“But Dr. Slaughter, I don’t understand why we still can’t get pregnant!”
Kerry was distraught and almost inconsolable. Ever so often a tear escaped her eye and she’d dab at it with a Kleenex. A small pile of used wet tissues lay in the otherwise empty waste basket next to her.
“What’s wrong with us?” she wailed.
She also had a touch of the melodrama.
Dr. Slaughter reviewed her notes while Kerry sobbed away. Neil was pacing the floor and wringing his hands. This was their eighth visit to to the fertility specialist over the course of 6 months. They had spent several thousand dollars on tests and treatments in an attempt to get pregnant. But none of it seemed to work.
Kerry was a 26 year-old nutritionist in the prime of her life. She ran 6 miles each day, did yoga, hiked, and taught a water aerobics class to seniors twice a week. All her meals were carefully planned and prepared to optimize health and well-being. The only thing missing from her life, she always said, was having a child. It would make her marriage complete.
Neil Bramble was a 44 year-old sales manager. This was his second marriage and he already had 3 children from his previous one. He was not so fully invested in having another round of diaper changes, midnight bottle feedings, and colic. Besides, his youngest child at the moment was already 15 years old! He was still paying his first wife a monthly alimony check and paying child support for his children. Frankly, the thought of having a fourth child filled him with trepidation.
But he was willing to feign enthusiasm for his new wife, if it made her happy. And he really wanted to make her happy. She was agile, lively, and full of fun. Perhaps a bit too much fun, he reasoned, but she took great care of him.
They had been married for just under a year. Kerry had him on an exercise routine and ensured he only ate healthy foods. No more of that meatloaf and pot roast that his ex-wife, Janet, used to make. Now it was all green leafy vegetables and fruit smoothies. Kerry said he had to eat “rainbow foods.” He had already lost 20 lbs this year! But he sometimes missed the great flavor of Janet’s meatloaf.
“I just don’t understand.” Kerry continued her wailing and dabbed another tear. “We both exercise and eat healthy foods. We’ve both cut back on alcohol and coffee. We eat a ton of vegetables and fish. I even have Neil taking multivitamins and Zinc supplements to increase his sperm count.” She took a fresh Kleenex and blew her nose.
“Ah yes, that,” interrupted Dr. Slaughter. “So I’ve gone over all the tests that both of you have taken during this process. I do have some questions for you, Mr. Bramble.”
Kerry looked up from her Kleenex. “Neil? Is it because of him we can’t get pregnant? We can fix him, right?” She looked hopeful.
Dr. Slaughter raised a hand. “No, no, Mrs. Bramble. That’s not it. Let’s not jump the gun.”
She turned to Neil, who was still pacing, and beckoned to him. “Mr. Bramble, please take a seat.”
Neil looked over at the doctor and quietly did as he was told. Up to this moment he’d said very little as Kerry was flustered enough for both of them.
“Mr. Bramble,” the doctor began, “we examined the results from your sperm test. It’s very… unusual.”
Neil looked up at her. “Is it?” he asked.
Kerry paid rapt attention. “Is it?” she echoed. “What do you mean ‘unusual’?”
Doctor Slaughter continued. “You have three children from a previous marriage?”
“Yes,” Neil answered.
“Are they all your biological children?” the doctor asked.
“What’s the matter, doctor?” Kerry demanded.
“Well, Mr. Bramble, your sperm count is extremely low,” the doctor explained. “As a matter of fact, there are almost none present.”
“What?” Kerry was shocked. Neil said nothing.
The doctor sighed and rolled her eyes. “Mr. Bramble, I know this may sound like a preposterous question, given where we are right now.”
She looked him straight in the eye. “Have you had a vasectomy, Mr. Bramble?”
His wife stopped crying momentarily and slowly turned to face him, her mouth agape.
“That’s ridiculous! We wouldn’t be here then! Right, Neil?”
Neil swallowed hard but did not answer. He was wringing his hands much more forcefully now.
Her husband shifted in his seat and instinctively rubbed the back of his neck.
“Well, it was a long time ago, dear,” he began, “and Janet and I didn’t plan on having any more babies, you see…”
Kerry looked confused. She looked from her husband to Dr. Slaughter and back again at her husband. She furrowed her brow.
“What are you saying, Neil?”
Neil rubbed his brow and scratched his head. He got up and started pacing anew.
He stuttered, “Um, it-it was such a minor detail…and-and you were so happy, I-I didn’t want to disappoint you.”
Kerry straightened up, narrowed her eyes, and repeated her question between gritted teeth. Each word was stressed in a stabbing tone.
Neil rubbed his arms and looked to the doctor for support. She offered nothing, but shook her head in disbelief. He sighed and looked again at his wife.
“I-I had a v-vasectomy.”
Kerry’s nostrils flared and she leaped from the couch. She balled her fists as she stamped her foot.
“NEIL!!” she screamed.
Dr. Slaughter shook her head slowly at him. She wouldn’t want to be in the Bramble home tonight.