Staring down the infertility train

Sweet Santa Fe Railroad Engine at the Dallas Railroad museum.

The challenge for this week is to write about a moment when our lives changed in an instant. Couples struggling with infertility are all too familiar with these life changing moments. For the infertility journey isn’t a single instance, but a series of life changing instances.

We start with a dream, built into our instinctual biological fiber, to procreate so a form of our DNA will live on. To have a family of offspring to raise and guide into adulthood hoping they too will continue the process. Thus allowing our DNA to survive our own mortality. A need shared by all living creatures.

After a year of attempting to naturally fulfill this dream, I was asked to submit a semen sample for analysis. The results started the train of life changing moments. Finding out I have a “very low” sperm count and I was the reason behind our struggle to start a family was truly a shocking moment. This left me dazed and confused about my own masculinity, but there was still hope. Hope the problem could be fixed.

This hope led me to a Urologist and was my rookie experience with the infertility waiting game. No longer were these life changing moments a surprise, I knew they were coming. There was a time and place on the calender advertising the event. “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst” became my motto. There was nothing to prepare me for the utter devastation I felt with the news my Urologist couldn’t find anything correctable. I was left picking up the pieces of a shattered dream and told to take them to a Reproductive Endocrinologist (RE).

I never knew anyone who had tried IVF before. I had little experience with the procedures available to help infertile couples get pregnant. My high school health class was about how the reproductive system worked, nothing about what must be done if it’s not working. The internet was a scary place of confusing abbreviations and high ticket prices to even play the IVF game. My wife and I carried our shattered dream to our RE. With my low expectations, the RE pieced together our dream with information on procedures where men like me could still become a father.  He then presented a price list with rates we could reasonably afford despite our lack of insurance coverage for IVF treatments.

We agreed to give IVF a try. Our hopes now rested with a team of doctors to get my wife pregnant, with a backup plan of a few frozen embryos remaining to be used in a second attempt if needed. For 12 days I administered injections into my wife’s lower back, tricking her body into produce more eggs than nature designed it. When the day arrived to collect the eggs, we were so happy to have 9 mature eggs harvested. Followed 2 days later with the terrifying news only 6 fertilized and none of them were growing as expected.  The elation the next morning when we arrived for our early transfer and discovered one of the embryos grew to be a top grade, making our RE very positive about our chances.

For 3 days we waited, hoping the remaining 4 embryos would continue to grow to the point they could be frozen and stored. Hearing zero embryos would be frozen guillotined our back up plan, leaving us with our one hope. The date marked on the calender said September 17, 2012 and it would be our moment of truth.  The day blood would be drawn to see if my wife was pregnant or not, and it was still 10 days away. Friends and family were reading my blog looking for the latest news. I promised I would update it with the information as soon as we heard from the RE. If the news was good, the writing would come easy. However, a negative result…there was no way I could bring myself to write anything afterwards.  I began writing the poem A Dream Lost, pouring all the emotions I thought I would be feeling, but still hoping it wouldn’t be necessary.

The day finally arrived, blood was drawn for testing, and my wife and I sat impatiently by the phone. It barely had a chance to ring when I answered and heard, “We received the results and I’m sorry……….” I hung up, then looked at my wife shaking my head. I held my emotions together long enough to sign in and press “publish” before snapping the lid closed allowing grief to consume me.

The dream was lost.

Relatives offered to pay for another IVF attempt, but the news from the RE was my sperm just isn’t healthy enough to keep embryos growing after the 3rd day. I’ll never have a biological child. Fatherhood may still be in my future, and I will of course raise it as my own. Right now I just need time. Time to grieve my loss. Time to accept my fate. Time to open my heart to other possibilities.

© copyright 2011-2012

About ivfmale

Just a guy dealing with infertility.

Posted on November 13, 2012, in Purgatory and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. So sorry to hear about your journey. Has your RE considered a possible 2 day transfer?

    • If the issue was with the egg he would consider it. But the fact all the embryos stopped on day 3 tells him the sperm just isn’t healthy enough to keep the division going regardless if in the woman or in a lab. There would need to be some way of separating the real healthy sperm from the ones that just look healthy.

  2. It’s interesting because I’ve been thinking a lot, lately, about why IVF is so scary. It’s not the shots, it’s not the cost (well, that can be part of the scary), it’s not the hormonal rages – it’s knowing that it’s the end of the line. If it doesn’t work – that’s it. This is not going to be a popular comment, but I’m going to say it anyway. When people say that we all have our own experiences and fears when it comes to IF, that is true… to an extent. But the person who gets pregnant with chlomid, or an IUI, has no idea what it’s like to get to the end of the line and put all of your eggs in one final basket. That is a fear that no one can understand unless they’ve been there. It’s a fear that I wish on no one. It’s a fear that comes back to haunt me once in a while and leaves me ice cold for everyone still working toward their end goals.

    The person who looks IVF in the eye and is then told that there’s nothing further that can be done for a biological child has faced the worst that IF has to offer.

    I’m so sorry that you and your wife have to live this. It leaves me… with chills. 😦

    • Thank you.

      I completely agree with what you said. With IUI and chlomid there is always another step after you can try if you want to. But with IVF with ICSI there isn’t one yet. It’s the end of the line and you can only try it again hoping for a different result. If we had even one embryo make it to the freezing stage I would consider another attempt. But the way it all worked out, I don’t see the result being any different.

      The day of the blood test result truly was a life changing in an instant moment. All the more difficult was knowing when the instant would occur and it would mean my elation or devastation.

      • I’m terribly sorry for what is very much a significant loss in your life, ivfmale. Without at all wanting to hijack your post or comment thread, I’ll just suggest in response to Courtney’s comment that for some couples, for several reasons but mostly financial, clomid IS the end of the line. I’ll never envy anyone having to do IVF, and I can’t possibly know what it’s like to reach the end of the line as you have, ivfmale, but I do know someone who will never be able to afford IVF or adoption outside the foster system and who would have been an amazing mother.

      • Thank you for commenting.

        I don’t think Courtney is trying to belittle the loss of those who can’t afford IVF for financial reasons. Some do for religious reasons. But there is something extra scary about risking thousands of dollars, performing shots for several days. Worry about the number of eggs harvested, how many fertilized, how many to implant and possibly freeze, THEN suffer the two week wait to see if all that effort worked.

        But I do find it sad that many can’t even afford the chance. For an insurance company to call IVF an elective procedure is an insult.

      • Thank you, IVFMale, for clarifying perfectly what I was trying to say. I seem to get called out a lot on the myriad of things I don’t go into in my comments and posts because those things aren’t the points of my comments and posts. If I clarified every single thing that ran through my mind as I comment and post – I would never stop writing!

        Of course clomid and IUI can be financially the end of the line for some people, but I was talking about the BIOLOGICAL end of the line. IUI, IVF, etc. is expensive – no doubt about it – but at least it still looms out there as a biological CHANCE for those who haven’t gotten there yet. Many people save for years to try IVF – unfortunate that they have to – but they do. When you do IVF and fail – there is nothing else to strive for for a biological child. There is nothing else to save your money for in hopes of a biological child.

        All chance of biology is gone.

        That’s all I was saying.

        I was going to write an entire post on this but I guess I will not 😉

  3. Reblogged this on All the Sun For You and commented:
    I’m having a very reflective week for some reason or another, and feel the need to share this post from one of my favorite bloggers. Read it. It is worth your time.

  4. You may have already done this, so I apologize for not reading through your entire blog history yet), but have you done a sperm DNA fragmentation test, and is your RE willing to treat you with things like Clomid and antioxidants? After a 2 year IVF roller coaster, my husband is being treated for very low morphology right now.

    • We don’t live in a major city and our clinic has satellite offices near us that perform the ultrasounds so we only have to make 2 trips into the city for the retrieval and transfer. Their rates are more affordable with a very high success rate.

      Unfortunately the high volume is necessary to keep the cost down so success rate to them is everything. Meaning my RE, while wanting to give us a child, is also concerned about this number and less enthusiastic about trying something different and more interested in steering us into using donor sperm with a higher success rate.

      In a nutshell, I don’t feel they’ve put much thought into really difficult situations which is sad but understandable.

      • Clinics are so worried about their #’s these days. What happened to the original goal: to help struggling couples get pregnant (with their own biological children). In my non expert opinion, there are some avenues for you and your wife to try, prior to going straight to donor sperm. When you are up to it, perhaps you could send me an e-mail:

  5. I can’t imagine what this feels like. For my husband this news came long before we were even together, so he had to deal with a similar diagnosis as a 15 year old. Both unspeakably difficult to imagine how a kid could deal with hearing something like that (and not really being encouraged to talk about it, let alone finding an outlet through blogs which were a long way off then) but also really abstract when you’re far from the situation where you want to do anything about it.

    In any case, one hard thing I know from my own experience about the loss is that you feel it over and over again in different ways – the first news, then every time again later. But the only hopeful thing I can say for our situation (now pregnant via donor sperm) is that the sadness is starting to be accompanied by (even replaced by? never entirely but it’s taking over) really joyful things too, and it feels great for both of us to be able to say that.

    • I wish I had found out about my infertility as a teenager. I was more worried about avoiding pregnancy at that time then getting a woman pregnant. Plus I wouldn’t have had to waste money on condoms with my steady girlfriend. It would have been easier to digest the news had it come at a time I wasn’t in the middle of trying to have a child.

      Congratulations on your pregnancy and I wish you both the best! 😀

  6. As someone who has been through all of this, it is good to read it from the man’s perspective. My husband too found his fertility issues confronting, shattering, and left him questioning manhood in general. And I had to tell him the count results over the phone, not once, but twice. Ugh.

    We were lucky enough that ICSI round 2 worked ( though I know we never would have succeeded in old school IVF without ICSI), and now he’s bleary eyed and craving sleep like every other new dad. But I do appreciate seeing the man’s perspective, and I hope in some way or form, you do find a way to fatherhood.

    And could not agree more with you about stupid high school classes. My catholic girl ed was all about NOT getting pregnant, and I wish I understood then a lot more about the limited window that is fertility…I felt I was not equipped to navigate this at all, or the difficulties that then came with the complicated pregnancy.

    Wishing you many happy swimmers. 🙂

    • My wife had to give me the news as well because she was the patient crap. All I know is it left me asking her questions she couldn’t possibly know the answer too. They really should rethink that policy and I’m not sure why they do that.

      Glad to hear ICSI finally worked for you. 🙂

  7. What an amazing post!!! When our first IVF cycle failed I went into the same OMG if IVF cant fix the problem we are done…I started to get depressed and looked into surrogacy…it was crazy since IVF does not work on the first shot for everyone…like a pp said have you had DNA fragmentation test…I know someone who had 30.7% of his sperm was fragmented which caused their IVF to fail but he took supplements to help but it can take 3 months to see results…This was the list:

    Target (Up Up) Men’s Daily Multi Vitamin
    CoQ10 100mg
    Acetyl-L-Carnitine 500mg
    L-Carnitine 100mg
    Vit D 1000iu
    Omega 3, 6, 9 (2 pills a day as per directions on bottle)
    Grape Seed Extract 50mg
    Super Antioxidant (2 pills per day as per directionson bottle)
    Ginseng 250mg
    Red Wine Extract (1 pill per day as per directions on bottle)
    Zinc 50mg
    Baby Aspirin 81mg
    Vitamin C 500mg
    L-Arginine 500mg
    B-12 1000mcg
    Folic Acid 400mcg
    Selenium 200mcg
    Vitamin E 400iu
    N-Acetyl-Cysteine 500mg
    Maximum Greens (2 pills per day as per directions on bottle)

    It may not help but I would try anything if it would help..I was taking supplements up the wazoo (literally, lol)

    • Thank you. I tried to capture how the struggle is a series of life changing moments that can lift you up or knock you down. And the worst part is you know when it will occur, you just don’t know if you are walking away with big smile or big tears.

      If we try again I plan on getting that test done. But I think I need to find and RE who is less concerned with his success rating and willing to try supplements. All my RE talked about was pharmaceuticals which would cost thousands of dollars over the course of 3 months waiting to see if any improvement was made.

      My struggle is how do you find a good doctor willing to ignore the success rating, when you can’t help but judge them by the success rating. There is one in Colorado I’ve heard about who is good with difficult cases. But I just don’t have the money to pay for another round of IVF and deal with the travel needed to accomplish it.

      Do certain supplements help with specific types of fragmentation? Are there specific types of fragmentation? Just curious.

      Thanks for the list.

      • I dont know if specific supplements are for specific supplements or if there are any types but her hubby did take them and they helped him…I find most RE’s will steer you towards meds because its proven and there is medical data while with the supplements there really is no scientific data on it…you may want to also consider acupuncutre and traditional chinese medicine (TCM) I have heard great things about that and it cant hurt…CCRM is prob the best clinic in the world..check out this blog about a couples journey via IVF and they turned to CCRM to get pregnant:

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