Male infertility stories: Tyler’s story
2nd November 2018
As long as I can remember I have known I wanted to have kids. I don’t know what it was but I always just saw kids in my future and as part of my destiny. It’s not as if I had dreamy images of family. Rather it was just a deep, subconscious expectation that kids were in my future.
Yet throughout my twenties I was really scared of actually getting someone pregnant! Somehow I had been trained to think it would just be so easy to get pregnant by accident and that it could happen at any time. I met my wife around 30 and we dated for a number of years. She never wanted to use birth control as it really affected her so the worry continued.
Then after getting married we decided to try to conceive and, actually, it happened just like that! We got pregnant quickly. I remember the very day we found out we also flew to meet my now deceased grandfather and I finally introduced my wife to him. It was an amazing time and we felt like it was all so easy.
Yet five months later my life got turned upside down. One night, actually the night before our first birthing class, my wife’s waters broke and we rushed to the hospital. A few days later our daughter Mia had passed.
It was the hardest thing I have ever been through and we grieved for months. About twelve months later we got pregnant again — and it felt like an eternity! But then eight weeks into the pregnancy we had a miscarriage and lost our second baby. At that point I thought I would never have kids.
This is when I woke up. I realised that my dreams of having kids might not come true after all. I realised that fertility, unlike work or education, is something you can’t just solve by trying more. And I realised that getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy and newborn child is REALLY HARD for A LOT of people. I was shocked that I didn’t know this and that nobody had told me.
I learned that 1 in 7 couples have difficulty conceiving, 1 in 4 pregnancies end in loss, that nearly 50% of fertility difficulties are due to men, that poor nutrition can significantly hinder fertility health, and that mental health is correlated to preconception health and pregnancy outcomes. I also experienced first hand how few resources there are for men and how, even for a not so macho guy like me, it can still feel taboo to talk about this struggle.
But as I talked with more people I found out that my experience was not unique at all. I saw that, like me, many people were delaying pregnancy until they are older. This is reflected in the data – there are nine times as many births by women 35 and older compared to 1970. And I found out that the older you are the bigger your risk of complications.
I kept thinking “why hadn’t I learned all this stuff at some point?” and “why hadn’t I had a plan for having kids – given it was so important for me in my life?”. The truth is it was a perfect recipe for depression. The feelings self-blame, grief and disappointment were constant. The accepted societal view that conception and pregnancy is “easy,” meant we were deeply unprepared for this journey to be difficult.
In the end we were “lucky” and now have two daughters. But I use “lucky” in the way Oprah talks about it — that luck is “preparation meeting opportunity”. We studied fertility health thoroughly, did blood tests to understand what might be holding us back, created a plan, implemented everything we could to improve our mental and physical health, and got support from amazing doctors. It was certainly a journey that tested our personal limits as well as the strength of our marriage.
I’m certainly not saying everyone should freak out and stress about fertility or that there is a silver bullet formula for getting pregnant – and sadly many people will have unexplained infertility where there is no discernible cause. The causes of male infertility are complex.
However with more awareness and better access to information, science, and support people can take control of their journey and create a plan for their fertility that improves their chances of getting “lucky”. And my hope is that the more and more people talk about it the more it well help others on their journey.
If you have a story you’d like to share I’d love to hear it — reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org