About four years ago, I went to a doctor appointment that, until now, only my wife knew about. It was a visit to a urologist. The subject of the meeting was to evaluate my fertility.
My wife and I were recently married, and so naturally the idea of children came about eventually. I dreamed of having my own kids someday. But, I also tried avoiding any conversations about procreating. This is because I highly suspected I might be infertile due to the chemo/radiation treatments I had received, yet I didn’t want it to be official. I wanted to keep hope alive through denial and avoidance. But the question kept bugging me: Can I have kids?
And then I thought about what it was doing to my wife, the uncertainty. We needed to either accept bad news and move on, or realize good news and begin working to increase our family size. So I decided to take the leap and find out what I could from a doctor. A fertility doctor.
I remember the day of the appointment. I was nervous. I was mad. I was scared. I hoped for good news. It was a quick check-in at the clinic and pretty soon I was in the doctor’s room, waiting for the knock on the door. I remember I prayed silently. It was something like, “Please let there be some way… or please give me strength should it not be possible.”
“Hi, Mr. [Chris], I’m Dr. Mynamedoesntmatter, how are you today…what brings you in?”
*Gulp* “I’m okay…” and I explained everything worked except…there’s no physical evidence (I was more candid with him, of course).
He then examined my “equipment” – embarrassing doctor moment #2,857. He told me of a condition where a male might seem infertile, but may actually be “depositing” in the bladder. One way to check for this condition is to “deposit”, and then urinate immediately after in a sterile cup. The cup is then screened for any mini-me tadpoles. He gave me a cup to take home, and I was to return in a few days with the same cup not so empty. In the few days between appointments, I kept hoping for me to be one of those guys that just deposited the wrong way.
Too soon, the day came for me to fill the cup. Within minutes, I was on my way to the same doctor’s office (“Make sure the sample is as fresh as possible!” he said). I arrived at the clinic and sat in the waiting room, holding a crumpled brown sandwich bag with a little yellow cup inside. “Think positive, Chris. You’ll be cool. Life will find a way. Cancer hasn’t taken everything.”
“Mr. Chris [R]!,” called a lady in white clothes.
Ugh. I was up and on my way towards the nurse who eventually brought me back to the actual doctor room. The doctor took way too long to knock on the door this time. He also showed up way too soon. I wasn’t ready.
“Nice to see you again, Chris. Do you have the sample this morning?”
I handed him the cup. Right away he said, “Hm, doesn’t look cloudy at all… BUT, let’s take a much closer look.”
My heart sank. It was because he said it with such certainty, and with great compassion. “Oh great, he’s being honest AND sincere…not a good sign,” I thought.
Next, he prepared the sample for viewing under a microscope. He looked in the eyepieces and explained as he was observing. He said it looked like a perfectly good sample…of urine. No tadpoles. He even let me take a look. I looked through the scope and there it was: a barren, clear yellow wasteland. Diluted apple juice. No mini-mes wriggling around. Not even dead ones. Not even misshapen little mutant ones.
My heart sank further. I went numb. “If I’m not depositing the normal way, and not the abnormal way either… then it’s over.”
He asked me to take a seat in the normal chair (not the exam table) and wheeled his stool near me so we were face to face. With a warm and supportive tone, he looked me in the eyes and began:
“You know, Chris, you have been through so much for a man your age. You are a fighter. Unfortunately, many men treated with chemotherapy often lose the ability to produce sperm. The reproductive organs tend to be highly sensitive to such types of treatment. In your case, you were treated at a very young age, while you were still very much in development. This further complicates the after effects. After discussing your history with you, reviewing your charts, blood work, and especially based on my physical exam and analysis, I do believe this is the case for you.”
No…no…say something else…It’s not true.
He continued, “The wonderful thing is you are young, and have a life ahead of you. Many families find true fulfillment in options, such as adoption. Your love for your child will be true and you will be no less a father than anyone who claims so by their genes.”
Oh god, he’s consoling me! It’s real. It cant be. This is a cruel joke. It has to be.
But it wasn’t. I couldn’t make a mini-me. Cancer was laughing at me. It was still sticking its knife in me. Even when it was no longer in my body.
I went home in a numb haze. Then anger began thawing the numbness. And soon, I was seething. Another defeat. And a cruel defeat. A harsh realization came to me: Nature would have killed me long ago. I am irrelevant in the genetic pool. I cried for the death of my never-to-be children. I cursed at the humiliation I felt. What is a man if he can’t procreate?
I was miserable. I felt inadequate. Incomplete. A deep, angry, sadness.
However, although I grieved painfully, it hardly lasted long.
It would have, I’m sure, had I been single. But I wasn’t alone. I sulked for about a day, and that was it.
Once I calmed down from the sad/bad news, I thought about how interesting and rare it was when life’s rough edges seem to smooth themselves out. In my case, I randomly met and fell in love with a sweet lady who was a single mom. Together, we slowly introduced her daughter into our relationship. Before I even realized it, I loved the little rug rat. I gained a daughter. I met her when she was 2, and back then she called me “Chris.” After a while, she chose on her own to call me by a different name. I became “Dad” and I loved it. Eventually, I was married and she became my official daughter. I love her.
Everything the doctor said was accurate. My love for my daughter is true, unbreakable, and immeasurable. I know what I have, and I intend to hold onto it. She is a reason to live, to fight, to hope, to improve, to teach, to inspire, to love, to laugh, and to keep getting back up. Being a dad can also be boring and stressful at times, but the highs are amazing. She has allowed me the gift of experiencing what has got to be one of life’s ultimate peaks of happiness. To feel pride in my daughter is to be introduced to a level of gratitude and admiration I did not know existed before fatherhood.
Before I met my daughter, I had begun to feel my body was betraying me, and my spirits were down. Then, she and her mom came into my life and allowed me to see and feel love like never before. They were the genesis of my awakening, and the shedding of my anger and silence.
What do memories know or care about blood, anyway?
What does love know of DNA?
But most importantly of all: Who does my girl know as Dad? ME. And THAT is something beautiful and magical for this man who cannot have kids.