"Asking me to undergo a semen analysis is tantamount to doubting my potency and my fertility,” Simeon was indignant.
“Nothing of the sort,” I tried to placate him.
“Infertility is now considered a joint problem. Therefore to investigate infertility in a couple, we have to do tests on both parties. The battery of investigations necessary in a woman is elaborate, expensive and even invasive. As for the man, there is only one test required and that is a semen analysis. It is a simple test and we, therefore, like to get it out of the way before subjecting the wife to a series of complex investigations.”
“I agree,” Simeon replied. “But why don’t you take my word for it? I have been verbally certified as a very well endowed male by the women I have consorted with, before I met my wife. And, to this day, I am like a testosterone fuelled engine in bed,” he added, side glancing at his wife, looking for an endorsement.
“You are absolutely right,” I explained.
“But in men, potency and fertility are two separate faculties, controlled by two different systems. Fertility is based on the quantity and quality of sperms which are produced in the testis and conducted through a fine tube.
"Potency, on the other hand, is more complex. It is a combination of various sensory stimuli and motor reactions.Therefore a man can be super-potent and yet sub-fertile. And let me assure you that semen analysis only measures fertility. It is not meant to verify your potency.”
Simeon sat thinking and I thought he was relenting. “I still cannot bring myself to undergo a semen analysis. It hurts my pride.” He was adamant.
“Very well,” I said.
“In that case, I have no choice but refer your wife to my gynaecological colleague, Dr Omondi, and see if he will agree to put Dorothy through all the tests without clearing you first.”
A week later, I rang Dr Omondi who is both a friend and a professional colleague, with a fantastic sense of humour. He had just finished his term as the president of the local gynaecological society and the funny story in his valedictory address still reverberated in my mind.
“When I was a trainee in the department of obstetrics and gynaecology,” he told his distinguished audience, “my boss and I were busy in the labour ward delivering babies. In between, I had to go out of the delivery room to talk to pregnant husbands, who were anxiously waiting to know if the wife had delivered and, if so, what was the sex of the baby."
‘‘There I overheard this conversation!” Dr Omondi continued.
“It was between a veteran, whose wife was delivering their seventh child and a novice whose wife was delivering her first baby. The novice turned to the veteran and inquired: ‘You seem a very seasoned father and so can I ask you a question?”
The old man nodded with sagacity and so the young man posed the question which was obviously troubling him. ‘How soon can a couple resume marital relations after the wife has delivered their baby?
The senior man took a little time and then replied: ‘‘It depends on whether your wife is in a private room or the general ward!”
Still grinning under the mouthpiece as I recalled that story, I rang Dr Omondi and explained to him the dilemma I was in.
“I will talk to the couple and see if I can change the husband’s mind,” he replied.
“If he remains obstinate, my only option will be to explain the position to the wife. If she agrees to undergo the tests without her husband giving us a sample of his semen, then we are legally and morally covered.”
Obviously Dorothy had more sense than her husband and she agreed. Perhaps she wanted to prove to her husband and, indeed, his immediate and extended family, that there was nothing wrong with her and she was not responsible for their childlessness.
All her tests were negative. Her fallopian tubes were patent, she produced an egg every month at the right time in her monthly cycle; she had healthy mucus in her birth canal and the lining of her womb, as checked under the microscope, was healthy and receptive.
That clean slate of hers created a stalemate and Dr Omondi and I said so to the couple.
“Either Simeon gives semen for analysis so that we can rectify any deficiencies which might be there or you both continue trying to have a baby and hope for the best.”
When the couple left, Dr Omondi let his steam off in front of me. “With the husband’s cussedness, I felt like telling the couple to try with different partners and it will soon be obvious where the fault lies!”
Strangely, a few days later, Simeon came to see me alone. I thought that he had a guilty conscience and wanted to get it off his chest.
But it was the reverse. I gathered from his conversation that he had come to justify his obduracy and do so by blowing his trumpet and talk about his sexual prowess and his conquests.
“I am not being difficult,” he said. “I constantly feel like a bull in season and cannot understand anybody wanting to check either my ability or my capacity.”
He then brought out a newspaper cutting from the British paper Mail on Sunday and laid it open on my desk.
“You see there Simeon Covell, the chap who judges talent shows in UK and US boasting about his virility. He says that, as a rough guess, he thinks he has bedded between 70 and 100 women. The chap is making a big issue about it, not realising that, compared to some of us in Kenya, his score is very modest!”
I was getting a bit tired of this chap and his inability to grasp the difference between potency and fertility. So, in my usual gentle tone, I dropped the crucial question: “How many have you impregnated?”
“None, simply because I was taking precautions!” He disarmed me with his reply.
Once again I went over the matter with him.
“Simeon,” I said, “ as I have repeatedly told you, you could be a casanova but firing empty bullets. The semen analysis will give us an answer and we can then take the necessary measures to correct the situation.”
I knew I had made no mark on the man!
A few months later, I ran into Dorothy in rather unusual circumstances. One early morning, as I often do, I went to play nine holes of golf on my own.
I do so because I enjoy the cool breeze, the birds chirping and twittering, the fragrance and the colour of the flowers, the fresh smell of wet soil caused by an overnight drizzle and, above all, the solitude and my own company.
That day, I saw a solitary female ahead of me. She was painfully slow and delaying me at every hole. I wanted to finish my round quickly and get to the hospital.
At some point, she remembered the etiquette of golf and decided to give way. So when I arrived at the next tee, she was waiting to let me through. In spite of we both being in our golf attire, there was an instant mutual recognition.
“Gosh,” she apologised. “I didn’t know that I was slowing down my own surgeon.”
“Nice to see you Dorothy. How are you?”
“I have had a few lessons from the Club pro and thought I will do a practice round on my own this morning so that I don’t torture my companions in the afternoon. Do you mind if I join you?” she asked.
“You obviously have no compunction about tormenting your surgeon!” I laughed.
Our conversation naturally veered to professional matters. “So how is it going?” I asked.
“Not well at all,” Dorothy replied.
“As is common in our culture, the blame for a childless marriage lies at the door of the woman. Ma-in-law comes home and keeps saying “No daughter – no bride price.”
Simeon’s sister comes and laments. “No son to carry the family name.” I think they are all brain washing Simeon and soon you will hear of a divorce.”
“Have you told them that their dear Simeon refuses to undergo a test which will determine his fertility status?” I asked.
“What’s the point? They don’t accept that anything can be wrong with a man – certainly not their son and brother Simeon.”
Dorothy’s prediction came true earlier than she reckoned. Not only that, her in-laws had even lined up a replacement.
Within a year, Simeon was divorced and remarried. But Dorothy was not going to take it lying down either. Lo and behold, a year later, she married the Club pro. He had obviously given her lessons in matters other than golf!
When she came to see me soon after the wedding, I asked her: “This time, did you check your man out?”
“Of course,” she replied. “He has two children by previous marriage. He also checked me out.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“I am two months pregnant,” Dorothy replied, looking as proud as a peacock.
Two years later, Simeon came to see me with his second wife. “Different wife, same problem,” he lamented.
“Same set of investigations and in the same order,” I replied.
This time he complied without a murmur.
In spite of the problems he had given Dr Omondi, his ex-wife Dorothy and me, I felt sorry for him when his semen report arrived on my desk.
It said “azoospermia” – no sperms. I talked to Dr Omondi and he did not see the point of putting Patricia, Simeon’s second wife, through any investigations.
We left the couple to decide whether they would like to go for artificial insemination by a donor or adoption and are awaiting their decision.
In the meantime, Dr Omondi with his wicked sense of humour reminded me, when we met in the newly opened Doctors’ lounge at the hospital, of something he had said to me earlier.
“You remember us telling Simeon and Dorothy to continue trying and hope for the best. I told you then that we might be able to identify the guilty party if they tried with other partners.
"Well, they have done it now and we have the answer. If they had taken my advice, Dorothy would have become pregnant with another man, it would have been an unconventional insemination by a donor.
‘‘Simeon would have been none the wiser and he and Dorothy would still be married!’’