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What Do Men Think About Infertility?
a blog by murgdan, Feb. 5, 2010
Few thing can make a diagnosis of male factor infertility more gut-wrenching than it is all of its own accord, but male factor infertility when your partner started out somewhat ambivalent about the child-bearing question? Little bit harder.
Let me be frank, my husband and I talked for years before actually deciding to have children. It was not a decision taken lightly. While my partner is committed to me and to the parenthood that we’ve pursued relentlessly, I'm not in denial about the fact that, had it not been for my desires, he would have been perfectly content to never venture down this road.
When the road was easy, at least he was along for the ride. As ‘Rue de la Trying to Conceive’ slowly became a twisted, winding path, things became more complicated for us as a couple.
As my husband rarely opens up to discuss our infertility issues (more so because they occupy less of his daily concerns than they ever did mine), I had a list of questions to which I wanted to hear his answers. Imagine my surprise when he agreed to share them!
How did you feel during that first year of trying to get pregnant?
Well, for me it wasn’t as much of an obsession as it was for my wife. I think she felt her biological clock ticking and she literally became crazy about having children. Up to this point in my life, I never felt the need to have children, partly because of my past and partly because of the poor examples I saw in other parents around me. Having lost my father when I was young, I didn’t want it to happen to my children. Of course, I have a friend who says that his father was tyrannical and unreasonable, so in his opinion, it would have been better to grow without a father. But that is another question ….
Did you get discouraged as the months went by? Did you start to question whether or not something was wrong?
No, I never got discouraged. I like the idea of going with the flow. If something works, it’s ok, and if it doesn’t, it’s still ok. One never knows the reason behind why things happen. Sometimes people find when we get what we desire it becomes a kind of curse. I prefer to avoid wishes.
There is a Taoist story that I was told when I spent some time in China. I’ll do my best to translate it:
There was a peasant, and one day he was working in the field and the plow broke, so the other neighbors were saying how unlucky he was.
And his answer was, “Is that so?”
Then while he was trying to repair the plow, which was stuck deeply in the ground, he found a buried pot of gold. All his neighbors gathered and they were saying how lucky he was! Some were jealous of him.
And his answer was, “is that so?”
With the gold he bought a horse and repaired the plow. One day while riding the horse his son fell down and broke his leg. So the neighbors gathered and told him that the gold brought him bad luck, because now his only son couldn’t help him with the crop.
And his answer was, “Is that so?”
Then a couple of days later an army invaded the province and the local mandarin sent the troops to get the young males of the village for conscription. The son of the peasant wasn’t taken because he had a broken leg. The sons of the other peasants were taken, and most of them died on the battlefield. The old peasants gathered and told him that he was lucky, because his son broke his leg just a couple of days before and he was saved.
The peasant answered, “Is that so?”
So the moral of this story is that there is nothing really wrong or right in life, but only what we give to it as value. So if having a child is our maximum goal in life, and not having one is a drama and heartache, then our life is miserable. But then I know parents who have children, then lose those children due to endless reasons, be them drugs, accidents, war. Well, I remember the Chinese peasant story, and know that till the end of our lives, we can never be confident that a certain event was right or wrong.
Did you ever tell me to ‘just relax’?
Yes, but it never worked.
Were you intimidated having to go to the doctor to begin infertility testing?
No, I’m ignorant about science and lack the understanding of many things about the reproductive cycle. Throughout my life I’ve had many hard events, so I’m generally accustomed to be punched down by reality. I’ve learned to accept the fact that things don’t go as planned, and most of the time, things are never easy for me.
What was your first thought when you found out there was a problem with your semen analysis?
My first thought? I could have saved a lot of money in condoms!
Then of course I also started to think back and what really bugged me was that I couldn’t understand when it happened. Docotors weren’t able to find a cause and I don’t think I will ever be able to understand what happened to my body and when, and what made my semen have a low number of spermatocytes. I believe it could have happened when I was in the army, because Chernobyl exploded, and the radioactive dust covered half of Europe during a time when I was serving outside.
No matter the reason, I am once more reminded of the story of the Chinese peasant. Maybe my life was saved by the fact that I always used condoms out of the fear of getting a woman pregnant, because maybe that saved me from viruses or bacterial infections.
What was the hardest thing about finding out we couldn’t get pregnant on our own?
I believed that maybe it was a message. Maybe I wasn’t meant to be a father (as I have the fear of dying relatively young, and leaving my child alone). Nature took away that possibility, since if I understand Natural Selection, only the fittest passes the genes. Maybe I just wasn’t fit.
Then of course there was the money issue. For me, all the money we spent on IVF could have been used to do something for ourselves, like traveling and learning new things. I still have some places I’d like to see, which I do believe are a source of inspiration. But if I have a child, then I will have to behave conservatively, because obviously it will not be only my life to take into consideration anymore, but also the child’s life.
Would you have felt differently about our infertility if the problem had been a female factor as opposed to a male factor?
Personally, I was sure it wasn’t a female problem since my wife’s sisters were all able to have many children.
How would you describe the IVF process?
I personally felt like, for the doctors and nurses involved, it was just a way to make a lot of money, while from the other side, people like my wife really suffer. The whole process disgusted me, like they didn’t understand the pain the situation really causes some patients. They can say all the politically correct things they want, but unfortunately their body language and their faces betrayed how little they felt towards our situation. We had a few bad experiences.
What was it like finding out it didn’t work the first time?
I felt bad for my wife, because she put so much energy and resources into it, and she doesn’t deal well with failure. I didn’t know how to console her.
Our second transfer used frozen embryos—which was a much easier process. Would you have tried again even if we had to start from scratch?
Personally, the financial burden was so big, another cycle could have cost us a financial failure in the future. I can’t really say what we would have done in this case.
What was it like finding out we were finally pregnant?
- I still don’t believe it. Maybe like the ancient Greeks, I don’t sing victory too soon, because I’m too self-aware of the world around me and all the things which can go wrong.
What was the best thing about the last few years of trying to conceive?
I cannot think of anything positive at the moment.
What was the worst, or hardest, thing about the last few years of trying to conceive?
The lack of sexual spontaneity. Having sex only when there was a high probability of conceiving was quite “unnatural” in my opinion, and I would have preferred to live life more naturally. That said, of course I understood that the only way to make it work was to do it in the right time.
I also would have preferred an exam or something to know our fertility status right away -- and even requested this when we first set out on this journey— but the doctors wouldn’t agree to testing anything until we had tried for one year. This would bring me to pointing out some evident problems with the health system . . . but that would be for another interview
And that’s that.
It’s not all happy. It’s not all cheery. It is what it is. Pretty much like infertility. We take the good with the bad, and sometimes we wade through an awful lot of bad to get to the good.
But the good? It’s so, so good.
“Is that so?,” says the Chinese peasant?
Yes, it is so.