Curtis and Jenna have survived rare childhood illness, two tours in Iraq, PTSD, parents divorcing, and Crohn’s Disease, but infertility has been their hardest battle yet. They’re at the 3.5 year mark of trying to build their family. Jenna’s initial testing came back normal, but Curtis’s was devastating. They were told he had no sperm. Every dream of theirs came crashing down. Their urologist said their only option was exploratory surgery to search for sperm followed by IVF or adoption. Both roads were expensive and daunting. They cried for weeks. Jenna could barely get through church. Baptisms were the worst. Her morning runs turned into bargaining sessions with God. Curtis felt like less of a man. His self-esteem was zero.
The next few months were a blur. Curtis made lifestyle changes and monitored his semen. Eventually sperm started appearing. They cried and praised God. By the spring of 2017, his sperm count was normal! It was a miracle. They couldn’t pinpoint exactly why his count was good, but thought they might get pregnant on their own. After months of timed intercourse, BBT temping, and everything in between with no luck, Curtis did another semen analysis. His count was back to zero. They ultimately discovered a medication, which his gastroenterologist put him on for his Crohn’s, was bringing sperm back. When he’s not on it, he can’t produce.
They decided to meet with a fertility clinic and eventually started their first round of IVF. It was overwhelming. Jenna was overstimulated from the start, developed ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, and took a long time to recover. While they retrieved 25 eggs, only three made it to blast. Unfortunately, none of them stuck during subsequent transfers. By August 2018, they were out $20,000 and beat down beyond belief. Their grief was immense. Pregnancy announcements and newborns were everywhere. They withdrew from the world. Jenna read studies showing those going through infertility treatments have the same emotional stress and depression rates as those going through cancer treatments. They realized they couldn’t fight this alone and joined a support group which helped tremendously.
Later that fall they received another lifeline. Jenna’s work added $15,000 worth of infertility coverage. They started another round of IVF in the new year. Eighteen eggs were retrieved and their fertilization rate was fantastic. Unfortunately, over the next five days, most died off and they were left with only two blastocysts. Jenna’s doctor was perplexed and decided to do more testing on her. The new test came back positive for BCL6 which is a strong indicator for endometriosis. She didn’t have many symptoms so this was surprising, but also relieving because now they had answers. There isn’t a permanent cure for endometriosis, but a medication was injected into her stomach to help reset the uterine environment before another transfer.
Curtis and Jenna are still in the thick of infertility, but aren’t giving up. They pray that someday insurance coverage will be mandatory, couples will feel supported, and the stigma will be gone.
Jenna H, Nebraska