My husband's semen had a secret—information it had been hiding for years. Unlike the semen of other men, my husband's did not contain any sperm. Zero!
My husband and I have known each other since we were 6 years old. We grew up in church together, but it wasn’t until our junior year in high school when we connected. The summer of our senior year, he said, “God said you’re going to be my wife.” I laughed it off, but he was serious.
Fast forward again to our early twenties—we were married. We were young and had time, so our was to have our first baby just before 30 and our last baby by age 33.
After a little over a year of not getting pregnant, I decided to see my OBGYN to get checked as I had previous issues with cysts and fibroids. My results came back fine, but my doctor suggested that “if you want to make sure, maybe your husband should get checked out.”
My husband shot the doctor the look like, What the hell could be wrong with me? For men, especially Black men, the idea of something not working “down here” was taboo.
I’ll never forget that day in 2013. I was working from home, and the nurse called and said “Well, we didn’t find anything.” I was like, “see, I knew it!” But, she clarified. “Well, uh, no, you see, we didn’t find anything. We didn’t find any sperm.”
"I felt like I was suffocating."
I waited for the nurse to call me back to tell me it was a mistake. She never did. I went over her words again and again. No sperm. Each time it made tears swell. I couldn’t wrap my mind around how to tell someone he will never be able to father a child.
When my husband got home, I tried to avoid the inevitable. Finally, we sat down at the kitchen table to talk. I had to repeat it more than once in my mind before the words would come out of my mouth: “She said they didn’t find any sperm. The doctor wants to set up an appointment with you to go over everything.”
His response was immediate, “Well, I don’t want to go. I don’t have any sperm. You want a baby. I can’t do that, so that’s it.”
In the same breath, he told me wanted a divorce; I tried to explain to him that our vows were not “for better, for worse, or if you can give me a baby.” He wasn’t hearing it. I sat on the bed and silently cried. I was alone. It was something to watch my husband die in front of me, but he was still breathing. I wanted someone to blame, someone to be angry at, someone to cry with, someone to make it all go away. I grieved over my unmet expectation of becoming pregnant.
Our grief was private because my husband did not want to tell anyone he was the problem; furthermore, we had never heard of male infertility. For the few couples we did know with infertility, it was always assumed our female friends had issues.
Though the initial shock of the diagnosis left us wounded, as Christians, we had faith we would conceive naturally. Our urologist developed a treatment plan that was sensitive to our desire to conceive a child, but that also focused on the need to increase my husband’s testosterone levels so that he could live a healthy quality of life.
We first tried a testicular biopsy in hopes that we would find sperm in the testicles that would then allow us to pursue procedures such as IVF. Yet, three hours after surgery, the nurse was kneeling beside me on the floor of the hospital bathroom, trying to console me when we were told no sperm was found.
We then looked at options such as donor sperm, embryo adoption, and surrogacy. Yet, I wasn’t convinced my husband was okay with me carrying someone else’s child, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that either. And, with surrogacy, I was very much capable of carrying my own child, so I wasn’t thrilled about paying thousands of dollars for someone to do that for me.
In the interim, the urologist prescribed my husband treatments to include chlomid and hCG injects, but none of these were effective in naturally increasing my husband’s testosterone levels and inducing sperm production.
Trying to adopt with was a nightmare. The State either wanted us to adopt a sibling group or get on a 3 year long waiting list in hopes for an infant. When we tried foster to adopt, we were denied by the State because of our inability to put an additional 4ft fence around our inground swimming pool. Going through an agency was crazy expensive. And, if the mom changed her mind, we could lose all our money. Needless to say, we gave up on adoption.
"I felt like it was so unfair."
When it seemed like we had reached a dead in, I became angry at God. We deserved to be parents. The 4 years of trying to become parents left my husband physically weak from his low testosterone, us on the brink of divorce, and my husband even considering taking his own life.
It was at the end of year 4 when I finally came to terms with the idea of never being a mom. It was sobering, but it was what I needed to do to get on with my life.
At the beginning of the new year, my husband started taking the synthetic testosterone he desperately needed. I ended up writing a book about our infertility journey, and we decided to do a home study just in case, in some wild chance, a private adoption option was presented to us.
About 2 weeks after we finished our home study, a friend who previously adopted called and said, “ My attorney has a client who is looking to give her daughter up for adoption.” Long story short, after 11 years of marriage, I still have never been pregnant, but my husband and I have a wonderful baby girl through (of all things) ADOPTION!
I would be lying if I said there weren’t days that we still asked why us? Yet, there are other days when we say why not us? Because, if I had to go through pain, depression, frustration, and anger all over again to get to our little girl, this Christian girl would do it, without question.
TJ Peyten is author of Semen Secrets, a book about a wife's journey through male infertility. Connect with TJ Petyen: