Who are you?
My name is Christian Borrero-Colon. I am currently active duty in the US Air Force. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico. I joined the military from Puerto Rico and that was my first time leaving the island.
What’s your fertility/infertility story in a nutshell?
I have been diagnosed with non-obstructive azoospermia. The cause for my infertility is probably something that started the moment I was born as a premature baby and the reason why I had an undescended testicle which was never addressed after birth. I also had a testicular torsion in one of my testes around the age of 7 which could have also contributed to my diagnosis.
Why is it important that your story is represented in the story of infertility?
It is important because as a member of the armed forces there are great benefits that come with it but there are also some that could be improved to help those that suffer with infertility. Military healthcare (TRICARE) currently does not cover:
- Artificial or intrauterine insemination
- Any costs related to donors or semen banks
- Reversal of tubal ligation or vasectomy, unless medically necessary
- Care for erectile dysfunction from psychological causes, including:
- Non-coital reproductive procedures, services or supplies, including:
- In vitro fertilization
- Gamete intrafallopian transfer
- Zygote intrafallopian transfer
- Tubal embryo transfer
In order to get the treatment that would best fit my needs and circumstances, I had to work a 2nd job as a Starbucks Barista to be covered under their health insurance. For almost 2 years I worked an average of 20 hours a week which took a toll on my everyday life in order to achieve my dream of becoming a father.
I feel there are plenty of servicemembers like me that could use healthcare benefits to address their specific situation and hopefully this is something that will change in the very near future in which service members receive 100% coverage.
How did you meet your partner and what did you imagine your family building to look like when you met?
We met in the service and we were assigned to the same unit, so basically, we were co-workers. For most of my life I knew I wanted a family but for a period of time I thought it was impossible for me due to my condition. TRICARE always covered my diagnosis but when it came time to do something about it, I always encountered a dead end. I did not think outside the box until one day we were watching the documentary titled “Vegas Baby” when my wife suggested I apply at Starbucks because she had heard they offered health benefits to their part time employees.
Throughout this journey, my wife was extremely supportive and encouraged me to take action. There were times when I was working at Starbucks where I was just physically exhausted and didn’t think I could keep that up for an extended period of time. She was the one that inspired me to hold on to that hope and to see this through one way or another. We knew that there were no guarantees but I had to try and give it my all and at the end of the day I could say that I gave it my all.
Until that time, I always felt like I would never have my own son/daughter and I always avoided those conversations. I did not want to get my hopes up only to see them vanish. In a way I had given up on the idea of fatherhood.
What does infertility look like?
Infertility to me looks like sadness, a void that can’t truly be explained but you know the feeling too well. It’s like a secret that you don’t want others to know about. It feels like an invisible wound that will never heal but you learn to live with it, you adapt, you have multiple scripts in your mind when others ask questions in order to avoid the subject.
Why did this happen to me? How can it be fixed? When will it be fixed? As a man it is also something that most people don’t associate with infertility. It makes you question your masculinity and makes you insecure.
Was there anything in your community or culture that made it more difficult to be open about your issue?
My relationship with my parents wasn’t the type of relationship where we would openly discuss things and share our feelings or emotions. I am 1 of 7 and maybe there wasn’t any time for that but also it just wasn’t something that was done. That family dynamic prevented me from being open with them about my struggles and journey.
I took it upon myself to search for medical records from my youth in order to help me figure out exactly what happened and even then, that did not help much. Once I joined the military, it was something that never came up and I would never talk about it with anyone, not even my siblings. I just felt ashamed about the entire thing and I did not want to face any of it. Until I realized that keeping all those emotions and feelings inside was only hurting me more. Once I shared my story with pregnantish, it felt like a huge burden was taken off my shoulders and it paved the way for me to be open to sharing what I had gone through with the hope to someday be able to help at least one person go through this journey and for them to know that there are plenty of us out there and that they don’t have to go through it alone.
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