‘There’s no sperm in your semen.’ What was I supposed to tell my wife? This was the one thing she wanted in life.

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“I’ve had a lot of people ask about what it’s like going through IVF, but the answer is a little more complicated than just telling them all the horror stories about the shots and procedures. There’s a whole other emotional aspect to it that takes place long before you even step foot into the fertility doctor office. The story really truly starts off with two people in love.

About five years ago, my wife, Sara, and I started dating. We were set up by a mutual friend (even though we went to high school together, so we already knew each other), and we really hit it off. Not long after that (and I really mean NOT. LONG.) we fell in love. On March 19, 2016, we tied the knot at a freaking castle with her walking down the aisle to a Katy Perry song and a food truck as our caterers. When I say it was perfect, I mean it was perfect.

Bride and groom who will later find out he has no sperm dance at wedding reception
Matt and Sara Martin

Not long after we got back from the honeymoon, we decided that we wanted to start a family sooner than later. So we tried for a couple of months, not really expecting to get pregnant that fast but hoping since everyone else in our family seemed to get pregnant just thinking about it. My wife had her regular check up with her OB and she let him know that we had decided to start trying for a baby. He didn’t seem concerned that it had been a couple of months already and gave us some tips on how to increase our chances.

Before long, we were tracking ovulation days, on a strict ‘fertile’ diet, and blowing all of our money on pregnancy tests. And different kinds of pregnancy tests. We bought ones at the grocery store and ones on Amazon. She tried taking them at night and some in the morning. We even downloaded apps to ‘see the pink line better’ and talked ourselves into seeing a faint line. It wasn’t working. We needed more help.

After a couple of more months of trying, my wife returned to her doctor. This time, she was put on clomid. ‘If this doesn’t work, he said, we’ll need to do some blood work and start looking a little deeper.’

His concern was that we were so young and, from what he could tell, healthy. But our bodies had a couple of secrets we were about to uncover.

We keep trying to get pregnant for a couple of months (this time on clomid) with no success so Sara’s doctor had some blood tests ordered that ended up coming back abnormal. So then we went for an MRI. The MRI showed that Sara had a mass on her brain (specifically pituitary gland). Luckily it wasn’t cancerous and could be easily treated with some medication. The new theory was, this mass was affecting the pituitary gland, thus affecting her hormones, THUS making it difficult for us to get pregnant. We were relieved. We finally had an answer and a plan.

The mass quickly shrunk, and our hopes were quickly raised. We were going to finally start a family. This is it. But after a month of trying again, our doctor called us in. He said that after Sara being on medication for so long, that before we increased that, maybe we need to get me tested. Me? Why me? What would be wrong with me? He just wanted to check that off the list to make sure we were treating the right thing.

So the next week, I visited a quiet little room in a quiet little office, with a sterile little cup and some not so sterile magazines. I was relaxed and didn’t really think twice about it. This wasn’t it. It couldn’t be. As the days went on, doubt started to creep in. By the time I got the phone call from the doctor, I knew that it wasn’t going to be great.

‘There’s no sperm in your semen.’

My feet fell out from under me. I felt like I was going to pass out. This was it. We weren’t going to start a family.

‘I’m not sure what we can do at this point, but I can refer you to some doctors.’

I cried on the way home. I called friends, and I called my dad. What was I supposed to tell my wife? This was the one thing she wanted in life. I had my big dream of being in the entertainment business (I’m a filmmaker), and she wanted to be a mom. I was the one person that could give that to her. And now I can’t.

That was, to this day, the hardest conversation I’ve ever had to have in my life. We cried (a lot), and got drunk with friends that night, but we didn’t let ourselves stay in that pity party. After all, there were more doctors to see and possibly some more answers.

We went and saw a urologist, where we discovered (through a series of tests) that because of a CF gene that I have, I never developed vas deferens (basically the tunnel your sperm takes from your testicles to your semen). SO, good news was I had sperm. Bad news was, it couldn’t get out. Well… it could get out, but I wasn’t going to like it. From there we were referred to Aspire Fertility clinic in Dallas. I cannot recommend these guys enough. Dr. Elkins is a God send and can relate with her patients because she went through IVF as well.

After meeting with them, we decided that we were going to give IVF a shot. We’re young and healthy, so our odds were great for this working. We scheduled the sperm extraction and egg retrieval and started on the shots. When I tell you the shots sucked, it’s coming from a person who didn’t have to get them. But giving them to my wife so we could have a baby (because of something that was my fault) was so difficult and the guilt was rough to deal with. I’ll go ahead and say it now and I’ll keep saying it for the rest of my life; my wife is the strongest person I have ever met.

Sperm. Freaking. Extraction. (I don’t remember the technical term but that’s close enough). Had to get naked and lay on a table. The doctor ‘numbs’ your nether regions with a shot (which HURT A WHOLE FREAKING LOT) and tells you, ‘That’s it, that’s the worst part.’ So now you can kick back and relax. LIES. ALL FREAKING LIES. I don’t know if the numbing stuff didn’t work or what, but I blacked out a couple of times. Just to let you guys know, they’re sticking this long needle into your testicles and basically milking sperm out of them. So needless to say, it was super romantic and a time I’ll never forget.

Next up was the egg retrieval. They put my wife under and stuck a needle through her uterus (yes through her uterus because her ovaries got to the size of softballs and that was the only way to get to them) and sucked out the eggs from her ovaries.

Husband without sperm and wife stand smiling in scrubs before egg retrieval

We were posted up on the couch in a nice, post procedure glow for a couple of days after that. Laughing about how everyone else just gets to have sex and make a baby. Or go on vacation and have a whoopsie. Not us. We get to go through really painful procedures and spend thousands of dollars for a ‘possibility.’

The next month, we were ready. We had five embryos. Five kiddos. What were we going to do with a whole basketball team? We didn’t know, and we didn’t care, we just wanted them and we wanted them now. Of course, with our chances of getting pregnant so high, our doctor only recommended transferring one embryo the first time. So that’s what we did. We had our embryo transfer and then went out for a celebratory movie date. This was it. We were pregnant. When should we tell people? What gender was it? What are we going to name it?

Days later we went in for our blood test. The waiting period after that was the longest wait in the whole world.

That phone call. I will never forget it. Our nurse called and said she unfortunately didn’t have good news. For whatever reason, that embryo didn’t take.

Devastation isn’t a good enough word to describe it. Emotionally obliterated is a little closer. Not only were we not pregnant, but on some level, we also felt like we lost a baby. Sara felt like she had done something wrong, that it was her that caused the embryo not to stick. We grieved. We prayed and prayed for answers and cried as friends and family told us they were pregnant. This wasn’t happening for us. For whatever reason, we felt like God’s plan just wasn’t for us to be parents.

After a little while, we went back to the fertility clinic and met with our doctor. We decided that this time, we were going to transfer two with HOPES that one would stick. She understood completely but wanted us to know that twins were a likely scenario. We understood but at this point we were so jaded that we kept in our mind this would likely not result in a pregnancy either. This would be our last transfer for a while if it worked or not. Financially, physically, and emotionally, we were drained.

On our embryo transfer day, we decided to play Beyonce’s Drunk In Love. And I don’t know if it was some magic we got from Queen B or what, but the phone call this time was the best phone call. We did it. We were pregnant. They wanted us to come back in in a few days for another blood test to make sure it was growing at the right speed, etc. We celebrated and laughed and cried, but a few nights later that all came screeching to a halt.

In the middle of the night, Sara got up and went to the restroom. There was blood. Not a lot, but enough for concern. We called our helpline for the fertility clinic and they made an appointment for us first thing the next morning to get a sonogram and see what was going on. Needless to say, we didn’t sleep at all. We were terrified that everything was slipping through the cracks. We had finally made it and now, it’s all gone.

We got to the clinic, checked in, and made our way to the room. The mood was somber. It just didn’t feel right. Dr. Elkins came in and talked to us a little about what was going on, then we started the sonogram. I almost didn’t want to. I didn’t want to know.

The sound of my wife’s heartbeat came over the speakers. Then not too soon after that, what would end up later being my son, popped up on the screen, followed by his heartbeat.

‘It looks good. The fluid and everything look great,’ our doctor said. ‘You’re still pregnant.’

But that wasn’t all.
‘And the other baby looks great as well.’

Ultrasound of twins conceived through IVF due to father's lack of sperm
Matt and Sara Martin

Tears. Let me tell you. So many tears.

The days and weeks and months flew by. These boys grew and grew and grew. We celebrated every milestone and praised God every single day that we got to become parents.

Ultrasound of twins taped to floor surrounded by IVF needles shaped in heart
Matt and Sara Martin
Husband in bath wearing t-shirt saying, "Real men make twins" next to pregnant wife in bathtub for pregnancy shoot
Matt and Sara Martin

On April 3, 2018 at 10:26 am, Jack Carson Martin entered this world. And on April 3, 2018 at 10:28, his brother Cam Dawson Martin entered it. Beautiful, strong boys.

Newborn twins conceived through IVF due to father's lack of sperm swaddled in blankets
Matt and Sara Martin

Cam had a surprise for us though. Not long after ending our IVF journey (or putting it on hold I guess) we were going to start a new journey. Cam was born with a cleft lip and palate that would require a few surgeries to fix. But we had made it through this, and now we have two more players on our team. We can make it through anything. This journey has its own unique struggles. And it’s so hard beyond words to have your baby go through the things he’s been through, but he’s a Martin, and he’s strong. Just like his mom.”

Twin with cleft pallet sits in mother's lap next to stuffed giraffe
Matt and Sara Martin
Twin brothers, one of which has cleft pallet, lay on play mat smiling
Matt and Sara Martin
Mother and father hold their twin boys conceived through IVF due to father's lack of sperm
Matt and Sara Martin

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Matt Martin, 28, and Sara Martin, 27, of Dallas, Texas.  Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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