Brian ' Interview 22

Age at interview: 33
Age at diagnosis: 32
Brief Outline: Brian and his wife were given a 3% chance of getting pregnant. After one round of IVF with ICSI, which was unsuccessful, they conceived naturally.
Background: Brian is a manager in a local council and is married to Michelle (Interview 21). Ethnic background' White British.

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Brian and his wife (Michelle - Interview 21) started trying for a baby as soon as they were married. When nothing happened during the first year, they started to get worried. Investigations at the GP, the local NHS hospital and finally a private clinic revealed that Brian had a poor sperm count and the couple had a 3% chance of getting pregnant. Doctors advised IVF with ICSI, and they went through one unsuccessful cycle. They tried to pursue treatment privately and on the NHS, and while waiting for investigations at their local NHS hospital, they discovered they had conceived naturally. Brian’s wife was eight months pregnant at the time of the interview. 


Brian had been told there was no problem with his sperm and felt it was a "kick in the teeth"...

I went to the doctor’s and he said, ‘Oh we’ve got your sperm test results back’ and he said, ‘They’re all fine, so many million whatever. No problem at all. We’ll wait and see what comes back for [wife].’ And I found out when we went to the private hospital afterwards that these two or three tests I’d had, he totally misread the counts on the, and it had been, the majority of the problem had been me all the time. Which was horrible because [wife] had been through so many other horrible tests. And for a woman it’s much, much worse than it is for a man, obviously. You know. She actually had a test done which gave her a horrible womb infection. She was in so much pain. I felt so guilty for that afterwards. And again blaming myself for it.
And what was it like when you actually heard that there was a problem with your sperm?
Complete kick in the teeth I think. You know, it’s, it’s as I said before you’re born into thinking, you know, you’re here on this earth to do what you do and you have children and you pass on your name. You pass on your bloodline and all that rubbish really. But it’s just that because it’s, it’s, no one ever says to you, but it might not happen. And when someone says to you, ‘Actually because of your sperm count and whatever you’ve got you’ve got a 3% chance of actually having natural, a natural birth. What do you think? You know you think, well you know, I thought wonderful, great. It’s not going to happen. We’re not going to have kids it’s the first thing I thought was [wife] wants kids. It’s a big thing she wants and I know she loves me but should we then be together. I started thinking, you know, should, should we split up. Should I make her not love me anymore so she can be with someone and have children. I think anyone would do. That’s a bit drastic, I know sounds a bit dramatic.

Brian felt as though his life was on hold, but that his wife felt as though her life was over. He...

Do you feel like your life is on hold?
I think I felt that my life was on hold. I think [wife] felt like her life was over. Sounds very terrible doesn’t it but that’s. For a period of time that’s what it was like for her I think. She was very, very, very depressed at one point but I don’t think she realised how much. And then she turned a lot of her depression into anger against other people which wasn’t very nice for them or us really. The amount of rows we had just because I thought she was being unreasonable but then she was just being emotional which she had every right to be. See I’m the much more sane one.
[Laugh] how hard was it supporting her through that?
Oh don’t get me wrong we did support each other through that. It wasn’t just me but emotionally to support her was very, very hard. But her family were brilliant. Her mum and dad were brilliant. My mum and dad were very good as well. 

Brian and his wife had been given a 3% chance of conceiving naturally. When they did conceive...

We went to the doctor’s and said look you know our situation but these tests say we’re pregnant. Tell us now, are we pregnant. Obviously they can’t do that but you want them to say it. They said, ‘Well all we can do is what you’ve just done. The same tests.’ He said, ‘Which is pointless because you’ve done two and they show you’re pregnant’. He said, ‘What you need to do is have a proper blood test, HCG test or whatever it is they do which is at [hospital] Hospital. So we go back and have the test done at the hospital and then go back to the GP. I think it was four days later to find out that she is pregnant which is fabulous, brilliant.
But I have to say, I’m sure [wife]’s probably said the same to you, up until, [cough] up until the viable date for having the child, 24, 26 weeks I didn’t enjoy one day of it because the whole time I’m thinking ‘This is just too good to be true. We’re not this lucky. This has proved it in the past. Something horrible is going to go wrong.’ And every day even now I sit at work thinking, I’m going to get a phone call that something’s gone wrong. And until that baby’s in her arms in the hospital I won’t believe it. Well I will believe it but I won’t, I won’t be able to relax and by that point it’ll be too late. 
But it makes you very defeatist. You know it makes, it makes you think the worst of everything all the time. You know I remember [wife] saying something. ‘Do you realise’, she said, ‘This has happened.’ It didn’t work with the ICSI treatment. One of the fish died. I brought [wife] the kitten Thomas and within a, within three months he’d been run over and had to have his hip removed. And then something else has happened. It’s like four things. You know it just, just seemed that the world’s against you. And it does feel like that. But yes it worked out ok in the end. 
And we’re very lucky. I mean to be honest I’ve no idea what we will be doing now. I don’t know how many times we, I don’t know how many times. I’ll rephrase that. I could have continued with the ICSI treatment until it worked. I don’t think [wife] could have. I think [wife] would have got to [ah] the second or third stage, two or three times before she would have given up. I don’t think mentally she could have hacked it to be honest or physically possibly. And how much, how much should she have to put herself through that pain and anguish and anger and all the millions of emotions she must have been feeling. 

Brian had to tell his manager so that he could get paid leave for IVF appointments. He was...

I don’t think I shut it out. I think more hardened because I found it. I don’t think I found it difficult to talk to people. I don’t think there is anyone I could actually talk to about. I talked to my parents and we talked to [wife]’s parents and my sisters and you know brother-in-law. So I did talk to people but 90% of the time I’m at work or with work friends. I didn’t talk about it with them. No one knew anything about what was happening until the very end of our treatment at work. And I think that’s more because I was embarrassed because you put on a persona at work don’t you? Well men do anyway.
[Laugh] So what prompted you to tell people?
Physically because I had to have time off and if I hadn’t had to have time off for which. Local government are very good. You get time off for lots of different things if it’s needed. And I looked through our handbook at work actually just on the off chance and I saw that it said for IVF treatment, you’re allowed compassionate time off for that because with IVF treatment it can take, you know, you might need to be off three or four days, individual, just to be going back for different blood tests and whatever and medication. So I thought it was going to be very awkward for me to have to take it off as leave if they asked questions. So that, that’s when I went and told my immediate superior. It was actually useless I have to say and a woman which surprised me. I’d thought I was actually, get lot of sympathy and she didn’t know how to handle it amazingly.
Yet the friend who’s the same level as me at work my friend [name] was brilliant and I still talk to him about it now. And that surprised me because I thought it would have been the opposite.
So what did she do that wasn’t what you expected? What did she say of it?
I don’t know. I expected to go to her and not to be a shoulder to cry on but I thought she’d be a lot more sympathetic and would have given the opportunity to talk about it. And she just didn’t. She didn’t. She really didn’t know how to handle it. She just said to me, ‘Ok well if you need the time that’s fine. Don’t worry.’ End of conversation. Not if you want to talk about it come and talk about it or if you, you know, if you just want someone to chat about anything to come to me which is what I would do with my staff. Maybe it’s two ways of management or maybe she just thought, well that’s a man with a man’s problem. He needs a man to talk to. I don’t know.
And your friend, how did he react?
He was brilliant yeah. It’s amazing you talk to one person and he turned around and said, ‘Oh yeah well so and so and so and so are going through the same problem. My friends are doing this and my sister’s had to adopt because they’ve been through the same problem.’ And you start realising that you’re not isolated. You’re not the only person who has this problem. But it makes you feel like it doesn’t it? Well it does yeah. He was brilliant really helped. I couldn’t have a cry with him but yeah he was really good.

Infertility put enormous stress on Brian's marriage because of his guilty feeling that the infertility was his 'fault'.

What toll did it take on your own relationship?
I think it, we, we didn’t have a sexual relationship for a long period of time or if we did it wasn’t as it should have been. And I think, I think I was a bit of a pain. I think I used to cause a lot of arguments but I think I did that almost in a way to push her away. That sounds very selfish doesn’t it? or martyrish, I don't mean to be martyrish. I really got to the point where I thought she’s better off without me and she should be with someone. I know I said this to her in arguments. I said this to her, ‘You need to be with someone who can give you a child’. 
And then she’d say, ‘I don’t want somebody to give me a child I want you.’ 
‘You’re not enough, I’m not enough just for you.’ 
‘Yes you are. I don’t need a baby.’ 
And it would just be the same, a row, conversation.
Yeah so I mean it put a lot of stress on our relationship. I think I threw myself into work. I think [wife] threw herself into work but all the time thinking she should have been at home as a mum. Which is great you know that’s what I want her to do now. If I had my way she’d have packed up about three months ago. She’s very strong willed is [wife].
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