Ever since I was old enough to know who my dad was, I have wanted to be one.
The love of a child is an incredibly inexplicable thing. I loved my dad because he loved me. He cared about me and played with me and provided for me. I thought that was pretty cool and I wanted to do that too. I wanted to be just like my dad. Once I got married I figured that would happen pretty quickly. Being a husband was pretty awesome, and I wanted to upgrade that.
My father was always an amazing example of patience and integrity. My mother has a lot of health issues and I always saw my dad taking care of her without complaint. When I got married, it seemed second nature to do the same for my wife. I don’t mind fetching her things or checking off “honey-do’s” as quickly as possible. This isn’t to say I’m the perfect husband (FAR from it), but I do my best.
I always knew that whoever my wife was, she would likely wrap me around her finger quite quickly and easily. I also knew that, if I ever had a little girl, it would be even worse. I always wanted a “daddy’s girl” and so I was very excited when, after a couple of years of being married, we finally decided to start trying.
It took about 9 months to a year before it even really occurred to me that something might be holding us up. A few months later, we had a surgery to fix my wife’s endometriosis and we had her start taking clomid to help her ovulate. A few months after that, we were still decidedly un-pregnant.
I don’t know that I ever really felt nervous about getting a semen analysis performed. I figured everything would just work out fine. Hence the surprise when I was told that my “sample” was “empty”.
“There’s no sperm in your sample. It looks like Azospermia. I’m very sorry,” said the nurse.
Okay, first off, I have no idea what you’re talking about. Secondly, sorry for what? What does that even mean?
Turns out, it means that, where there should be 280 million sperm, there was zero. Nada. Nothing… “Empty.”
To make a VERY long story short, we ended up seeing Dr. Foulk at Utah Fertility Center. By this point, we were both aware that getting pregnant would be difficult, but we figured we should give it a shot. Dr. Foulk was, and is, one of the most amazing people I have ever met. He told us we had a very good chance of making it work.
Fast-forward to roughly 4 years later. Multiple analyses, four years’ worth of hormone shots and 3 testicular biopsies later, we had a plan. We’d found 3 sperm in my most recent biopsy (by the way, those are super painful… Let’s just leave it at that), so we were excited to move forward. The day of the IVF treatment, we got 40 eggs from my wife and from me? That’s right. Nothing again… Empty.
This was one of the most devastating days of my life. My wife was distraught. I was more or less numb. This was our last chance. Our only hope of ever having children. I figured adoption was the next step for us. Cue our amazing doctor.
Dr. Foulk said I had one more shot, albeit a somewhat long one. An invasive and expensive surgery called a Micro-dissection TESE was our only hope. I will try and explain how this works, but please know that this description could be considered graphic by some people. Imagine if you will, taking a fresh roll from the oven and cutting it in half and opening it up to put butter on it. Except the roll is a metaphor for something else. The doctors took a scalpel and cut around the testes 270 degrees and splayed them open to manually search for sperm with a microscope. Both of them.
When I woke up from the surgery, my wife came into the recovery room to tell me what they had or hadn’t found. After almost 5 years of failure and heartbreak and depression, you can imagine how I was feeling. This was it. This was the make it or break it moment. If they didn’t find anything, it was over for real this time.
She told me they found 4 living, viable sperm so far and they weren’t even done yet. I started blubbering like a baby. The nurse laughed and said it was a side effect of the anesthesia. Nope. It definitely was not. 4 living, healthy sperm was the most amazing gift I’d ever received. Turns out, after a few hours of searching, they found over 35.
Let’s fast-forward again and spoil the surprise. They fertilized the eggs, grew the embryos, we implanted two of them, and we ended up with the two most beautiful little twin girls in existence. We also have four more embryos frozen, which we can implant when we’re ready for more.
Phew! Okay, so why did I share the gruesome details and ramble on for two pages about all of this? It’s because you need to know that being a father means more to me than anything else in this life. All that pain and heartache and anguish was worth it. Looking at these two little girls makes me happier than I’ve ever imagined I could be. Cheesy? So be it. It’s the truth. I’m not “empty” any more.
Being the pushover I am, I knew I was in trouble with two little girls. Having the father I do as an example, I’m not worried. If I can make half the impact on my girls that my father has on me, I’ll consider myself a successful father.
I also tell you all of this to show you that, for some people, becoming parents can be a long and difficult process. Most couples out there struggling with infertility will have very different experiences, but the longing and the pain are universal. Some men will adopt to become a father and others will go through painful and invasive surgeries. I would have done all that and more a dozen times over. Know that there’s hope and know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel, as it were.
I’ve waited my entire life to say “Daddy loves you.” Now I can.