Sunday 27th June 2010
Gestation: 39 weeks, 2 days
One year ago.
So I practised.
I produced a sperm sample without lubricant.
I know, I know.
Hand me the medal later.
* * * * *
This whole pregnancy thing has taught me a lot about humility. Nothing in my life has ever been quite as confronting – as directly questioning of my sense of worth and value – as this little ride we’re currently on.
I mean, I’ve had things come and go that have made me wonder about who I am and what I’m made of. But generally, at the end of the day, I’ve been able to confirm for myself that I’ve got what it takes.
That I’m made of the right stuff.
Until now. This whole ride, this entire cascade of events that began with the simple ease of falling pregnant, to losing that pregnancy, to learning that we might not be able to even have kids, has taken us both all the way down to the bottom of the valley – where our fertility, our very virility – has been questioned.
And it is in that valley, that Suse and I have had stare deeply into ourselves. To look within, and within each other, and face a simple question with very humble hearts.
That question is simple. But the answer to longer to arrive. But it did. Eventually it did. The answer is equally simple. And it is this:
‘Yes, we do. And we will do what ever it takes to have those kids.’
Yes, we will medicalise it.
Yes, we will surrender our bodies and our very seeds to science, so that we can be given the chance for a child of our very own.
Yes, we will surrender our innocence, and along with it, the assumption that to have children – easily, happily, seamlessly – was our birthright.
Because for us, it is not. This very concept has burst. A stern teacher checked our maths assignment and decided that the figures don’t add up. We have to relearn the course. We have to resit the exam.
And so, we do as we are told. Our pride swallowed, we do as we are told. And nothing – I can tell you nothing, to this point – has made me swallow my pride more than my sperm assessment. Not only will someone in a laboratory assess my sperm and give me a mark out of a hundred, but I’ve been instructed on exactly how to produce the specimen. I’ve been given strict instructions on how to masturbate. Masturbation 101.
If there’s one thing I was pretty sure I’d perfected by now, this was it. I was pretty sure I had it licked.
I’ve been informed – by Cheryl in Andrology – that under no circumstances am I to use lubricant.
It seems that I’ve been doing it wrong for the last twenty-two years.
* * * * *
And that’s the sticking point. Not since inadvertently injuring myself as a thirteen year old, have I ever used my bare hands. I’ve not had locker conversations with others regarding this kind of thing – I’m not that kind of a guy – but until now, I’d just assumed that anyone who hasn’t yet discovered the joys lubrication is a pie short of a pastry shop.
So understanding that, you’ll appreciate why I woke in a cold sweat this morning, as I remembered that I have to turn up to hospital this Friday, to enter a room that I’ve never previously even seen, and come out with a full jar. Not a tissue. A jar.
And I’m not allowed to use lubricant.
* * * * *
And that is what has led me to this very toilet, at this very moment.
It’s Sunday afternoon. We’re due to fly out of Fiji in two hours. Our bags are packed and in the luggage hold. We’re left to hang around the hotel lobby, listening to the tuneless guitarists and the squeals of one thousand chlorine soaked children.
It’s five days until I have to produce the goods for Cheryl. As she explained to me over the phone, she doesn’t want anything stagnant – so nothing older than five days. But I must abstain for at least three days.
As per instruction, I’ve got to clear the pipes one more time before Friday.
So why not now?
Initially, the thought fills me with dread. And embarrassment. In my brain, cemented through years of adolescence, masturbation and shame go hand in hand. For a man, I don’t think that link ever really disappears. Not even in adulthood.
Come on guys. Let’s be honest here.
So, if I’m embarrassed about it now, and I’m embarrassed about it in the comfort of my home, and have to turn up to hospital and spank the monkey, and I’m not allowed to use lube, and so I’ve got to use a new technique for the first time in twenty-two years, and I’ve got to get it right on Friday, like a whole jar-full right – then how embarrassed and awkward am I likely to be?
Do I really want to hand in my first draft on the day?
I mean, do I?
* * * * *
So, I decide to practice. Right then and there. In a cubicle. In a toilet. In the lobby of the Westin Hotel. In Nadi, Fiji.
Okay, okay, I know. I’m hardly a hero. And it’s not as bad as it may sound. There’s no one else around, no one even uses these toilets. But there’s the chance that they might – just like there’s a chance that Cheryl might accidentally walk in on me on Friday.
I’m in a cubicle, in a foreign country, concerned about someone else walking in. And I’m polishing the family jewels.
If that isn’t a simulation of pressure, then I don’t know what is.
* * * * *
You don’t need to know the details. I’ve already told you more than I told Suse when I returned from the loo. Somehow, it just didn’t seem pertinent to let her know that I’d just been tooting my own horn for practice.
But I did.
And it went okay.
In fact, it went better than I thought it would.
I feel strangely proud of myself, in a shameful, repressed, Western-society-teenage-kind-of-way.
But at least I know I can do it.
Bring on Friday.
* * * * *