(Turn and face the strain)
Don’t want to be a richer man
(Turn and face the strain)
Just gonna have to be a different man
Time may change me
But I can’t trace time
In December of 2009, I wrote, “Changes, part one.” It was about how I met my wife through eHarmony and my reaction to their questionnaire’s questions about children. I didn’t want children but I fudged the truth a bit to leave the possibility open. It was only a small fudge because part of me did want children but I hoped to be a better person before allowing that to happen.
In March of 2010, I wrote, “Changes, part two.” This one was about my relationship with my father. I meant for it to explain why I felt inadequate to be a parent. Admittedly, this turned into a long, deeply personal, self-serving, rant that revealed many unresolved issues I had with my father. Even though this one did veer away from the point, it was very therapeutic and I don’t regret writing it. I also believe it still made its point; I was afraid of becoming my father and doing to a child what was done to me.
I ended “Changes, part two” with the first moment my wife-to-be seriously asked the question about having children. She wanted to try. Did I? The words caught in my throat. I knew I should say no. That would be the responsible and sensible thing to do but a part of me wanted to say yes too. I was also planning to propose and was afraid of screwing it up. So I said we could think about it. Rebecca accepted this but I could tell she was disappointed. Despite my fear, I did ask the question, what if I didn’t want children? Would she look for someone else? She said no, she loved me and if we didn’t have a child then that’s the way it was meant to be. I was touched but I didn’t quite believe her. Not because I had any reason to doubt her but because I have always had a hard time believing this stunningly beautiful woman would choose me in the first place.
Rebecca has Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and always assumed she would be unable to get pregnant. For most of her life, she had put the though out of her mind. Then, about two years before we met, Rebecca did get pregnant with her previous companion. It was a total shock to her. She miscarried the baby at 8 weeks but the experience made a profound changed her thoughts about children. She wanted to be a mom.
On August 21st of 2007, I proposed to Rebecca. I bought a nice ring and took her to the Hotel St. Germain in Dallas under the guise of celebrating her birthday. The waiter brought the ring to the table in an elaborate display. I asked if she would share her life with me without fumbling my words. My timing and delivery were perfect – if I do say so myself. Don’t ask me what I said, that’s all a blur. I just remember the look in her eyes when she realized what I was asking. And I remember her saying “yes.” It was one of the happiest days of my life. We set out planning the wedding. Then, a couple of months before, Rebecca brought up children again. She wanted to start trying after our honeymoon. I had convinced myself that we were still in the “thinking about trying or not trying” stage but she had jumped ahead of me. I was conflicted, I liked the idea of fatherhood but I still thought it was irresponsible to allow my father’s offspring to continue the line. Then I thought, I’m not my father and our child wouldn’t be me. I realized that I couldn’t honestly answer the question of what kind of father I would be and it wasn’t fair to just assume the worst. However, it was also not fair to take that kind of chance with a child’s life. My mind went back and forth with this and ultimately I decided to let the Fates decide, as they always have. I’m not an overly Religious person but I do have a sense that things will work out as they must. I can do my part but ultimately I have to adapt to the curves in my life. The image of the mythological Fates, the three sisters of the Weird, the Maiden, Mother, and Crone deciding our lives with a ball of yarn and scissors, seems as appropriate representation of my beliefs as any. I agreed we’d try for children and I left the decision of my fatherhood in those three lovely lady’s hands.
Rebecca and I were married on August 21st 2008. It was a beautiful ceremony in the botanical gardens of Zilker Park in Austin. In late January of 2009, we went on our honeymoon to Switzerland, Venice (for Carnevale), Amsterdam, and Paris. It was a fantastic time. About a month after we came home, we started talking to a fertility doctor.
Because of Rebecca’s PCOS, we knew we would need help getting pregnant. The doctor put her on a round of Clomid to induce ovulation. We went through the cycle but nothing happened. Rebecca was disappointed but we knew it was just the first step. For myself, I felt very detached from the whole process. I was waiting to see what the fates would decide. During this time, I was also given a semen analysis – not as fun a test as one might think – and it was found that my swimmers were a little slow and not too bright. Probably the product of my age but they weren’t sure. The problem wasn’t bad enough to negate us ever getting pregnant but it did mean we would have to be more aggressive. We were referred to a fertility specialist, named Dr. Shahryar Kavoussi. He suggested a method called IUI. This is a process where the sperm is collected and “washed” to remove the duds and keep only the best swimmers. Then the sperm is injected into the cervix, bypassing a large portion of the gauntlet a sperm has to survive in order to fertilize the egg. I felt this was cheating. Maybe the Fates had already given us our answer. We were not supposed to have children and we were just using technology to force the issue. I didn’t voice this opinion and, ultimately, I think it was just my fear talking. Using Clomid didn’t bother me because, deep down, I knew it would probably never work. I agreed to try IUI but I still didn’t believe we would ever get pregnant.
Prior to trying IUI, Rebecca first had to grow eggs for fertilization. To do this, she took a series of injections that stimulate egg production. Dr. Kavoussi wanted to monitor her closely during this process. If she created too many eggs, then there was a possibility of multiple babies. The goal was a single baby. Twins was acceptable, triplets was pushing it, but any more than that is really considered malpractice. There was also a chance for her to become hyper stimulated and her ovaries and fallopian tubes could twist – very bad.
With the first round of IUI she did become hyper stimulated, not enough to be dangerous but she was in a lot of pain. One night, when the pain was at its worse, she came out of the bathroom and said she hoped this worked because she didn’t know if she could go through another round. Right up until she said that, I had felt totally detached from the process and maybe even a little hopeful it wouldn’t take. I should have been happy with what she said. Instead, it hit me like a ton of bricks. I couldn’t talk. Did she mean it? Was this it? If she quit now, we would never have a child. And, to my total amazement, I didn’t want that. Tears welled in my eyes and I asked her if she was serious. She said partially, but admitted it was probably just the pain talking. I was relieved.
What happened to me? In one moment, my whole outlook seemed to change. I wanted to be a father. Can change happen that fast? Maybe, but I think it was an evolution I was too dumb to see. A gradual change that only became evident when there was the possibility of not having children.
It was around this time I first had the idea to write about our attempts to get pregnant. I thought it would help me understand this change and I liked the idea of our child (if we had one) reading about how his parents became parents. Unfortunately, I am a procrastinator and this didn’t get started.
We finished out that first round of IUI and nothing happened. We tried a second one. This time Dr. Kavoussi tried a more conservative approach so Rebecca wouldn’t feel as much pain and something happened. The pregnancy stick came back with the faintest of lines visible. It looked like we were pregnant. We were thrilled. I’m usually a somber fellow but I actually felt a little giddy. It turned out to be a false positive. Rebecca was very upset and so was I. Again, I was struck by how much it bothered me. That feeling of changed was there again only stronger.
I finally wrote the first installment of “Changes.” It was really just an introduction, a quick piece about who I was before I met Rebecca.
Believing we were pregnant only to find out it didn’t work, left us both disheartened. We looked into IVF – where they remove the egg, fertilize it, and then place it back, in hopes it will attach to the wall of the uterus. We were lucky, in that our insurance would cover IVF but we were unlucky because the clinic Kavoussi used did not accepted insurance. It’s a very expensive procedure and we couldn’t afford to pay for it ourselves. We would have to find a new fertility doctor and a different clinic. We really liked Dr. Kavoussi and didn’t want to change so we decided to try one more round of IUI.
With the third round, it seemed like something tried to happen again. Rebecca experienced some symptoms of pregnancy. We were cautious this time, tried to manage our excitement. Then one night, Rebecca had some bright red bleeding. We were worried and felt that something had tried to happen and then went wrong again. If so, it could mean the problem wasn’t getting the egg to fertilize but getting it to attach to the uterine wall. In this case, IVF wouldn’t be any more effective than IUI.
I wrote the second installment of “Changes” which, as I said, turned into a rant but was meant to illustrate how my horrible relationship with my father caused me to never want children. I was planning on writing the last installment, this installment, as soon as I was done with the second one. It would talk about our attempts to have a child and the odd change that occurred in me. As you can tell by the year hiatus between part two and this one, life got in the way.
In February of 2010 I became very ill and almost died. (You can read about it in “Hey Lazarus Man.”) I was hospitalized with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) for three weeks. I was in the ICU for a week, placed on a ventilator, and treated with extremely high doses of steroids – the only treatment for ARDS. I survived but spent the next three months recovering from the effects. Once I was back on my feet, our doctors told us the steroids could have affected my sperm count and jeopardize our ability to have a child. Sure enough, when I was tested, my count was lower but it was still strong enough that something could happen. It would just be harder than ever.
I wanted to keep trying, no mater what. I wanted to be a father.
Whatever change I had been going through, culminated with my illness. Facing your death changes your perspective. I was so appreciative of my family and my friends. I loved my wife so much more than I thought possible and I knew she would be a good mother. I also knew something else. I could be a good father too. I am like my father in so many ways but I am not him. I have met many of the same demons he faced and I have come through to a different place than he did. It was time to live outside the shadow of my childhood.
We decided to go with IVF. But while we were looking into that, we figured it wouldn’t hurt to try one more round of IUI. Neither Rebecca nor I had much hope of it working.
Tomorrow, February 23rd, at 7:30am, a year to the day I was taken off the ventilator at the hospital, Phoenix Griffin Minor will be born. My son. I know he’s my son because he’s stubborn and has refused to turn head down for delivery. He’s breech and my sweet Rebecca will have to have a Cesarean birth. This scares the hell out of me. At the same time, neither of us can wait to see the face of our boy, to hold him for the first time, to hear his first breath, and see his eyes open for the first time. We are prepared. We’ve packed a bag for our stay at the hospital, set up the crib and the car seat. Mostly, we are trying to keep busy but it’s not easy. It’s been a long nine months. We’ve watched our son develop since his first ultrasound at six weeks old when he as just a tiny mustard seed. Even at that early age, the tissue that would become his heart was beating. We’ve been with him through the genetic testing to look for conditions more common in babies of forty year old parents. We’ve waited for each milestone, his 8-week ultrasound, his twentieth ultrasound, and the first time Rebecca could feel him kick. We’ve attended the classes and tried to prepare ourselves as best we can. It’s been a long road but, now that his birth is only hours away, it seems like those nine months evaporated in the blink of an eye. When asked if I’m ready, I’ve always told people “no.” Because, no matter how much we think we are ready, we won’t be and we’ll just have to go with the flow. But now, in the last few longest days of the pregnancy, I have never felt more unprepared. Simply assembling a crib tent to keep the cats away from our baby seems like a massive engineering feat.
Phoenix is coming. It is just hours away.
We have everything in place for his arrival but we are not ready. I know this. I also know this is the right time for him to come into our lives. I needed to find someone as magical as Rebecca. I needed to confront my fears of becoming like my father. I needed the year of fertility treatments and disappointments. And I needed to get sick and almost die. Each link in the chain led to this greater moment of becoming a father. Each landmark of my life, joyous or tragic, facilitated the change in me. The Fates know what they are doing and I thank them. I also know the “change” isn’t over. In fact, I think it’s only just begun.