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🇵🇹🧪 Portuguese Potency Exams

My wife and I own a weekend home in the Colares river valley in the region of Sintra. The valley sits just north of the Sintra mountain range and runs perpendicular into the Atlantic ocean close to the westernmost point in Europe. It is my favorite place in the world. On some Saturdays we lace up our Nikes and run the 6 mile round trip from our house to the beach at Azenhas do Mar and back.

In July of 2022, at about the halfway mark of the run, Rachel looked over at me and said “Okay, I am ready to start a family.” This was unprompted and without context. My first reaction was to wonder if she meant like right now.

We never set out to be parents. We weren’t one of those couples who married with dreams of welcoming children into our lives. We weren’t opposed to them - we were just ambivalent. We were happy enough with dogs and a weekend routine that included sleeping until 10AM ahead of a lazy jog to the ocean.

Until we hit the 2 mile mark. I am not sure what it was about the sidewalk west of Janas that motivated her to decide to become a parent with me. I didn’t ask. Still haven’t.

Rachel is ruthless and meticulous and doesn’t need me. I find that so terribly erotic. Before we began trying she insisted that I go get tested because, in her words, “I don’t want to bother trying if we know that you can’t get the job done.” I would have been okay with the bother, but I yielded.

I scheduled an appointment at Hospital da Luz in Lisbon. The hospital sits a few blocks from the stadium where the country’s most popular football team plays (Benfica). The hospital is a beautiful and modern space that features the most efficient healthcare delivery I have ever seen. I booked a semen exam at their analysis clinic on Floor -1 in the autumn of 2022.

Like a lot of places in Lisbon, most folks at Hospital da Luz speak English if you need it - and many do the European thing where they claim they don’t speak English well and then break out into perfect English and their only error is an obscure verb conjugation that native speakers also get wrong. This works against me. I look overwhelmingly not-Portuguese and so most locals assume I am a lost tourist. The Portuguese see me ten meters away and open with “hello.” I try to counter this by beginning all interactions in Portuguese to get more practice.

The desk for the analysis wing of the hospital consists of about 7 or 8 women sitting next to one another in a row addressing patients based on a number ticketing system like what you’d find at a deli. I walked up to my assigned section of the desk and the staff member asked me why I was there. I had not planned for this moment beyond the decision to try and speak Portuguese. I panicked. And when humans get scared we get loud. I scrambled and proclaimed, in Portuguese, that “I am here for test of masturbation power of mine.” Heads turned. A nurse hurried me back and away from the public.

A few weeks later I received an alert that my test results were ready. I scheduled an appointment with my GP to discuss the report.

My GP is an older, jovial, Portuguese man named Mario. I love him. He is sly and friendly and chides me for taking my health too seriously. When I had my last physical he ended it by admonishing me for asking him how I could be healthier. He banished me from his office with a prescription to “Make adventures. Have many girlfriends. Seize life.”

The night before my appointment with Dr. Mario to review my masturbation exam a massive rainstorm blew through Lisbon. The storm flooded roads and downed trees. The hospital called me that morning to relay that Dr. Mario could not make it to the office. They asked if I would be comfortable seeing one of his partners. As much as I appreciate Dr. Mario, I had trying to do so I went ahead and agreed.

I walked into the building and navigated to the clinician waiting area. About 4 minutes after I sat down I was told by the hospital app to step into one of the meeting rooms down the hallway.

I opened the door and was greeted by the most beautiful Portuguese woman I had ever seen. She was my age and wearing a large golden crucifix - the Catholic kind that still features Jesus on the cross. She told me in slow Portuguese that she doesn’t speak English - she “only” speaks Portuguese and Spanish and French.

She asked me, in Portuguese, what I would like to discuss. I began trying to translate into Portuguese my desire to discuss my sperm count while the crucified Christ stared at me.

Important preface here: in European Portuguese, when you refer to your wife you describe her as “my woman” - I don’t make the rules. It sounds icky to me too. I’m translating my Portuguese directly and what I understood of hers below.

Me: I want to construct a baby with my woman. I had a test of capacity.

Her: Okay, I can see the results. Wow! Congratulations!

Me: All good?

Her: Congratulations!

Me: …

Her: Your results are magnificent. You will make a baby.

Maybe her faith’s celebration of family and children motivated her enthusiasm. Maybe she was so used to seeing older folks with heart disease that some good news lightened her mood. Whatever it was, I don’t believe that anyone was as excited about the potency of my semen than this gorgeous multilingual physician that I would never see again.

And she wasn’t wrong. A few weeks later my wife and I started and finished trying exactly once in a suite that cost $2,000 a night at the Chiltern Firehouse in London. This February our son was born two floors above the GP area at Hospital da Luz. We love him. My physician was right - high score.

Published Jun 1, 2024

Austinite in Lisbon. VP & CoS, Emerging Tech at Cloudflare.Sign up for emails