“When are you two going to have kids?”
I hate that question. Before we knew about my lazy, good for nothing sperm, it was easy to brush the question off like an annoying wasp around your picnic basket. There are plenty of excuses out there for the young, career obsessed couple who like nice holidays and fancy restaurants. Some people probably thought we were being selfish.
I think that traditional view of marriage is still prevalent. If you don’t have a baby bump nine months after the ceremony, you are considered some kind of revolutionary. Well, we are now seven years from our wedding day!
The reality is, we were being the complete opposite of selfish.
In our view, we simply weren’t ready for children. We both came from broken homes, so the last thing we wanted to do was to rush into it. We determined to live life and have no regrets. We have seen how much time, effort, dedication and skill is needed to be a parent. Why enter into that before you have experienced the world yourself? That wouldn’t be fair on us or our future children.
Going back to the original question then, how do we answer it now? Well, we could be honest:
“Not sure, as my husband is virtually infertile so our only hope is science. It may not work and we may never be parents. Can you pass me the olives please?”
The tumbleweed would be like a tidal wave of awkwardness. There is a part of me that would love to do it. My view is that people need to get a little bit of self awareness.
If a couple in their mid-thirties are sitting there without children, there may well be a good reason. The evil part of me wants to unleash that storm of awkwardness to teach them a lesson. They would soon stop poking that hornets nest wouldn’t they?
Instead, we simply stick to the boring response:
“At some point in the next few years. Can you pass the olives please?”
The impact isn’t as great but the conversation moves on. The turmoil inside disappears less easily.
In our situation you feel angry and bitter at the world. Why us? We are young, healthy, fit and have a wonderful home. We are a ready made family unit.
Too many couples pop out kids like a baby-making factory. They arrive into a world of drugs, abuse, poverty and little hope. When you see this happening in the news, it is hard not to be bitter. Too many people are parents that shouldn’t be and those who deserve it can’t conceive. How is that fair? There seems a great injustice to it all.
My infertility is down to a minor operation I had as a child. As my fertility doctor so eloquently described, I have the “ball sack of a nine year old boy.”
The unfairness in all of this is that my wife didn’t choose this. As far as she knew, she was marrying a fully working male, with all the right parts in all the right places.
This is very hard to take as a man. We live in a world where it is considered the most basic of ‘manly’ functions – to father a child. Some men boast about having ‘super-swimmers’. There have been newspaper headlines about celebrities along those lines. I have been in the pub with mates as someone proudly states “they only have to look at their missus and she is pregnant.”
No one talks about male infertility though. If you google it, there are very few articles. If you search on twitter, there are very few men talking about it. Those that are, like me, hide behind an anonymity. The reality is many are embarrassed and ashamed of their failings. It is fantastic to see new campaigns like ‘Make Fertility Conceivable’ being launched. To have a dedicated campaign to highlight this issue is long overdue. It does need men to come forward though and that could be a very difficult barrier to break.
In my world, I feel like I am starting to chip away at it. My wife has helped to change my attitude with her unwavering support. She has made me see that I am actually more of a man by facing the problem head on. By taking it on the chin, laughing about it and smiling in the face of adversity, the whole situation has become just about bearable. The key for me has been to realize that I haven’t let her down.
Our journey creates some crazy experiences. The scheduled sex, hanging my wife upside down by her ankles to help the sperm on their way and peeing on sticks, constantly. Then there are the the bizarre diets, the weird and wonderful supplements and the difficulties in cutting out our favourite food and drink. You have to live like a monk. There are those awkward meetings with the doctor and the strange experience of donating sperm. It is hard to forget the awful sounds coming from that room next door! The list is endless.
All of it is part of a difficult and emotional rollercoaster, where tears are common and laughter can turn to hysteria. At times, it has been hard to cope with. So I started writing about it. That is how www.wannabedad.com was formed.
I realised that there are many men out there probably going through the same thing. It also hit me from comments made by our fertility doctor, that they probably weren’t dealing with it as well as I had started too. If that was the case, then where would they turn? I couldn’t find anything out there that would show them others were also sharing their experience.
Being a father is something that we all take for granted. It is assumed that you will get married and have kids, as easy as walking down the shop and buying a loaf of bread. It is crazy really, when you consider the biological miracle that is conception and childbirth. But it happens to everyone you know, so the consideration that you will be part of a small percentage of failures just doesn’t cross your mind.
www.wannabedad.com is my journey. It is an open, honest and very personal account about everything I am going through. It is written by someone who struggles to share their feelings. I am a bloke at the end of the day. I like lager, football, pubs and mates. I am an everyday man with a not so everyday problem.
What do I hope to achieve from writing it? Well, it makes me feel better for a start. I find the experience therapeutic. In the long term though, my wish is simple. If just one man feels less alone from reading my blog, then it will have succeeded.