Another Male Perspective: Matt & Leslie’s Story
We have heard Cameron and Kristin’s story.
We have learned the basics about male factor infertility.
We have talked about many resources available to learn more about male factor infertility.
This week, I want to share some thoughts about dealing with male infertility from a spiritual perspective.
But, before that, I want to introduce you to another couple: Matt & Leslie. I have never met Matt and Leslie, yet I love their story and where their decisions have taken them. Their perspective and their experiences are helpful to both husbands and wives. The following text is Matt’s side of their story and appears in my book in a chapter addressing infertility from a male perspective. Leslie’s side of the story also appears in the book and is intriguing to read alongside Matt’s story.
As you read this excerpt, it will provide a perfect segue into our discussion this week.
I have been a member of the church my whole life, and one of the things that was taught over and over again was that part of our purpose in mortality is to multiply and replenish the earth. Family has always been important to me especially since I am the youngest of six children. I have always loved kids, thought that I have the ability to bond well with them, and have looked forward to the day that I would have some of my own; my patriarchal blessing even talks about me having kids. Well, my wife and I cannot have children. The fact that we are unable to fulfill this commandment to multiply and replenish the earth leaves me wondering what the deal is—how can I make sense of the promises, the commandments, the blessings, and even the desire for children when they cannot be a part of my life? I am beginning to not want much to do with kids anymore since being around kids is just a reminder to me that we do not have any. Seeing what I cannot have just angers me more.
At first when we could not get pregnant I simply thought it was not the right time and comforted myself by saying that it takes some people longer to have kids. As time went on, we started wondering if there were some issues with our fertility. Honestly, I was really hoping it wasn’t me causing the problem; in fact, I was in denial for a long time and was determined that it could not be me and that my sperm were just fine. I very much wanted it to be a problem with Leslie and not me. I could love her no matter what, even if there was a reason she was unable to have children. But if it were me causing the problem, I wondered if she could still love me.
It was always easier for me to pawn our fertility problems off on Leslie and just watch her go to the doctor. I did not want to endure the tests since the collection process in order for my sperm to get tested was far from pleasant. Eventually, I went to be tested, and for a long time it seems like something always went wrong and I was unable to provide the sample. Now, that is a great morale booster! Sign me up for more of that! Once my sperm was tested, I faced the shocking news: my sperm was not fine. I felt far from manly! I felt like my manhood had been compromised. It is a definite demoralizer to find out your sperm is not good for what it was meant to do. It is hard for men when male factor infertility is part of the equation, because so much of how society determines manhood and masculinity is based on his ability to procreate. It is easy for a man’s sexuality to be affected and to feel less of a person.
During these hard times, Leslie was good at finding peace in the gospel. Unlike her, when I was given the bitter cup I took it, drank of it, and became bitter; instead of turning to the Lord, I turned away. I think that our home would be a great place to raise a child and I have a hard time understanding why the Lord won’t make it easier on us so we can do just that. I have seen great blessings in my life with a home, a great job to provide for my needs, and no major struggles yet, but why do I have to have one with not being able to have children?
I really struggled with Leslie always wanting to talk about our infertility over and over again. All I wanted to do was forget about it, not talk about it, and just let my anger build up. It became obvious pretty quickly that we were dealing with this issue differently. Over time and because I have come to grips with the fact that I am the issue, I have become more willing to talk about it more for her than me.
Everything started to change when I built a home for a urologist. He became a friend, and because I trusted him, I felt comfortable asking him questions. He referred me to the right doctor in his practice that handled cases like mine. Once I chose to be okay with addressing these issues, the ball started rolling. I ended up needing invasive surgery. Yes, I was a little nervous as it was my first major surgery and it had to do with a very private part of me, but I knew I just had to get over it. Because I was willing to accept this new path and to take the often difficult steps necessary to resolve the problems we were facing, Leslie and I are where we are today—a month away from in vitro. Do I think it is fair that we have to pay over $12,000 to have the blessing of children when someone that does not want them just has to mess up once and they end up with a child? No. But at least it is a solution to the problem. I am still angry about the fact we cannot have children on our own but I have hope that this will work.
As I look back, I wish that Leslie and I had started off by being tested at the same time. If we had, we could have had questions answered sooner and we could have moved toward a solution much faster. Additionally, as I reflect on this trial, I still wonder what I am supposed to learn. I have appreciated that Leslie and I have become closer as husband and wife, but I am still waiting for greater perspective and understanding of why we must suffer in such a way. I know that I should turn to the Lord and rely on Him, but at this point, I am still trying to figure out how to do just that.