We got the results of Brian's genetic testing on July 16–there were no abnormalities found in those labs. My bloodwork came back normal too, so we made the tough (and expensive) decision to move forward with the TESE surgery at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics on August 13.
It was our last hope.
I did wife stuff and made a list of all the things we needed to do:
Finish the IVF education modules from our fertility clinic (we wanted to be prepared for our next step after the surgery!)
Look into recommended hotels near the hospital
Make a hotel reservation
Request a super early check in
Figure out where we to park
See if they provide transportation from the hotel (nope, due to COVID)
Find out if I'm allowed to go in this time
I am 100% sure the people who answer the phone at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (UIHC) recognized my voice and grew tired of all my questions and calls. Sorry, but I need ALL the minute details about EVERYTHING. #OnTopOfIt #extraorganized #extraextraorganized
Due to our old friend 'rona, we had to head to Iowa City a day early so Brian could have a rapid COVID test at 8 a.m. When we checked into our hotel shortly after, we were shocked to see that the hotel was nearly full.
I guess I forgot to mention that a derecho (which is like a hurricane on land) hit Iowa a couple days prior and the Iowa City area experienced a LOT of damage and tons of people were without electricity so they were staying in hotels. I am so thankful this storm did not cause any delays with Brian's surgery.
We had the whole day ahead of us in one of our favorite cities, during a global pandemic.
So, we stayed in our hotel room.
I napped, worked on some VTO for work, and colored (it calms me). Brian worked. It was a very uneventful day, but you could probably cut the nerves and anxiety with a knife if you had been there.
Late afternoon, we knew we needed to get some fresh air. There was a cool little wildlife reserve right behind our hotel, so we walked around that and saw lots of snakes (gross), turtles, frogs, wasps (Brian's biggest fear) and other animals.
I was kicking myself for not bringing a bottle of wine, so we walked up to WineStyles which was not too far from our hotel, and checked out their selection. I grabbed a bottle and Brian grabbed a couple beers. At least we could have a few drinks and TRY to relax a bit.
It was a long night–we didn't get much sleep. This was Brian's first-ever surgery, so we were worried about how he would react to the anesthesia. Plus, the whole process is pretty invasive, so nerves are to be expected.
Not to mention, this surgery would give us the answers we've been searching for–are we ever going to be able to have biological children?
We cried together and we prayed together. We asked God to guide the surgeon's hands. We told God we trust Him, and no matter what happens with the surgery, we know He's got this. We put it all in His hands.
What the heck is TESE surgery, anyway?
Here's a little more in-depth explanation regarding what Brian was about to endure. TESE means Testicular Sperm Extraction and is just that: a surgical procedure where the surgery team removes tissue from the testicle and extracts any viable sperm cells to use for In-vitro Fertilization (IVF).
Brian defines it in much simpler terms, "They are going to slice my nuts in half and remove my swimmers." If you'd like to read more, I found this page from Cleveland Clinic that spells it out in a scientific, but simple way.
The Day Our Hearts Broke
Brian was scheduled for the first surgery of the day, so we were to arrive at 6 a.m. You guys, I had to be the driver. We had numerous people offer to come with us so we wouldn't have to be alone. They wouldn't be allowed to come IN with us, but they said they'd sit at the hotel or in the car during the surgery. I really think they were offering so they could drive and get us home in one piece. 🤣
Just kidding. (Kind of.)
I made sure to take a picture of the sign near my car and add the location to my Notes app so I could remember where we parked when this was all over. And I am a little embarrassed to say that I WAS anxious about facing this all alone and getting us home safely. I wasn't sure what shape I'd be in to drive home.
But, I knew I needed to put on my big girl panties. I had a couple little pep talks with myself– they went a little something like this:
Ter––You GOT THIS. You are STRONG. You are CAPABLE. You are RESILIENT. You are INDEPENDENT. It'll all be OK. You can DRIVE, you little rockstar, you! So get out there and DO IT! Now BREAK!
They took us both back to the area where they would prep Brian for surgery (I win this time, COVID!). I won't bore you with all the pre-surgery stuff but there is an interesting thing I want to point out that we hadn't even thought about.
The doctor brought in a form for Brian to sign. By placing his John Hancock on that piece of paper, he was signing over possession of his sperm to me in the event of his death. It was like a will for his swimmers.
Right around 7 a.m., they wheeled my brave hubby off to the operating room, and I was left alone with my thoughts and my fears. I tried to tune in to Netflix on my iPad but I honestly have no idea what I even watched. Hope I didn't miss anything good! 😂
I appreciated the periodic texts from the OR letting me know how things were going. And the messages from family and friends asking for updates. I remember sitting in that waiting room, bargaining with God, "Please keep my husband safe. I promise I'll pray more. Please, oh please, let them find sperm. I promise I'll be a good mother."
At about 9:15 a.m., someone came to get me and led me to a dim exam room. I sat there and I waited. Finally, Dr. Wald came in to let me know Brian did great during surgery.
However, I'll never forget the sad way he looked into my eyes and said,
"I'm sorry, and there's no easy way to tell you this, but we looked in both and we didn't find any sperm."
We didn't find any sperm. We didn't find any sperm. Didn't find sperm. Looked in both. No sperm. None. Nothing in there. Nothing at all. We didn't find any sperm.
I was stoic; emotionless; numb. This was it; our last piece of hope diminished. We were never going to have biological children. Where's my white flag?
Physically, I felt like I'd been sucker punched.
It took everything I had to move my legs and walk out of that room. I sat in the waiting room for a few minutes, trying to digest the news. We hadn't prepared for this result. We literally studied and watched videos to educate ourselves on what we thought would be our next step (IVF) in the same way I would prep for an exam in college.
I dragged my feet down the hallway to the restroom and called my mom. I sank down onto the disgusting bathroom floor and I sobbed.
The rest of the day is a blur. I called the people I needed to call and blubbered my way through the conversation. I robotically copied and pasted the same text message over and over to our friends:
"Brian is out of surgery. Everything went really well, but unfortunately, they were unable to find sperm."
At some point, they wheeled my hubby out to the waiting room and took us up to the 5th floor to recovery room #2. The first thing he said to me after seeing I was carrying his bag of clothes was,
"Did you go shopping again, woman?"
I was happy to see he still had his sense of humor under anesthesia. He was saying all sorts of funny stuff up in recovery, but I don't want to embarrass him too much here. He'd fall asleep for a couple minutes then wake suddenly and ask what time it was, or say "it's ONLY 10:07?" It definitely didn't help that the clock in our room was dead. 😂
During this time, it dawned on me that Brian didn't know the results of the surgery, and Dr. Wald wasn't coming in to talk to us since he'd already talked with me.
I was going to have to tell him. How does a wife even do that?
I avoided it for as long as I could, and when he became a little more alert, he started asking questions. "Did they find any?" No, they didn't honey. And then he'd fall asleep again. And when he woke up he'd ask again, "Did they find any?"
I'm pretty sure if you ever go to room 509 at UIHC, you'll find that piece of my heart I left there.
We were dismissed around 2 p.m. and a woman wheeled Brian all the way to our car, which was so incredibly kind. I don't think I would have been able to find the parking garage without a little help. #IowaNice
I got the GPS up and running and we were on our way home. I think I drove 80 the whole way, which (if you know me) is uncharacteristically fast for me.
I just wanted to be home.
It's a heavy one today, friends. As I was writing this post, it almost felt as if I were reliving that horrid day. It is still emotionally exhausting.
We didn't come this far to only get this far. We are going to become parents, just not the way we thought. Keep following our journey....it's not even close to over!