Inconceivable Conceptions: Psychological Aspects of Infertility and Reproductive Technology

By Jane Haynes; Juliet Miller | Go to book overview

A public acknowledgement of the existence of male infertility and the ignorance surrounding it may lead to more openness about it and therefore less public stigma about male infertility. Perhaps more access to counselling will also help to alleviate the stigma, anxieties and isolation. How we begin to help those men, who feel the blow so badly, is one part of the story. Where individuals are resistant to asking for, or receiving, help, the impotent render those who would help impotent. Part of the answer also lies in becoming adept at the art of counselling without counselling. The world is changing quickly. Female empowerment, technology and the millennium impact on the collective unconscious and come together in compelling men to adjust to the reproduction revolution. This revolution involves reproduction without sex, which is ironic, since the decade before IVF arrived was the beginning of the era of sex without reproduction (sexual revolution and the pill). The winds of change, first brought about by Steptoe and Edwards, have heightened public expectations about fertility. The cult of children and of fertility, having brought about the new religion centred on fertility clinics as the 'church', has rapidly become established in the psyche of Western man. Though men and women suffer in the process of treatment, the paradox is that they are attending to their needs on another level, that of moving into and through the important rite of passage and entering the age of parenthood. This is an archetypal image, so strong that, to fulfil it, many will undergo extreme pain to achieve their grail, which may be akin to the various processes undertaken in the mysterious vas of the sixteenth-century alchemists. Consider as well the sperm's journey in the testes, vas and female reproductive tract (the vas is a crucial element in the transportation of sperm), which are also steps on the psychological path to enlightenment and psychic integration.

Reproduction technology touches on the collective unconscious in such a powerful way that, in the space of fifteen years, reactions to the technology have gone from public outrage to complete acceptance. IVF is now an everyday phenomenon. People have IVF in the same way as they go to the dentist. Its impact upon the public psyche is such that even couples who are probably fertile submit themselves to IVF for convenience. For men with male infertility, their fertility is often synonymous with their virility and they will submit to anything which will restore it. The fertility clinic is the modern temple where the cult of fertility and of children is practised. Infertile men project their desires on to the 'temple' and its 'high priests'. For some men the medical world of reproductive technology still needs to become better integrated into consciousness as it is their only route to 'salvation' which, when successful, allows them to enter the ranks of men by becoming fathers.


Bibliography
Greenstein, B. (1993) The Fragile Male, London: Boxtree.
Hite, S. (1991) The Hite Report on Love, Passion and Emotional Violence, London: MacDonald Optima.
Lee, S. (1996) Counselling in Male Infertility, London: Blackwell.

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Inconceivable Conceptions: Psychological Aspects of Infertility and Reproductive Technology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements x
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 3
  • Chapter 2 - Assisted Reproductive Technology and the Fertility Clinic 11
  • Experiencing Infertility 17
  • Chapter 3 - Clinical Waste 19
  • Chapter 4 - One Man's Story 27
  • Psychological Aspects 31
  • Chapter 5 - Eros and Art 33
  • Notes 45
  • Chapter 6 - Mourning the Never Born and the Loss of the Angel 47
  • Chapter 7 - The Battle with Mortality and the Urge to Procreate 60
  • Bibliography 72
  • Chapter 8 - Myths and Reality in Male Infertility 73
  • Bibliography 84
  • Chapter 9 - Love, Hate and the Generative Couple 86
  • Changing Patterns of Kinship 103
  • Chapter 10 - The Story of Seth's Egg 105
  • Chapter 11 - Seth 109
  • Chapter 12 - Gifts of Life in Absentia 120
  • Chapter 13 - Women's Work 143
  • Bibliography 165
  • Chapter 14 - Egg Donation 166
  • The Shadow 179
  • Chapter 15 - Dark Reflections 181
  • Afterword 205
  • Chapter 16 - Afterword 207
  • Appendix 217
  • Glossary of Terms Used in Art (Assisted Reproductive Technology) 219
  • Index 227
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