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A way in the wilderness..

Updated: Jun 17, 2020



“I will never forgive you *Zack.” Those were Lydia’s last words to me after our relationship ended. Frankly I didn’t even know we were in a relationship. To me, she was a sister in Christ and I was being nice. Only, she interpreted this as a serious liaison that was headed for the altar and introduced me — in absentia — to her friends and family as ‘the one’. When I found out, I took to my heels. I definitely was not ready to settle down. And it broke her heart. After the train wreck, I sought her out to explain but she would hear none of it. She felt I had led her on and in some ways I admit I did. Her words haunted me. I carry them with me in a safe in my mind and I can’t help but wonder if this is my retribution. But I am getting ahead of myself.

It all began with my mum’s illness. Sometimes, I am conflicted whether it was really the beginning or just a turning point. Prior to her illness, I had met this girl — Emily — at a wedding. It was a chance meeting. I didn’t see flashes of lightning or feel a spark of electricity when I saw her. My heart rate remained at baseline. She was seated at the gift tent and I found myself gravitating back and forth between taking photos of the newly weds and talking to her. We became fast friends and after a facebook like, we exchanged numbers and started dating.

Not long after, my mum took ill. In a bid to cheer her up, I decided to introduce Emily to her. She was convalescing at my brother’s house when we went to visit. I didn’t realise however, how badly off she was until we got there. I expected Mom to be beside herself with joy but she might as well have been observing a painting on the wall. She was febrile and delirious and conversation was a strain. It turned out to be quite an odd afternoon. Emily didn’t say much after that first meeting and it’s unfortunate that, that was the last time she saw my mom alive. She went into a coma soon after and never came out of it. It is then, that I experienced Emily’s dedication.

My love for her grew on me. Her support for me and my family was unwavering. Those were dark days and she stood oh so close. She constantly held my hand in hers and calmed my heart with her prayers. Even during the burial at our rural home, she and her family showed up in a big way. By the time my mom’s casket was in the ground I knew I wasn’t going to let go of her. So three months later, I asked her to marry me. She said yes.

We were both staunch Christians. The kind that waited. Not the other kind. So we signed up for not one but two Premarital counseling classes. We wanted to leave no stone unturned. And so we were treated to a comprehensive marriage curriculum. We believed that what was taught, covered everything we would need to know in this journey of marriage. And most of it did. But the one thing that wasn’t even hinted on in both classes was the topic of fertility. As a result we never really had a discussion concerning children. The when, how and how many. It was assumed it would just happen. So after six months of amorous congress we started the process of actively trying. Two years later, nothing.

We decided at this point to visit a Medical Specialist. My wife took the lead. I was more laid back. That is until it was time to carry out the tests after a quick consultation. Some guy — who I assume was the lab technician- called me aside. He looked and acted sheepish; muttering words under his breath. He held his gaze to the ground, I had to bend my head close to his to hear him. He thrust a 100 ml cup into my hands and told me to bring a sample.

“Excuse me. A sample of what? Urine or ..?”

That was the first time he glanced at me. Visibly confused.

“Sperm.” He muttered and pointed to the gents. No instructions, no manual, nothing. I had never heard of such a thing before and so had absolutely no idea what was required of me.

I walked into the gents praying there was no one in sight. I was struck by the huge windows that let in a great amount of God’s good light. I struggled with the notion of producing a sample with no privacy and in a toilet. Anyone could walk in for crying out loud. There was nothing that felt as demeaning as that.

I finally got back to him and handed the cup over wondering whether I was supposed to have filled it or at least gotten to half. I didn’t dare ask.

“Come back after a few hours.” And he looked away again. It felt so taboo. A few hours later, we sat in the doctor’s office awaiting our verdict. He started with Emily. She had an array of tests done. All were ok. Then he turned to me. Unlike the lab technician, he looked me straight in the eye. He did not falter when he said, “Zack. I am afraid your sperm count is low. There is a certain threshold that is needed for fertilization to take place — about 39 million or more.” He mentioned my exact count, but it’s a figure I did not commit to memory. Besides, didn’t I need just one? I was struck by a rainbow of emotions. If I was light skinned, I am sure my face would have been the colour of a stoplight. He tried to reassure me but my thoughts replayed in my head like a chewed up cassette tape. ‘You are not man enough.’

The doctor prescribed some pills. Asked me to take them for three months and then repeat the test. The medication was not cheap. The whole dose was going to cost ten thousand shillings. It was not easy money to come by in light of many competing interests. Suddenly we were thrust into a world of uncertainty. This was not covered in the marriage syllabus. It became an elephant in our relationship. I could sense my wife had a hard time with the concept. I mean what was there to say? ‘Sorry for your illness?,’ ‘Get well soon?’ ‘Don’t worry the numbers will rise?’ So we didn’t talk about it. Couldn’t. Because there was simply nothing anyone could say. I later came to learn of one or two friends — from a marriage group we attended — who had faced a similar problem and had eventually conceived after taking those pills. So feeling a bit encouraged, I bought half the dose to begin with. Enough to last one and a half months. I mellowed and figured my case would turn out fine.

Sadly, misfortunes are always on offer. Buy one get one free. The heavens conspired against me. In a weird twist of events, I lost my job, then my dad. I became that guy. The guy with no job, no parents and a low sperm count. My masculinity was stripped from me. I ended up not finishing the dose much to my wife’s chagrin. I chose instead to deal with the other matters at hand. They were external factors; ones that I felt I could control.

It is only after two years from that first consultation that we went back for repeat tests. This time the lab technician was more open and confident than the last. He gave me an office space to do it which was still no better than the last time. A bright office with no visual aides to hasten the process. I resigned myself to fate and got with it. As I was getting started, I heard the sound of someone turning the knob.

“ Job who has locked this door?” I suspect Job was the lab tech. She was loud and she kept pacing and trying to forcefully turn the knob. Imagine what that did to me. I had to scamper about cursing under my breath. It took me another twenty minutes to compose myself. The results were out in about two hours. I took a look at them and saw that the count had improved slightly from the last time. I didn’t see the need to go back to the doctor. I felt there was nothing new he would tell me. I would just keep taking the pills when I could and hope for the best. By then, my wife too repeated her tests and was found to have a huge fibroid. She saw the doctor alone and he suggested removal. We said we would discuss and revert. The conversation however felt like we were walking on egg shells. It ended up being a merry go round. She wasn’t too keen on surgery and I was not going to push her. The same way she couldn’t push me to do more. So we froze. In separate togetherness.

We were now four years into marriage. Most of our peers were in their second, some even third child. The brave ones would ask, others would just whisper. I had a group of friends — an accountability group of men — that constantly asked me about it. All I could muster was, “God will come through.” And I believed that He would. I firmly held on to the Sovereignty of God. That He knew when and why and He would surely come through for me as He had for others. Whenever I heard of a new remedy, I would try it out and hope for the best.

But with the passage of time and no results, I started to get into a crisis of faith. I started to ask this same God why this was happening to me. Was it something I did? Or someone I wronged? Then I remembered Lydia and her words and thought, ‘Could it be that she cursed me?’ I remember once learning about how a senior pastor in a renowned church had adopted his children. And I was shocked! Could God be punishing me for these thoughts? Once in a while I would feel that my wife blamed me. She never said anything to that end but sometimes she would speak and I would feel she was angry about something and I figured that must have been it.

If I knew this before I got married, I feel I would have taken a different path. I would have asked her to choose someone else. In fact, sperm counts should be a prerequisite to dowry negotiations. These are the thoughts that became my constant companions. I tried to rationalize this dilemma. Looking hard at my past for answers; wishing I was more rebellious in my youth. I kept myself pure for fear of getting a girl pregnant out of wedlock. Imagine that ! If only I knew. My present was no better. When you walk around, you don’t encounter people who are not able to sire children. You are constantly bombarded with people with children and the ones who don’t have any, don’t talk. I carried a tag. That there was something wrong with me. And it stung.

The Bible says God is the author of life. Why would He give some people children and not others. I recently read a story about a father who dismembered his Albino child and sold the parts for profit. Why would God give that guy a child knowing that he would mistreat her? Those became the philosophical questions that plagued me. I struggled and fought and eventually came to a point of release. That if it never happened then I would be ok. Because I am a loner anyway. Yet I still try for my wife’s sake because I know it would devastate her to never be able to conceive. The other day she bought some herbal medicine that she learnt of from a Facebook group. I didn’t ask. I just take them.

A few months ago she decided to seek a second opinion from a fertility specialist. She went alone with our test results to hear him out. The doctor still insisted on the same plan of management for surgery and because of my low sperm count he added another prescription and recommended IVF. This was not welcome news.

We felt like we were in a boxing match. The blows just kept coming. We knew we couldn’t afford IVF. I remember asking myself, why God would want us to use so much money for something that He was giving other people — who didn’t deserve it — for free? I was torn. And I can’t tell about my wife’s emotional state because we are not emotionally synched. Not on this issue. Again the syllabus failed me. I was not prepared for this. How to handle infertility in a marriage? Or talk about it with her?

In time we have both learnt how to deal. Sometimes though, life feels like an unending period of mourning. A form of ambiguous grief. Mourning the loss of a hand you have never held. I still have so many questions. Why me? Why her? Will we ever get to experience the joy of having children? So many unanswered questions. I feel like a spectator of my gender. I keep oscillating through the five stages of grief: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Acceptance is not resignation. It just means I understand that this situation is what it is and there will be a way through it.

As Narrated to me by Zack.



 

Male infertility is the term doctors use when a man has trouble getting a woman pregnant. In order to get a woman pregnant, a man needs to have a normal number of healthy sperm. Men with infertility can have 1 of the following problems with their sperm: ●They have no sperm at all ●They do not have enough sperm — This is called having a “low sperm count.” ●They have unhealthy sperm — The sperm might move too slowly or have abnormal shapes. There are many reasons that men can have an abnormal sperm count. These include: ●Problems in the testicles, such as a block in the vas deferens — The vas deferens is the tube the sperm travels through to reach the penis . A block can be caused by a past infection or by a vasectomy. ●Having low levels of the hormone testosterone ●Genetic problems that men might be born with But most of the time, doctors cannot explain why a man has an abnormal sperm count. Tests: Your doctor will order a test called a “sperm count” to check your sperm. This test counts your sperm and checks to see how healthy they are. For this test, a man needs to provide a sample of his sperm. If your sperm count is low, your doctor will repeat the test 1 or more times. If repeat sperm counts are still abnormal, your doctor might do other tests. For example, he or she might do: ●Blood tests ●An exam to measure the size of your testicles ●Tests to see if there is a block in your testicles Treatment: Different treatments can help men with infertility still be able to father children. These can include: ●Hormone treatment to increase sperm counts — Some men have low hormone levels and can be treated with hormone shots. ●Surgery to open up a block in the testicle ●In vitro fertilization Do treatments always work? — No. Treatments do not always help a couple get pregnant. The same treatment might help one couple get pregnant, but not another couple. Couples can have a tough time dealing with infertility especially male factor infertility. You might find it helpful to talk to a counselor or go to a support group for people who are facing the same issues.

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