E is so brave to share her What’s It Like story today, and that’s what it’s like to experience male factor infertility. Out of respect for her privacy, her post will be anonymous, however, I know these words will open many eyes and also, cause others not to feel so alone if they are struggling with this as well.
Thank you E for sharing!
I have wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember. My mom had six kids between the ages of 33 and 42 so I thought it would be a piece of cake. My husband and I had been married just under a year when we decided to start officially trying. I had done my research, knew all about charting and OPKs and we were ready to go! After month three of careful charting and timing sex I began to suspect something was wrong. It was a gut instinct and I am glad I followed it. I made an appointment with an OB and while she laughed at how long we had been trying to get pregnant she finally agreed to get my husband a semen analysis just for my peace of mind. We were not at all prepared for the results.
She called me that same day and I could tell just by the sound of her voice that something was wrong. “Honey, his count is really low and he had 0% normal sperm. I’m so sorry. I am referring you to a reproductive endocrinologist so that they can help you from here…” A reproductive what? 0% normal? What did all of that mean?! I will never forget the moment I had to break the news to my husband that we were going to need help to have a family. His face when I explained the results is forever etched in my mind. He was a perfectly healthy 27-year-old that never had any major health problems, never smoked, and rarely drank alcohol. We were so confused.
Our first RE appointment consisted of them telling us that we would likely need IVF with ICSI (injecting the sperm directly into the egg) to get pregnant. We immediately read everything we could on improving sperm count and morphology and started him on every vitamin cocktail available. The second analysis yielded slightly better results, and the third was almost normal parameters with count and slightly better morphology. However, with subsequent SAs his numbers have been consistently low so we believe that the vitamins were not doing much. Our urologist never bought into the supplement “mumbo jumbo” but said it couldn’t hurt.
We were not willing to go straight into such drastic measures as IVF at first so we opted for medicated cycles. Round two of letrozole we fell pregnant, but that ended in a miscarriage at 6.5 weeks. We got pregnant again on the first round of Clomid which resulted in a chemical pregnancy ending at 5 weeks. Doctors say that morphology has nothing to do with the genetic material inside and that an abnormal sperm probably can’t penetrate the egg, but if it does it can result in a normal pregnancy. After our losses, we aren’t so sure we buy into that. We feel that much more research needs to be done on sperm morphology and DNA. We did our first ICF/ICSI cycle this March which resulted in two beautiful embryos and are very hopeful that these will be our first two children.
When I asked my husband what it’s like to deal with male factor infertility his answer was this, “It sucks.” He has brought up many feelings of inadequacy and shame that have gone along with this type of diagnosis. He feels responsible for us having to pay so much money and go through so much heartache in order to have children. He feels isolated and alone. A few of his childhood friends have gone on to have kids and when they talk about it in their group message he can’t participate. It’s been a big struggle for him to cope with and he has been so amazingly strong for the both of us.
If you ask me how I feel about dealing with MFI, I would agree with all of the above. It feels very isolating as much of the online support communities are people who don’t have MFI. I find that often I am the only one of my friends who doesn’t have PCOS or Endometriosis and is unable to get pregnant. MFI is one of the only diagnoses that is very difficult to overcome, specifically abnormal morphology. We never anticipated having to go through IVF and it was a very difficult time for us. However, I will also say this. Dealing with MFI and infertility has made our relationship stronger than I ever thought possible. We have gone through the lowest lows and the highest highs; side by side and hand in hand. My husband constantly makes me laugh when we are dealing with shitty news. Recently, he compared his sperm to a tennis team, “Because there aren’t very many of them and most of them are weird as hell” (he was a tennis player throughout high school). I could not ask for a better partner to weather this storm. Infertility does not define us and we constantly hold onto hope that one day we will be parents.
PPS – If you’re ever looking for a devotional on living life while in a waiting season, check out the devotional I co-authored called ‘In the Wait’!
PPPS – Check out the other contributions from this series, including What It’s Like: to experience multiple IVF cycles, raise a child with special needs, use an egg donor, be a DIY-er and home style blogger , be a NICU nurse, Live fully in singleness while still hoping for marriage, suffer with endometriosis. experience depression, start a company, have a micro preemie, lose a parent, be childless not by choice, have a spouse with a chronic illness, fund raise for fertility treatments, have a traumatic birthing experience,take a natural route with infertility, be a vlogger, and go through the adoption process. Stay tuned for many other amazing topics to come every Tuesday and Friday here!