It’s been about four years since my wife and I first received word about our diagnosis of infertility. The news came at the end of June in 2017 – right before we closed on a new house: a 3-bedroom, 2-bath home in a great neighborhood about 6 minutes away from my folks. When we received the news, we entered a state of shock that lasted for months.
“Depending on what kinds of interventions you’re comfortable with, we could explore…” it didn’t matter what the urologist was going to say at that point; we knew that we weren’t comfortable with any of the options. And that was that. I didn’t receive a formal diagnosis – I didn’t really want one. The tests revealed that I produced no sperm and my hormone levels indicated that something was wrong that couldn’t be easily remedied. What I did want was a chance at a son or daughter. The doctor stopped short of saying that it would never happen; but as an engineer, I understood that a good scientist doesn’t speak in absolutes when probabilities are involved. The doctor’s point was clear – my odds of begetting a child with my wife are exceedingly low, and no formal diagnosis was going to change that fact.
I look back now on the years that followed that day and all the challenges that ensued, and I can’t help but to be amazed with the work God has been doing in my life and marriage. On a personal level, it took me about two years to learn my “new normal” and to become comfortable with the idea that biological children may not be a part of my life. On a marital level, it has taken even longer to learn how to support my wife in the context of the pain that she feels when confronted with pregnancy announcements from friends and relatives. There have been fights, and there have been moments of utter sadness, but what I feel most tremendously grateful for is that, despite the difficulties, I have grown closer to her than I have ever imagined possible. We’ve prayed for miracles, found support with the Springs in the Desert team, explored our faith together, and deepened our emotional and spiritual intimacy.
As a runner, I liken my experience of these past years grappling with infertility to running up a long, unexpected, and aggressive hill. On the way up, my mental state goes through a series of stages: first an initial, uneasy confidence; then a realization that this is harder than I anticipated; then revisiting whether I believe I’m even capable of overcoming the hill; then reestablishing my determination not to give up, fighting through the burning and refocusing my breathing; and finally, a sense of relief at hitting the apex. After I run another few minutes and my heart rate drops back to a more comfortable zone, I can look back and see what I just tackled. The hill has new meaning: though it’s menacing in ways I hadn’t understood when I first started, I can now more clearly understand its height and how I stand in relation to it. I am capable of clearing that hill. And now I’m stronger. And I have a few more techniques to apply to the next hill. I can do it again!
My wife and I moved to a new city this past December, and our corresponding desire to start a new chapter together in our marriage led us to revisit my infertility condition and to obtain a more definitive diagnosis. I haven’t received the full picture yet, but I’ve learned that I have a micro-deletion on my Y-chromosome, which basically means that I was born with a genetic abnormality where a small portion of my Y-chromosome (apparently a part necessary for sperm production) is missing. When I received the phone call from the doctor’s assistant bearing this news, like last time, the message hurt; but after about a week, I could feel my spirit lifting. One of the big questions in my mind has been whether I’ve done anything to hinder my fertility over the course of my life. Getting the news about a genetic abnormality lifted a weight off my chest – not only am I not responsible for my condition, but God has allowed it as a part of my creation! I couldn’t exist without this microdeletion. And if God knows me intimately, then He also has a definitive plan for my marriage – a marriage that will, barring a miracle, not include biological children – not because we don’t desire them, but because He has another plan for our marital fertility.
My wife and I just closed on a house in our new city. It’s a 3-bedroom, 2-bath home in a beautiful, quiet neighborhood with lots of old trees, deer, and a river nearby. This time, we possess new confidence in the techniques and strength we’ve acquired through the grace of God to enter this next stage of our life together. I also have a new pair of running shoes; our new neighborhood is hillier than our old one, and I can’t wait to run.
James is married to Allie and writes from Central Texas. You can hear more from him on the A Man’s Take episodes of the Springs in the Desert Podcast.