Macho Mark and the missing sperm…

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2012 was the best year of my life. After leaving London and a fast-paced life, I had reconnected with an old colleague who I was now engaged to! We were living together in a little town in Buckinghamshire, with a lovely local pub and making new friends. Life was good.

However, I was 43 years old and genuinely thought the opportunity for me to have kids was gone. I was also concerned that my hectic lifestyle and questionable diet in the last 20 years might have affected my ability to have children. Eventually the question of children came to a head as we discussed whether to have nice wedding or try for a child. Myself and my fiancé were both desperate not to hurt each other’s feeling but fortunately we both wanted to give it a go. All that said it was an awkward conversation.

As we were both in our early forties it, my finance suggested (and then organised) fertility tests for us. My fiancé’s ovaries were healthy which was great news, but my sperm had definitely been affected by my lifestyle. I was told that that my sperm had “low motility”. I had no idea what that meant. Apparently, it means they are “OK” but somewhat lazy.

Natural conception was going to be difficult, so we investigated IVF immediately and that set off some anxiety that went to the core of the macho, masculine perception I had of myself.

I had been a Rugby player and athlete; my sperm should have been super sperm! But it wasn’t and that moment I realised had to do something to improve it. In a typical “man” thing to do I googled what I needed to eat or drink and what supplements to take to improve the condition of my sperm. Then off to Holland and Barratt to stock up. Of course, I didn’t take the recommended dose, I tripled it, in particular taking handfuls of Zinc. In fact, I took so much Zinc one morning that when we got to London for an IVF consultation, I threw up and had to get a black cab all the way home, doubled up with stomach cramps. I know it was stupid and I know it was my fault, but I wished then that the issue of male fertility was able to be discussed as much as female fertility. I knew nothing about my own fertility and that was embarrassing and worrying.

Going up to central London for the first of many consultations at our chosen IVF clinic was a quite an eye-opener. With consulting rooms and a clinical theatre on one side on Harley Street and a testing facility one road down, there was nothing particularly glamorous or high tech about this clinic. Piles of brown document folders, sparsely decorated waiting rooms and with a constant flow of entrees and exits the building seemed to be somewhat of anachronism. I should have not been concerned. Every single member of staff appeared to care.

There seemed to be men and women from every ethnic background and walk of life nervously arriving at the clinic and though it looked like a bit of shambles, our documentation was always found quickly and efficiently and the barrage of tests, procedures and consultations continued smoothly. I struck up a few conversations with other potential expectant fathers as the men on the whole just waited while their wives and partners were at the business end of the IVF process. In that process we had one job and I was more than a little concerned about my ability to carry it out.

When all the biological indicators were in the green we got the call. We headed into London, I was to give a sperm sample and then let the doctors and consultants work their magic. When I arrived, I was passed a specimen bottle and a small brown bag and directed up stairs to one of the toilets. Immediately my head was full of thoughts; “How much is enough?” “What if I can’t ejaculate?” “Will that affect the rest of the day?” and “OMG this is it”. I had really mixed emotions.  If I was going to be a dad this was my time.

After I finished I looked down into the specimen jar and saw a small amount of sperm in the jar. I was shocked and disappointed. Embarrassed actually; I was sure that I had produced more than that. I went down to the reception and handed over the jar in the brown bag to the nurse; I even actually apologised for the small amount; what a prat.

My wife’s eggs were fertilised and thanks to every positive power in the universe and the superb clinicians who looked after us my wife got pregnant. I cheered, I cried and then headed off to get the drugs my wife would have to take for the first three months of the pregnancy to give our little baby a fighting chance. For 12 weeks my wife put up with injections into her bum and mid-drift daily. She was amazing.  

My son is now five and a proper little tearaway. He has completed my life and given me the purpose to live as long as possible for both him and my redoubtable and beautiful wife. Some advice to any man out there thinking of becoming a father. Drop all the “macho” nonsense and learn about your own fertility as quickly as possible. It could well change your life in a way you never thought possible.

PS The missing sperm? It was on the tip of my left shoe and was spotted in the waiting room; now that is embarrassing, not all the other stuff. 😉