A Sperm Story

In 2008, my wife and I were blessed with the adoption of our son, Harrison. Though he was adopted, we still labored for him through many years — fighting losing battles on the infertility front and worrying about whether we would ever be able to have any kids. Those infertile years were definitely marked by frustration and uncertainty, but I would be lying if I said that it didn’t come with its own silver lining.

Throughout our first year of trying to conceive, my wife and I were willing to try just about any “secrets of the trade” in the hopes that it would improve our chances of getting pregnant. If you know of a manufactured or homemade method that worked for you or someone you know, I can guarantee that we tried it.

Some methods were scientific:

  • Heidi would wake up each morning and, even before turning the alarm off, she would put a thermometer in her mouth and take her temperature. She even had a nice bedside calendar where she kept record of her early morning temperature-taking. Once she reached the appointed temperature, we would commence with the baby-making. It’s not as sexy to hear your wife say she’s hot for you when she means it literally.
  • We tried a device which the writers of the book The Conception Chronicles affectionately dubbed “Spitnik”. Basically, each morning Heidi rubbed a small amount of her saliva on the glass lens of a compact personal fertility microscope and set it aside for a few minutes to dry. If she saw what looks like a fern pattern through the eyepiece, it meant that we got to hop back into bed and get busy. If she saw what looks like a close-up of dried saliva, it meant that I needed to take a cold shower and get ready for work.

Other methods were word-of-mouth cures:

  • Heidi was told that she needed to elevate her legs over her head after sex. The naked headstands didn’t work for us.
  • Someone else swore by the “Be Sure and Pee Immediately After Sex” method. I personally recommend the “Take a Ten Minute Nap After Sex” method instead.
  • A friend of mine came up to me one day and loaned me what he said was a sure-fire cure: his old workout socks. He handed me a pair of bright blue, breathable cotton/poly blends with pictures of cartoon sperm on them. The socks had the caption, “Survival of the Fittest” sewn into them. Those beauties were what he wore while training for a marathon during the same time of year that he and his wife were trying for kids. So far, the sperm socks have done nothing but give me athlete’s foot.

  • My favorite approach was one I like to call the “Rock Star Sex” method, which required that we have sex every day during her ovulation period. While I knew this advice was surely the brainchild of some guy with no medical credentials whatsoever, I made sure that I supported it as a viable option each time we discussed getting pregnant. One month, my wife finally caved in. The Rock Star Sex method didn’t work one bit, but I personally found it to be the best way to fail at getting pregnant that I have ever tried.

After more than a year of failed experimental baby-making, we decided that we should discuss our difficulty with conceiving with Heidi’s OB/GYN. He reassured us that having no success after one year of trying was not as uncommon as we had thought. When we asked about the best frequency of “trying” (I was shamelessly hoping to resurrect the rock star sex), he gave us a very vivid analogy on how conception works. He started by saying, “You need to think of the uterus as the beaches of Normandy.”

Let me tell you, a doctor that explains medical details with World War II battle analogies is going to pique any man’s attention. I sat on the edge of my chair as he continued.

“Your goal is to take the beachhead, and you are going to need to deploy a lot of soldiers to accomplish your mission. Keep in mind that many of your soldiers will be lying dead on the beach, but all you need is one to get past the enemy lines and you have the battle won. Now, you don’t want to send your soldiers in a few at a time – that’s what happens when you try to have sex every day. You won’t have enough sperm to make much of an impact.”

Goodbye rock star sex.

“You need to make sure you have a good amount of sperm built up. I would say that trying every other day during ovulation is a good rule of thumb.”

Every other day? Still sounds like a very agreeable alternative. I grinned. My wife’s OB/GYN essentially wrote us a prescription for sex every other day during ovulation, and did it while deepening my American patriotism. This guy was good.

I had no problem forking over the copay that day.

This is one post I’m sure you wish you hadn’t read. Sorry about that. Hopefully you can erase the graphic images in your head and remember this important lesson: Don’t get too attached to Plan A because it is never really under your control. Life is made up of 10% Plan A and 90% Plans B-Z. More often than not, you will look back with gratitude that your Plan A never came to be because Plans B-Z tend to be much more fulfilling.

read to be read at yeahwrite.me

  • http://www.5thingsaboutnothingimportant.com/ Vanessa

    This reminds me of the year my Aunt and Uncle were trying to conceive. The secretary where my Uncle worked actually suggested that my Aunt should give him a break.

    • http://DearHarrison.com/ Michael Gray

      Hahaha. I’m guessing that your uncle didn’t rush right home and pass on that advice to your aunt.

  • http://mamawantsthis.com/ Alison@Mama Wants This

    Thank you for the graphic details :)

    • http://DearHarrison.com/ Michael Gray

      Yeah, this is a strong PG-13 post. :) If you think this is graphic, you should read about my first trip to the infertility doctor to complete my first semen analysis. Awkward.

      Thanks for commenting.

  • Ladygoogoogaga2011

    Love the advice to your son!!!

    • http://DearHarrison.com/ Michael Gray

      Thanks. This blog is my 2012 resolution. I’m trying to be more intentional about my role in helping my boy grow into a man of integrity. Plus, I needed an outlet to write again — it’s been a long time.

  • Your Doctor’s Wife

    Love the note to your son at the end! So sweet and very true!

    • Michael

      Thanks. :) It’s a lesson we learned the hard way.

    • http://DearHarrison.com/ Michael Gray

      Thanks. That personal note section really helps me focus on the important things I need to focus on when I write.

  • http://twitter.com/B4Steph Stephanie Brennan

    Funny stuff. My sister and her husband tried all these maneuvers without success, as well. It is funny in your retelling. Nice to hear it from the male point of view..

  • http://www.sisterhoodofthesensiblemoms.com/ SisterhoodoftheSensibleMoms

    “Rock Star Sex.” Snort. And viva plans B – Z for us all. :) Ellen

    • http://DearHarrison.com/ Michael Gray

      I’m grateful that most of my Plan As (Plans A?) don’t become reality. If life could turn out the way I had drafted it, I’d have made a royal mess.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • http://www.livinginkelliesworld.com/ Joe

    “… and did it while deepening my American patriotism.” Great line. Very funny post.

    • http://DearHarrison.com/ Michael Gray

      I almost stood up and placed my hand over my heart as he finished speaking. But that would have been over the top.

      Thanks for the kind words.

  • http://www.mayorgia.blogspot.com/ Mayor Gia

    Hahahah I love the idea of the sperm socks working. If only it was that simple…

    • http://DearHarrison.com/ Michael Gray

      I guess the magic had been all used up by the time they were handed-down to me. :)

  • Scrunchydoo

    Replenish the troops. Great post. I really enjoyed it.

    • http://DearHarrison.com/ Michael Gray

      Thank you. :)

  • DelilahLove

    As an adoptive mom and a woman who dealt with 7 years of infertility, this post is AWESOME! We tried all those old wives tales and surefire tricks that people bombarded us with. I must say, the Rockstar Sex was certainly Husband’s favorite attempt too. Haha!

    • http://DearHarrison.com/ Michael Gray

      It’s amazing how many people have sex/procreation advice for you once they find out that you are not having success in getting pregnant. The longer you’re infertile, the more willing you are to try ideas like Aunt Wanda’s magic knock-up smoothie.


      Thanks for commenting! :)

      • DelilahLove

        Oh man! You have Aunt Wanda’s Magic Knock-up Smoothie recipe too? So do I. It didn’t work. Go figure.

  • http://twitter.com/MonWithMac Kristin Ireland

    I’m so glad that your plan B (G? M?) worked out!

    • http://DearHarrison.com/ Michael Gray

      So are we. We had no idea that the unexpected would be exactly what we needed/wanted. Thanks for reading!

  • http://twitter.com/kdwald kdwald

    Great post. We tried for close to a year, and it was only when I started taking medication for hypothyroidism that we eventually conceived. My parents tried for eleven years (11!), and then adopted me. Then, when I was ten months old, they got pregnant with my sister. Basically, she owes me her life. 😉 I’m glad you had some fine trying.

    • http://DearHarrison.com/ Michael Gray

      11 years is crazy-long. Wow. And once you came along, they were so preoccupied with you that they forgot to stress about getting pregnant. I imagine the two of you were inseparable.

      Thanks for sharing!

  • Shannon Vander Meulen

    I like the Normandy anecdote. Isn’t it wonderful how the doors that refuse to open often lead us where we always should have gone?

    • http://DearHarrison.com/ Michael Gray

      You’re right. I’m thankful for the hard times and the frustration we endured because it served to make us more grateful for what we have now.

  • Sisterhoodofthesensiblemoms

    I have now read many infertility posts, but this is my favorite so far. Funny, real, sweet. It’s the perfect blend for me. You control the narrative while inserting a strong, clear voice. Love it. I love the parts about the beaches of Normandy AND the letter to Harrison at the end. Erin

    • http://DearHarrison.com/ Michael Gray

      That’s very kind of you to say, thank you.

  • http://www.vivi-section.blogspot.com/ Vivian Pitschlitz

    Ha ha love your post note. My daughters being all grown up read my posts. If it is anything that they would rather not read I put a big note first that I am not paying for their therapy if they read it.

    • http://DearHarrison.com/ Michael Gray

      That’s funny that you cover yourself with a disclaimer. Perhaps this post should be password protected from my son. :)

  • http://finallymom.blogspot.com/ christina

    :) love the letter to Harrison at the end especially.

    • http://DearHarrison.com/ Michael Gray


  • http://dudeofthehouse.blogspot.com/ Jay – Dude of the House

    I don’t know about the “wear a friend’s disgusting socks” method. I think that might’ve been going a mile (or 26.2) too far.

    • http://DearHarrison.com/ Michael Gray

      Hahaha — 26.2 <—– that's funny right there! Hey, we were desperate. :)

  • Michelle Longo

    I love the way you told the story of what must have been a difficult time and I love the letter to your son at the end!

    • http://DearHarrison.com/ Michael Gray

      It’s funny that things that seem difficult at the time are much easier to deal with when you can look back and see how the dots connect. Thanks for commenting!

  • http://smushyfacebaby.com/ Susan

    hahahahahahahaha. THAT is a doctor worth going to, paying for and listening to. Well played, sir.

    • http://DearHarrison.com/ Michael Gray

      Yes, he certainly earned his salary that day.

  • IASoupMama

    Hmmm… Although I have thought about my father reading about our struggle with infertility, I hadn’t really thought about my kids reading about it… Something tells me my dad is still going to win in the “wish I hadn’t read THAT” contest.

    • http://DearHarrison.com/ Michael Gray

      Imagine my surprise when Heidi’s mom came up to me and said, “I want you to know that I read your blog… You are sick!” :) Oops. I should have more carefully considered my audience.

  • http://twitter.com/TheMommyMess Adrienne

    This is heartwarming! I love it! I’m so happy that you and your wife have a little boy!

    • http://DearHarrison.com/ Michael Gray

      Thanks! We are blessed.

  • http://www.erinmargolin.com/ Erin Margolin

    SO true on the every other day advice! although despite that, we were still unsuccessful conceiving on our own. We went through tons of other things and finally 2 rounds of IVF before we got pregnant. Glad you have Harrison!

    • http://DearHarrison.com/ Michael Gray

      Thanks. I’m happy that IVF worked for you. We considered IVF, but it just wasn’t a fit for us. Thankfully, God provided for us beyond our wildest dreams by way of adoption. :)

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