I left my first urologist appointment feeling good. Pyospermia. That’s what the sheet of paper he gave me said. Simple issue, easy to solve. He handed me the paper and said, “You’re going to get home and your wife will have questions. You’ll try to explain it to her and you will fail. It’s a lot easier just to hand her this piece of paper.”
The paper started: “Pyospermia refers to the presence of significant numbers of white blood cells in the semen.” Basically, pyospermia is associated with poorer sperm parameters including low motility and morphology, as well as diminished fertility. White blood cells are supposed to attack bad cells, but in the process, they can end up attacking and harming sperm as well. The great thing was, I had an issue and he had a protocol to deal with it. I would take a lot of vitamin E, an antibiotic for ten days, and anti-inflammatory for ten days, and in six weeks I would be back to see him and all of this would be a distant memory. Even if I came back in six weeks and it wasn’t better, he had another follow-up protocol, so things were looking good. Then I got home.
I did what the doctor said and I handed the paper to Melissa. She read it. But then she looked at the second paper. My semen analysis. Melissa looked a my semen analysis and keyed in on the big fat 0% on my morphology score.
“You’ve got this zero on morphology.”
“Yea, but pyospermia.”
Statistics show that patients retain about 40% of what a doctor says in a single visit. Once he handed me that sheet, all I remembered about that appointment was that my numbers weren’t ideal, but they were fixable. I had completely forgotten about the fact that where one number should have been four percent or better, I had a big fat zero.
Somewhere in my mind I could hear the sounds of a plane flying, no, a plane falling, no, a plane exploding as it crashed into the ground. Instinctually, I knew why she was keying in on that. It’s one thing to turn a low number into a higher number. It sounds quite possible to try to turn a 1% into a 2%, and then a 2% into a 4%, but nothing happens when you double 0%. That zero gives you nothing to work with. In that moment, everything changed. All positivity seeped out of me. The doctor had mentioned the morphology, but he focused on pyospermia for a reason: it was something he could deal with.
I tried to adopt his methodology. I put the semen analysis numbers behind me and focused on the white blood cells. This protocol would lower my white blood cell count, and maybe that would make everything better. Nothing to stress about. All I could do was wait and see what happened in six weeks. I felt like I was putting one foot in front other the other, moving on, and doing fine, but something started to happen to me as I slept.
I'm lucky to be a very good sleeper. I rarely have trouble sleeping and I typically sleep through the night. Even through most of this process, I mostly sleep through the night, but not always. After that first urologist appointment I started to have a series of incredibly vivid dreams. My eyes would shoot wide open in the middle of the night and I would find myself fully awake, my heart pounding so hard in my chest that I could feel each beat tremor throughout my body, down to my toes.
One night I dreamt that I Melissa and I were alone in a nondescript, unknown room. She was sleeping and I sat there watching her. I got up and left the room and entered a large, square space. It was filled with people. Some were standing around, some were chatting. Everyone turned to look at me. My mom was there. She was sitting on a square ottoman in the center of the room, and she was holding a baby. She looked up at me, beckoning me to come to her. As I approached, I knew instinctively that she was holding my baby. I bent down, picked up the baby, and looked at his beautiful eyes. But as I held him I realized he was horribly, horribly deformed. As my eyes moved from his seemingly normal face down to the rest of his body I saw that, emerging from his back, where his rear end should have been, was another head, but this head was scrunched, disproportionate, and in excruciating agony. The baby was an afflicted, tortured creature. But despite all of these deformities I welled up wit this deep sense of love. And I knew, I just knew, that I had to greet this baby’s pain with a sense of calm and love. I had to push aside the heart wrenching sadness of what I was witnessing and exude nothing but joy, resolve, and tenderness. That baby was a mess, and it needed me. And I held that baby, and when that baby started to cry, I comforted it.
I didn’t know what the hell that dream meant. But as I sit here recounting it, I realize that while the baby clearly represented my own desires for a child and uncertainties about whether it would happen, the deeper meaning lay in my overwhelming sense of duty to remain calm and composed, despite the fact that, in my dream, as in my life, my heart was being torn into a thousand pieces.