by Grant Ford
He would become the father in all but biology
An odd concept for many. For most. A reality that lingered in the background for a while, more surreal than real.
Tests, scans, blood samples, tears, fainting, prognosis, diagnosis, anger, surgery, pain and more tears. Medical terminology you’ve never heard of: azoospermia, testicular failure, micro TESE, IUI, FSH and LSH.
All this while my fiancée (who would later become my wife) looked in disbelief, unable to help or know what to say. Knowing our dream of having a child was slipping through our fingertips – one disappointing appointment after another. Percentages being slashed at each stage. What do you say to a man who’s had his basic purpose taken away forever?
Optimism replaced by pessimism. Arguments, difficult conversations, anxiety, confusion
Telling the parents and close family, was just awful on both sides.Confiding in people became increasingly surreal. The longer time went on the more he owned it, the more he was comfortable explaining it and handling the reactions. This is not to say he was telling the world and his wife, but a select few – but still probably more than he thought he could.
One moment feeling strong, the next feeling desperate
Regular home and work life intercut with hospital appointments. When you are feeling in perfectly good health is strange. To be in that atmosphere is hard. Harder for those struggling with genuinely difficult conditions and outcomes. He almost felt like an imposter. Like he shouldn’t really be there.From the summer of 2016 to early 2018 newly married husband and wife were in flux. Unable to look at other options until all of his had been exhausted. A very trying period for her. One that he wished with all his heart he could have improved.
Psychologically it’s complicated
Up and down. For both parties. When things are going well they are going well in context. Their context. It’s unique to each couple. It’s easy to say highs and lows, but it’s different to that. On the one hand he was happy they’d found a way to progress, a way to have a baby even. Happy that his wife was happier. On the other hand he felt incredibly conflicted and sad.
As a man he wasn’t what you’d describe as an alpha male or a traditionalist, but it still hurt every day that he couldn’t have children. Every now and again he’d get irritable, angry or tearful. This had been the case throughout the near-two year process.Without him realising it, it had affected his mental health, his resting state of mind. Coupled with a few other incidents and factors he began to develop anxieties. Irrational fears, episodes of panic, a general feeling of edginess. Like something terrible was about to happen but he didn’t know what. Most of the time he was hiding it. For the time being he tried to manage it/conceal it/live with it. There were more important things to think about for now.
The morning of February 5th 2018. The operation
A very horrible night’s sleep ahead of the big day. The overnight accommodation wasn’t exactly what they’d expected. This was last chance saloon for him. Anxiety levels almost through the roof. A surreal, wobbly-legged walk at dawn to the hospital with his wife. He couldn’t really talk. She didn’t really know what to say.Surgery under general anaesthetic to cut open and explore his testicles. Micro TESE. A vain attempt to locate usable sperm when all other methods and tests suggested there was no hope. Of course he had to go for it. Even if they’d found something the road ahead was still very difficult for her. The donor option the more likely elephant in the room
Nervous men sitting in cubicles for similar operations
He thought he’d be the only one there. Gowns on they sat trying not to expose their ever-more-nervous manhood. Good Morning Britain on the TV and very little chit-chat. Immediately after his operation he was told they’d found some tissue that looked promising. On a basic level he felt semi-pleased, even optimistic as he dealt with his heavily padded medical jock strap and all-too-obvious limp. The Addison Lee taxi back to Burgess Hill from Euston Road was long, bumpy and painful as the industrial strength painkillers started to wear off.
The next two weeks laying on the sofa unable to put socks on by himself for fearing a splitting the stitches was even worse. Waiting for news on his swimmers. Then on the same day a letter and a phone call. Both with the same bad news.
Bad news, but at least a new chapter. The pendulum finally swung towards his wife. The attention now away from the one with the problems. The elephant in the room was now a reality – sperm donation via IUI or IVF was the new way forward for them. The tests, scans, analysis and follow-up appointments began again, this time for her and this time the prognosis was a lot more positive. He was relieved, happy even. After all this time waiting for her turn, the results suggested a probable pregnancy – all run of the mill and healthy down there.
After nearly two years of doubts there was a mini breakthrough
It wasn’t the one he’d hoped but it was something to hold on to. It also meant less invasive and lengthy insemination treatment for his wife, which was obviously a silver lining.
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