Stoker Reflections 1 Year Later

Beklan - 1 mo

Beklan is 1 month old! We can’t believe how fast the time is going and how fast he is growing. He decided to remind us of that by busting out of his onesie during his picture today!

It was wonderful being at the race in Liberty Park. It brought back so many memories and emotions from that day last year. We were cheering for all the couples, knowing how badly each of them wanted to hear their name called. Our stomachs were in knots just as if it were us on the line again.

We are thrilled for the winners and pray for their success. We pray that the others won’t lose hope. We are so grateful to Footsteps for the time and energy they dedicate to such an underrepresented cause. Infertility is an isolating issue, but Footsteps has created a community for us. Thank you!

Beklan is so proud to be the first Footsteps for Fertility baby… and he can’t wait to meet his future friends! So let’s keep ’em coming!

Happy Father’s Day

I have been a father now for almost 12 years.  The journey has been riddled with potholes; but Father’s Day reminds me of just how lucky I am.  My wife and I have struggled with fertility issues from the beginning.  After several attempted insemination and IVF cycles, we failed to conceive a child.  We decided to try the adoption route and were blessed with an amazing son.  Two years later a surprise second son was born. I am still shocked to this day at our luck.  Our two sons have been best buddies and a constant source of laughs, giggles, tantrums and affection.

My wife and I felt that our family was just not quite complete, and decided to try for one more.  After several more runs at artificial insemination and a failed IVF cycle, a 2nd cycle worked and our third son was born.  Looking back, we have been able to experience adoption, IVF and the old fashioned way of bringing children into our family.  Each one allowed my wife and I to grow as both individuals and as a couple.  I feel that we can endure difficult trials much better than we used to, due to our evolved perspective.

As a father, I look back on those experiences as having made me a better husband, father and man.  I learned how to better support and respect my wife as she has grown into an amazing mother.  I learned to not take my children for granted.  I cherish the time I have with my boys and look for every opportunity to be a part of their lives.  Baseball games, road trips, fishing, four wheeling, and laughing at stupid movies are the highlights of my life right now.

From a father’s perspective, what I thought mattered most, or worried me at the beginning, no longer matters.  I could care less how my boys got here, all I care about is that they are here, healthy and happy.  My best years are in front of me now, as I get to watch and participate in their development into men.  As far as I am concerned, fatherhood is the best job there is.

Sincerely,
One Happy Father

Pressing on – Meet Curtis and Kim Brown

Curtis and I met in college in 2003.  He says he tried to “hang out” with me on several different occasions, but I wasn’t really having it.   After a couple years I finally gave in.  We hung out on September 5th, 2005 and everyday after that.  We were married a year later on August 12th, 2006.  Life was good.  We got a dog.  We bought a house.  We both graduated from college.  We had good jobs.  All that was missing was a baby.  So after a few years of marriage, I got off birth control and we started “trying” to have a baby.

Month after month passed and nothing.  Pregnancy test after pregnancy test was negative.  I wasn’t too worried about it because I knew it was normal to take a few months before it worked. A year passed and I thought something may be off.  I met with my regular OBGYN who discovered cysts on my ovaries (PCOS).  She had us try a few different drugs (Clomid, Femara) to help with ovulation (which made me break out like CRAZY), but still no baby.  I had an inclination to have my husband checked out.  I had heard that 50% of infertility is from the male – and it’s so easy to get checked – so why not.

My husband thought he was going to have sharks!  He got his swimmers checked out and found out they were minnows.  Only 1% of his sperm are normal shape and swim well enough to fertilize an egg.  The diagnosis was infertility.  The only possible way we could ever get pregnant was through In Vitro Ferilization (IVF) with intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). So, at least there was a chance to still have kids…right??

Our ride has not been easy.  Here’s the rundown:

May 11th, 2010: First appointment with a fertility specialist – Dr. Hatasaka. He had such high hopes for us and was SO confident we could get pregnant.  We were young, healthy, and no major problems he could see with me.

June 14th, 2010: Medications, injections (lots and lots of injections), and ultrasounds begin.

July 9th, 2010: IVF #1, Retrieval (Where they insert a needle directly into your ovaries and retrieve any eggs that have matured there): I responded well to the meds so they were able to retrieve 25 eggs.  Of those, 14 fertilized.

July 14th, 2010: IVF #1 Transfer: We implanted 2 embryos back into my uterus and hoped for the best.

P1040355

July 28th, 2010: Pregnancy test is NEGATIVE.

I was in shock.  The Dr. seemed SO confident it would work.  I thought IVF was almost a guarantee.  Little did I know…  We had 2 frozen embryos left so we decided to try again. So began meds, ultrasounds, etc.

September 16th, 2010:  IVF #2 Transfer: We transferred 2 embryos again.

September 30th, 2010: Pregnancy test is NEGATIVE.

Back to the fertility Dr. we went.  We had no more frozen embryos left, so we decided to try a fresh cycle again.  The Dr. assured us that a fresh cycle was the best way to go and the chances were extremely high for it to work this time.  He said the first 2 rounds were a fluke.  “It’s like flipping a coin”, he said, “and we just landed on tails twice.”  We were shooting for heads this time.  He said everything looked so perfect.  Back on meds, shots, ultrasounds, etc.

November 25th, 2010: (Thanksgiving) IVF #2 Retrieval: The Dr. was worried about hyper stimulation (which I was close to the first time around) so they cut my medications back a little.  This time I only got 14 eggs. Of those, 7 fertilized.

November 28th, 2010: IVF #3 Transfer: We implanted 2 embryos and froze 2.

December 11th, 2010: Pregnancy test is NEGATIVE.

At this point I am extremely disappointed.  I thought the Dr. said everything looked perfect?  Now what?  I wasn’t ready to throw in the towel.  I had this burning desire to be a parent.  We decided to switch Dr.’s and try something new.  We had heard really good things about Dr. Marrs, so we went to him for a consultation.  We still had 2 frozen embryos left over, so we decided to use those.

April 28th, 2011: IVF #4 Transfer: We defrosted the 2 embryos, but only 1 survived. So we implanted the 1 embryo and waited…

May 9th, 2011: Pregnancy test is NEGATIVE – again!! 

I was so lost.  What do I do now?  I asked Dr. Marrs, “If I was your daughter what would you tell her to do?”  He advised us to try a fresh cycle with him.  The frozen embryos we used before were from a different Dr. and he wanted a fresh start with us.  We really thought this was going to work.  Even though we had 4 failed IVF attempts in the past, we thought that if Dr. Marrs started fresh, maybe it would work.  He started me on a couple different medications and ran a few other tests that came back normal.  The hardest part about all this was everything looked perfect.  All the tests they ran on me pointed to a normal/healthy body.  Why wasn’t the embryo sticking?  I couldn’t give up hope without trying with Dr. Marrs.  

People ask me why I decided to try again?  Why did I keep going after so many “Not Pregnant’s”, after so many injections and blood draws, after so much heartache and emotional roller coasters?  I don’t really know why.  How could I not?  I wanted it so bad.  So onto attempt # 5 it was.  Back on meds, shots, and fun ultrasounds! 

IMG_0958
 
August 26th, 2011: IVF #3 Retrieval: They got 27 eggs and 19 fertilized.

August 31st, 2011: IVF #5 Transfer:  We implanted 2 embryos and froze 4.

September 14th, 2011: Pregnancy test is POSITIVE!!!!!!  Oh my gosh.  Finally!!  We were SO excited to finally see a positive.  It was all worth it. I was so glad we didn’t give up.

September 24th, 2011: I started spotting.

September 25th, 2011: (My sister’s baby blessing) I went to ER for a blood draw and ultrasound and found out the baby wasn’t growing.  Miscarriage.

October 8th, 2011: D&C

I was in complete and utter devastation.  I thought we were finally out of the clear.  I seriously was SO extremely LOW at this point.  The excitement I felt when I finally saw a POSITIVE  was shattered.  What was going on?  Why was this not working for us?  So now what???  Five rounds of IVF, no baby, and no answers.  The Dr. could not believe it hadn’t worked for us yet.  What do we do now?  Another round of IVF?  Adoption?  What?  All we wanted was a baby.

We looked into adoption.  We went to conferences and orientations to learn more about adoption.  I LOVE adoption and think it is such a great thing, but at this time in my life, it didn’t feel right for me.  My husband was done with IVF.  After seeing what a miscarriage did to me emotionally, he didn’t want to ever go through that again.  I knew I wasn’t  done.  I still had this small amount of hope that kept me pushing along.  I felt like a “pregnancy” was a good thing, even though it only lasted 6 weeks.  Was that a good sign?

About 2 years ago – after 3 rounds of failed IVF cycles – my brother’s wife made the comment, “I’d totally have a baby for you guys.”  We kind of laughed and were thinking, “Yea right, there’s no way she’d really do that.”  Then she got pregnant with her 4th baby and said, “After I have this baby, I’ll just pop one out for you guys.”  We still thought, “No way, she’s just saying that.”  A few months after she delivered her baby she asked us “So when am I getting implanted?” We finally asked her if she was serious.  We asked her what my brother thought of this all, knowing it would have to be a joint decision.  She told us that they had already talked about it and both thought it was a great thing.  My husband and I were floored. Who would do that?  Who would go through all this IVF crap without having to?  Who would get fat and put their life on hold for a year to be pregnant for someone else? My sister-in-law!  She’s freakin’ amazing.  So my husband and I talked about it and thought it was such an awesome opportunity for us.  She was an answer to my prayers.  We met with my brother and his wife the next day for lunch and asked everything…What if you had twins? What if you were put on bed rest? What if you had to have a c-section? What if, what if, what if?  She still was 100% for it.  So we started the process…

We talked with our Dr. to see what we needed to do to get the ball rolling.  You have to be legally, mentally, and psychologically cleared before going through with a gestational carrier.  We already had 4 embryos in storage, so we planned on doing a frozen IVF transfer.  It took us about ten months to get all the background stuff done.

June 24th, 2012: IVF #6 Transfer with Gestational Carrier: We defrosted our 4 embryos, but only 2 were good.  We implanted the 2 embryos and waited 2 weeks.  My sister-in-law said she totally felt pregnant.

July 7th, 2012: They drew her blood and called us that night with the news – Pregnancy test is NEGATIVE!  What the heck?  At this point we were financially and emotionally exhausted.

My husband and I prayed and prayed and felt good about one last try.  This was it.  Lucky number seven.  If this didn’t work we were moving on – knowing we tried EVERYTHING we could.  We would try one last fresh IVF cycle and implant them into my sister-in-law.

A few months later we were ready.

September 6th, 2012: IVF Retrieval #4: The Dr. retrieved 33 eggs from me!!  I was definitely over-stimulated, but at this point I didn’t care.  I was SO uncomfortable, but was so happy to hear they got 33 eggs!  25 eggs fertilized.

September 11th, 2012: They implanted 2 embryos in my sister-in-law and froze 9!  And we waited…

IMG_12731

September 19th, 2012:  Jamie took an at home pregnancy test and it said PREGNANT.  She test me the picture of the positive pregnancy test.  I fell to the floor in tears.  We were still so nervous, knowing our history.  Two days later she got a blood test that came back positive as well!

IMG_1325

A week and a half later my sister-in-law started bleeding.  Not spotting.  But actually bleeding.  I couldn’t believe it.  We called our Dr. and he said to go get an ultrasound.  He said it was really early but we just want to rule out an ectopic pregnancy and see what we see.  We got an ultrasound a couple hours later.  Driving to that ultrasound felt like we were driving to a funeral.

The ultrasound tech didn’t sound very optimistic.  She said she saw a considerable amount of blood around the uterus.  She said that it looked like one of our embryos didn’t really grow – the gestational sac was empty.  The other gestational sac had two yolk sacs inside – which means that the embryo split into identical twins.  She was worried because she didn’t see a fetal pole – which normally develops between 5-6 weeks.  We left the ultrasound with no answers.  Our Dr. told us to go back in a week for a repeat ultrasound to see if we see any progression.  We could come back and see babies, or nothing at all.  I felt like it was all over.  Our emotions were all over the place the next week.  We were so stressed out!!

We went back to the same ultrasound tech exactly a week later.  I walked in thinking we weren’t going to see anything.  She started the ultrasound and immediately saw a baby!!!!  She said it looked like a completely different patient.  Things were looking SO good.  The bleeding around the uterus was a lot less.  The ultrasound tech was a bit confused because she saw two babies – but this time they were in two different sacs.  The embryo she thought didn’t work actually had worked – and had a baby with a heartbeat inside!  The best sound I have ever heard.  I immediately started bawling.  I was ecstatic! She moved over to the other baby and started measuring that heartbeat.  My brother was looking up at the ultrasound on the big screen and thought he could see two heartbeats on that baby.  The ultrasound tech wasn’t convinced.  She was like, “No…that’s just the baby…OH MY GOSH, THERE ARE TWO HEARTBEATS OVER THERE. YOU GUYS ARE HAVING TRIPLETS!!!”  The babies were up against each other.  When she moved the ultrasound machine around you could distinctly see two babies in that sac.  I couldn’t believe it. Three freaking babies!!  One embryo split into identical twins and the other embryo grew into a baby as well.  We were all in shock.  Going from thinking we were going to see no heartbeats to seeing three heartbeats!  What a miracle!!  I can’t even explain to you the feelings that were going through me.  I’m not really a crier, but I was bawling!  SO CRAZY!  My sister-in-law was shocked as well.  Three babies?!  She had been feeling really sick/tired the past week and was relieved it was actually for something.  We never thought we would implant two embryos and end up with three babies!!  We all just kept saying, “Oh my gosh, Oh my gosh, Are you kidding me?”  I never thought we’d have triplets, but couldn’t be happier!

We are now the proud parents of TRIPLETS – two identical boys and a little girl – born April 9th, 2013.  They are all healthy and doing well.  Our sister-in-law gave us the family we have always wanted.  What a selfless gift.  Truly amazing!

Click here for Kim’s blog
kimberlyvball7.blogspot.com

Click here to watch Curtis and Kim’s News Story
http://www.kutv.com/news/top-stories/stories/vid_4958.shtml#.UZOubuGH8A0.facebook

Mother’s Day – Meet Crystal & Jared Malone

Crystal and Jared Malone

Crystal and Jared Malone

I was so honored when Footsteps for Fertility asked me to be a guest blogger for this Mother’s Day. I, like many of you, suffer with infertility. First, to introduce myself, my name is Crystal and my husband’s name is Jared. We have been together for four years and married for almost two. He is a paramedic/firefighter for Pocatello fire department and I am a nurse at the hospital.

We have been trying to have a baby for just under two years. I was born with some uterine anomalies that were discovered when I was 19. We knew we would have a hard time carrying a baby, but little did we know how much our lives would change once we started trying to have a baby and were unable to. We tried for only a few months without success before we talked to our doctor. We soon started all of the fun medications that I am sure so many of you are all too familiar with. We went through Clomid cycles with no success and then tried Letrozole. After trying those medications for a few months our doctor wanted to check Jared’s sperm count and we discovered that Jared has only 5% of normal sperm, and I also have polycystic ovarian syndrome, which means I get cysts a lot that prevent normal ovulation, and I have microscopic endometriosis. With all of these different factors we were then told that In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) was our only option if we ever wanted to have a baby.

We began our journey with a fertility doctor and soon realized how expensive IVF was and it is not even a guarantee you will get pregnant, let alone have a baby. I quickly became devastated over the news. Because infertility is such an odd subject for those outside of the infertility world to understand or discuss it was hard to know where to turn. We attended a few seminars and the Footsteps for Fertility 5K race where we were able to connect with other couples going through the same thing and that is the biggest thing that has helped us through our journey with infertility. Because of how much listening to other peoples stories have helped us, we are not afraid to tell anyone our story because you never know who you may be helping. It is amazing how many people we have connected with through this journey and how common infertility is among couples. That does not mean that it is not hard, and it flat out sucks, and it is not fair, I KNOW! At first I frequently found myself mad at people who didn’t want their babies, or abusing them, or were getting pregnant and having children and I wanted one so badly and couldn’t.

There is nothing more that I want than to be a mom, besides being a wife. Most holidays are usually hard when you don’t have children and are going through infertility but Mother’s Day is particularly one that I struggle with a lot. To me it is a day to be grateful for my mom, but on the other hand, it is a full day to remind me of what I want and long for and can’t have. Mother’s Day is a very difficult day for all of us women who long to be mothers. Some things that have helped me over the years are to try and find the positive in the situation.

Going through infertility has definitely made my husband and I closer as a couple. One of my favorite pieces of advice which I heard while at the Footsteps for Fertility race is, “no matter what, whether you get pregnant or not, you need to be able to look at your spouse and tell them that they will be enough for you for the rest of your life.” (Lori Moscato, Founder of Pay it Forward Fertility Foundation). This was one of the most powerful things I have heard, and am so grateful that I am able to look at my husband and say this about him. Another thing that has helped us is to make sure that we still make time for just us time instead of always focusing on our infertility and having a baby. We make sure that we have frequent date nights and vacations where we do not discuss infertility. And last, it is okay to have bad days, it is an important part of the process to mourn and to feel and express your feelings.

I am so blessed to have an amazing husband that is there for me on the good days and the bad. He is my number one fan and the first person to try and bring me back up. My favorite Mother’s Day story with him is last year. I was having a really hard time that we weren’t pregnant yet and so he bought me a Mother’s Day card and put our little dogs footprints on it and gave it to me for Mother’s Day. Little things like this make it so much easier to get through the hard times. I hope you all have a great Mother’s Day and find joy in the difficult journey of infertility.

Crystal and Jared Malone

Idaho Race Directors, Footsteps For Fertility Foundation

It’s A BOY!

Ramsi Stoker

Ramsi Stoker

It’s a Boy!

We can’t tell you how long we’ve waited to be able to make just such an announcement. Our prayers have been answered and we are thrilled that we will be welcoming our son, whom we expect to arrive right around August 3, 2013.

This whole experience has been a whirlwind. When we think back to the day of the first Footsteps For Fertility 5k in September, we are still overwhelmed by the love and support we received from our family and friends. But we can honestly say that we never expected to win — we simply hoped for a possibility of a partial grant from the Pay It Forward Fertility organization. We saw so many deserving couples at the race… all with families and friends that loved them just as much as ours did, who had suffered along with them… all praying that that day was their lucky day. Though overjoyed at hearing our names announced as the winning couple, our hearts immediately broke for everyone else.

Soon after the race, we met with the folks at Utah Fertility Center. The amazing Dr. Deirdre Conway was going to guide us through our second attempt at IVF. We fell in love with the team at UFC and knew we were in good hands. Not wanting to waste any time, we began our cycle in October, optimistic about our new protocol. By mid-November we were ready for our embryo transfer and buoyed up by the fantastic results of our cycle to that point. It was shortly after Thanksgiving when a second announcement dropped us to our knees… We were pregnant. Right before Christmas we had our first ultrasound and heard the heartbeat. It was the sweetest sound we’d ever heard. This baby was truly our Christmas miracle.

We are so grateful to Footsteps For Fertility for bringing awareness to such a painful and lonely issue; for providing hope to couples who have invested everything — financially and emotionally — in their dreams of starting a family. We feel so blessed to be the first lucky couple to have this opportunity and to have had such an amazing result. We are grateful for the brilliant team at UFC — especially Dr. Conway — who dedicated their time and energy to us. Though this event drew some negative press from the (ignorant) national media, I will forever be humbled by the goodness of the people that we met and their compassion for those struggling with the pain of infertility.

Each day we’re one step closer to the “other side” of this long journey. Our son will be loved every second of every day and he will know how many people helped to get him here.

Eternally grateful,

Brian & Ramsi Stoker

Brian and Ramsi Stoker

Brian and Ramsi Stoker