I’m Not a Success Story Nor a Hero

I hope this doesn’t come across as a feel sorry for me post (though it probably will and I just need to suck it up).  

The last two and a half years have been the most difficult of my life.  Finding out I’m not capable of producing sperm and thus not being able to ever have children has changed my life.  It’s changed my outlook on life from a perspective that hard work would eventually lead to things working out to one that now see’s no point in working hard.  It’s changed relationships from being strong to never being the same.  It has also led me to connect with many amazing people in a community I never knew existed.

The infertility community has been great to me.  I’ve learned so much by reading stories and following journey’s of others that can inspire future people going through infertility that there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Some have had their journey’s result in pregnancies and births.  Others have moved onto adopting.  There are also those who are forgotten who have moved onto Childless/free lives.  And there are those still in the trenches who are working towards moving forward in some way.  There are too many individuals to list in this blog piece.

Recently I had a discussion with some of these great people.  The discussion was around how just because one chapter in a person’s life is bad doesn’t mean the next one will be bad.   The two other people in the discussion both recently became pregnant.  For them though infertility was a bad chapter their next chapter has the potential to be something great (I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it is for them).   I don’t begrudge them for that in fact I’m extremely happy for them as it couldn’t have happened to two better people.  

My input into the discussion was how my story was having multiple bad chapters and that I had no reason to believe a good chapter to my story would be coming anytime soon.  This chapter has been worst case scenario across the board leading to a deep depression.  The feedback I received was that Hero’s always have it the worst and that they are the strongest to overcome the challenges they face.  Obviously the feedback was given with the best of intentions (and it was greatly appreciated) to encourage me to continue to fight and that things would get better even though life is not going to look the way I want it too.

But here’s the thing, I’m no hero I never was a hero nor do I have it in me to become one.  I never wanted nor am I capable of a hero’s life.  All I wanted was a simple life where I got married to someone that I would grow old with and I would raise kids with that person.  There wouldn’t be anything more than that.  I’m not capable of more than that.  I’m just a regular guy who had to work hard just to get to that level playing field.  My success story would have been that despite the odds against me I built a simple regular life together with someone special that included us raising kids together.

The infertility community is filled with success stories with and without children.  My story is not a success story.  My story didn’t result in me becoming a parent nor has it resulted in a fulfilling childless/free life.  My story is not going to inspire anyone that they can get through infertility.  I have failed at getting through infertility.  It has defeated me.

I was reminded that my story isn’t a success recently when there was a Making Dads week held to recognize men going through infertility.  Many men were included who went through infertility and are now dads.   The men who spoke are able to offer hope to others something I can’t do.  Things like this I’ll never be able to be included in the infertility community telling me I have no place here.

Recognition that I’m not a hero and that I don’t have a success story has told me that it’s time for me to step back in the community and consider walking away for good.  My life is too much of a downer and I don’t want to bring others down who need to be lifted up.  I’ll leave the lifting up to the real Hero’s who have survived infertility and had success stories.  Plus I relate to very few people here as most have moved onto the next chapters in their lives.  Unless things change in my life and some miracle happens to me that makes my story a success there’s no reason for me to be here.  

Why not a Non-Parents Day?

I’ve written before how I think that Mothers and Fathers Day are bullshit holidays and nothing but hallmark holidays.  It’s not that I am jealous or bitter that I’m not a parent it has more to do with the idea that we shouldn’t need one day a year to show appreciation for our parents.  We should do that everyday.  I wish we would just dump them as holidays but that will never happen because there is too much money to be made off of them.  And to a lesser extent some parents (not all) with egos need these holidays for themselves.

These holidays isolate those adults who are not parents either by circumstance or by choice.  It’s as if these people are second class citizens and lesser people because they lack children.  They are not worthy of their own day to be recognized so the rest of society knows they exist.  They are seen as people who aren’t worthy of being celebrated.  I’ve seen some alternatives such as “Aunt’s Day” where the Monday after Mother’s Day this “holiday” is celebrated.  But you don’t see much about it because it’s on a Monday when people are at work.  It’s a half hearted attempt by the Parent community to do something.  To me there is a better way.

As an alternative I propose Non-Parents Day (The third Sunday in July) to celebrate the contributions and sacrifices that those without children by choice or circumstances make to better society.  The people who pick up the slack in the work place when those who have children are on maternity leave or have to leave early to tend to their children.  They make it possible for those with children to take that time off to tend to their kids without the work place falling a part.  The people who help take care of their friends and families children when their parents are unable to.  The sibling who takes care of their aging parent when their sibling with kids is unable to.  The people who give back to their communities when parents don’t have the resources (time or money) to do so.  These people are just as important to our society and make just as important contributions to society as parents do.  Yet we don’t have a day to recognize or thank them for that.

I think having this new holiday is important not only to recognize those who are childless/free but also to teach the next generation to value those who are childless/free and the sacrifices they make to society.  For those who attend church children should see these people stand up so they are recognized in their community as being valued.  I know for me when I grew up I didn’t look at my Aunts and Uncles who didn’t have children the same way I did my Aunt and Uncle who did have children.  Looking back on it now I realize that it was wrong and I wish it took something other than infertility to help me realize their value to society.  I don’t think I’m alone in how our society teaches kids to devalue those who don’t have children.

I don’t expect this blog piece to generate anything that leads to a Non Parents Day to being created. At best I would only expect the half hearted “Aunt’s” and “Uncle’s” days to be put out there.  But I hope it hits home to people with kids to value their childless/free friends and family members more than they might on the surface.  Our world wouldn’t be what it is today without the contributions that those without children have made and continue to make.  Those people deserve to be celebrated and thanked for their contributions and sacrifices.

Giving Up on a Legacy

There are many things infertility robs couples of that couples who don’t experience it would never understand.   Even those people who are able to eventually have a child are forever changed.  For those of us who aren’t able to ever have kids who don’t move forward with adoption or third party reproduction there are many things we have to come to terms with.

One of those things I have talked about on this blog is my concern about not having kids and the fear that I will leave no legacy behind when I pass.  Now that it was confirmed last month that there is no chance of me being able to have biological children I’ve gone back to thinking about living life without ever becoming a parent.  I’ve thought about what that life could be like.  I’ve thought about how best to make the most of the worst case scenario and whether I could leave a legacy.  I’ve gone through the things I “thought” could leave a legacy.  Rather than dream which has just led to disappointment the last two and a half years, I was realistic.

The reality is it will be near impossible to ever leave a legacy without becoming a parent.  Sure I’m a Big Brother volunteer but it’s doubtful my little will remember me as he gets older.  And asking him to do so is unfair to him.  That’s not the reason I volunteered in the first place.  I don’t come from a big family and who knows whether my brother will get married and whether he would have kids.  It’s also doubtful even if he had kids that they would care about their weird Uncle with no kids.  Beyond this there really aren’t any opportunities nor will there be unless something drastically changes in my life without being a parent that will leave a legacy.

Rather than get my hopes hope and work hard for something that is near impossible I’m giving up on the idea that I can or would leave a legacy behind.  I’ve gotten my hopes up too many times over the last two and a half years that things would change and worked hard only to be disappointed.  I don’t want the rest of my life to be full of wasted hard work.  I need to set the bar lower and have lower expectations for what I’m able to do with my life.

Last Sunday I turned 35 and reflecting back on my life where I’m at right now and what’s likely ahead of me I am trying to accept that my best days are behind me.  My life peaked at 30 and it’s going to continue to go downhill or at best stay level.  In not having kids I have accepted and given up on the idea of leaving behind a legacy.  My bloodline will end with me, my impact on society and others will stay with just me and not passed down.  It’s really hard to accept and to give up.  I don’t give up or quit easily but if infertility has fought me anything is that hard work will never overcome the impossible or near impossible.

  

Game Over

This is a post I never wanted to have to write.  Back in January when the decision was made to seek a second opinion beneath the hurt was a lot of optimism that there could be a chance that things would work out.  Despite the negative tone of this blog overall prior to infertility I was a dreamer always believing that things would work out.  In this case I thought things would work out.  I really believed that the small chance there was that beneath the Y Chromosome microdeletions was some viable sperm that could be used to produce a pregnancy.

First let me say that last Tuesday marked the three week period of when I was supposed to receive my results I had not received a call by.  It took half a dozen voice mails to the nurse and playing phone tag with their office to even get the results.  I now know what a lot of you go through and definitely empathize what it’s like to deal with medical facility frustrations.  But that was easy compared to the fallout of when I finally received the call with my test results.

I am devastated to say this past Friday I received a call from the lab that the Y Chromosome microdeletions I have in the AZFb and AZFc are complete deletions.  Basically worst case scenario with not even the slightest possibility that TESE surgery could extract some sperm.

The “game” of infertility is over.  I will never be the biological father of any child.  It’s left me feeling back to the way I felt two January’s ago which is numb and hopeless.  I had actually been doing well the previous three weeks in waiting taking things day by day.  To a certain extent I didn’t want to receive the results.  I wanted to ignore what was going on and enjoy each day.

My half marathon two weeks ago given the circumstance of the heat and humidity of the race went really well.  It was a tough race but I survived and had a good feeling coming out of it.  The Rangers came back from a 3-1 deficit against the Capitals (I had the privilege of going to Game 5 when they started their come back).  Now that feeling of taking things day by day and the good feelings I had are over.  I am back to feeling the worst feelings I had felt over the last few months and two plus years.  I am down on myself.  I’m feeling hopeless, worthless and without a purpose.  I feel like I am not worthy or good enough person to become a parent.  Add on top of it that the Rangers got eliminated from the playoffs on Friday night so my distraction is now gone (Thanks Assholes!).  My motivation to do anything beyond my running and training for my next race is gone.

I’m not sure where I am going from here.  I need to fully process this before looking forward.  I am not sure what that means for me in the infertility community and being an advocate for all of us regardless of where we are at in our journey.  In some ways I want to get out of this and just leave it behind me.  I hate how infertility has ruined my life and taken the joy I had in life.  I hate how it’s isolated me and made me want to be isolated from so many people and things that I love.  I hate the person that I’ve become.

I am waiving the white flag and letting infertility know that it has won.  It has defeated me as I feel defeated.  The game it played with me has won.  The game is over.  Where things go from here, I just don’t know.  I really don’t want to know anymore.

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The Appointment 

First I would like to thank everyone for their support.  I say everyone because there are too many people to thank individually.  I am truly humbled by everyone’s support.  Its been overwhelming especially when lately I haven’t had a high opinion of myself.

Last night and this morning I was a mess.  I broke down going to sleep and woke up this morning the same way.  I wish it was because the Rangers got shutout last night to that mediocre Capitals team but it wasn’t.  I was scared for how my life was about to change.  I was down on myself that this is what it had come to because of my body.

After I collected myself this morning, I was ok heading to the appointment.  The most stressful part was getting across mid town Manhattan to the FDR and dealing with lunch time traffic.  We only got to the appointment five minutes before so it was a little bit frantic.  But I didn’t have a long wait and getting in an out only took an hour.

Now to the diagnosis, I didn’t get the same there is nothing that can be done answer.  Instead the diagnosis is that there needs to be further confirmation as to the extent of the Y Chromosome Microdeletions.  If there are partial deletions of the AZFb then a decision would have to be made as to whether to pursue Microsurgical Testicular Sperm Extraction.  If there are full deletions of the AZFb then there is nothing that can be done.  As the previous urologist confirmed there’s nothing I need to be concerned about with my long term health other than monitoring my testosterone levels.

To further confirm to the extent of the deletions I had blood drawn to specifically test the extent of the Y a Chromosome Microdeletions.  The cool part of it is that whatever parts of my blood that are not used will be saved for further research being conducted by my doctor on male infertility.  I had to sign a waiver to do that which I was happy to do.  Anything that would benefit men dealing with infertility I am all for.  This is me passing down my genes for the benefit of future generations in a way.

Now comes the hard part waiting the next 2-3 weeks for the results of the blood work.  It’s going to be difficult but it doesn’t feel as difficult as waiting for the appointment.  Good thing for me is that I’m running a half marathon on the 17th and that’s where my focus is outside of work.  There’s nothing more that I can do.  I’ve taken the first step and know that I’m doing something for the first time in two years.  But I’m still scared as to the fallout if the test results show the worst case scenario.  I really hope that isn’t the case because I don’t know what would be next.

The Calm (Panic) before the Storm

Well here I am just two days before my urologist appointment seeking a second opinion 27 months after my first opinion.  It’s a place I never thought I’d go back to but things have changed.   The options for becoming parents has shrunk.  This is the last and only shot to become a parent unless something changes.

The last few months have been awful personally for me.  The last few weeks have been extremely stressful.  The appointment is a big part of it but there are so many other parts of my life it impacts that makes it very complicated.  To say I’m scared is an understatement.  I’m scared of the fall out if nothing can be done and where I go from here.  I’m scared of going through more testing.  And I’m really scared of having to go through a biopsy.

It’s really hard for me to see the happy ending coming out of this.  With how down I am on myself I don’t see myself being able to get through this.  Last Monday I almost had a panic attack at work and I’m worried it won’t be the last time in the upcoming days, weeks and months.  The truth is I am in panic mode about the course of my life and where it’s heading especially with turning 35 next month.  Never did I think that at 35 my life would lack suck direction and feel like it has no purpose.

I really hope this appointment provides more clarity but it’s most likely going to become more complicated and unclear.  If I’m told that further tests are needed then it’s complicated and unclear on that end.  If I’m told that there’s nothing that can be done it becomes more complicated on what to do next.  It’s the panic before the storm.

  

“You Are Not Alone” The Infertile Men Fraternity 

As part of Resolve’s National Infertility Awareness Week, I am participating in their bloggers challenge.

One of the many reasons I started this blog over two years ago was to connect with others going through similar journeys.  Though statistics show that one in six couples go through infertility you run into few of them in real life.  Of those infertile couples one third of them are due to male factor (despite the myth that infertility is a woman’s problem).

Men by nature are not transparent when it comes to emotional topics.  We are raised to be tough, keep things on the surface and push any emotions beneath the surface.  Thus there are very few men who are infertile who do speak up about their journeys.

I recognize that I am not every man and not every infertile man out there.  I am unusual in that I’m comfortable in speaking up about infertility and male infertility.  That doesn’t make me a better man than those infertile men who aren’t.  I’m just different though I am not alone. 

Society’s stereotypes of men has created this stigma with being an infertile man.  Though personally I have not felt it there are many men who are infertile feel like they aren’t man enough to get their wives pregnant.

For the infertile men out there, I am here to tell you that you aren’t alone even if it feels that way.  

There are many infertile men out there.  Men like Tom Arnold and Gordon Ramsey who have had the courage to speak up.  You aren’t alone when you feel inadequate that you are unable to get your wives pregnant the way most men are.  You aren’t alone when you are the only one of your friends who isn’t a dad because of your body.  You aren’t alone when you struggle to put the smile on your face when deep down you hurt.  You aren’t alone when you feel hopeless that infertility isn’t something that you can fix.  You aren’t alone when you are scared that you’ll never become a dad.  You aren’t alone when it feels like a bad nightmare that you cannot wake up from.  

Rather than thinking you are alone, the reality is you are part of a Fraternity that is made up of many great men.  Regardless of whether or not you go onto become a dad you will always be a brother in this Fraternity.  I am proud to be a part of this Fraternity and hope the other infertile men out there are as well.  Because none of us are alone.