This anonymous post was written in honor of the Making Dad’s summit and Men’s Health Month. Male infertility is much more common than we are led to believe. Millions of men carry this burden in silence. By breaking the silence, we can have conversations that heal, that offer hope and that advance our understanding of this difficult condition.
My wife and I got married 3 years ago, this month. Before getting married, we had been living in a two bedroom apartment, which we shared with another roommate. After getting married, my wife, pretty reasonably, was like, “Hey, it would be nice if we got our own place.” I caved, since that’s what you do when you get married. We moved to the suburbs, where we had plenty of friends, but they pretty much all had kids. I was good with it, but we weren’t ready to have kids just yet.
Fast forward a couple of years, and we felt pretty settled, solid in our jobs, and ready to take that step. We were approaching our mid 30’s, and my wife had warned me that, kids didn’t come easy to her older sister, and it’d probably take a little time. My older brother had popped out 2 kids very fast and successively, so I knew there would be no issue on my side. We got started pretty casually, but after no results for 6 months, we decided to do the obligatory tests.
“My brother popped out 2 kids, so I knew there would be no issue on my side”
I had pretty much assumed we would either find no issue or hopefully a minor issue on my wife’s side that we could easily overcome. No problem – we’d do what we needed to do and get past it. I can truly say I was not nervous in any sense when I went in for my semen analysis. Then, I got my results (just online, not via doctor), and I looked at it a few times and assumed I wasn’t reading something correctly. I connected with the doctor, and we decided I should do another test – similar results came back, and that’s when I realized I was pretty damn infertile – very low count with terrible motility – my few worthwhile swimmers were mostly drunk, leaving our odds of natural pregnancy extremely slim.
So, how did I feel? How did my wife feel?
I was a little confused and disappointed. I mean, I was a pretty healthy guy.
But, no matter – there is always a way to get past things, right?
I’ve always been solution oriented, and I’d figure out how to get this thing corrected. The more we started speaking to doctors, the more I realized, there wasn’t necessarily a solution. There were things we could try with low odds of helping. I was a little lost, and that’s when the emotions started hitting. I constantly thought about the very distinct possibility that I wouldn’t have kids to play with my brother’s kids. I would break down here and there, talking to my wife.
…that’s when the emotions started hitting. I thought about the very distinct possibility that I wouldn’t have kids to play with my brother’s kids. I would break down here and there…”
We didn’t share with anyone for a few months. Slowly, we then started telling family and close friends. My perspective was, I’d like to see if anyone had been through anything similar, and if there were any tips I could get to make this thing work. We actually ended up finding out that 2 other couples that we knew had issues as well – 1 on the guy’s side and 1 on the girl’s.
My wife was pretty amazing – she realized how tough it was on me, and that she needed to be the strong one. Obviously, it was very tough on her, but she knew we both couldn’t be crying all the time. Ultimately, we talked about worst case scenarios and determined that, even if we didn’t have a family, life with just each other would still be very fulfilling. I can’t say it eliminates all the emotions (it probably never will), but it allows you to forge forward.
“We talked about worst case scenarios and determined that even if we didn’t have a family, life with just each other would still be very fulfilling…”
I did some things the doctor recommended, including surgery for my varicoceles (I had 2). I kept thinking, it will work out – it’s just a test in life, but it’ll work out. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t always work like that. 6 months after having the surgery, I haven’t seen any improvement to my counts and motility.
I should say it can take a toll on your relationship too. My wife has been the rock and dealt with my emotions, but it’s an extremely stressful thing on both of you, and that does lead to having occasional stupid fights about little things when you’re frustrated because of that big thing. And each time, when you think, okay, I can be strong about this, the next hit comes of something else not working, and it’s easy to break down again.
“You think…I can be strong…then the next hit comes, and it is easy to break down again.”
Regardless, I’d like to say and think, you come out stronger, because you see how supportive your partner is. I’ll just be clear that it’s not sunshine and daisies along the way – it’s tiring, psychologically.
It is what it is…
You want to know what could have possibly caused this, and in all likelihood, you’ll just never find out. You won’t know why you can’t do what the majority of other human beings can do. But you find yourself saying — it is what it is.
The good news is my wife has checked out okay. We’re both sub 35, but fast approaching. So, we’ve decided, without seeing any other options to make this happen naturally, we’re moving forward with IVF. It’s stressful and costly. But, it’s also a bit liberating. You feel like you should keep on fighting, and depending on your age, it may be worthwhile. For us, we are approaching 2 years since trying and both approaching 35, so it’s time to move on from natural birth. Maybe, for #2, when my sperm magically turn awesome – they’re probably just late bloomers.
Nothing about this is easy. I mean, straight up, it sucks. But it is what it is.
You end up seeing even more what an amazing spouse you have. And, you just roll with it – go through the options the doctor recommends and see where you stand. I think each personality deals with it differently. I’m still not at a stage where I’m looking to scream off the rooftops, that I have crap sperm, but I do want to try to help others.
…you end up seeing even more, what an amazing spouse you have
I would love to tell people, hey, it doesn’t hurt to get your sperm checked out every year or two, and I have told some of my friends without kids to do so. I want to try to help companies like DCYB, because I appreciate the awareness they’re trying to create. I’m hoping there will be a future, when there will be better and more clear solutions for male infertility. Hopefully, if you’re in the midst of dealing with this, at some point, whether successful with having a child or not, you’ll want to try to help others to maximize their chances of not being in this situation as well.
Keep fighting the good fight, and know that you’re not alone.