‘I thought I had failed as a man’: Husband’s battle with infertility

When Lloyd Bennett-Curl​ found out he was infertile he felt like he had failed as a man.

The 31-year-old came to that realisation when he was shown a sample of his sperm swimming in circles – rather than in a straight line.

And the feeling returned each of the three times his wife Leondra​, 26, miscarried.

“I thought I had failed as a man and as a husband. The fact that I can’t produce my own family, that hurts.”

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Leondra, 26, and Lloyd Bennett-Curl have had three miscarriages in six years.

Christel Yardley/Stuff

Leondra, 26, and Lloyd Bennett-Curl have had three miscarriages in six years.

The Cambridge couple’s pregnancy journey hasn’t been easy.

After more than a year of trying to conceive naturally, the couple were referred to a fertility specialist at ages 26 and 21.

The blood work showed a number of complications – on both sides – stopping them from getting pregnant.

After years of experiencing excruciating periods, Leondra wasn’t too surprised to be diagnosed with stage four endometriosis – a condition that can create fertility complications.

The Cambridge couple got married in 2016 and have had two IVF treatments – funded by the Government – and are entering their fourth IUI treatment.

Christel Yardley/Stuff

The Cambridge couple got married in 2016 and have had two IVF treatments – funded by the Government – and are entering their fourth IUI treatment.

While she had a number of lesions on her bladder, bowels and kidneys, her reproductive health was still fine.

“I was told there was no reason I couldn’t have a baby.”

Lloyd wasn’t so lucky.

Deep into his blood work, specialists found a rare chromosome abnormality called balanced translocation.

“It just floored us, we had no idea he had that at all,” Leondra said.

Each miscarriage has been placed in a woven bag and given back to the couple.

Christel Yardley/Stuff

Each miscarriage has been placed in a woven bag and given back to the couple.

It is the result of a chromosome breaking off and reattaching in another location and affects only 1 in 10,000 people.

Lloyd’s own DNA swap, however, could be entirely unique to just him.

“The only way it affects me is in fertility.

“I’m the first carrier of it. Both of my parents were tested and were negative, so we don’t know where it came from.”

It has meant the couple would either not be able to conceive at all or have a 38% chance of miscarrying.

There would also be a high chance of the baby being born disabled, if they tried to conceive naturally.

“Lloyd’s switch of chromosome is quite clean with only few deletions, but his child could end up having more pieces missing, or too many or not enough, which could lead us having a severally disabled child,” Leondra said.

They were advised to stop trying naturally and just do IVF, with genetic testing, because the risks were too high.

Leondra said she tends to have missed-miscarriages which means the embryo stops developing, but her body thinks she’s still pregnant.

Christel Yardley/Stuff

Leondra said she tends to have missed-miscarriages which means the embryo stops developing, but her body thinks she’s still pregnant.

“It hit me pretty hard when we found out it wasn’t going to happen naturally and it was pretty much me that was causing the main issues.

“The fact that I can’t produce my own family that hurts, but knowing there’s medical advice and research to tell me why makes it a little bit easier to accept.”

Getting government funding for the first two rounds of IVF, the couple were hopeful their chances would improve.

In the first round Leondra, however, made too many eggs and became over-stimulated by the medication.

While in the second round of 13 embryos only one passed the genetic test.

Each miscarriage has been named and buried in a pot plant in their house.

Christel Yardley/Stuff

Each miscarriage has been named and buried in a pot plant in their house.

“That’s when we realised how much Lloyd’s condition was affecting us,” Leondra said.

This led to the couple’s first miscarriage in 2018, and another in 2020.

Sitting on the sidelines while Leondra miscarries again and again has been a “horrifying” experience, Lloyd said.

“Seeing the amount of emotional and physical stuff Leondra goes through is just unbelievable. Most of the time I just feel so helpless.

“I wish there is more that I could do,”

When doctors suggested getting in a donor last year, that helplessness spiralled even further.

The couple remain hopeful they will have a child in their arms one day.

Christel Yardley/Stuff

The couple remain hopeful they will have a child in their arms one day.

“It’s hard knowing the baby won’t be genetically mine.

“But I think for our sake and our future kid’s sake, taking my sperm out of the equation is definitely the right call… and at the end of the day I will still be dad.”

Now the couple are giving another treatment – IUI – one last shot after a third miscarriage earlier this year and $30,000 spent in treatments.

“There are only so many of those I can go for my mental health,” Leondra said.

“We’ve had one year throughout our whole marriage where trying for a baby was fun. The rest of it has just been horrible… but ultimately we believe our mental health will be worse off without a child.

If this doesn’t work, out, the couple have said they will look at surrogacy or adoption as a last resort.

“At the end of the day I know we will end up with a baby in our arms, but how that will happen may not be how we envisioned it,” Lloyd said.

A Givealittle page has been set up to help contribute to Lloyd and Leondra Bennett-Curl’s treatments.

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