Thursday, February 5, 2015

Zero Sperm Count

In my previous post, I mentioned our zero sperm count as part of our infertility. It feels like a story only half told, so I thought I would share the rest.

It was actually a friend that convinced me to have testing done for both of us. I knew I had PCOS, so I always assumed I was the one that couldn't get pregnant. It was my body that was broken. But she kept after me. Finally, she convinced me that we could be wasting time and money without having all baby producing factors checked out.

Convincing Josh took a little bit more work.

This friend had also recommended we go to a different hospital instead of the local one. I don't know if things have changed, but at that time, the local hospital only checked the numbers. By going to a bigger hospital, they could tell us how many were good swimmers, how many didn't swim at all, and how fast they swam. They would even measure the tails.

One night I told Josh, how would you like to go to the new Cabela's store? When he said yes, I told him, since we are in the city, let's have the sperm testing done. He wasn't as excited after that.

Having your sperm checked is not the most fun thing. Its awkward and uncomfortable.

As I mentioned in my previous post, it took a lot of effort to get the results. That night, when I showed the paper to Josh, his first comment was, "why is the page blank?" I pointed out the line at the bottom that said sperm count: 0.

He actually took it better than I did. Or maybe that is just part of being a man and not showing weakness. I'm sure it ate him up inside for quite a while.

We didn't tell many people we were having the testing done, but we did choose to tell family. One comment made was, "I hope it isn't him, that kind of thing kills a man because it makes them less of a real man."

Infertility is not about the man or the woman. Its about the couple. Or at least that is my belief. They are trying to have a baby. They suffer through it together. They hold one another while the other cries. The encourage one another through the testing. The are there for one another for each failed pregnancy test. Infertility is about a couple.

We have never placed blame on one another. I know this isn't true of all infertile couples, but I wish they could see it that way. I've said it a thousand times, I didn't marry Josh for his sperm and his baby making abilities. I married him because I loved him and I want to spend the rest of my life with him. Having his children would have been icing on the cake. I have never loved him any less than I did before we got those results.

A few months after the test, another family member asked about it. I didn't want anyone to see my husband as less than a man, so we decided to not tell anyone. On the night this family member asked, we were having a bad day. One of those dark depressing, should have just stayed in bed, days.

But, because we were trying so hard to act like nothing was wrong, we had gone to family dinner. And it just went downhill from there. So when they asked about the test, we lost it. We acted out in anger. We had already decided to pursue adoption and we blurted out, "well, I hope you'll love our kids as much as you do your real grandkids, because they won't have our DNA." (Do not read that as we didn't like the thought of adoption. We were excited about it. We were just in a bad infertility moment right then.)

Then to make a bad night worse, it was mentioned that they weren't surprised. "He had been on that steroid drug for several months when he was sick. It probably killed the sperm."

Wait, what? We had been married for 6 years at this point and that had never come up.

When Josh was 18, he had an auto immune disease, henoch-schonlein purpura, which attacked his kidneys. Part of the treatment was a heavy, continual dose of the steroid, prednisone. Of course, at that time, all he was worried about was getting better. If the doctor mentioned it would hurt his sperm, Josh doesn't remember.

But when we got engaged, nothing was mentioned. When we got married, nothing was mentioned. For 6 years the issue never came up. While we hadn't been super open about our struggles, we had expressed them enough that the issue could have been mentioned.

After that, our anger just intensified. Looking back, I would say it was part of the last straw that drove a wedge between us and family. It was something that haunted us for a long time before we could put it to rest.

Could we have been calm about it? For sure. Could it have been brought up differently? Of course. But you can't change the past. If you keep looking back, you will miss all that is in front of you. If you keep hanging on to anger, you will damage valuable relationships.

Fertile friends, this is where I'm trying to help you with understanding. I'm not suggesting you scare your children by suggesting every little thing that could affect their fertility in their later life. But please guide them at least. Knowing that fact before we were married would not have changed my mind. I love Josh. And if it had changed my mind, then he wouldn't have deserved me. But it might have made our journey a little smoother. A lot of hurt and anger led up to that moment; hearing those words was like throwing gasoline on the fire. I wish we had known sooner.

Infertile friends, if you haven't had your husband tested, I strongly suggest it. My thyroid is out of whack. My hormones are never stable and my period infrequent. But even if that is how it is for you, you still only have one half of the picture. As a woman, trying to conceive, with medical intervention is very intrusive. You have no privacy. Don't let your husband say its too embarrassing for him. Infertility is a couple's issues, so tackle it together.


  1. I so hate the feeling that because someone may not produce sperm, or eggs, or be able to have children, they are seen as "less than." To me, the measure of a man or woman is their personality, how they treat others, how they treat their significant others and their families. I'm so sorry someone said that to you.

    And so sorry too that his family weren't open with you about what he'd been through. I agree that we should talk openly with children and other family members. Though that is easier said than done.

  2. Awesome post as usual! It's really helpful to me because I do worry about passing on my infertility to my children. Everything I have is hereditary (though everyone in my family is extremely fertile!) Because of this post I hope I will be able to help my kids and their spouces should the need arise. Also, I hear ya on the comments. I was once given a book to help me with "my problem" at a Christmas party just weeks after I lost Conner. It was pretty awkward for everyone, except the giver of course! I think some people just truly don't think before they act! :)