Ripping Up the Script’ is one man’s story of one couple’s journey through infertility
How they had to rip up the baby script, from the early months of their derailing discovery, through the roller coaster rides of IVF (including a final throw of the dice in Las Vegas), to the breathtaking day, several years later, when they meet the baby they are about to adopt.
Today, my concerns around having kids are more about the spills and thrills of parenthood, rather than the roller coaster rides of fertility treatment
Our boy – adopted by us when he was a baby – has just retreated into his room, after yet another scrap about his growing Fortnight habit. When it comes to day-to-day parenting (adoption issues aside), having an adopted child is really no different to having a biological one. All those loves, joys and challenges are exactly the same.
And yet – that word adoption is so often (but not always) a signal that ‘childlessness’ has most likely occurred; a couple has failed to conceive naturally, had fertility treatment, failed at that too…
Certainly, that would define the broad sweep of our long journey to finding our family, for my wife and I: the de-railing shock of discovering our infertility, just as our marriage was getting going, it’s vision of children beginning to glow on the radar; several years of ‘natural’ then full on IVF, including a final role of the dice in a Las Vegas clinic (the full range of what we so heartbreakingly call ‘failed cycles’); and then, once we had had licked our wounds, a big step into the world of adoption (light at the end of the tunnel, at last).
And it’s still with us, despite the riches our son has brought us – that tsunami of infertility that swept through our lives back then
That biological thing that never happened, year after year, hasn’t gone away. It doesn’t leave you, not completely. However a person / couple proceed with their lives (together or apart), post ‘failed’ fertility treatment – surrogacy perhaps, adoption, or deciding to do without – it goes on, rippling through your life, albeit the waves of grief becoming smaller and quieter, as time passes.
Today, there is much to read that is helpful around what we call Secondary Infertility, a state that encompasses much of what I’m talking about. But SI has a particular anchor of reference – an inability to become pregnant or to carry a baby to term after previously giving birth – and doesn’t cover, at least directly, these life-long, extended issues of infertility (nor does it include any adoption scenarios).
‘Ripping Up the Script’
As a man now well into my 50’s, and still with the same partner who co-piloted me through all this, this on-going presence of infertility in our lives was one of several reasons to write ‘Ripping Up the Script’ (another one being the lack of infertility books written by men). Certainly a factor behind my waiting for a time in my life (before writing it) that felt less raw; for a decade of distance and understanding – for the benefit of readers going through it all (I hope!) – to help me write with a deeper perspective not just on the spills and thrills of the sample room and the roller-coast rides of hope and loss (so well covered, already), but the ongoing, longer-term contexts and consequences of infertility (some of them surprisingly hopeful, in a hard-won kind of way. Empowering even).
The World Health Organisation defines infertility (at last classified as an illness, rather than a ‘condition’), as ‘Failure to become pregnant after one year of unprotected intercourse’. A helpful diagnosis perhaps, if you’re wanting to gain access to free or subsidised fertility treatment. But for just about every other aspect of what infertility means – its longer term psychosocial, sexual and wellbeing impacts – pretty useless.
Childlessness is as old as the hills. But as our ways of dealing with it have evolved – fertility science, counselling and talking about it (there’s a lot of positives here!) – so our understanding of those impacts needs to evolve too. A progression that explores, supports and gives voice to all that it means, life long, for women and men going through it.
“It’s hugely important that men can find the confidence to get fully involved in their partner’s and perhaps their own fertility issues. Fertility has for too long been seen as mostly a women’s issue.” (Zita West, fertility expert.)
“Ripping Up the Script is an entertaining read about fertility – funny, moving, useful. The more men’s voices are out there, the easier it will become for us to talk about it.” (Gareth Down, founder of Men’s Fertility Support.)