Fertility

I think I was a bit unusual as a teenage boy. By the time I was 15 I had it all sussed out. I’d get married to the girl of my dreams and have a brood of children by my mid-twenties. In fact, I was the only teenage boy I knew who actually got broody. I’d love a trip around Ikea imagining creating a home for me and my family. I’d see toddlers and little children playing on the furniture and in the kids zone and daydream about what my family might one day look like.

The plan was simple; meet the perfect partner, get married young, have great sex, fall pregnant when we were ready, have the ideal pregnancy, and develop a wonderful family. What could be more simple?

As it turns out, the laws of quantum physics are probably more simple. I didn’t quite meet and marry the girl of my dreams quite as quickly as I’d hoped, and getting pregnant took a while too, but eventually, it happened. Imagine the joy; we were simply over the moon. But it didn’t last long. Just a few weeks in and my partner suffered a horrible miscarriage. Only then do you learn the facts and figures; they certainly didn’t figure in the big dream. One in every four pregnancies ends this sad way.

We picked up the pieces and started to try again. And again. And again. And again. Nothing. Apart from heartache and broken dreams, not to mention the friction and tension in the marriage which was meant to be perfect.

We went to the doctors who organised tests for both of us. I had an inkling of what may be the problem due to something I’d learned recently about a rare genetic disorder in my family. But nothing could ever have prepared me for: “Mr. Watson, your sperm have poor mobility and poor morphology”. In other words, my sperms were mostly too blobby and too crap at swimming to be any natural use. We were now another statistic, that 1 in 7 couples struggle to conceive naturally.

I can’t begin to describe the punch in the stomach this was like. I was in my early thirties now, already behind schedule, and just had my hopes and dreams ripped from me. For as long as I could remember everything inside of me longed to be a father. Biologically I am primed to drive toward procreation, mentally and emotionally I longed to be a dad. But this news bought new cognitions:

I’m a failure. I’m inadequate. She’d be better with someone else. She’ll leave me and nobody else will want me. I’ll never be a dad. I’m not a proper man. And more such thoughts to boot.

And new feelings too:

Empty. Angry, like I didn’t know I could be angry. Broken. Jealous. Bitter. Judgemental. Confused. Lost.

Did I mention jealous and bitter? It was already hard enough over the years of trying, seeing almost everyone around us (attentional bias perhaps) getting pregnant, being radiant, and producing beautiful babies, but now I knew it was my fault. My fault that we couldn’t conceive. My fault that our relationship had become so strained and single-focused. My fault our lives had become so miserable. And it was miserable. Then I would compare myself to others around me, getting pregnant just like that, or the young people I was working with getting pregnant by accident and taking emergency contraception. New young families lording it over us (not really, just a reflection of where I was at the time) with their wonderful birth stories and beautiful families. Bitter and jealous didn’t really cut it as a description of what I felt at that time. They had it all and I had nothing. Apart from blame that is. It was my inadequacy that was the cause of our misery.

Our relationship suffered and became consumed by my inadequacy. My usual joy, hope, and optimism had been replaced by striving to achieve what the doctor said was likely impossible by natural means. Striving. To not be defunct. Striving. To be a man. Striving to be what my partner needed me to be. Striving. To be who I wanted to be. Striving. Striving. Exhausted. Beaten. Broken.

We were never taught that whilst the biology textbooks with all the diagrams and explanations, might tell you how it was done, the universe may well have other ideas. So no one talked about it. And when I was given my diagnosis, since no one talks about it, I was flooded with shame.

We were referred to a clinic in London and I think this part of the story may be a blog for another time. I wanted to reflect here, and remember that place I was in. Because I am not there now. And I know that there are many, many who are.

I’m aware I have written this from a very egocentric perspective. Couples go through this together and there is always more to the whole story. But I wanted to acknowledge here, that suffering, even if with someone else, is incredibly personal. I wanted to acknowledge the pain, the striving, the feelings of inadequacy, and a whole bunch more emotions that individuals experience when struggling to achieve what they had always dreamt to be a given.

I can say now that I am not inadequate. That none of the above was my fault. That I have worth beyond being able to father children. I’m not a failure and I am just as man as the next man. Apart from Bruce Willis, that is.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Powered by WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: