My Wife Was Fertile—I Wasn't

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male infertility
Male infertility: a couple's difficult journey towards having a baby: Part 1.

Part one of a four-part series on male infertility. Click here to read parts two, three and four.   

When I look back on the courtship that led to my marriage, I fast forward through a carousel of emotionally charged moments: the night we met, the night we first slept together (not the same), a postcard she sent me, our first weekend away together, a Ray Charles concert, a birthday party (mine), a birthday party (hers), a Hamptons summer rental, a Sam Cooke album, an Al Green concert, a vacation in Europe where I almost proposed but didn't, the night we actually got engaged, and the wedding itself. 

 

Then I pause because that's where this story begins. From the moment Amy and I got married, friends and relatives would ask: When are you thinking of starting a familyRead: When's the Best Time to Start a Family?

Honestly, I had been focusing so much on the getting married part, I hadn't really thought what was next.  Our standard answer was a phrase we had heard other couples say: we were going to wait two years. 

As newlyweds we were settling in, opening joint bank accounts, taking exotic holidays, and attending other people's weddings and the occasional baby shower. Our feet were still firmly planted in the non-breeder camp—the kind of people who look horrified if seated near a baby on a plane. 

But then one night, almost eighteen months after our wedding, we decided to abandon contraception. It was scary. It was exciting. I recall thinking that it was kind of kinky. 

Nine months later and… nothing. Every time Amy got her period, she broke into tears.   

She went to her gynecologist who performed tests that revealed no obvious issues. He then suggested the three of us talk together. I sat in a cramped office off Madison Avenue on New York City's Upper East Side as a cheery bear of a man led us through a repeat of my eighth grade "life sciences" class concluding with the suggestion that I have tests as well. 

"It takes two to make a baby," he said. Or one not to make one, I thought. 

In New York, everyone always knows someone who knows someone who knows the best. I knew a woman who was engaged to a med student who had studied with the best urologist in New York—"the guy you want to go to."  

The "best" turned out to be a young, short, tightly wound man with a pinched face who seemed inordinately pleased with himself but slightly annoyed by me. He told me that I would have to give a sperm sample and then, after his analysis, we would talk further. 

As I left his office, his nurse handed me a plastic cup. 

"We have a room here," she said, nodding towards what in all aspects appeared to be a men's room. 

"Now?" I asked. "I have to do this now? Here?"  

"No, of course," she said, "You can take this home. Just bring us the sample within an hour of collecting it." I chose the home court. 

I suppose everyone remembers their first time. I certainly do. I put on some mood music, dimmed the lights and proceeded to romance myself. Eager to please the laboratory (and myself), I marshaled my forces to climax, and then promptly fumbled the collection. Most of my contribution missed the container. 

Imagine how embarrassing it was when I had to ask the urologist's nurse how much was enough and if I could please try again. Read: How much masturbation can one person take?