Being one half of an infertile couple isn’t always an easy ride, especially when you are not necessarily the ‘problem’. Even when you do have fertility issues, the conversation seems to always centre heavily around the person who carries the child.
We were diagnosed as infertile in September 2018 after three and a half long years of trying to get pregnant. Before my wife had her first operation, her blood tests had come back normal and there was only her diagnosis of PCOS that seemed to stand in our way. We were told this was only borderline and as a result, it shouldn’t be stopping her falling pregnant. In the summer of 2018, we had not long been married and the testing began. I remember sitting in the nurse’s office at the fertility clinic, where she told us that I had triple the amount of sperm I should have, I had double travelling the way they should be. Super sperm, if you will. Or so I thought. She then said that I had less than 1% without ‘morphology’ problems. This means that less than 1% of my sperm were fully developed. I don’t know why, but I didn’t feel surprised. I always had a bit of a feeling that our lack of pregnancy may have been because of me. I didn’t feel ‘sad’. I know it sounds strange to say, but I didn’t. I knew that morphology could be helped, it wasn’t impossible for us to get pregnant and worst case scenario, we could still have IVF and use my own sperm. For me, that was a relief.
In the September, my wife had a laparoscopy and was diagnosed with two fully blocked Fallopian tubes. After a failed attempt at unblocking them, she was told she would never have children naturally and the only way we could conceive was through IVF. This is when I felt sad. I felt so sad for her. For us. I didn’t feel sad for me; I never really have. In that moment, she was the most important thing to me. Throughout this whole journey, she has been the most important thing. Seeing my wife so low was honestly the worst thing I have ever been through. She was depressed, she was angry, every emotion you can ever imagine a person feeling, she felt. I’d lost my wife – she wasn’t the person I had married. I was so worried about her. The crying… the crying was a constant howl that filled these four walls. As a husband, you want to fix everything. There was nothing I could do to fix my wife and that made me feel beyond useless. I’ll never forget the pain in her face. I struggle to think of a time where I have seen so much pain in someone’s eyes, the emotions in her expressions. She was angry at the world. I couldn’t put a foot right. I had seen her angry many times before; we had been together 6 years, but this was a new level of anger. One day she was so angry that the dining room chair was launched across the kitchen. Neither of us could cope with it; she couldn’t cope with how she felt and I didn’t know how to look after her. It became unbearable. I remember how it drove our marriage to the edge.
One particular day stands out, when things were really bad. The weekend had almost broken us and so we went for lunch somewhere locally. It was a place where neither of us could raise our voices and we had no choice but to talk. I was at my wits end, I was on edge and full of anxiety. I remember us sitting there, holding hands, neither of us wanting to cry but tears rolling down both of our cheeks because our marriage had reached this point. It was then that something clicked and we knew, we couldn’t carry on like this. Now, I think we are closer than ever. When two people go through emotional extremities such as those that come with infertility, it most definitely gives you more of a connection. The effect it has had on our marriage is huge; it almost broke us but now, it’s 100% made us stronger.
I have learnt so much over the last 18 months, since our diagnosis. It has reaffirmed how patient I am, how positive I am, and definitely how supportive I feel I am of my wife. I’ve learnt more about the vagina than any man ever wants to know; before, it was something to have sex with. Now, it’s got all these added extras that make a baby and turn my wife into a bit of a crazy woman once a month!
I have learnt more about how deeply infertility can impact couples, to be more empathetic towards those who are suffering, and to really understand what people have gone through, those who haven’t had children – understanding that might not always be through choice – or how difficult or how common infertility is.
I have learnt so much about my wife. I always knew she wanted children and having a family was important to her, but now I know exactly how important this is. This is her number one priority, and it breaks my heart that I can’t fix that. She has changed so much, in a way she seems to have transitioned from a young woman into a “woman”. It’s hard not to make that sound condescending, but she has matured in ways I can’t describe. I am proud of how open she is about our journey, so proud. The blog, the vlogging, speaking on the radio about the one thing that almost broke her so that she can help other people.
Our fertility journey is who we are and we shouldn’t be ashamed of it. For a man, talking about infertility is still a taboo. There’s a fear of diminishing masculinity, bruising an ego, feeling ashamed and embarrassed. I will, and I do, talk about our issues and my morphology because it is who I am. I won’t ever be ashamed of who I am. I explain the ICSI procedure and talk to anyone asking about it, about my morphology, about our fertility issues.
My advice to men is to talk. To take that first step and just talk. There are two halves to an infertile couple and a man has just as much right to talk.
The 28th October – 3rd November is National Fertility Awareness Week. Day 3 is #MenMatter. This article is written by Marco Izzo, husband of Amber in a Teacup owner, Amber Izzo.