Post by John – By early 2015, I had gotten the help that I needed through counseling so Jenna and I were back to being a normal, happily married couple. We knew that we still wanted to have a family, so we attended a seminar for Sher Fertility Clinic where they talked about anything and everything related to infertility. We heard one common message that I’ve continued to hear to this day, “There isn’t much research done on male infertility.” So the seminar was worthwhile, but we really didn’t learn much as to what can be done to fix our problem. That didn’t stop us from scheduling a consult and moving forward with Sher to see what we could do.
Jenna wasn’t the issue, it was me – so the doctor recommended that we try IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) treatments instead of the IVF route. For those who don’t know what IUI is, I’ll give you the non-medical definition. Basically they time out and set (with meds) the woman’s ovulation cycle, then her legs go up on the stirrups, in goes the sperm, hope and pray. The only question that was to be solved with us, is how do we get the sperm?
The doctor gave us a couple of options. If we wanted to try, they could do a testicular biopsy on me to see if there was any sperm to be found at the source. So they go in, take a slice, and then try to find some sperm to use for the procedure. Any guy that isn’t squirming at the thought of this being done to them needs a serious check into your mental state. As a bonus, she told us that if I wanted to, they could use anesthesia to knock me out – is there really anyone out there who wouldn’t take the anesthesia? Who would really want to be awake to witness a slice of manhood being taken away from you? Anyone that answered yes can go ahead and stop reading right now and go look into checking into a hospital to have your head checked. Anyway – after doing all of the past tests and procedures, the doctor already was able to draw some conclusions. They gave me a less than 5% chance of finding anything in me. The other option was to use donor sperm. Hmmm, donor sperm. So it’s mine, but not really mine? Is that how it would feel?
So my choices were to have an expensive, invasive procedure with a < 5% chance of working, or use donor sperm. Did I mention this also isn’t covered by our insurance? Not that money really mattered at this point, but something else to consider. The choice was entirely mine, Jenna supported whatever I wanted to do. I ended up going the donor route because it just felt like the right decision and I was honestly petrified to have the biopsy done.
That means we had to pick out donor sperm. We ended up using California Cryobank as our bank, truthfully because they had the best website to be able to choose from. We went down the path of picking someone that looked and sounded the most like me. This is a hard task, think about it – I’m one of a kind! So trying to find someone remotely close to me is a challenging task. Plus there are so many choices, you can only slice and dice the filters so many ways until you just have to read profile after profile, but that’s part of the fun I guess.
Our first pass, we ended up with a couple hundred results. Then we got a little more “picky” and got it down to around 70. After a couple more rounds of weeding choices out, we finally got it to 5. How do we narrow it down anymore? We’ve already combed through height, weight, education, hobbies, interests, family medical history, etc. How are we supposed to pick the best of these 5? One of the nurse’s comments on one of the five said that he had cute baby pictures. That was enough for us! We had our donor sperm to use for the IUI procedures. Donor sperm is expensive, but I couldn’t believe how expensive the shipping was. $250 shipping for one vile. Isn’t that crazy? We chose to buy two vials (shipping is the same for one as it is for two), hoping that it will work the first time but hedging our bets by getting the extra one.
So we try our first round of IUI in July 2015. Jenna has to do some shots and take some other medication leading up to the procedure, but for me it was pretty simple. I just sort of sat back and let it all happen. We show up to the doctor’s office on the day of the procedure and get called back into the room. Jenna changes into her gown, doc comes in, legs go up, sperm goes in, we go home. That was easy! Now it’s a two week waiting game to see if the procedure worked. Most of you reading this already know the results, so there’s not much I can do for climactic effect here…. Two weeks go by and Jenna takes a pregnancy test but it comes back negative. That’s OK, we bought that extra vile, so we can try again next month. August goes by, and other than the fact that Jenna had to do one of her shots from a Hero’s West bathroom (my mom’s 50th birthday party), we had the same results.
We decided to take September off, but try again in October. Again, because of the crazy amount of cost for shipping, we bought two vials. October comes and goes to no avail. So we’ve tried this IUI procedure three times, and we’re 0 for 3. We talked to the doctor, what can we do to “boost” the chances we asked? The doc put Jenna on some different medication for what was going to be our last effort at the IUI treatments. The medication increased the odds of it working, but also increased the chance at multiples from occurring. We didn’t care – I mean in all honesty twins would have been the preferred route for us anyway. So we try the last bout in December, it has to work, right? Negative….the pregnancy test comes back negative again.
So where do we go from here? They tell you to stay positive, but how can you possibly stay positive? We tried to naturally have kids and failed. Then they put me on shots and that failed. Then we tried IUI four times and that failed. Jenna and I had an agreement that if IUI didn’t work, we would end our journey of trying to have kids. So January and February go by, but Jenna isn’t happy. She doesn’t want to give up. The only other option is to do IVF, but that is so expensive. What do we do?
We had all sorts of ideas running around on how to afford IVF. We knew we would need at least $30K to do the procedure, and we already drained our savings account doing the IUI procedures. Also, Caterpillar was in the middle of doing 10,000 layoffs so we didn’t even know if we would have jobs in a couple of months. We tried going the budget route. If we nickel and dimed ourselves, didn’t ever go anywhere, go out to eat, bought the bare minimum and cheapest groceries, only drank water (it’s free), etc – we could scrape across about $1000 a month. To get to $30k, that will take us about two and a half years. The first month comes up, and bam – engine light in our Envoy comes on. $600 repair. So this month, we’re only going to save $400. We looked at each other and knew this budget thing wasn’t going to work. We had to seriously cut out one of our biggest expenses – that being our house. We built our house and it’s perfect for having a family. But if we don’t have a family then we really don’t need it. So we were going to sell our house – remember that bit about Cat doing all the layoffs? Well Cat pretty much runs the Peoria area. Houses are selling – but the market isn’t all that strong. At best, we think we can get what we paid for the house, but we’ll be able to save our $30K really fast without the house payment and all the other costs that comes with owning a home.
We’re all the way to Memorial Day now, we still didn’t put our house on the market because honestly I think we were afraid to do it. At this point, Jenna and I still only told a handful of people about the fertility issues. One of those was a friend of mine who I was talking to about it at a softball tournament. In the past, he told me about this charity that puts on a golf outing for people going through fertility issues. He brought it up again, “Just apply for it,” he says. So I apply for the Birdies for Babies golf outing. Literally hours later I am contacted from Todd Trader, founder of the charity. We are picked – we will be the 2016 recipients of the golf outing. Have any of you ever felt stress literally melt off you? Well that’s the feeling I had. Tears of joy, relief, and hope filled both Jenna and I. Is it really going to happen?