After Parent24 published this story about why many South Africans choose not to have more children, we got an avalanche of readers' letters.
Here a man describes to us what it's like not to be able to father his own children.
A tale of a gun loaded with blanks
"Simply, some of us do not have the luxury of choice. When the option of having only one, three, or even five children is readily available to others, some simply just do not have a choice at all.
Often times and stereotypically so, it is the women who are blamed and stigmatised when a couple cannot conceive. Women are mocked and laughed at by a society whose empathy is equal to that of a bear in hibernation. Sadly, amid all the blame and shame, sometimes it is the men who are shooting blanks. So is the case with me, and here is my tale of gun loaded with blanks.
The condition at birth
I was born with a condition, which at an early toddler age was diagnosed as a double hernia by our family GP, who asked that I be brought back in later weeks for further interventions. Little did my parents know the importance of that follow-up consultation.
Compounded by the financial strain in the family pre-freedom, only life-threatening conditions seemed to take priority. So I grew to my teens, all the while reminding them of that follow-up consultation I still needed. To cut the story short, I had to wait until I myself could afford to go see our family doctor (the same one I saw as a kid), who then sent me to see a urologist.
Upon the first minutes of seeing the urologist, they were astounded by the delayed treatment of such a serious condition. See, that double hernia I was diagnosed with as a toddler, was in fact two undescended testes, a condition that needs treatment by the tender age of 2 years old, and here I was at 20+ years, getting a surgical procedure in an attempt to fix me.
- Also read: ‘It made me feel less of a man knowing I may never be a dad’: the hidden trauma of male infertility
Blood tests and a biopsy were done, and the results said: “Due to the prolonged stay of the testes in the wrong cavity, you cannot produce viable sperm to make a baby, unless by some miracle you meet someone overly fertile that they can even compensate for both of you; though it is very unlikely.”
That last bit of the statement gave me hope, I went on for a number of years hoping and praying my factory will start producing something in time, even 5% live sperm, perhaps I will find someone with a 195% “overly” fertile womb.
- Also read: Male infertility
I did not care much for children of my own. I always thought they were too demanding and I would not want to bring forth a child without proper means to fully care for them; I would not want my childhood for my child.
Recently I saw a male productivity specialist who, after seeing three test results from three different urologists I had seen since the procedure – simply said, "It is impossible," even without the need of doing his own tests.
Those words hit so hard I simply forgot my opinions on having a child. I was simply left on that chair in that consultation room thinking, “You have no choice but to accept.”
So yes, those who have the choice are living luxuriously in this regard. I have a lot of married friends with kids – imagine the thoughts that come to mind when my friends say to me, “Your time will come, you will have kids of your own” and I have to smile and say, “Of course”. Even IVF to some couples is “simply not a choice".
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- "The guilt and anger, the praying and hoping... it's soul destroying" – a reader shares her struggle with infertility
- LONG READ: Infertility through the ages – and how IVF changed the way we think about it
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