Lee's journey from infertility to parenthood
Written for his clinic Newsletter
Well it came as a bit of a shock when I was diagnosed as having Azoospermia (in my case the inability to produce sperm) in August 2007. Both my wife and I were totally shell shocked and shed many tears as we realised that we were pretty much no longer in control of the whole family planning thing.
I will not go into detail but I had a good idea that my fertility would be compromised as I had surgery in my early teens so I was mentally prepared for a low count....but this? A real shock!
It immediately became clear that the GP’s were out of their depth giving news on such an emotive subject. We were effectively left alone to deal with this most severe blow and it was then that I turned to the internet for help. At this stage I was ignorant to all of the help available via web based forums such as the one at CARE and we found solace posting on the Fertility Friends website. It is a double edged sword as it is nice to know that other people understood our predicament but it was also extremely sad that other people understood our predicament ...if you know what I mean.
My wife and I talked endlessly about what we would and would not be prepared to do but until you are actually faced with the decision, in reality you can never say never. My first thoughts were that if it transpired that I was infertile due to genetic issues we would not pursue the whole invasive testicle surgery etc... as I did not think that we would be able to cope with the stress of the low percentage chance of success, the long waits and financial burden. I seemed to have a dodgy set of genes anyway and from what I had read there was the possibility of further genetic defects being passed on. I was more comfortable with donated sperm just from this genetic perspective alone. I expected that it would be a bitter pill to swallow to think that I may not be able to look into the eyes of a child that I had fathered myself but any child is a gift and it would be loved infinitely regardless of who provides what would have been my half of the genes. It has been said before that if anything, that child will be loved more because of the genuine love required to bring him or her into the world.
We had been alone with our thoughts and fears for what seemed like an eternity and I honestly did not know how we were going to start talking with the counsellor. I presumed correctly they have a way of coaxing out feelings. I was concerned that it would be like emptying a bucket of water. The emotions coming spilling out. I found that thought slightly frightening. Perhaps it is a man thing.
For me I suppose it boiled down to how you imagine your future. When I imagined my future and my children, I imagined little me's. I had images of me as a boy. I was a good looking little fella (now I look like a cross between Matt Lucas and Peter Kay but let's ignore that right now) and I could clearly see the face of my son. Brown hair, cheeky smile and a quick wit. The daughters I imagined looked like my sister. A bit of tom boy but with a kind heart and an acid tongue. When you find out that you possibly cannot have your own children, that dream is shattered.
When, as a man, I considered the options, my children’s faces became strangers to me. I had no idea what they would look like! What they would like to do? How tall they would grow? What would they find funny? Would they reject me? Would they want their "real" Dad? Would other people notice that they were not mine?.....My mind went into a tailspin of “what ifs”.
I concluded after a long time of soul searching that any child, born of my genes or not, would be a stranger in the sense that it may not look like me, it may not like what I like, it may grow to be six foot six or five foot one. The point being that my whole future has always been imaginary and in truth I have not lost anything other than how my children will come into this world.
I was however in the throes of a grief that I never knew existed. It was these previously untapped emotions that I found difficult and I really needed to talk to someone about. I will be forever grateful to CARE and particularly Counsellor Angela Pierce for the help during that time.
I was out of the country with work when I found out that we had a donor. The weird thing was that I was in Israel with work and that particular day I had decided to make the most of the trip and go to Jerusalem. Now to set the scene I am not at all a religious person and my reasons for going to the city was just to have a bit of a look round. The people I was there with are Jewish and they were keen for me to see the city, in particular the Wailing Wall. In the Jewish faith this is the place that is closest to the place where they originally built their temple and therefore, in their faith, closer to God. One of them told me that many people write a note to God asking for something and place it in the wall.....I think you know where I am going with this. I wrote the note and placed it in the wall. I am not saying that it was Holy intervention but on the way back to the hotel from this trip is when I got the call.
I got back to the hotel room as quickly as possible and spoke with Dot at CARE in Nottingham. She gave me the details of the donor she had found for us and it started well with brown hair but she then said he had blue eyes….mine are brown. She went on to say that the donor enjoyed football and ballroom dancing. My heart sank as I did not feel any connection to the donor. I hate football and have two left feet but the main bone of contention for me was that the donor did not share the same eye colour as me. I had always said that I wanted the donor to put into the pot (so to speak!) the same as what I would have put in i.e brown hair, brown eyes, and fair skin. I hung up with the words that I would have to speak with my wife. 10 seconds later I called Dot back telling her my concerns even though I had not at this point discussed it with my wife. I needed to know that if we decided that this one was not right for us, how long would we have to wait for another donor? I was then told that there was another donor but we had not been fully matched because our blood types were different and also that the donor was 6 foot 1. I told Dot that these were not an problem as we would be telling the child about how they came into the world so a blood test result showing that they did not match would not be an issue. I also said that on my fathers’ side the men are quite tall….my Dad is the shortest of the litter and the only one who is bald….how is that for being born under a bad sign?!
After the chat Dot said that she would check if the donor was available as she had not reserved it. After an overnight wait, we were told that we were OK.
Well everything went well and on the 21st February 2008, 2.3 million healthy swimmers were safely placed in my wife’s womb. After all the stress up until this point it was a huge relief as at least my wife had a fighting chance of getting pregnant. I can't tell you how tired we both were that afternoon!
So now we had to wait along with the millions of others who were trying for children....for the first time in 7 months, we felt normal!
CARE Nottingham advised us to test after 3 weeks but we decided to test after 2 weeks. “Are we being silly?” we thought. My wife’s emotions were all over the place, which is to be expected and it was difficult not to lose the plot myself as those few days were particularly difficult as we swung from thinking that she might be pregnant, to no she isn't, to should we just accept that she isn't, to daring to think that she might be!
Well after much deliberation we decided to test at the 2 week mark. I bought a Clearblue kit to make it easy (i.e pregnant or not pregnant in a little window) and...............................................
“Chuffin' 'eck! I am going to be a Daddy!!!”
I was smiling so much it was possible that my lips would peel back over my head.
It was great telling our family and closest friends without whom we could not have coped during the horrible days. There were tears and squeals and laughing and loads of hugs. After the initial high we decided to keep it all quiet and just hope that everything went well from there on in.
Just to give a small update.. well an 8lb 3oz one actually, I am now the daddy to a bouncing baby boy. Born 8th November 2008 at Nottingham City Hospital. Mummy was brilliant and got through it all with gas and air. She is the most amazing woman and I am immensely proud of her.
Any men wondering how they will feel about the birth of their baby who was created using a donor, I can honestly say that it did not cross my mind once. I was just so happy that both mother and baby were ok. I see so much of my wife in his little face. He is my little boy and that is that. I talk to him all the time and I feel so close to him already. On my first day back at work I ached to be with him for a cuddle.
My child came into this world due to the actions of a very kind man (these men are selfless, faceless people who have to make a very big commitment to donate - they are not “dirty” men) and a woman who means more to me than I ever knew possible. When my child was born I saw the face of the person I love most in the whole wide world reflected back at me. From that point onward we began the journey to get to know each other.
I recommend that you have a good look round the Donor Conception Network website and there is a lot of internet help out there as well as a huge number of people at CARE and other clinics who know exactly what you are going through.
I wish you all the luck in the world, it is a dark tunnel but there is light at the end.
Lee Wray December 2008