It’s been a bit of a bonkers week…part of it without my beloved iMac as it had to go to have it’s whole email system re-installed, so I’m sorry for the lack of original material in my blog. However, I’m not sorry for bringing to the light of day stories that have sat in the background on the DCN website and perhaps have only been seen by a tiny percentage of those people who might benefit from reading them. The one I’m about to re-print below is by a man who was devastated to find that he would be unable to help create a child with his wife but found that the way forward was, in his words, to ‘banish the ego’ and in managing to do so he has become yet another besotted dad by donor conception. By and large fertility services are geared towards women – even if the reason the couple is in the clinic is male factor – with men only stepping forward in standard IVF or egg donation when their ‘contribution’ is required – and men without sperm relegated to the periphery and often feeling bad because their partner has to go through so much because of them. Tomorrow the British Infertility Counselling Association is trying to re-dress the balance a little by devoting their annual conference to male issues…particularly men’s feelings.
Paul, whose story you can read below, is one of several men who have very movingly written their stories to help and support other guys going through the shock of infertility and subsequently trying to make decisions about donor conception. Have a read at http://www.donor-conception-network.org/dcn_info.htm For Men.
Banish the Ego – Paul’s Account
I thought I’d write a long overdue letter to all the men who are in a similar situation to me. I’m writing this as the thoughts come to me, in the hope I can offer reassurance to all those who need it.
It was the start of the millennium. I wanted to make some changes in my life, so I took time out from work. It was a new start. T, my girlfriend at the time and now my wife, suggested it may be a good time to start a family. My girl’s body clock was ticking…so why not. For eight months we tried, but with no success. T went for blood tests and was found to be fine. I didn’t even contemplate that there would be a problem with me. Why should there be? I was very masculine and felt normal in every way…especially down there! But as I was the only other candidate in this duo, it was my turn to have the tests. On the first sperm test I took, I scored zero points – not a solitary sperm. I went again a couple of days later, because I couldn’t believe what the doctor was telling me, and again the results were the same. I couldn’t comprehend what was happening to me.
I decided to have further tests to find out the cause of this terrible result. Further blood tests were carried out, and I found out what the problem was – I had a genetic disorder called Klinefelter syndrome (I had an extra ‘X’ chromosome, or ‘XXY’). This was a life-shattering blow. I was devastated. In fact I cried for months. I cried for the babies that I could never have. Although T was strong, I felt very small within myself and raw. It was like a knife wound that could never heal. I was not as manly as I thought I was. I could see no way out.
A couple of months passed and we began to consider the options left to us: 1. Dissection of the testes 2. Adoption 3. Using donor sperm No way were we going to use a donor! So we looked at option 1. There were ways of extracting sperm from the testes. (This was a slim chance anyway, and, because of the XXY, there was even less hope it would work.) The main drawback was that it was a large operation and at the end we might have nothing to show for it (i.e. no sperm). And, by changing the structure of the testes, it would make them useless, ruling out an even remote chance of producing sperm in the future. It would also change my hormone levels, changing me and my mind. Dissection was out of the question. (I write this in a paragraph, but it took weeks to work out each point, and the whole process was very distressing.)
So we looked at option 2, adoption. T and I got married (T is incredible, a strong understanding soul-mate, deeply rooted in my heart). We looked into how we could adopt children, but found that we weren’t allowed to adopt a young baby. Adopted babies were first sent to foster homes, so we felt they would already have another family’s ‘stamp’ on them. Adoption was out of the question. In my mind there were no other options left for us to take. We faced having to remain childless. More crying was done.
My head was filled with thoughts (some crazy), until I realised it was my ego, the strength in my head, my masculine ego, that was stopping me even contemplating using a sperm donor. I began to realise that my ego wasn’t a strength, but was actually stopping us. I had to take it in my grasp and crush it. With my ego out of the way, I felt better inside and I was able to approach option 3 differently. We could have a baby, using donor sperm. It didn’t matter it was someone else’s, as it was the only way to achieve the real result! Someone put me in touch with the DC Network. Although I didn’t want to go to any of the meetings, the newsletters were great, and the information in them pushed us in the right direction. Speaking to Olivia also helped – she has been fantastic.
The next step was thinking about who’s sperm we should use. Our first thought was my brother. I felt I wanted someone in my family, so I could feel like the baby was more connected to us. But in the end we decided against this. So what was next on the donor list? The only option was an anonymous donor sperm. Now where the hell were we going to find it? This was where I could act. My girl was going to carry and have the baby, but I was going to ‘find it’. Controlling the situation, finding out where the insemination could take place, almost made me feel like I was carrying out the masculine role. It almost felt like it was my sperm.
We found a clinic that was fantastic and professional, with the best results of the country. Finding the sperm was a little more tricky. I ended up finding out about all the sperm banks of Europe and phoning them myself. Luckily it was only a matter of weeks until I found ‘him’. He was couriered to our clinic, along with four other tubes, to be stored ‘on ice’ for future offspring or backup if it didn’t work first time around. An incredible happiness surrounded me for the first time for nearly one and a half years. I was in total control of my senses and I knew this was the way forward. My wife became pregnant first time around. I was going to be a dad. I knew that although he wasn’t from my sperm, he would still look like me, and he does.
The birth was monumental and the aftermath incredible. He is mine. He is perfect. He is part of me. He is my friend and my baby boy. He’s almost two now, and my wife is pregnant again.
This is an incredible feeling, and one I wouldn’t have had, had I not made the right choice. So, I put it to all you guys out there who are feeling the same pressures I felt: banish your ego, and make the correct choice. Life’s too short not to make the right decision. Don’t over complicate by not using donor sperm. Don’t think your kid is going to reject you when they’re a little older. All kids reject their parents however they are made. As long as you are open with them and give them the love they need to thrive, they will respond accordingly with loving open arms. You really are their dad. Best of luck with all your futures.