My Aunt and Uncle Found a Way Past Childlessness

My cousin’s daughter, now in first grade, has started messaging me on Facebook. She sends me goofy photos, videos, and emojis, and tells me about her day. I send goofy photos, videos, and emojis and tell her about my day. I keep it short and simple because she’s still very young, but if feels so good to have this relationship. Her teacher suggested the students message an older relative. I would love to hug that woman hard for making this little girl a factor in my life.

This little girl and her siblings would not exist without what seems like a miracle. Her grandfather, my uncle, was paralyzed from the neck down in a motorcycle accident. He was only 25, a police officer responding to a call. Horrible thing. A brilliant man, he spent the next 40 years in a wheelchair or in bed. When the accident happened, his daughter was two and his son not quite one year old. With their father in the hospital for many months, they stayed at our house most of the time. Ultimately my aunt and uncle split up. Still in her early 20s, my aunt couldn’t face a lifetime of caregiving. None of us could blame her for moving on.

But love struck again. My uncle met a nurse at Stanford Hospital. They fell in love and eventually got married. Her parents were so angry they didn’t come to the wedding. He was divorced, stuck in a wheelchair, and he would never give her a normal life—or children. But he did. I don’t know the details. It was the 1970s, fertility assistance options were not what they are now, and people did not talk about it, but with the help of medical science, they produced a son and a daughter who are now in their 40s and parents themselves.

Men with spinal cord injuries definitely face challenges fathering children. They may not be able to have intercourse in the usual way, may not be able to ejaculate, may not produce viable sperm, but there’s a chance. Many of the methods used for other couples at fertility clinics can be used for paralyzed fathers. This article offers some of the specifics: “The Best Male Fertility Options after an SCI (Spinal Cord Injury).

I’m not using names and feel uncomfortable sharing even this much of a very private story, but I love all four of my uncle’s kids, and I’m so glad they exist.

Disability is one of the many ways a person can be childless by marriage. Certainly my uncle’s second wife, now my beloved aunt, could not count on having children with him. It might have just been the two of them, with occasional visits from her stepchildren, and then just her alone when he passed away at age 65. She made a choice and ended up with a big wonderful family that includes all four grown children and a whole lot of grandchildren.

Would you/have you partnered with someone who is unlikely to be able to have children? Are you willing to do whatever it takes to have children and/or accept that it’s not going to happen? It’s one thing when a mate is unwilling, but when they physically can’t make babies, what then? I welcome your comments.

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7 thoughts on “My Aunt and Uncle Found a Way Past Childlessness

  1. Yes. I knowingly married a recovered victim of a stroke in her mid 30s. Her ongoing medication for hemoplegic migraine would cause congenital defects and a stipulation of that medication is to be on birth control. I think there was a remote possibility that if she had made better lifestyle choices we might have had enough time in her late 30s to try for a baby. Unfortunately that was not to be and now she is 41 the fertility ship has sailed. I need to deal with that. However I do think I stuck by my conviction that people should be seen for their intrinsic rather than instrumental value. I think it is very sad that infertile women like my wife are not seen as “marriageable” in some cultures. Humanity has a long way to go.

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  2. My husband is sterile. Cause unknown. We found out after marriage and two years of trying. His fear was that I would leave him. But that never crossed my mind. We had some treatments with his frozen but very immature sperm. After that we decided on a donor. We have a daughter, but unfortunately she was stillborn. After that it didn’t work out and then that wasn’t down to him, but me. A draw?

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  3. My husband is sterile. Cause unknown. We found out after marriage and two years of trying. His fear was that I would leave him. But that never crossed my mind. We had some treatments with his frozen but very immature sperm. After that we decided on a donor. We have a daughter, but unfortunately she was stillborn. After that it didn’t work out and then that wasn’t down to him, but me. A draw maybe.

    Like

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