Hope & Grace: The wonders of science and generosity of a healthcare team lead to the miracle of birth
Jennings couple recipients of Gift of Hope IVF Grant 2007.
Beth McCleery, a 5th grade school teacher, knew something was wrong fairly soon after getting married. She and her husband, Eric, a software trainer, had begun trying to conceive right away after their 2004 wedding. But by the end of 2005, they were still waiting. Not an inordinately long time for relatively young newlyweds. It was more an instinct than anything else that told Beth that there might be another reason they were still waiting for a child of their own.
“I just had a feeling that something wasn’t right. We both wanted children immediately, as soon as we could after we got married. When that wasn’t happening, I panicked,” she said.
A strong, loving couple, Eric and Beth were destined to be parents. “When I met Eric, I fell in love with his laid-back nature and dry sense of humor. Long before he asked me to marry him, I saw countless qualities that would make him the perfect dad,” said Beth.
Adds Eric, “Once we decided to get married, I was shocked then instead of spending hours picking out the perfect wedding dress I would find Beth cutting out pictures of baby rooms and choosing maternity clothes she wanted to soon purchase.”
The couple’s hopes and dreams finally came true through patience, tenacity, science and the generosity of some local physicians and a hospital. On April 7, 2009, they became parents of Grace-Ann Elizabeth.
When the Jennings couple realized a pregnancy was not in their future, they sought the help of local fertility specialist Dr. John Storment of Fertility & Women’s Health Center. Dr. Storment immediately diagnosed their problem as blockage in Beth’s fallopian tubes. At first, they tried surgery to unblock her tubes.
“As painful as the surgery was, I would do it all over again if it meant I get to have a baby,” Beth said after the procedure. The surgery was successful, but to their dismay, they did not conceive after several months. Next, the couple tried injections to increase the number and size of her eggs. Eric recalls seeing his wife putting a thick needle in her stomach with a smile on her face while saying, “What if this means we get to have a baby?” It still brings tears to his eyes remembering the pain she endured in their quest to conceive.
After several months of disappointment they discussed their options with Dr. Storment. The next step, he said, was in vitro fertilization, but with its high cost and the fact that their health insurance did not cover the procedure, the couple didn’t feel they could afford it. “We knew it would cost around $10,000 to $15,000,” Eric said. They decided to hold off, “to see if God would give us a baby, some way. We were thinking about adoption.”
Then the McCleery’s found out through Dr. Storment’s office about the Gift of Hope program which was then in its second year. Knowing that they met all the criteria to be considered for the Gift of Hope, Eric and Beth immediately submitted an application. Out of more than 40 applications, the Gift of Hope committee chose the McCleery’s in May 2007. What impressed the selection committee members most about the McCleerys were their strong faith and family values and their commitment to each other revealed in the personal letters submitted with their application. Eric also included a handwritten letter by Beth that he had found stuck between the pages of her Bible written to her children who were yet to be born.
But it would be another two years before they would hold their baby.
Eric’s sperm count had initially been above average, but when they went in for lab work prior to their Gift of Hope in vitro cycle, his sperm count was well below normal. Doctors eventually found a small, benign tumor that was affecting his hormone levels and suppressing sperm production. After a time on medication, his sperm count was up, but there was still a problem. Blockage preventing sperm from exiting his body prompted surgery at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
It was a long slow process, but Eric and Beth never lost hope. “I never let it cross my mind that it wouldn’t work,” said Beth. Finally, in June 2008, the in vitro process began with hormone injections to increase her egg production. When they matured they were extracted and united with her husband’s sperm in July 2008. Two embryos were ultimately transferred back to her uterus. The happy news came a few weeks later: Beth was finally pregnant!
Grace-Ann was due to be born April 5, but her mother showed no signs of going into labor. Grace-Ann was getting big — almost too big. On April 7, labor was induced, but she wound up being born at 9 pounds 6 ounces, by Caesarean section.
It was a long time from beginning to end for the couple, an odyssey that was at times discouraging, at times hopeful, at times scary. But it is only the outcome that counts for Grace-Ann’s mother. “It didn’t matter to me how she got here.”
The Gift of Hope is offered once a year in the spring with applications typically available to download from our website beginning in March of each year. For questions about the Gift of Hope, please email to firstname.lastname@example.org