Staring down the infertility train
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.