Sperm are like men, are taken for granted, among the millions of them only one is enough to do the job and serve masculinity. Not till I got married I worried much about them as my life had other priorities like finishing higher studies, getting a job abroad and settling down – my sperm or the male reproductive system in general had a lesser role in life. Till then I was as masculine as could be expected of me. Things definitely turned different once I was the virgin groom and suddenly my manhood was held up to perform.
Being entirely self-educated on this topic, I felt the same anxiety on the first night as I would feel when first thrown on the stage facing a million audiences. We took it easy, being understanding of each other hoping that sex will eventually become better as love grows in our relationship and soon we will be enjoying a blooming family. It stayed the same, after months of trying we were unable to have a proper intercourse and in this case there was no debate on where the problem was. I still remember the first time she lovingly referred to it as the cute little one, then immediately dismissed it with a smile but somehow it stuck on my mind. The otherwise romantic newlywed tried hard to spice things up but bedroom performance frequently took a rain check and I was the one faking the “too tired” excuse. I actually didn’t want to talk about sex at all – everything seemed about comparing me with other able men. I wish I had some other form of disease anything else that would bring empathy but unable to provide pleasure to your new wife seemed so harshly frustrating. Imaginations kept running wild in my mind, I wondered if she was under the covers rubbing herself while I lay next to her pretending to be fast asleep feeling useless.
After trying natural remedies for a while with no obvious luck I knew this was going towards the blue pill. She suggested we see a doctor and quite to my relief without much diagnostic I was immediately prescribed the expensive Viagra. It was a punishment for me making fun of older men in TV advertisement trying desperate to enjoy romance with the ED pill. Maybe there is a reason why those Viagra ads never show a young man gaining back confidence and being macho again. It did work for me and I was relieved, probably less stressed out which may have been the cause in the first place. Deep inside, I noticed something changed between the two of us. Maybe all was just in my head; I was no longer the man – the King of the Castle. We had something to hide to the outside world and it was about me, at least we overcame a hurdle. I did appreciate her sweetness and comforting me but at the back of my mind I knew I betrayed something to her in our blind-faith arranged relationship.
We had a nice group of friends mostly our age, some newlywed and some in a relationship living together. While the conversations often after a few rounds of drinks would veer towards sex jokes or husbands pulling out naughty gif’s while their wives blush and coyly say “Oh! He is like that all the time”. I knew what it meant when later my wife completely annoyed with such theatrics would tell me “I hate such fakes”. It seemed like taunting at us knowing our embarrassing secret. We never even made eye contact with each other while at such parties. At the same time my social media walls and feeds was being flooded with baby pictures. My silence and unresponsiveness was taking me further taking me apart. I deactivated my account twice. We also started losing friends which to seem extent seem to make sense as parental friends preferred to have friends who were also parents.
I knew worse was to come, soon my elder brother had his first child and there was celebration in the family. His painfully treacherous wink to me suggested that it was my turn now (I have proven myself now you!). In all this our relationship suffered too. Quite anxiously we started on the path of trying to conceive but months passed by without any results. I felt emasculated. Within years most of friends had become parents and at every gathering the eyes would be on us. “Now it’s time to slow down on your work and focus on having a family”. We tried every opportunity timing ourselves, improving our lifestyle, diet, boxers, everything but now it was almost two years that we have been mechanically trying as best as we could. Family took notice too but at least they were nice that they didn’t just think about her and tried to convince both of us that it was the right time for us to have a first baby. Annoyingly my brother started getting on my case; he had his second son by now. He counselled me that I was being selfish not thinking about a family although it had been five years to our marriage. He had a way of being intrusive, like asking me if health wise I was doing alright.
Soon we decided it was time to seek medical help again and both of us started scheduling our visits. As much I was happy to know that she was ovulating perfectly fine I also knew what it meant. I agreed to have a semen analysis (fertility test for men) done. I was among the very few men at the clinic but every time my eyes met with another woman waiting in the doctor’s lounge, I could sense empathy in their eyes. Their comforting smile telling me it’s brave of you to have come so far, you will succeed. There was a strange sensation where I wished I could just hold somebody’s hand and pour my heart out. I was almost smiling when a quite attractive young woman greeted me with all her cuteness and took me to the semen collection room and mechanically being told what needed to be done. We were anxious about the results, was there any hope? Soon the doctor called us after a few weeks and told us about me. My sperm was low in count and not moving freely (sperm motility) but had the right morphology. Honestly, I liked that level of detail and use of medical terms made it sound like a legitimate disease rather than crudely questioning whether or not it works.
I knew what the real issue was – The Silence.
I felt warmth in the niceness of the people at the clinic where I was certainly getting noticed probably because of me being a man. I discovered that in this journey there is no shame in seeking help and support from people around you even if it means less likely to come from your own family. I remember looking at a giant cork-board with heart shaped messages from hundreds of infertile women reaching out to comfort other women feeling scared or anxious about the process. Of course there were tea-tasting groups to regular meet-up groups reaching out to help each other. Unfortunately, none of the messages or groups was about men or talked about their issues. I knew what the real issue was – The Silence.
Why didn’t the men communicate with others about what bothered them, their feelings, how they wished they were treated. I guess the male-size ego, societal and peer pressure, and masculinity in general was in conflict. It gets to the core of your question as to what does it mean to be a man if you are unable to impregnate your wife – something left unspoken. It’s not as if the infertile men are voiceless or oppressed in any way. We want to communicate and are perfectly capable of doing so. I do have many male friends with whom I had bonded since college hostel days talking about insecurities ranging from financial, parents and yes even relationships but why was it so hard to make it happen again over infertility?
As the journey continues, I do think it has turned me to sort of rebel against societal perceptions of standard of masculinity. Now whether for better or worse for my own relationship! I do prefer the company of other women to talk about feelings and silence. I know my partner has pointed out but I truly find it hard to be around traditional macho nonsense (beer talk and sports in general), I would rather enjoy a conversation group where we can all, regardless of gender, just express our feelings like outrage and never let silence get in the way. I am not sure is it my struggle against masculinity.
The Infertile Man ( SS)
Written by a man (prefers to call himself – SoftSpoken) who expressed his perspective while undergoing the journey to fertility. Often, we talk about the woman in distress, the support she needs, how she must express to avoid depression but hardly have we ever talked about the pain of infertility faced by men. In this journey, though it is the woman who bears the brunt and faces the canon for it is primarily her body but don’t you think men suffer too? This poignant story, straight from the heart makes us think hard and deep.Tags: fertility test for men infertility in men Male infertility sperm