Male Infertility: A New Beginning, a New Voice

Male infertility is where my story started. That’s not something many men will open a conversation with.

Yet I wouldn’t change a thing, because on February 1st 17 years ago, my low sperm count led me and my wife to a life altering phone call that we’d waited for six years.

Six. Years. 312 weeks.  113,880 days.  2 million plus hours. 

You’re pregnant.  Not “it’s negative.”  Not, you’re pregnant but….  Just you’re pregnant.

It was one of the first cycles that the doctors didn’t even give us odds of success. The embryos that were transferred that cold January day behind the icy-cold clinical walls of St. Barnabas were “poor-quality,”, according to the rating system of the embryologists.

I remember the options on the paperwork asking us how we wanted to handle our little dysfunctional cell divisions.  Donate to science.  Discard.  Cryopreserve. 

I never hesitated to select the kidsicle option.  But I knew it came with a potential consequence: the super A-team quality blastocysts that were floating in Lisa’s uterus might not implant, and we might have to fly across country again to thaw them out.

And that’s exactly what happened. 

Infertility is a persistence game

I don’t know anyone during our infertility journey who didn’t get their desired outcome if they kept trying.  In some cases, the outcome that was desired took on a new form.

A child from your own biology becomes a child from a donor.  A child carried in your womb becomes a child carried in someone else’s womb. 

At the end of the day, there are an abundance of options to achieve the dream of parenthood.  But like anything else it can’t happen if you stop taking the action to make it happen.

Male infertility changed my entire vision of what conceiving a child would be like. It also forced me to learn to open my mind to the reality that not everything in life goes as planned.

Sometimes the light is hidden — but it’s always there

Anything worth having in this life requires persistence. Persistence is the glue that holds the shattered pieces of your heart together after each failed treatment, each miscarriage, or each announcement that someone else you know is pregnant…again. Y

I don’t have any idea where you are in your journey. If you’re in a dark place after a failed cycle and are trying to figure out what to do next, you’re probably thinking “Fuck you Denny, you’ve been a parent for sixteen years now so you don’t know what I’m going through.”

You’re completely right.  But I can also tell you I have been in my own version of the hell you are going through. 

Male infertility was my reality — and it almost broke me. The one thing my wife wanted more than anything in the world was being hindered because of my defect. At one point, I very seriously thought it would be better for me to exit this life.

Every day I thank God I didn’t let my sperm count break me. Male infertility sucks, but it’s not worth ending it all.

You can get through this.  It won’t just be hard.  It will be mind-numbingly, excruciatingly painful sometimes.  But you will prevail – if you don’t quit.

You may need to change your approach

Doing the same treatment with the same doctor more than three times is the definition of infertility treatment insanity. It may be time to move on. 

You have to search your heart.  What is it you really want? What, if anything, are you willing to compromise?

My wife was unwilling to take our biology out of the equation.  My sperm were shit.  Well, that’s not entirely true – my daughter is proof that I had one brilliant tadpole in a sea of triple-headed, no-tailed mutants.

I just needed some reproductive assistance in the form of ICSI to get my sperm into the proper egg so the cell division could begin.  The problem is, it took us nearly six years to break up with our previous IVF doctor before we realized my problem was way beyond the scope of what he had the resources to fix.

The SARTs don’t lie

The beauty of the science behind the SARTs is it’s cold hard data.  You don’t want to necessarily pick the clinic with the highest success rates.  You want pick a clinic that deals with your particular issues.

For us, the lion’s share of our problems were exacerbated by my extraordinarily low sperm count.  Yet—we continued to seek care from the best IVF doctor – in Tucson, Az. 

Not to knock what he did for us.  I wanted him to succeed, but after truly researching the extent of my problem, I realized that we had been spinning our wheels working with a clinic that didn’t specialize in male infertility.

But you’ve got to understand what your issues are.  And you have to keep looking and asking and looking and asking.  Medicine is not an exact science – and we learned that from trial and error over six years.

Work together on a solution

For any guys who’ve made it this far, kudos, bro.  You must want to stay in the game for the duration.  I know I couldn’t stand reading infertility posts until I was completely committed to fighting every battle of the war we were in to become parents.

For women reading this hoping for some opening dialogue with your hubby, just know that he doesn’t feel this the way you do.  You’ve got all the biology for baby-making hardwired into you—guys just contribute one thing to the equation.

In the perfect biological version of fertility, we get to become one with you while we’re making the baby.  In the medically assisted version, we get a plastic cup and a magazine.

It’s emasculating for a guy, male infertility or not, to have a doctor involved in baby making.  We grow up expecting to see a doctor for broken bones, bad infections and yearly check-ups.

It takes a little time to jump on board the fertility treatment train. Yes, I know that’s time you don’t have, and it’s okay to remind us of that. 

But try to stick to the facts. Most guys have a fix-it mentality and want to help, but we really don’t know how.  I loved battling the insurance companies to cover OB-Gyn oriented stuff they always tried to deny initially, so that may be a task worth delegating, unless your fortunate enough to be in a state or work for a company that has infertility coverage.

The sacrifice will pay off

My worst fear when we were in the early stages of our infertility walk was we’d someday have to fly across country, liquidate our savings, rack up debt, all for the flip-of-a-coin chance at having a child.

It still haunts me to this day that became our reality. But then again, our daughter became a reality too.

It was worth every soul sucking, checking account draining, credit card interest cranking minute, because in the end, my wife gets to see my eyes in our daughter every single day. You can’t put a price on that.

I can’t tell you exactly how it will happen, or what parenthood will look like for you. But I can tell you’ll have your own February 1st to celebrate, if you don’t give up.

Positive thoughts headed your way–

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