The second time was more business-like and successful. A week later, Amy and I descended to a basement office deep in the bowels of New York Hospital. We sat down in the doctor's functional chairs and clutched hands tightly.
What the doctor's office lacked in charm was only matched by his own tactlessness. Is it wrong to call an urologist a dick? Because here's how he began: "You'll never have children," he began, staring at my results. "Not with sperm like this."
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It was as if all the air had been sucked out of the room.
I stepped out of the office and into the bathroom and splashed water on my face. I felt faint. I sat down on the toilet and put my head between my legs.
Did I faint? I don't think so. The doctor claimed I did. Something about my staying in the bathroom for ten minutes while the nurses were knocking before they used a key to open it.
Although, as I reflect back on this moment, maybe—just maybe—the thought of my family line being extinguished overwhelmed me. My grandparents and uncles and aunts were murdered in the Holocaust, and my father survived so that I could be told my sperm was hopeless?
Back in his office, Dr. Blunt, as I came to call him, surmised that a childhood hernia surgery was probably responsible for my condition.
"What your sperm lacks," he said, "is motility." The boys were not swimmers.
Amy didn't understand. Amy is a doer (that's just one of the reasons I fell in love with her); she wanted to know our plan, how we might still succeed.
But Dr. Blunt was finished with us. "What are my options?" I asked. He suggested a sperm donor. We decided to find another doctor.
Male infertility is an embarrassing, awkward topic; I wince even mentioning it. According to the National Institutes of Health (and the website urologychannel.com) "male infertility is involved in approximately 40% of the 2.6 million infertile married couples in the United States. One-half of these men experience irreversible infertility and cannot father children, and a small number of these cases are caused by a treatable medical condition."
Amy went into action: she contacted all her friends, and her friends contacted their friends. Books were bought and started to pile up by the side of our bed. Just buying them gave us hope.
Dr. Blunt's determination became just one opinion in a sea of information that we needed to master. Amy was tested further to see if in any way her body was attacking my sperm (it wasn't). For my part, I had to endure the fervent entreaties of well-meaning others. The worst was from my mother, who refused to accept that there was any problem with her perfect son. Her recommendation: that I "try it with some other girls" to see if I couldn't get them pregnant. That wasn't going to happen. Read: 5 Things Your Mother-In-Law Won't Admit
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Click here to read the next installment of our series on male infertility.