Gareth Landy is an XXY man, also known as having Klinefelter syndrome. This is part two of his journey to parenthood after a long and difficult struggle with infertility
At the end of part 1 of his story, Gareth left us at the point where he had been advised by his doctor to explore the options of using a sperm donor…
In July 2018 I filmed my very last wedding in Galway, Ireland. I had filmed weddings for over a decade and I wanted to now do something else. I mention this as a week after this I was admitted to hospital for 10 days. All the stress in my life had come to a point and I had to have my appendix removed.
This unforeseen operation had a knock on effect for the second operation on my testicles. As mentioned I had the FNA operation now I was to get the Micro-TESE, (Microsurgical Testicular Sperm Extraction). As mentioned earlier it was hoped that my body had absorbed the hormones to then make testosterone which would then become the fuel to make sperm. This second operation was to go back into my testices and get the hopefully now present sperm.
Anna and I flew to London and this time we found a place that didn’t have too many steps. I was both excited and nervous at the same time. The day before we went around the city for a bit of sight-seeing. Right now I can remember the upstairs outside pub we were at discussing what would we do if they didn’t find sperm and using the donor sperm with the eggs that would be removed from Anna.
The day of the operation had come and we got an Uber to the hospital
Even now I can remember that the Uber was a black Prius and the driver wasn’t up for the chat. When I am nervous I like to chat as a way to distract myself. We arrived and checked in before ascending to the floor. Even now I remember the room; it was on the inside of the hospital so there wasn’t a view of anything particularly interesting. Anna was in a bed to my left as it was a double bed room. After a while it was time for me to go for the second operation, I was emotionally exhausted from the past months. It was both exciting and a feeling of dread at the same time as I was going to learn soon enough if I had sperm or not.
I was out of recovery and now back in the room that I had started that day. The operation was now over and we had to wait. I remember all I wanted was a cup of tea. Soon enough a colleague of Mr Ramsay came into the room with the results. The answer was that there wasn’t any sperm, my body’s ability to do this had diminished. I felt shock, loss, finally an answer, relief and closure all at the same time. Anna gave me a big hug and cried, I just felt exhausted and didn’t cry. I was upset but I knew we still had another chance to have our family.
Going forward, Anna and I were now going down the well trodden path that so many others had done before us. There was still a chance for us to have a family as we would be using donor sperm. You see ahead of time Mr Ramsay had said that upon the retrieval of eggs from Anna if no sperm could be found within me that the donor sperm would be used. This is exactly what happened, Anna also had eggs removed from her while I was in surgery.
We were told that a number of eggs had been retrieved and that the donor sperm had been mixed with them
Over the coming days what would usually happen in the body happened in the lab. We were given updates on how many original eggs and sperm had become embryos. We had to hang around London for these few days which to be honest was great. I feared that following this operation that my recovery would be similar to the FNA but it was the opposite. I recovered much quicker than previously. We got news that there were now some embryos so we went back to the clinic for the transfer day and then we had the two week wait.
Back in Ireland we counted down the days hoping that the embryo would take. Anna did a pregnancy test two weeks later and it was positive.
We were overjoyed but unfortunately our relief wasn’t to last – Anna miscarried a few days later
This is what is more commonly referred to as a ‘chemical pregnancy’. I feel that this language could be much improved as this term is such a cold and clinical term. Getting this news was so difficult. In the past few weeks we had learned that I was now infertile and our hopes and dreams with our first round of IVF were dashed. I felt this emptiness in me. I felt grief, sadness and frustration all at the same time. Anna and I are decent, caring people. Why can’t we get our break, why are we being denied a family? I realised so much that things that I thought were important were mere distractions in my life. I really wanted a child so much.
Before long we decided that we would go back again for another round of IVF
Medically I was now out of the picture but very keen to be with Anna and to help her as much as I could. For many of our appointments we would be in a variety of waiting rooms. One of the good things about the clinic that we were at was the coffee machine, it had so much choice and I loved the Mocha option 🙂 Sometimes when we were waiting there would be small children who were there with their parents. If adults were bored waiting can you imagine what it was like for a kid. All too often I’d make paper aeroplanes for them as this little interaction in this waiting room would bring me a little bit of joy. What we also observed is that no one ever talks to each other, I would find that the time would really drag sitting there in silence. Look I wasn’t there to make pals for life, but trying to have a conversation about anything was impossible.
Soon enough Anna was going for her now second egg retrieval procedure
By this stage we had a good idea of what was to happen. The medical team was able to collect eggs from her which was great news. As before we had to wait in London to learn how many viable embryos were going to be deemed good quality. The day came for the transfer and we were hoping that this time it would be successful. The clinic has so much experience in this field that they can actually grade the quality of the embryos such as how strong is the wall lining of the actual embryo. I mention this as the team said that one in particular was deemed of a very high quality. We took this to be a good sign and this was transferred to Anna’s uterus.
Back in Ireland both Anna and I were quietly confident that this was going to work as we felt so reassured by what the clinic had told us.
Can you imagine how crushing it was when Anna did the pregnancy test after the two week wait, and she wasn’t pregnant
I felt the grief was even more intense than before. I felt that it was a done thing from what we had learned at the clinic. We were both so broken from it all what were we going to do as emotionally we were shattered from it all.
We then decided to take a short break from it all and ended up going to Anna’s sisters in the states for Christmas. This was very bittersweet as we got to see our nieces who we love so much.
Upon returning from our trip we decided to go back to London and try again
We still had embryos from our second round of IVF that were kept in frozen nitrogen. The day of the transfer came and we said to the clinic that we didn’t want to know anything about the quality of the embryos as it was so difficult following the second round of IVF. We had decided that we would opt for putting two embryos in Anna’s womb this time. We felt that if one failed we would have a second as a back-up this was our thinking. What we learned is that it doesn’t work like that but if you put two embryos back it increases your chances of twins by 40%. Anna and I didn’t care, we wanted to try to have a family. The person who picked the embryos was Erica Foster, an embryologist (Whittington Hospital, London), who had helped us find our donor.
It had been an absolute rollercoaster this period of our life. We decided to go away for a short trip to the north-west of Ireland to a place called county Donegal.
We were staying at an Airbnb and the day came for the pregnancy test result
Those minutes we waited felt like they lasted forever. Then we looked at the results and it gave the indicator that Anna was pregnant. We were both overwhelmed with emotion, we finally got something tangible to give us some well needed good news. We told our Airbnb hosts and they had a bottle of non-alcoholic champagne which they opened and shared with us. The day by the way was the 17th of March, Saint Patrick’s Day. Our hosts said that if we had twins we could call them Patrick and Patricia 🙂 We headed out that day to Lough Swilly and visited a Napoleonic Fort, it was a cold but beautiful day, we both had hope.
Over the coming weeks and months we were so fortunate that the pregnancy continued and on the 8th of November 2019 our twins were born in the Coombe Hospital, Dublin via Caesarean section
I myself was not with Anna at the actual birth of the children. I find hospitals a difficult place to be after my mum’s death. Anna’s close friend Eimear was in the delivery room with her. As I waited in a room overlooking Dublin I talked to our good friend Odharnait then Eimear appeared. Eimear was full of smiles and so excited looking she said, ‘are you ready to meet your children’. Walking to the room I was talking to Eimear I couldn’t believe that at any second I was going to meet my children, I was going to be a dad, me a dad!! Then I walked around the blue pull back curtain and Anna was there with all these beeping monitors all around her. On my right was a tiny little bundle of what I thought at first was a wrapped blanket and actually didn’t register what it was. On the left side of the bed was a tiny little child with a little hat on its head, then I realised that the pile that was on the right was actually the other child. The child had a tiny little blue hat on its head hence why I didn’t realise what I was looking at when I saw the tray a few seconds beforehand. I began to cry so much from pure joy and happiness it was so incredible the children were actually here, they existed, we now had our family.
All the pain, grief, and sorrow of the past few years just washed away from me as I looked at Anna and the children.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story, I hope it has been insightful and helpful to you. In recent times I have become an advocate on raising awareness of male infertility and XXY. I feel there are too many men struggling in silence around the world, and all of us talking about this subject will begin to open that door.
If you wish to contact me I am on Instagram @prettyfly4xxy
Click here to listen to Gareth’s interview with BBC Radio
Read Part 1 of Gareth’s story:
An insight into the taboo subject of male infertility, by Gareth Landy