By Dan Barker, husband of Dr. Nichole Barker, one of the physicians at SRM’s Tacoma location My goal: To candidly describe what my fertility journey was like as a guy… Like most guys I spent most of my adolescent life under the impression that if I had sex there was a 98% chance of a resulting pregnancy. Almost like I was a marvel superhero and the power of male fertility was something I was born with and had to use with extreme responsibility. Thor has his hammer and I have mine right? This is why I took extreme measures to avoid using my supposed superpower. I assumed I had it and I only wanted to use it at the right time for the right reason. I always assumed I could summon this power when needed because I was a guy who could take on the world. Things drastically changed when my wife and I tried to have a baby and we told there was less than a 1% chance to conceive on our own. To make things worse we learned it was because of me. Suddenly I went from being Thor to being the lamest superhero ever. Dude this sucks. It turns out the chances of pregnancy in ideal conditions are much lower than I realized. I was pretty devastated to say the least. How on earth could this be? I had millions of reasons why this shouldn’t be a problem for me right? Turns out it takes more than an army. This was my first lesson. You have to have vitality and motility and I had low levels of both. This reminded me of being a kid playing electronic football except I only had 5 players on the field and when you turned on the board they didn’t move an inch. Being a lifelong Cleveland Browns fan, this was all too familiar. Common guys we are never going to win this way! Unfortunately, I couldn’t coach my men to victory but thankfully for us, my wife was a fertility doctor. You would think this would help us “increase our chances” or perhaps “make the process a bit easier”. Unfortunately, neither are true. In fact, it made things a bit worse because my wife knew the science and percentages of the process. Her intimate knowledge made things even more stressful for her and that made me feel awful. I had to partner with her and trust the process and that was not easy. At the beginning of our IVF journey all l I had to do is provide a sperm sample which was something I’m pretty sure I could do in my sleep. This however was different. There was something very important at stake and that made things incredibly nerve-racking. I also had to do it at a doctor’s office and that wasn’t my normal playing field. Not fun. We also had to do a lot of waiting which was especially challenging. Waiting for the various tests results to come back often seemed like a lifetime. This was especially true when it was a repeat of the same test trying for a better result. The IVF process was more physically taxing for my wife than it was for me. She needed to take shots, a lot of them. She also had to have an egg retrieval, several of them. Viable embryos also needed to be surgically implanted. All of this under a strict timeline provided by our doctor. I wanted to fix things for her but I couldn’t. Seeing my wife brave the IVF steps was incredibly difficult for me. I have a new love and appreciation for her as a result. She is amazing. As a guy I kept to the checklist of things we had to do. That often made it seem like I didn’t care. I was good at making sure we checked things off the list, but I wasn’t very good about being sensitive to how difficult it was for my wife to go through. Everyone deals with stress differently and this was certainly true for my wife and I during both of our IVF cycles. I used 4 main things to reduce stress or get my mind off things. The first two things resonated with my wife, the second two not so much.
- Faith – A lot of my strength came from my faith and beliefs.
- Fitness –My workouts definitely helped me reduce stress levels.
- Work – I poured myself into my work. More so than normal.
- Video Games –Proved to be an effective way to pass the time.