Fertility Medicine: One Couple’s Journey from Cancer to a Family of Three

Brought to you by WINFertility

“It’s time to call it, Jenna”. My midwife speaks softly and with kind eyes, knowing that this isn’t what I want to hear. “The babies heart rate is too erratic, your white blood count is high, and your water broke 23 hours ago. We need to call the surgeon and perform a c-section.”

“One more push?” I ask meekly. She shakes her head, so I demand instead of asking. “One more push!”. She lets me bear down with all my might, teeth gritted and belly heavy, but it’s for my mental state more than anything else. The baby doesn’t budge and the next few minutes are a buzzy blur of drugs and indecency as a rather aggressive nurse attacks a catheter into my body. The hallway wheeling feels like floating, my husbands hand the only thing keeping me on the ground, and the pitocin induced contractions reach a peak just before the anesthesiologist steps in to numb me.

I find a calm in the storm, my husbands gentle eyes and my midwifes hand on mine, and reflect on the past 24 hours of excruciating labor, which somehow suddenly translated to love.

I’m reminded of the past 9 months of pregnancy, and before that the past 4 years of cancer treatments, and eventually the past decade of my life with Brian that has led me here.

We started this emotional journey years ago, with a Stage II Invasive Ductal Carcinoma diagnosis at the tender age of 27 that led to a mastectomy, months of chemotherapy, twenty eight radiation sessions and a “strong recommendation” from my oncologist that I’d need in vitro fertilization when we decided to start our family.

As newlyweds and optimists, we smiled, laughed, and enjoyed small moments until we finally received clearance to “start the process”. And, when we did, we turned to WINFertility.

It’s a revolutionary company that works as a health coach, guide, and fertility drug and procedural coverage for the medical field. For patients like me without insurance coverage for fertility (or those who have exhausted their coverage), WINFertility also sells self-pay ‘bundled programs’; rolling the price for medical treatment, genetic testing, and fertility medications into a single, discounted price—as opposed to the typical a la carte pricing. When you’re looking at spending a small fortune for fertility treatment, having that discount passed along to the patient takes starting a family from wishful thinking to optimistically possible.

WIN also works as a match maker of sorts, pairing you with the best doctor for the most optimal results. The specialist they chose for me was Dr. Alan Copperman of Reproductive Medicine Associates New York—one of the most renowned and accomplished doctors within his field (and you may have seen his office in last season’s Friends from College).

Dr. Copperman saw our vision, walked us through all options and concerns, and was there for us every step of the way—through failed implantations and the final successful transfer, he never gave up or faltered. It’s not just baby rearing that takes a village, sometimes it’s the baby making too. He helped bring this dream baby of ours to reality, this little creature that was now sending convulsing pain through my body and begging to be out in the world.

The day of egg retrieval and embryo creation at RMA, sharing a hopeful kiss.

Flashes of memories fly at me, giving me strength with every scene. A boy buying a girl a cup of coffee ten years ago, a twinkle in his eye. His voice as she summits her first rock climb. Her voice as they speak their vows atop a snowy mountain side, her hand on his shoulder as they reel from the shock of a cancer diagnosis. The hours spent in a waiting room, the days that passed in stasis. The joy of an embryo created, the desperation at an embryo lost.

Nine pounds four ounces and twenty two inches of love.

A contraction seizes my body, lightning bolt esque, and it reminds me of the strength that my body can carry. The strength I felt the day we found out the second embryo implantation had worked, the doctor on the other end of the call echoing ‘You’re pregnant!’. That same strength that filled me with purpose at the end of a very long treatment filled year.

I’m grateful for the path that’s taken me here, for the chance to bring this child into the world as nature intended. Twelve hours I was granted to be filled with this all mighty, all encompassing, excruciatingly painful and altogether natural feeling of labor. My water broke, like clockwork, on my due date, after a Chef’s Tasting at our favorite restaurant and a glass of Bondol. There was no pre-labor, no downtime—Hunter was fast and furious, proclaiming his intent to get into this world as fast as possible. By the time my body caught up with him the distress was too much, and my beautiful birth center dream dissipated as we hopped an ambulance ride to the nearest hospital.

By 12:46am the next morning he was finally free, being tugged from my swollen body, screaming his first wonderful scream. A curtain dropped and a stunning little creature emerged, red faced and mucus covered and looking like an angel. My heart leapt into my throat as I spoke to the room and exclaimed, ‘Brian we have a son? We have a son’. His hand clenched mine and I felt a love sear through me like there never was before.

Then the room went silent, and that fierce adrenaline roared through my body again. He wasn’t breathing properly, and the neonatologist worked over him like a wizard performing a spell. The roar inside me kept howling, while the silence remained, palpable. They wheeled him away with my husband in tow—I found the words to say ‘Please, go with the baby.’

An hour later, the doctor sat down and the stillness of the room overwhelmed me. I’ll never forgot that sixty minutes of absolute terror, the knowledge that a piece of me had opened up and  could never be closed, the terror that he might not have made it.

A sweet moment between momma and a fresh faced Hunter Horace.

“Hunter Horace is going to be just fine.” Dr. Bruno said gently, and I tried to cry but there were no tears left. The rest of his words washed over me, a wave of glee lapping at my feet. I melted from this world, collapsed in a puddle of disbelief, exhaustion and jubilation. Phrases lapped at my brain, pneumothorax, partially collapsed lung, inhaled fluid, no long term effects. Monitoring and release to come.

My brain translated them for me to a language I could comprehend, one of emotion instead of science, one of love instead of logic.

He’s here. He’s healthy. He’s ours.

Hundreds of days since that original cancer diagnosis, and I feel like my reason for survival has now been revealed in the form of a soft, squishy, every so lovable little human. Before the doctor’s wheeled Hunter away to remove ten units of fluid from his lungs, saving his life, some kind soul brought his head to my lips and let me seal a kiss onto his forehead.

One very happy little family.

The next morning, when I finally met my son and cradled him to my bare skin, ever so softly I sang the wisdom of Dusty Springfield to him;

‘I don’t know what it is that makes me love you so.

I only know I never want to let you go.

You started something with just one kiss,

I never knew there could be a love like this.

It’s crazy but it’s true. I only want to be with you.’

Those are words I will live and die by. Those are the words that made me a mother, that is the core of my heart that wouldn’t exist with the RMA of NY or WINFertility team that helped create Hunter from just a few single cells. This wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles.

Crazy but it’s true.

I only want to be with you.

A glimpse of newborn perfection, photographed by LVR Portraits.