They were a cute couple, a bit nervous and very excited. She was 20 years old and he was 24, and they appeared deeply in love. They had been trying to conceive for a while and, following a move to America, were told by their doctor that he was “shooting blanks.” I confirmed that he had azoospermia, that he was healthy and that there was no blockage present. The diagnosis was nonobstructive azoospermia. They proceeded with sperm mapping and I called him back 2 weeks later to tell him the results.
You Have Sperm
“Congratulations! You have several pockets of sperm in your left testicle that should be plenty for having a child of your own. This will require a fairly high level of technology (IVF-ICSI) and a relatively simple sperm retrieval procedure to work though.”
“Thank you SO much, doctor!” They responded with crackling, emotional voices.
Where Did You Go?
And that was that. Over the next several months, most couples hearing this news usually reconnect with me several times: once or twice to confirm that what I said was true and then again to plan the series of assisted reproductive events needed to have children. But with this lovely young couple…utter and complete silence.
Soon enough, the indelibly innocent and optimistic impression that this couple left on me faded with time. Over the years, I would often ask myself and my staff: “remember that lovely young couple? I wonder what happened to them.” As is often the case, infertility can single handedly shred an otherwise hardy relationship and leave it gasping for breath at the side of the road. A force of unmistakable power. I had hoped that this wasn’t what happened to them.
Fourteen years later, almost to the day, they showed up in my new North Beach digs looking as bright, cheerful and giddy as ever and none the worse for wear. She was now 34 years old and he was a confident 38.
“We’re back, Dr. Turek!”
“I see,” I said, half smiling, half worried, trying to quickly calculate how many years it had been since we had done his sperm mapping and found sperm.
“Yup, we needed to settle into America, save some money, and we’re now ready to move forward.”
“So, you want to move forward with things?” I said hesitatingly as if I had just seen a ghost. This couple had the exact same sparkle in their eyes and jump in their step that I remembered from a decade and a half ago.
“Yes, sir. That’s right!”
Well what happened next must been influenced by the sacred, the celestial, or both. Testicular sperm were found just where we thought they were 14 years earlier. And she got pregnant with twins just as she always thought she would.
Hard to describe exactly what this couple has taught me about life, but my world is somehow different after meeting them. They have redefined the words “fortitude,” “stamina” and “resilience” for me. They have also shown me what the word “grace” looks like in action, as a verb and not a noun. And to every one of the 8 million infertile couples in America, each with their own amazing journey, I honor you this week.