News and Research
Richard's shares his story of male factor infertility
Did I ever think I would write about my fertility journey? No, why would I? Having kids was meant to be easy, straightforward, and fun.
When my wife and I started our journey, I thought she would be pregnant after a few months of trying to conceive. As it turns out, I was so very wrong.
Several months passed, and we decided to investigate and made a joint appointment with our family GP. We both had blood tests, and I had to provide a sperm sample to be analysed.
My wife went on for further testing and was diagnosed with severe endometriosis, and as a result, she had to have an operation. My results came back average, and our GP recommended I make some lifestyle changes to help the mobility of the sperm. I needed to lose weight, reduce my coffee intake, and wear loose-fitting underwear. I was prepared to try everything, even wearing loose boxer shorts, which I wasn’t a fan of, but I soldiered on!
My wife’s operation to remove the endometriosis mainly from her bowel was successful. The specialist told us that if we weren’t pregnant after six months to seek fertility assistance.
That six months dragged on. Every month was a disappointment. We had one negative test after another. Sex became a chore; it was no longer fun and exciting. Sometimes the pressure was such a strain (mentally) – I would fake ejaculation.
The time came, and we decided to pay for a private appointment with a fertility specialist to investigate further why we were getting pregnant. We had further testing done, including another sperm test. We discussed some treatment options to try before exploring IVF at our appointment. We left that appointment on a high. We felt like we were getting somewhere.
We knew we weren’t going to conceive the old fashion way, as we needed fertility assistance, this took the pressure off us as a couple, and we decided to invest more time and compassion into our relationship. We planned weekends away and regular date nights. Being intimate with each other was less mechanical and a lot more fun.
Then, two weeks after our first fertility consult, a letter arrived in the mail explaining my diagnosis of anti-sperm antibodies, which basically meant my swimmers were stuck together and didn’t swim. Our only option was IVF. That night was date night, we had booked to watch the latest Melissa McCarthy comedy, and all I remember of that night was holding my wife as she cried throughout the whole movie.
I was annoyed at this point. I felt disappointed and let down by my GP with the casual misguided diagnosis from my first sperm test. I was annoyed and questioned why we hadn’t been referred to a specialist sooner. This was the deciding factor for me. I had to change doctors – that doctor was not the right fit for me, and I moved on.
My partner knew how to express her feelings, she had a sound support system with close friends, and I was her rock. It was important to me that my wife felt loved, supported and heard. All I wanted to do was to fix everything, but I couldn’t – I felt helpless. I tried talking to people about what I was going through, some people made ill-manned and disrespectful comments, and others didn’t understand or didn’t want to know. That is when I shut down.
Months went by, and after jumping a few more hurdles, we were finally on the public-funded waitlist for fertility treatment. During this time, my wife learnt about Fertility NZ and signed us to the Fertility Support Series. I wanted to go to support my wife. I don’t want to say I was dragged along kicking and screaming to this group, I thought she would get more out of it than me, but I was pleasantly surprised. I was in a safe environment with others going through something similar, I wasn’t alone, and I could talk about my journey without judgment. This was a turning point for me.
A few months later, we received a call to say that we were nearing the top of the list and treatment was about to start. We went to the fertility clinic for orientation and learnt about the drugs and how to do the injections. My wife was so nervous. Her last injection was given in April, and that night we went to Vector Arena to watch Ed Sheeran; throughout the concert, I held her in my arms.
Our first round of IVF was successful and resulted in us becoming parents to a gorgeous little boy. Our journey is not over, and we have started the process of donating our remaining embryos. The next adventure awaits.