Male factor infertility proves an obstacle to family building
Hope prevails for Breaux Bridge couple awarded the Gift of Hope IVF Grant 2013.
Michelle and Chad Taylor have had their fair share of disappointment throughout their journey with infertility. Years of doctors’ appointments, testing, treatment, finally pregnancy and then miscarriage, and then additional testing and treatment leading only to more frustration and disappointment. All heart-breaking and crushing and incredibly expensive. Infertility struggles can break some couples, and for others it can bring them closer together. For the Taylors, their journey has only made them stronger.
Together for over 10 years and married for seven of those, Michelle, who works as a receptionist, and Chad, a mechanical technician in the oil field industry, always knew that a family was in their future. Soon after their marriage in 2005, they started trying to conceive, excited to see what their future would hold. At first, when they were unsuccessful, they marked it up to bad timing and bad luck. But after three years with no pregnancy, the Breaux Bridge couple decided to see Michelle’s gynecologist. Routine infertility testing revealed that Chad had a low sperm count and low sperm motility. Little did they know that years of infertility struggle were just beginning.
Worried and shocked, they researched male factor infertility and sought the help of an urologist who made the same diagnosis and ordered a round of antibiotics for Chad in case the abnormal semen analysis was the result of infection. When subsequent testing returned the same abnormal results, Michelle and Chad became more emotional and began to fear the worst, that they would never have a biological child of their own.
Their urologist then referred the Taylors to a male reproductive specialist whose office was several hours drive away and who would not be able to see them for several months. Persevering through this wait to see a specialist, Michelle and Chad resolved not to give up and anticipated their visit to this new doctor would provide them with an answer to their troubles. When they were finally able to see the specialist in January 2009, he informed the couple he suspected a varicocele vein, a bulging of one of the veins in the testes that can cause problems with sperm production, and put Chad on a regimen of vitamin supplements to boost his sperm count and motility. He was to return in 10 weeks and if results did not improve then surgery to correct the varicocele would be considered.
On their return visit, another semen analysis was performed and Chad and Michelle anxiously awaited the results. Unfortunately, nothing had changed, but the doctor discovered another problem that he had not initially seen. The sample showed that many of the sperm had coiled tails, a sign that Chad might be a carrier of the cystic fibrosis gene, a serious genetic disease that could be passed along to biological children. The Taylors were crushed to hear this news, feeling that their hopes of starting their family were slipping away. Their doctor felt further testing was needed by a more specialized lab at a prominent university and sent them home with a kit and instructions on how to send a semen sample to this new lab to be tested. After several months of not hearing anything, the Taylors began calling.
Finally able to get their doctor on the phone, they were informed that upheaval at the university lab required that they find another lab with the expertise to perform the required testing. Again, the Taylors tried to be patient, but after another four months went by without word, they again called the specialist who told them he was unable to find a facility with a staff capable of performing the required test. For this reason, the doctor recommended that they discontinue trying to start a family at this time because without the test he believed they may pass these coil-tailed sperm to a son, or worse, pass the cystic fibrosis gene to a child causing them to be born with the disease.
Chad and Michelle were completely devastated at this point. A year and a half of doctors’ appointments and testing had brought them no closer to helping them conceive, and they had more questions than answers.
Returning to her gynecologist at the end of 2009, Michelle’s doctor encouraged her to see Dr. John Storment who he felt confident could help her find the answers she and Chad were desperate to hear. In their first consultation Dr. Storment reviewed their records with the couple and ordered a cystic fibrosis screening and the necessary genetic testing. After the months of waiting to find a lab that could screen his sperm for cystic fibrosis with no luck, it seemed too good to be true that it was this easy. The results of the genetic tests pleasantly surprised them, indicating that Chad was not a carrier for CF and that they would be excellent candidates for in vitro fertilization with ICSI, or intracytoplasmic sperm injection in which a single sperm is injected directly into the egg to fertilize it, a procedure indicated in situations of male factor infertility.
The Taylors were ecstatic with the new hope of finally starting a family. But the high cost of IVF with the ICSI procedure which is about $15,000, seemed unattainable on their income to proceed right away. So over the next year and a half, Chad and Michelle saved their money and borrowed from their 401(k) retirement plan so that they could move forward with the procedure. They also applied for the Gift of Hope in 2011, but were not selected.
In June 2011, Michelle began her medication and injections in anticipation for the IVF procedure. Everything went according to plan and they had two perfect embryos to implant plus three that would be cryopreserved for the future. They returned home from the procedure with high hopes that they would be blessed with positive results. The next ten days until their pregnancy test appointment felt like an eternity, but Michelle and Chad did their best to stay positive and patient. And then the good news – they were pregnant, finally! They couldn’t wait to share the news with their parents, family and friends who had been so supportive throughout their whole journey.
Returning to the office two weeks later for their first ultrasound, Michelle and Chad remember feeling so relaxed as they sat in the waiting room they had anxiously awaited in so many times before. But their feelings of elation were soon dashed as the ultrasound began. Instead of hearing a heartbeat as expected, all they heard was silence. The video screen showed an empty uterus and early miscarriage.
Chad and Michelle knew all along that miscarriage was a very real possibility with IVF. Nationally, the average pregnancy rate for a woman of Michelle’s age is roughly fifty percent after IVF. Like the flip of a coin. Over the next few months, they found themselves questioning why this had happened to them, what could they have done differently, and what was next. Their follow-up appointment with Dr. Storment helped calm their emotions and clarified their future options in terms of treatment. Plans were made to use the three frozen embryos and they called on family contributions and the rest of their 401(k) to pay for it.
Implantation day for their frozen embryos came and went with much different feelings for the Taylors. While the first IVF procedure was filled with an incredible amount of hope and anticipation, the second attempt was marked by anxiety and dread over what the outcome might be. As they sat in the waiting room anticipating the pregnancy test results they tried to remain positive over the possible outcome. To their dismay, the pregnancy test was negative and their last chance of a family was gone for now.
After this second disappointment, Chad and Michelle decided to take a year off of the stress of their infertility struggle. They needed time to recover mentally and determine what God’s plan was for them. They used this time to focus on their family and themselves to achieve a greater understanding of what was important, what mattered. It was a time that helped them prepare for a renewed journey toward parenthood.
Applying for the Gift of Hope again in 2013 was filled with as much anticipation as anxiety after so much they had gone through. Calling on family and friends to write letters on their behalf to the Gift of Hope selection committee, they submitted their application and waited. To their incredible joy, they were picked by the committee as the recipients of an IVF procedure that will occur during the summer of 2013.
Infertility, as the Taylors now know, can happen to anyone and can consume your life, your finances, and your joy. It can cause incredible heartache and loss of hope, feelings of self-doubt, anger and depression, and the dread that your dreams of a family are slipping away. For Chad and Michelle, it has been a journey of self-discovery and a deeper commitment to one another no matter what the outcome. With the Gift of Hope 2013 award, their hope is renewed and they are ready to continue in a new phase of this journey together.
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