understand if you don't know what you're talking about, then you're not going to feel like you can participate. But at the same time, you know, it was always nice to sit down and even just have you know, the clinician, the nurse, you know, giving eye contact both of us asking questions, and both of us men, understandably, again, most of them directed toward Olivia for for obvious reasons. She's She's going through most of this, but again, those those small indicators that that I was part of this process to and that they saw me as somebody involved in the process was really important, and I think, also helped me and Olivia feel, again, that we were a partnership in here. And it wasn't just something that Olivia had to go through all by herself.
Exactly. And she isn't it because you are a vital part of this if the person if the patient is fortunate enough to have a support team, their support team and their partner is is a vital part of this. Well, I appreciated that you discuss infertility nurses, because I am such a champion. So they have their role. Thank you so much cake in Peru for being with us today to talk about IVF from the male partners perspective, I truly appreciate your time.
Thank you so much. Donna was really a pleasure. Yeah, and
I as I mentioned, I've thoroughly enjoyed the book. So thank you
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