As a boy, my life revolved around mud pies, action figures, and video games. Thinking about a future involving double donation IVF just wasn’t on my radar. Never in my wildest dreams did I think my future would hold the tears and frustration that come with infertility. Sometimes, the struggle is what makes everything so much more worthwhile.
My adult life started in a typical fashion. I finished high school, moved out, and started school at the University of Florida. During college, I met the love of my life. Sarah’s effervescent soul, gorgeous blue eyes and sense of humor had me rolling with laughter - it was no surprise I proposed right after graduation. After our fairytale wedding, marital bliss defined our days and I couldn’t imagine anything getting in our way.
It was only when we started trying to get pregnant, where our trouble began.
Our attempts at having a baby revolved around ovulation charts, basal temperatures, and a hope one blue line would turn into two. After a year of trying on our own without a single positive test, we decided it was time to talk to our doctor.
A blend of gross naiveté and commonplace machismo had me thinking our fertility issues were only of the female persuasion. After all, Sarah had experienced painful, irregular periods most of her life. In my ignorant mind, this seemed like a telltale sign where I was fine. Even she assumed something within her own body needed assistance before we’d be on our way to bassinets and baby blankets.
The words “male factor infertility” didn’t even cross our minds.
However, our fertility specialist strongly suggested we both undergo testing as a precaution; so, we did. We expected some negative results where Sarah was concerned. We weren’t prepared for the gut-wrenching news that her eggs simply weren’t viable for pregnancy.
Premature ovarian failure: three little words ripped away our dreams of seeing her beautiful blue eyes reflected back at us from a child of our own. My ever-optimistic wife crumpled beside me. I wrapped my arms around her and pulled her close, trying futilely to make it better. Interrupting this moment, our doctor sadly announced there was something else. My mind began to race and my palms started to sweat – what could possibly be worse than the blow he’d just delivered? In a matter of seconds, the office was filled with phrases like low sperm count and poor sperm viability. They hovered over us and created a source of tension like nothing I’d ever experienced before.
Our infertility didn’t just lie with Sarah – I, too, was unlikely to pass on my genes.
Learning both of us were incapable of having biological children was unfathomable. I was grasping at straws trying to figure out what this meant for our family. In Sarah’s eyes, I saw her dreams of carrying a child within her belly breaking down in front of me. My own mind was littered with a vast collection of how’s and why’s. No matter how petty it may seem to me now, I suddenly found myself feeling like less of a man. Wasn’t this what I was programmed to do? Wasn’t having children just a part of our DNA?
In the minutes after our doctor’s diagnosis, the moment felt like the period at the end of a sentence. That is, until she suggested we consider donor egg and sperm usage. She explained improved reproductive technology now made frozen donation IVF cycles a valuable alternative to a couple struggling with circumstances like our own.
My first instinct was to say no. To shake my head, grab Sarah’s hand, and walk out the door. The idea of my wife carrying another man’s biological child was unacceptable. If this child wasn’t genetically ours, what was the point?
Before I could make my move, I saw the wheels turning within Sarah’s lovely head. She saw it differently – she saw this decision as the opportunity to still experience the bond a mother earns through pregnancy and delivery. She was envisioning a growing belly and sweet kicks from the inside.
I settled into my seat and listened to everything our doctor had to say.
The decision wasn’t instant; we still mulled the idea around in our heads and had choices to make. Our deliberations took months and culminated in finding ourselves on the end of a successful donor egg and sperm donation IVF cycle that made our dreams come true.
While I still wrestled with the lack of genetic connection to my child throughout Sarah’s pregnancy, all reservations were erased the moment our daughter entered the world.
Those days full of firsts brought with them an understanding that no matter how this beautiful creature had come to us, she was ours. Our fairytale ending may not have come in the traditional way most men expect, but our little girl stole her daddy’s heart in the most immeasurable way possible.