I am infertile – now what?

by beagooddad on August 31, 2006

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Once Beagoodmom and I got settled after I was done with the Air Force, we decided to start a family. We practiced for several months, peed on several sticks and never ended up pregnant.

Tired of trying to remember if we wanted to see a plus sign or a minus sign, we decided to call in the experts. Beagoodmom visited her special doctor and everything looked fine. They said it can often take a while to get pregnant. “Come back and see us in a year”.

I happened to have a yearly check up with doctor-to-be-fired later and asked him what I needed to do to get myself tested. He blew me off and said come back in a year. Believe it or not, that’s not why I ended up leaving him.

Anyway, a year passed. We both had better jobs making more money and had moved to a townhouse. We had long since given up peeing on the sticks. Beagoodmom saw her doctor again. Everything looked fine again, but they were going to schedule some more precise tests to see why she was not getting pregnant. I saw my bad doctor again and told him that they were getting serious with testing my wife and I wanted to get tested. He told me that we should wait until after the tests came back from my wife.

One of the amazing things about infertility is that everybody assumes it is the woman’s problem. I read yesterday that males are at least partially the problem in about 50% of infertile couples. Initial testing of men is easy. You give them a good magazine and a cup and then do some counting to make sure there are enough sperm. Even on the day my wife had her eggs retrieved and they were going to introduce the sperm (I’ll go into how that works in a later post) they tried to send me to the happy room to produce the sperm. You’ll see why that was funny in a bit. Even doctors and nurses seem to expect infertility to be a woman’s issue.

I pushed the doctor and he scheduled the semen analysis test. Semen ananalysis testing is an interesting test. I was given the option of producing a sample at the doctor’s office or at home. I always wished there were more take home tests in school, so I chose the at home option and rushed my sample to the doctor’s office afterward. You have about an hour and have to keep the sample away from extreme temperatures. It is pretty odd handing some random lady behind the counter at the doctor’s office a cup full of semen. It is hard not to blush.

They counted and noticed something strange. When most me are infertile, I’m pretty sure it means that they could potentially make babies, but their sperm count is so low that the odds are greatly reduced or the health of the sperm that are present is so poor that most could not fertilize an egg. Not me. There were no sperm in the cup. This is called azoospermia. I learned there are two main causes. One is that there is a kink in the hose. In that case, they do a biopsy, drag the sperm out, and introduce them to an egg. The other option is that I did not produce sperm for some reason and I would not be sharing DNA with any future generations. To confirm that they have to do a biopsy, also.

My testicular biopsy appointment was on September 6th a few years back. Rebecca’s birthday. They put me to sleep, put a giant needle into my testis, retrieved a sample and sent me to recover. I woke up a little while later and was told that I do not produce sperm, put in a wheel chair and sent home to recover. The recovery takes a few days of lying around in bed with ice on your crotch. I read a book or two, and watched a lot of day time TV. When you go back to work a few days later, you are still a little sore and walk a little gingerly. Nobody asked me why I was walking like a cowboy, so it must not have been too noticeable.

I had two very strong, and I’m sure very normal reactions when I left the hospital. First, I wanted a pizza. Second, I did not want any kids.

There is something emotionally damaging to finding out that there is something wrong with your ability to reproduce. I felt like less of a man. Then I began to feel like I was not a man. Then after a couple days, I told myself to quit being a sissy. Just because I do not have sperm does not mean that we could not have kids.

We looked into our options.

  • Adoption. The people that go through adoptions are saints. It is a very expensive, frustrating experience. We read a book on how to do it and decided that it wasn’t the option for us at that time.
  • Foster parenting. I would not be able to handle when it was time for the kid to move on. Again, most foster parents are saints, but it just was not the answer for us.
  • Getting a dog. We already had two cats and still felt like we wanted kids. Getting a dog would just make us want a kid to play with the dog. Not an option at the time but we are starting to look into this option now that we have kids.
  • Sending wife to bars to look for one night stands. This did not really seem like a safe, effective method but I am sure it would make a great Lifetime channel movie.
  • Donor sperm. Men around the country donate their sperm, usually for a few bucks. Working with your fertility doctor, you can browse a sperm bank’s online database which has a profile of the donor and place your order through your doctor/insurance company.

We went the donor sperm route and began getting my wife ready to get pregnant. When doctors are involved, there is a lot more to it than just picking a date and crossing your fingers. I’ll go into the details in a future post.

Next I’ll talk about what IVF is, what kind of risks are associated with it, and what are the different ways fertility doctors can use donor sperm to get somebody pregnant.

If you want to see the table of contents for this series, it is here.

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