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Success Stories

Ann had years of pain watching joy of others

Ann Jackson says she's always had "unfeminine" interests.

She got top marks and scholarships in math and physics and went into a career in computers. Guy stuff.

So, in 1984 when Ann discovered she and husband Hugo couldn't conceive, she thought the worst. "Oh no! It's part of the parcel of not being a real woman!" she said.

Taking the infertility test and fertility drugs was dismaying and threatening. Working in her computer firm was worse.

"There were only six or seven women employees and, at one point, they were all pregnant! It was absolutely horrible," Jackson recalls.

"I wanted to cry all the time, but it was hard to find a good time to go into the washroom and cry, because the women in there were all talking about being pregnant. It was dreadful," she says.

Finally, she and Hugo tried a procedure call GIFT - gamete intrafallopian transfer - which was the only thing available in Vancouver then. Ann's egg and Hugo's sperm were placed in Ann's Fallopian tube, to fertilize as naturally as possible.

It didn't work the first time, in 1986. And it didn't work the second time two years later. Both procedures were covered at the time because in the 1980's assisted reproductive technologies were paid for under the health system in B.C.

By 1992 they had been trying for nine years. Ann was 36. They decided to give it one more try, this time with IVF. This time, the government didn't cover the cost.

They raided their savings accounts, dipped into a registered retirement savings plan, and came up with the money ($4,791.92 plus $1,040.48 for medications). Their daughter, Raphaella, was born 10 years and one month after the started trying. "It's a long time to be sad," says Ann.

She and Hugo lost the next $6,000 plus in the agonizing Russian roulette of assisted conception, but Raphaella is their pride and joy.

Says Ann: "When I was depressed I used to say, "This feels so bad that nothing could ever make this up to me," But in retrospect, Raphaella did make it up to me."

The cruel blow of a doomed pregnancy

Karen Justice always knew she would have kids.

She just took it for granted. She knew that one day she would meet and love a partner and they'd become parents together.

Life didn't turn out that way.

She and Douglas were married in 1981. The trouble started in 1988 when Karen discovered she had endometriosis. She was going to have a hard time getting pregnant.

They took infertility test but got no clear results.

The cruelest blow came in 1994 when Karen finally became pregnant but it was life threatening ectopic pregnancy.

It had to be ended after three months.

Karen mourned the day that would have been her baby's birthday. And on the anniversary of the end of that tiny life, she and Douglas held a ceremony of sorrow on the beach with waves and wind, pebbles and sand.

When she was first told they were infertile, Karen was stunned: "I was angry, shocked, I couldn't believe it. I wanted this so deeply, and now I had no choice. It was a loss of control over my own life. I was devastated."

In 1996, they borrowed the money for an IVF procedure, and yet another roller-coast of emotion began. Their hopes were high. They seemed like great candidates.

Many eggs were retrieved from Karen's womb, and all were successfully fertilized by Douglas' sperm. Karen was certain they'd be one of the lucky couples.

When it didn't work, she fell apart. "I sobbed on and off for weeks. I couldn't sleep at night. I told my husband he should leave me. It was a bombshell."

It didn't get any better. Karen and Douglas had frozen several embryos, and they went back for two more tries. Both failed. When the last embryos were gone, there was another huge sense of loss.

Now, Karen and Douglas don't know what to do. They're still trying to pay back the more than $6,000 they borrowed for the IVF procedures.

They are regrouping, and looking at their options. They know those options are growing more limited every day. They both turn 41 this year.