“Who’s infertile, you or your spouse?” When I get this question… oh, wait. Actually, I don’t usually get this question, as this would presume a certain level of knowledge on the topic (as in that it takes two to tango).
Actually, whenever our infertility is revealed for the first time to a new person, it is automatically assumed that the condition lies with my body, and the commentary and advice that follow is based on this assumption.
But let’s just say, for the sake of argument, that someone would ask this question. What is the appropriate way to answer it?
First of all, infertility is a unique condition in that while it often lies physically in the body of only one individual, the effect is equally spread between both partners. Therefore, it is in no way to my benefit that our infertility is male factor rather than female factor. We cannot naturally conceive a mutually biological baby anyway. Therefore, the idea that it matters “whose” infertility we’re dealing with is a moot point. Infertility is a couple’s condition.
Also, with male factor in particular, we have the irony of having to treat my body for a condition that is in the body of my husband. That’s not to say that he didn’t have to go through his share of tests and procedures; he did. But I did too, even though “I’m fine”. I put this in quotation marks because I do not share the attitude that many assume I’d have, namely, resentment.
I have had people tell me what a “good” wife I was for sticking with my husband! As if the vows we took – for better or for worse, in sickness and in health – were just a suggestion. Interestingly, my husband has also been praised for sticking by me, when the assumption is that we are dealing with female factor. Bless his heart, my husband has always been quick to correct them. He is very open with his condition and does not let people think it’s “my” condition. But it is; it’s both of ours.
If we understand infertility in the correct context, then none of these observations are necessary. However, many people still assume that infertility is a woman’s disease. What’s more, many people attach very strong judgment to so-called “barrenness”, causing childless folks to feel “less-than”.
I don’t like to correct people when they start giving me advice on how to proceed based on their impressive topical know-how (note the sarcasm). After all, I do not want to “out” my husband as being the “cause” of our childless state. But if the moment is right, I do take the opportunity to educate people on the existence of male factor infertility, as well as to make a plug for the importance of the marriage commitment.
So, to sum up: my husband has been diagnosed with Sertoli-Cell Only Syndrome, a severe form of non-obstructive azoospermia also known as testicular failure. In other words, God has decided that my husband already has so many good things going for him, that producing sperm in him would just be overkill. I didn’t marry my husband for his sperm; I married him for who he is. I am blessed to have found him and am happy to go through life struggling with infertility, even if it never gets resolved, because I get to go through life with the man of my dreams.