Baby Steps

There’s nothing like embarking on fertility treatment to find out just how much your husband masturbates.

I mean, I knew he did it, but good lord, I didn’t realise a four-day hiatus would be so traumatic.

‘What am I supposed to do for four whole days?’ he says, quite seriously, on Tuesday afternoon.

‘The doctor said four to seven days,’ I tell him. Being the sort of kid who always handed in their homework two days early, I am now the sort of adult who would see four days as the bare minimum required, and therefore the preserve of losers.

‘There’s absolutely no way I could wait seven days. Four’s as many as I’m willing to endure.’ We are clearly entering uncharted territory here.

‘Well, I’m away all week, so at least there’s no temptation to have sex.’

‘Hah!’ snorts Herbert, ‘that only makes it worse. What do you think I do when you’re away?’ Um, a little light needlework? Macrame? Sugar craft?

Hang on, am I married to a compulsive masturbator? I simply had no idea it was this embedded in his routine. I do hope he’s not rubbing himself inappropriately up against the cats in my absence.

As the week progresses (jollied along by unhelpful texts from me, e.g. ‘Hurrah! You’re now 75% through your non-wanking marathon! Your’e a tiger!’), Herbert develops a more pressing concern: how to transport his sample to the hospital.

Semen samples must be kept at body temperature and should be tested as soon after ejaculation as possible. Our local hospital, sadly, does not offer a special room for the job.

After mulling over the prospect of knocking one out in an NHS toilet cubicle, H decides that he’d prefer his first post-abstinence wank to be at home. The man from the pathology department therefore helpfully suggests he keeps it under his armpit until he reaches the hospital. Herbert and I are not sure this is possible without straining something or crashing the car.

After much indecision, on Thursday night he decides to practice driving home with the empty bottle clenched between his thighs. It is declared a success. We are all ready for the Friday morning payload.

In the meantime, I am occupying myself in other ways. I decided, quite suddenly, that I ought to be taking special pre-conception vitamins, just in case, y’know, I fall pregnant in a so quickly that I haven’t had time to stockpile folic acid. I take a trip to Boots, where I find a brand that’s so expensive I imagine they must contain micro-bots that swarm up my fallopian tubes and gently massage my ovaries into submission.

I buy them. And while I’m there, I also purchase a breathtakingly expensive box of ovulation sticks, as I figure I might be able to catch my body sneaking out an ovulation when no-one’s looking. I suspect that peeing on a stick every day will keep me occupied, particularly in conjunction with swallowing a vitamin pill.

Because, really, as soon as this process starts, the obsession kicks in. I may be ambivalent about what a baby will do to my life, but I am not in the least bit ambivalent about the process of conceiving it. Conception is a task which, properly managed, can be robbed of some of its uncertainty. Or at least, that’s what I have to believe if I’m not going to crack under the strain. If it all fails, I don’t want to be left with the nagging doubt that I didn’t do quite enough.

At eight o’clock this morning, I text H:

The time is upon us!

H: Ten minutes to go.

Me: In my head, you’re standing with your hand poised over your penis, like a gunslinger in a spaghetti western.

H: You worry me sometimes.

But the deed is done. He produces his sample (I don’t enquire), drives it to the pathology lab on the way to work, and then texts me to say:

It wasn’t a very big sample in the end. I’m a bit disappointed. I expect they’ll want another one now.

FFS, how much do you think they need? I reply.

Do you know the worst bit? says H, I just looked it up online. Two to four days of not ejaculating is usually considered enough. Your GP is a sadist.

Ah well. I suppose we all have to find ways of managing the little stresses in life.

24 thoughts on “Baby Steps

  1. I am so with you in spirit. Month two of TTC number 3, and trying desperately not to obsess. It’s so hard!

    Re the wanking thing, my husband always denies all knowledge that he ever does it, in a slightly comedy way so I know he’s bullshitting. He won’t tell me and it drives me mad with nosiness. I’ve even tried telling him about my own habits, but he doesn’t really like to think about that, so it’s lose-lose. Even when I’ve confronted him with porn found on his phone or the computer. G’ah!

  2. Loving your book and also this blog. We are 8 months into trying now with no luck yet, but having fun. Just FYI, OV sticks do not tell you if you are ovulating, only if you have an LH surge. To tell if you actually ovulated you need to start taking your basal body temperature. (Yes, you can become even more obsessive)

  3. Don’t worry, plenty of time on the OV sticks – but the cardboard ones add a special, tense frisson, non? Or do I remain the only person on earth who finds infertility entertaining?

  4. Ooh, I must send you my spare OV sticks – kick to self! I ended up using the the digitals, as the is it/isn’t it aspect of the cardboard one’s didn’t appeal…the best thing about TTC for me was that I had an excuse to demand sex when on my LH surge, the being what we termed “the time of science” – obviously, he wasn’t as keen, and kept “accidentally” over-wanking during the day (another homeworker) when he was meant to be waiting for me!

    And I totally relate to the lack of ambivalence about conception/abivalence about what a baby is going to do to my life – I love being pregnant, but deeply resent everyone who presumes to know how I’ll feel/react/alter my life and work…..

  5. haha, this post cracked me up! I’ve always been rather fascinated by the topic of men & masturbating. I do agree with Quiet Riot Girl’s comment & wonder how women’s sex lives would change if they were as, ahem, dedicated to their private wanks as H seems to be! Too charming.

    I know you meditate & like Pamela Madsen . . she has a meditation set for shameless babymaking if you’re interested, since you’re going all obsessive & all. :)

    I’ve tried her Shameless self love one & I like it, though I tend to just play the one relaxing track I really like.


  6. For vitamins Vita West is good…

    And for sticks to pee on try Access Diagnostics, they are cheap enough to prevent even the most obsessive bankrupting themselves, you can usually find discount codes on the interweb… but I am not responsible for any obsessive behaviour as a result

  7. I dunno – I think sometimes I just get to urge to be alone rather than have sex. It’s a different kind of desire, and lets you keep a bit of privacy over the long term.

  8. Wanking is, indeed, a funny one. I feel very shy about my own when in a relationship but am totally cool with my partner “taking matters into their own hands” whenever if I’m not there or not able to contribute. I think I’d be a little hurt though if I was being ignored in favour of a wank to which I was not invited!

  9. You’re welcome and good luck with it all. It’s easy to get a bit obsessed and try to do ‘all the right stuff’ to get pregnant to no avail… and then you look at people who get drunk, have a one night stand and hey presto!

  10. Oh goodness, who knew it was all so complicated! In all honesty, I’m just curious at the moment to find out if I ovulate at all (most likely not), so I’ll give the posh ones a go for a month and then see what the clinic says when my referral comes through. Great to know I have such a brilliant source of wisdom at hand though – thanks x

  11. Peeing on a stick can become a total obsession!! At one point this month when I was told I was about to ovulate, I was doing it 3 or 4 times a day, so desperate was I not to miss my LH surge. I’ve been told that LH surges happen early in the morning so a test first thing in the morning won’t always detect it, which is why my clinic tell me to do it twice a day.

    If you’re going to use the cheaper paper ov sticks, look out though – the ones I have supposedly detect levels of LH at a lower level in the urine (20Mlu/ml so should be MORE sensitive) but I have fertility issues (PCOS and taking a high dose of Clomid) and found that they are inaccurate for me. They showed 3 days of LH surges for me on a cycle where I did not ovulate at all and on a cycle where I did ovulate, showed no surge at all… In fact, I only picked up my surge by using the more expensive digital ones which are less sensitive (40mlu/ml). I cross-checked the same sample with a cheapy one and it came back negative! Also I do prefer the kind of yes/no answer you get with the digital ones. On the paper ones you have to use your judgement and you end up squinting and thinking, ermmmm is it positive? is it darker? if I move under the light a bit more? I find trying to chart ovulation a minefield and I’m not even doing other stuff like taking temperature or monitoring cervical mucus….

    so with regards to ov sticks I would try a few to see what you prefer. Perhaps use the cheap ones on normal days and upgrade to the expensive ones around the time of the cycle when you think you might ovulate. Although my fertility nurse told me off for doing that as she said I’d confuse myself!

    and as for masturbating, if you do ovulate, make sure H saves it all for you around that time!!! lots of ppl I know doing fertility treatments whose partners have less than perfect semen samples are actually told to only have intercourse every other day to give the sperm bank a chance to get re-loaded…

    good luck with it all!

  12. Pregnacare ones, but equally appalling. However, they’ve got all sorts of stuff in that sounds dead scientific, so they must be good. Your casual merely casual interest is duly noted ;-)

  13. I dunno, don’t you ever have one of those considered, ‘Hmm, shall I maybe masturbate now?’ moments? Just me then ;-)

    I think all masturbation is treated as a bit of a joke to be honest – the female sort is seen as barely important, and the male sort is comical and desperate. In our case, I think it’s a brilliant way to snatch a bit or erotic privacy and selfishness, and we do both tend to be very private about it. That’s why I honestly had no idea how often H was doing it. Am fascinated.

  14. If you want to test every day I recommend the ov sticks on eBay, they are just the paper/card bits without the plastic outer so tons cheaper!

  15. I think men’s masturbation is still treated as a bit of a joke – especially in the light of things like the Weiner story.

    And women’s as a taboo- a secret- a not-very-often occurrence.

    When I was about to leave my partner and just afterwards I wanked so much I thought I might break. I suddenly realised I had a body and a sex-drive as well.

    Wanking I think is something that really shouldn’t be an issue at all and yet it is.

    I think the word ‘compulsive’ was interesting! How could wanking be anything but a compulsion? :D

  16. Were they Wellwoman Conception?

    Fecking hell they’re expensive.

    You can get a “His and Hers” version to torture Herbert even more.

    (people I know reading this – no, I’m not trying to get pregnant. I was bored and looking at multivitamins).

  17. We had a similar situation, and a sock was decided as the transportation insulation of choice. He wasn’t wearing it at the time.

    Good luck with it all x

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