Positives Among the Negatives: How Male-Factor Infertility Gave Us Direction

Because my husband was in the military, we understood that there would be a military rollercoaster—of new assignments, relocations, being away from family and friends. We had voluntarily jumped on the ride together and could accept what came with that.

The infertility rollercoaster we experienced, on the other hand, was not something we were prepared for, especially as we are in our twenties.

Despite everything that kept happening, we tried to stay positive.

All of 2019 was a strange time in our lives. At the beginning of that year, we were unsure of my husband’s future with the military; he had recently injured himself at work and we realized that it would have long-term repercussions. Especially when it came to our TTC struggles, having very little in the way of a support system took its toll.

After multiple potential deployments fell through, my husband was tasked with another in June. Two weeks earlier, we were told that we would be unable to conceive without help due to my husband’s low sperm count and motility. Assured that his assignment would actually happen, I moved back home to Nebraska.

Imagine my surprise when two weeks later, I found out that I was pregnant.

We were ecstatic, but also very skeptical. I took multiple tests over many days before we shared the news, and only with our close family.

It felt like the positive sign we had been needing. Though after spending the previous two and a half years trying to conceive without so much as a glimmer of hope, it also felt too good to be true. I spent the weeks leading up to our first ultrasound having unexplainable dreams and a growing sense of unease. I blamed it on the cumulative stress of the previous few months.

At that appointment, our baby should have measured around 11 weeks. The ultrasound showed eight weeks, three days, and no heartbeat. We were devastated.

Over the course of two and a half months, I went through two rounds of Cytotec, one emergency room visit, one dose of Mifeprex due to excessive bleeding, and a D&C. Our worst nightmare finally ended.

We wanted to move forward. We believed we could keep trying to conceive our rainbow.

Four months later, we went to a reproductive endocrinologist. We still had hope. Reproductive science has come a long way and this process would tell us everything we were up against and then we would know where we stood, right?

The doctor soon told me that I had a uterine septum, but he said that it was easily correctable. A simple cut, he said. Perfect. We just had to wait for an availability at the local hospital.

By this point we were in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, which  meant that there were limits on elective procedures. Our doctor predicted a month wait. We tried to stay positive.

I used this time to deal with our miscarriage. After months of hoping for an answer, the answer I received was a tough pill to swallow. It is very likely that our baby had implanted on the uterine septum. They were attached to tissue without enough nutrients to sustain their life.

It broke my heart to think about, but I was able to find another positive among the negatives – this abnormality was fixable, and I could still carry a baby one day.

While waiting for my surgery date, my husband received the results of his latest semen analysis. Zero sperm. From low count to no count. My husband’s discouragement was palpable. The RE suggested that there might be a blockage.

This was believable and also fixable—another positive among the negatives.

Within two months, my uterine septum was surgically corrected, and my husband met with a urologist.

Another round of semen and blood tests confirmed that that there were still zero live sperm. My husband’s FSH level was also highly elevated while other hormone levels were low. After three more semen analyses showed zero sperm, my husband was diagnosed with unexplained testicular failure. This one took my husband some time to accept – no positives hiding within this negative.

After three more semen analyses showed zero sperm, my husband was diagnosed with unexplained testicular failure. This one took my husband some time to accept – no positives hiding within this negative.

I tried to be patient and understanding while my husband worked through it. Any mention of our available options led to an argument. My husband didn’t want to talk about the possibility that our future child might have a different biological father, let alone someone that he didn’t know. He didn’t want to look into sperm banks or decide what we would look for in a donor. I felt as though I was suddenly the only one who still wanted a child badly enough to do whatever it took.

In the entire five years of our being together, I felt the most alone I had ever felt within our relationship.

Months passed and we had a few emotional conversations before we were ready to talk realistically about alternative options to having a baby.

We started to price out vials of donor sperm and the costs of IUI/IVF having little to no insurance coverage. We found a few donors we both liked. Once we crunched the numbers, though, we realized that the process would not be doable within our current timeframe. In less than nine months we would be moving halfway across the country (to Missouri) because my husband would be separating from his military service. We set our family sights on the future.

In the meantime, we shifted our focus back on ourselves and each other. We rebuilt the pieces of our relationship that had eroded by the last few years of hardship, loss, and infertility. Our marriage grew stronger and we were more confident in our future together and also in our future in the realm of TTC.

We shifted our focus back on ourselves and each other. We rebuilt the pieces of our relationship that had eroded by the last few years of hardship, loss, and infertility.

Two months passed where we focused only on us, not even a few minutes on TTC, and it felt as though pieces were falling into place.

One recent Sunday afternoon, I was sitting in our living room, scrolling down my Instagram feed, when I came across a post that stopped my mind in its tracks. A sudden sense of calm and clarity came over me, something that I had not felt since long before we started our TTC journey in 2017.

In that moment, the path towards everything we have been striving for seemed to reveal itself. All of the bumps on our road to parenthood had felt like the universe trying to tell us that it just wasn’t going to happen. Now we know differently. After many discussions and hours of research, a growing sense of hope found its way into our life again.

We have discovered that our calling to be parents is meant to be fulfilled by adoption.

We understand that while we have traded one difficult path for another, and that the effects of infertility on our life don’t end with this decision, there is something positive coming from the biggest roadblock that has been placed in our path so far. And for that, we are grateful.    


Contributor

MaryJo French

MaryJo French currently live in California with her husband. They will soon be in Missouri to start their adoption journey. She enjoys spending time with her two dogs and two cats. She is all in if something involves dark chocolate, exotic foods, or animals.


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