Fertility from A Man's Perspective

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First, no matter how much it the guys think it is, women always have a more difficult path. But for a man, there is still real difficulty. Because man will never carry a pregnancy, there is somewhat of a separation between the male perspective and the female perspective on infertility. With that in mind, let me share a little bit of my side of the struggle with infertility. About six months to a year after we married, my wife and I began the process of building our family. After a year we started asking questions as to why we had not yet gotten pregnant. 

I suffered with severe testicular torsion as a young teenager. So I began to think that may of had something to do with our inability to conceive. After getting a sperm analysis we found I had no sperm. Next came a surgical procedure. During the surgery, at University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, doctors found immature sperm in my testicular tissue and harvested it for implantation through use of the ICSI procedure.

Surgery after surgery and ICSI cycle after cycle; all our attempts failed. The quality of the embryos was never great and we always attributed it to the very immature (barely moving) sperm that was harvested via surgery (the only way to get any sperm).

The burden I carried felt huge. Just like many women, I felt my sperm, my body was failing us preventing us from having a child. It was a very difficult concept to wrap my head around and I was becoming more and more bitter. The experience of making a baby should be romantic and loving. Instead of this cold calculating repetition of failures. The clinic started having trouble  getting my wife’s hormone levels where they needed to be. After three failed cycles, the clinic had no answers for us. Our negative feelings grew so we started searching for a second opinion. We went to IVFNJ first and were absolutely turned off by their approach and lack of bedside manner. Then we went to RMANJ where we once again felt hopeful.

Two more failed cycles and we started feeling the air leak out of the balloon again. It was at this time that test results, scans and failed cycles were shedding a light on possible medical issues with my wife that could be further complicating our infertility issues. For a brief moment, I almost felt a sense of relief…it wasn’t just me after all. I wasn’t the only problem causing us to fail. That relief quickly turned to heartache…sorrow…feeling useless.

I have to say I am the "Fix It" guy. I am the problem solver. I am an educated man. I have a master’s degree, hold multiple certifications in my field and am the guy you want around when there is a problem that requires a solution. I am a solutions guy…no matter what the problem... I fix it!  Need help rebuilding a motor…call me. Have to figure out how to balance a $5MM budget…call me. Need to get a critical project done in an impossible timeframe…I’m your guy. Need someone to sing opera at your wedding or rewire your house or change the brakes on your car or give you advice on how to start a business…call me. But I couldn't find this solution. Instead my wife began seeing specialists in Illinois and New Jersey. She began researching clinical studies and trials. She began learning the lingo and challenging the doctors to look at every single aspect of her body. She sought out online groups to build a support system to help her as she advocated for herself and our future child. Her psychology background gave her insight into the clinical trials and reports that allowed her to be the best advocate for herself and for our future baby. So, you can imagine the utter uselessness I felt when I couldn’t fix our infertility. I just couldn’t figure out a way to advocate for a solution. Sure, I could give my wife shots and set up her IV for IVIg infusions. But, when it came to understanding the volumes of information about infertility…my wife carried the burden largely on her own and it was the hardest thing not to be able to fix it. 

That is where my struggles with infertility remain. I am never going to understand the female side of infertility as well as my wife.I cannot fix the problem…the fixer (me) is broken. All the King’s horses and all the King’s men cannot put Humptey Dumptey back together again. But one thing I can do is share the burden we both face because infertility isn't a his or her problem. It's a couple issue to fact together.

Now, I have long since come to terms with my inability to biologically father a son. Quite honestly, it is not that big of a deal. Through a very aggressive combination of therapies with multiple doctors, we were blessed to have a beautiful son in February 2015. He was premature due to complications with my wife’s high risk pregnancy, but he was healthy and after two weeks in the NICU, he was home with us. He was conceived with donor sperm and IUI with a multitude of medications to address my wife’s autoimmune issues, blood coagulation issues and inflammation.

I love my son unconditionally and with a full heart and he loves me back with that unconditional love one can only have in the mother-son or father-son relationship. He is my son and nothing can change that. For a fixer…it hurts that I cannot fix the infertility. But I share in the burden and we support each other because support is what I can provide. Even being trained in the healthcare field as a paramedic, infertility is something that largely goes over my head. Do I know more about it than the average Tom, Dick or Harry…sure. Do I know anywhere near enough to relieve my wife of the burden of having to advocate for our family all the time when trying to have a child…unequivocally no. That is my burden. That is infertility from this “guy’s” perspective.

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