Katie and Patrick Davis have been married since last November. Katie said their struggle with infertility doesn’t define them, it is just one component of their relationship. | Jane Donahue~For the Sun-Times
What is IVF?
In vitro fertilization (IVF) first made history as a procedure for infertility in 1978, when Louise Brown, known as the “test-tube baby” was born in England.
IVF involves combining eggs and sperm outside the body in a laboratory. Once an embryo or embryos form, they are then placed in the uterus. IVF is a complex and costly procedure; only about 5 percent of couples with infertility choose this form of treatment. However, since its introduction in the United States, more than 200,000 babies have been born as a result of IVF and other similar techniques.
Updated: November 7, 2011 2:45PM
Katie Davis doesn’t think infertility should be a silent struggle. In fact, the 24-year-old Chicago native found she helped others and herself when she went public with her quest to have a baby.
“It is hard because the story is so personal and sensitive,” said Davis. “But once I started a blog and was sharing my story with other women in the Chicagoland area, I found that many people were sharing their experiences. I started to feel the impact I had on others and how I was helping them just by sharing my story and my vulnerabilities. This led to our support system.”
At age 12, Davis was diagnosed with germ-cell ovarian cancer and had both ovaries removed. As a young girl, she dealt with not only with cancer, but impending infertility.
“I was worried about my future dreams of getting married and having children,” said Davis. “Family has always meant so much to me. The doctors all said I could carry a baby via in vitro fertilization as long as I took my hormones daily to preserve my uterus, so that is what I did for 10 years.”
After marrying Patrick Davis in November, 2010, the couple turned to in vitro fertilization — an expensive and time-consuming treatment — with the hopes of becoming parents.
With Patrick’s support, Katie began blogging about their IVF journey at katieandpatsivfjourney.blogspot.com.
“I am a very open person and I thought Katie’s blog was important,” said 24-year-old Patrick. “Not many women talk about infertility because it’s such a sensitive subject.”
The blog is therapeutic for Katie as well as her readers. They share their medical, financial and emotional struggles. She has followers from all over the country, and when she posts a new entry, the numbers grow significantly.
“A lot of people don’t want to talk in person or on the phone,” she said. “But by emailing, writing, or getting things out to someone who truly gets it — and getting a response back — that validates those thoughts and feelings. It is nice to know we have cheerleaders out there rooting and praying for us every day.”
Dr. Meike Uhler of Fertility Centers of Illinois said there have been significant advancements in fertility treatments over the past 20 years. In turn, couples are now more willing to seek treatment and discuss their infertility concerns with others.
“Couples realize there are many other people going through the same thing, and it is OK to talk about it,” Uhler said. “There is a lot of help and a lot of resources available. It can be quite a demanding journey and that’s why it’s helpful to have people around you to share your story.”
Barbara Collura, executive director of RESOLVE, The National Infertility Association shares the sentiment.
Collura said when a woman shares her infertility story it can be a “very empowering process.”
“It helps educate others who love and support you about the disease of infertility and what you are going through,” said Collura. “It empowers you by reducing or eliminating the stigma and shame many infertility patients feel after receiving a diagnosis of infertility. And speaking out can bring real change and awareness to the public at large.”
The Davis’ IVF journey, described as “our simple, yet unpredictable roller coaster ride called life,” has been just that. After two failed embryo cycles with the use of a donor’s eggs, they were tapped out, financially and emotionally.
Then as a result of the blog, they received something they never anticipated.
Katie got a message from a woman who said she was inspired by the couple’s story, and wanted to donate her eggs — without compensation. In Illinois, donor compensation is about $10,000, and not covered by insurance plans.
“I remember the day she told me, I was speechless. I starting crying of sheer awe,” said Katie. “The goodness in people surprises me everyday. How very generous to give us a piece of who she is? Without hesitation, we accepted.”
Plans are in the works for the next in vitro fertilization cycle with the new egg donor. Davis hopes to blog someday soon about her “happy ending,” when she and Patrick find out they are expecting.
But that ending really will be just another beginning for Katie and Patrick Davis.
Jane Donahue is a local freelance writer.