Scott and I got married in May of 2012. I was still in school (had 1 year left) and he had just graduated. We had an apartment in St. Cloud and life was good. I’ve wanted to be pregnant and become a mother for as long as I can remember, so after we got married I thought we might as well not use any birth control from the start. Scott was more reasonable. He convinced me that we should wait a few months until we were a little more settled and until I would be able to graduate school before a baby would be born. That plan took us to October where we finally decided to stop preventing pregnancy.
Those first few months were fun- no one else knew that we had stopped our birth control so we got to have this fun secret together. Every month I would wonder if I was pregnant and have all these plans for if we did get pregnant that month. We kept trying every month, saying to ourselves that we were trusting God’s timing and were ok with whenever he decided to give us a child. Looking back I wasn’t really trusting God’s timing. I knew He had put it in my heart to become a mother… it has been the one constant thing I have always known I was meant to be. I had assumed since we were off birth control we would get pregnant any month. That didn’t happen. The months went by, we told close friends and family that we weren’t preventing pregnancy anymore and everyone was as ecstatic as we were! Whenever I had doubts about us getting pregnant they were all very supportive and reassured me that it would happen soon.
After about several months of trying with no success we started tracking my cycle and made sure we were hitting all the right times. As we hit the one year mark of trying I was pretty nervous and went into the doctor to find out what was going on. The doctor told me not to worry since I was so young. She said she’d be happy to test me for a few things but only after Scott went in to get his “swimmers” checked. I laughed it off and told her that I was sure he was fine and asked if we could just skip that and do a few tests on me first. She told me that is much, much easier to rule out a problem with the guy first and that as soon as his results came in positive I could come back in and have all my levels checked.
I went home after that appointment hoping to be on the way to answers on my own body but instead had to ask Scott to go get checked. He agreed that he should go in and made an appointment for a few weeks later. I didn’t think much of it. I thought he would go in, they’d test him and then I’d know for sure it was my fault.
A week after Scott’s appointment he was working a Gopher game and I went out and got the mail. In with all the other junk was a letter from the clinic. I assumed it would be the all clear note so I opened it. My heart sunk. I read the letter a few times trying to process. All the levels were within normal range, except one.
Sperm count: 0. Normal Range: 40-300 million
I kept reading through thinking it must be an error… errors happen all the time in labs right? Your mind can conceive some crazy stories when you don’t want to believe something. At the bottom of the results the doctor had written a note saying that they were unable to find a single sperm in the entire sample and the results were “certainly atypical”. He said the next step was to see a specialist (Reproductive Endocrinologist).
I was floored. I couldn’t believe there was anything wrong with Scott. I immediately went to my friend Google to find out what that meant. I learned that there are two kinds of azoospermia (0 sperm count); obstructive, and non-obstructive. The obstructive kind is usually fixable with surgery as usually there is just a blockage of some kind. The non-obstructive kind is either genetic or a jumble of other things. It leaves people with fewer answers and is less likely to be fixed.
Scott got home later that night and I handed him the letter and broke down. He was as floored as I was and we did some Googling and crying together. It was a rough night. The next day we decided to make an appointment with a specialist at the UMN and to get tested again at their lab. We hadn’t given up yet. We assumed that as badly as we wanted kids there was no way this wasn’t a fixable issue. Our family/friends reassured us in the same way. There was probably just a blockage and they would be able to fix it quickly and we’d be on our way again.
Scott went and got tested again and once again we got the test results in the mail saying the exact same thing. 0 sperm in the entire sample. We went into the appointment with the RE with hopes that they would just have to do minor surgery to reverse some blockage and we’d be all good to go. We left the appointment with the knowledge that Scott was one of the unlucky ones. There was no blockage… he has non-obstructive azoospermia. The doctor laid out our options… we could try to do a biopsy on Scott and see if we could recovery any immature sperm that we could use for ICSI (like IVF but more expensive as they inject a single sperm directly into the egg) but it would cost $25,000 for a 18% chance that we would actually get pregnant. We were devastated. We left the appointment and cried ourselves to sleep for the next few weeks. We couldn’t believe this was happening to us. The fact that men who abandon their kids get millions of sperm and Scott got 0 was so incredibly hard for us to accept. It was a really, really rough time for us. We were mad at God for changing our plans. I was mad at God for giving me this strong desire to be pregnant and bear children then slipping the rug out from under me. I was mad at so many irrational things- pregnant women for being pregnant, babies for being so adorable, etc, etc.
Scott had genetic testing done and found out that he does have a genetic condition that is preventing him from making sperm. There is no medication that can help, no surgery that can be done to reverse this. Thankfully- the only other thing that the condition affects medically is his testosterone level, which is easily treatable. There are no other health effects and he is perfectly healthy otherwise.
The few months following our diagnosis were filled with mourning. We decided pretty quickly that $25,000 for an 18% chance wasn’t something we could swallow. We weren’t ready to look forward to other options yet so we were in a mourning phase for a while which was hard for me. I wanted to plan out our next steps and figure out what we were going to do, but I knew my heart wasn’t there yet. I had to mourn all my dreams of being pregnant and all my dreams of having Scott’s biological children. I knew that somehow, someway, we would be parents but we didn’t know, and still don’t know, if pregnancy is part of that plan. It’s possible that I will never get pregnant… That I won’t get to experience all the pieces of that that I have longed for my entire life. To suddenly not know if I would ever get to experience the joy of a positive pregnancy test… feeling a life growing inside me… growing huge and uncomfortable while waiting to give birth… birthing my baby… breastfeeding… etc. etc. It was a huge adjustment to accept. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel at peace with that.
After a few months of mourning we were ready to start looking towards the next steps. Scott was on board to look into donor sperm from the very beginning. It took me a lot longer. It was really hard for me to accept that if I ever got pregnant (miracles aside) that it would be by someone other than my husband.
The more Scott and I talked about it the more we realized that having a biological child together wasn’t the most important piece. We’ve always wanted to have kids together. We assumed they would be biological, but with that off the table we slowly started to look at our other options. The two choices we were left with was using a sperm donor or adopting.
We talked briefly about adoption, but knew our hearts weren’t there yet. We agreed that it’s a WONDERFUL thing and we are not against it at all, but we just weren’t/aren’t ready to go there yet. Since there is still a chance that I will be able to get pregnant using a donor we aren’t giving up on that dream yet. We may explore the topic further in the future, but we aren’t there yet.
Scott was on board for sperm donors right away. It really speaks to a lot of who he is that after finding out that he wasn’t going to be able to have biological children he jumped pretty quickly to “I know how badly Kendra has wanted to be pregnant so how can we still make that happen”. I have always always wanted to be pregnant and as crazy it may sound have been looking forward to labor and giving birth. It took me a lot longer than Scott to get on board. I wanted to have Scott’s kids. I didn’t want to use some college kid’s sperm to get pregnant. It took me a good couple months of researching different sperm banks and looking at different candidates before I got on board. I think one of the turning points was reading the stories behind why a lot of these men were donating. I had always assumed sperm donors were either super smart people trying to spread their genes around or lazy college students doing anything to make some easy money. The men’s stories I read usually had some immediate family member or friend that had experienced infertility and they saw how much a sperm donor helped. Many of these guys were selflessly giving sperm so that some other family could have children. It wasn’t about the money and they had extensive screening to go through so it wasn’t the easiest process for them either. The bank we are using only accepts 1 out of every 200 potential sperm donors due to their strict testing and quality guidelines.
We ended up choosing a sperm bank we liked and decided to take our time looking for a donor. We’d search through the list every couple weeks and see if there was anyone new that looked like Scott. This part was important to me. I don’t want our kids to ever feel like they aren’t Scott’s kids and in my mind looking like him would help. It would avoid the questions of “you look nothing like your dad” etc. etc. that could come up. We searched for a long time and finally tried the image match feature on the website. We took a picture of Scott and their tool matched it up with the adult pictures of the donors (behind the scenes… we will never see an adult picture of our donor). They found 1 excellent match. We read through all the information on that donor and felt good about him. We decided to go for it. All his medical information was great and through all the interviews, etc. that they have on the website he sounded like a genuine guy.
We pulled the trigger and bought out his supply of IUI vials (12 vials). Our initial goal was to have 4 kids thinking we would need 3 vials or less for each insemination. I went into my doctor a month later and she did all the testing she could to make sure everything looked OK with me. All the tests came back within normal ranges so we did our first insemination on June 26th. As of October 31st we have had 4 failed inseminations. We are hoping and praying that we will be pregnant by Christmas, but know it’s in God’s hands and his timing will be perfect.