Infertility Awareness Week: In Which We Discuss Sex

Mothers.  Fathers.  Relatives.  People who feel sex should not be discussed in a public blogging forum.  And, pretty much anyone else who doesn't want to read about sex.  Feel free to skip over this post.  Don't say you weren't warned.  

Ok?  So I can now safely assume anyone left reading this is totally cool with the discussion of sex.  That, or you are curious to know what sex is like in the world of timed intercourse, IUI, and masturbation in a lab room at the local fertility clinic.  The funny thing about this all is, this is so not even about sex.

Chris and I have been doing it for almost 9 years.  We slept together for the first time when we were still friends.  Some would call it our first date.  That's for another post.  For any of the above aforementioned people who are still curiously reading this who shouldn't, disregard that.  Just believe that we have been doing it since our wedding night. Ahem. Moving on.

We had great sex.  We still do.  But in recent months, two days a month, especially when we were trying the old fashioned way, was... how do I put this? A means to an end.  Does that sound horrible? An action carried out for the sole purpose of achieving something else. Nope, that sounds about right.

I would be sitting on the couch after finding out about yet another failed conception, and wailing about how all that sex was for nothing! Chris would promptly glare at me from the other side of the couch and beg to differ.

There was nothing more trying to our marriage than the delightful Timed Intercourse.

It's sounds just how it is.  Intercourse, carefully and systematically timed out for one thing, and one thing only: to result in getting sufficiently knocked up.  Orgasms? His, to expel those little essential pieces of the baby-making puzzle, and yours to get your cervix to do that little dipping motion to bring in as much of those pieces as possible.  

Still think sex is fun?

I remember the days of Kama Sutra, blindfolds, and lingerie.  And then I started taking Clomid.  And peeing on ovulation sticks.  Sex became less of an act and more like a duty.  I think this can best be illustrated through story.

November 2010: I sat in the OBGYN office, making the plunge to give Mother Nature the finger and take baby-making into the hands of science.  Dr. W came in, sat down at the computer.  I was so nervous.  He asked me how many days were in my cycle, how long we were trying...

And then, "How many days a week do you have intercourse?"

"Wha-?" I coughed, desperately trying not to think about the zomg! awkwardness of the word 'intercourse.'  I finally squeaked out, "Oh 2-3 days a week," immediately feeling like I should have said we did it a hell of a lot more than that.

I dutifully took note of my new doctor-ordered sex schedule, and began what was the first of many uncomfortable sexual encounters of my marriage. 

I remember one time last year, during the hellish 6 months of unmonitored Clomid through my OBGYN, when Chris was at work and I got up in the morning, and found out I was ovulating.  I had to work that night, so my only option was to ask him to come home during his lunch.  Before he came home that day, I put on a pink lingerie thing and sprawled myself out on the bed like an asshole and waited for him to come home.  I remember my heart pounding.  It was the first time in our life together that I was actually nervous to have sex with him.  He came home and I tried my hardest to be sexy.  I threw him on the bed.  I straddled him.  I went down on him.  When he couldn't get hard, my stomach sank.  And I hated myself for it.  Finally, he took the Viagra we had gotten for those "just in case" times.  We lied there and talked for a bit while it "kicked in."  The sex came and went and when it was over, he kissed me, propped a towel under my hips, and went back to work while I stared at the ceiling.  Was that supposed to be sex?  Or was that baby-making?

The thing was, I still had to have sex with him again the next day.  Which I was working late again.  So that same night, I got home, crawled into bed at 11:30 and thought the element of surprise would work.  After all, it wasn't the first time I had woken him up for some action.  Several positions later, he told me he felt like coming twice... but he never did.  He told me over and over how sorry he was.

I cried myself to sleep; from the guilt of being mad at something he couldn't control; for myself, for blowing this cycle; and for us, that this is what our marriage had come down to.  He woke me up early before he left for work, after taking another Viagra.  We tried again.  Nothing.  Once again, he had to leave and I cried.  It was horrible.  Was it worth it?  Sometimes I think I would have been better off not trying those past months.  There was nothing sexy about what we were doing.

Luckily, we haven't had a month like that again.  But that doesn't mean we weren't affected by it.  The months after that, I still continued to test for ovulation.  And every time I saw that smiley face on the monitor, the obsessive thinking would begin.  The anxiety would start.  For two days every month, I plotted to get into my husband's pants.  Coming out of the hallway naked when he got home, slipping into the shower with him.  I know it sounds hot, but it was anything but.  I was jumping him, not to be sexy, but to have the deed over and done with before his brain knew what was happening and lay on the pressure.  Chris may disagree, but it was so stressful for me.

The last two cycles, I decided to commit another marriage faux pas, and lied to him.  I told Chris I was done taking the pills.  I felt bad for lying, but not that bad where I would sacrifice two more months of baby-making sex.  We were able to do it the two days in a row, but I felt like I was on the verge of a heart attack.  He may have been all Al Bundy about everything, but all those sexcepades left me an emotional wreck, plotting and scheming.

There was one time, I was getting ready in the bathroom and he came in.  Anyone going through infertility can relate to this.  After it was over, I giggled, kissed him, and then hi-tailed it to the bed to lay down and put my hips up.  It doesn't matter how good the sex is.  There is always that thought in the back of your mind of, if I'm standing up, how much sperm am I going to lose by gravitational pull?  Or, face-planting yourself on the bed when he's behind you, so that those swimmers can simply fall down into your cervix.  Of watching him come and feel yourself breathing a sigh of relief that it worked this time.  Then feeling like a loser for even thinking about those things in the first place.

That's why, when we moved on to IUI, we were thrilled that the TI was over.  Of course, that first month, we had to do it on Christmas (bringing new meaning to the term, "Ho, ho, ho").  But since the IUIs, we have been able to keep sex and baby-making separate, for the most part.  Of course, during those cycles, my husband was getting more action than I was.  But I was proud of him.  I thought he would have difficulties having man time in a room with a sink, leather chair, and Playboy; but he always was successful. 

Infertility tests your marriage in ways you could never think possible.  You fight about sex, you fight about when your going to have sex, you fight when you can't have sex.  It's stressful.  I don't write this to make anyone feel awkward.  I write this because 7 in 8 couples can get pregnant with a bottle of Pinot Noir and lit candles without thinking anything of it.  I write this because that one other couple experiences some of which I just described above.  It's not proper to discuss sex because sex is private and intimate and leads to children in 80-some percent of the population.  But what about the others?  This is what it's like, trying to make a baby with pills, and procedures, and specimen cups, and ovulation kits.  It's difficult, with a lot of tears.

We have also survived.  We have grown stronger.  We don't take for granted really great sex.  This month off has been a chance for us to rebuild the part of our marriage that infertility has ripped from us.  We kiss more, we hold hands.  I find myself watching him at night, after he's fallen asleep, studying this man that God has led me to, to go through life's tribulations with.  These last years have reminded me that infertility, while it's been important, is not worth losing him for.  It's not worth being absent from him when we make love, wondering about ovulation, of pregnancy signs, of remembering to pee before I go to bed at night, so I don't have to leak sperm walking around after.  It's not worth it.  But he is.

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