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The first step in fertility testing is a sperm count, which is produced by masturbation. Coming up with sperm on demand is not as easy as it may sound. Even men who are accustomed to masturbating say they find it difficult to get in the mood in a hospital clinic room, despite the help of the erotic magazines they supply. Some men find this almost impossible to do and may well need the assistance of their partner. However this is not always practical in techniques like GIFT where the timing of the sample is crucial and the woman is being prepared for surgery. Talk about performance anxiety! Imagine having a whole operating theatre team waiting for you to deliver!

For people who have no trouble having babies, it is impossible to imagine how hard it is to accept childlessness. For some couples the strain proves too much. It is a tragedy for a marriage that starts with so much hope to end in hopelessness. Jill’s marriage didn’t survive. T became obsessed. It was like nothing else existed in my life … not my parents, not my work, not my friends. Nothing else mattered. In the end, I even lost sight of my husband. Sex became a real chore. In retrospect, the rot set in when we started to avoid the subject of IVF. Then we started to avoid each other. He spent more and more time at work and he would even go out without me for most of the weekend. He’d come to bed later and later, finding every possible excuse to stay up, and sex became a memory.’

At worst, the infertility treadmill can become this obsession that Jill talks about. The tantalizing prospect that the very next attempt could be the successful one is at worst like compulsive gambling. A gambler will go into debt, risking everything they own for the chance at the jackpot. With the odds stacked against them, infertile couples can risk everything, placing themselves in emotional debt for the promise of the big payout — a baby of their own. The only protection is to keep things in perspective.


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