Laurie Nield always knew she wanted children—in fact, she always knew her number: four. When she presented this information to her now-husband, Joey, before they got married, he laughed.
“He said, ‘I’ll agree to one. I can be talked into two. But I am never having four,’” Laurie recalls.
Eighteen years of marriage and yes, four babies later, the Nield family is complete. But the road to building their family was anything but easy. It was one paved with physical and emotional challenges—one that started with one of the most heartbreaking diagnoses a woman can receive: infertility.
Joey had already had a vasectomy before he married Laurie, so he had to have a reversal procedure before they could start trying for kids. About six months after the reversal, the Nields began trying to grow their family. According to the at-home ovulation kits, Laurie was ovulating frequently. However, after six months of attempting to get pregnant, the Nields decided to meet with a specialist. They were referred to the New Hope Center for Reproductive Medicine.
After some tests, Dr. Robin Poe-Zeigler realized that a severe car wreck Laurie was injured in several years prior had torn many nerves and blood vessels in her body. Although Laurie was still producing eggs, her body was not registering them. Armed with that knowledge, the Nields embarked on their first round of in vitro fertilization (IVF).
The procedure was successful, and Laurie became pregnant with her first son, Connor, in October 2003. Roughly one and a half years later, the couple decided it was time to try for a sibling for their little boy. They still had frozen embryos from the first round, so they used those embryos in a second round of IVF. This time, Laurie became pregnant but experienced a miscarriage.
After that difficult loss, the couple decided to try again with a fresh cycle. That might not sound daunting to those unfamiliar with IVF, but the process is quite grueling. First, the doctor puts the woman on superovulation drugs, which stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. Once the eggs are ready for retrieval, the woman begins taking human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG), which helps the eggs mature. The eggs are then extracted and fertilized with the partner or donor’s sperm. Around this time, the woman also begins supplementing progesterone to prepare the uterus for implantation. After the embryos “hatch” a few days later, the doctor performs the embryo transfer, in which one or more embryos are placed into the uterus. If the procedure is successful, the embryo will implant, resulting in a pregnancy.
Many of these steps involve self-administered injections. Visits to the doctor become as regular as trips to the grocery store. There may be an ultrasound and bloodwork done every other day for a few weeks. On top of all this is the reality that only 36 percent of IVF cycles result in pregnancy, and roughly 29 percent result in a baby.
“Infertility is the hardest thing I have ever been through in my life. Trying to get pregnant becomes a chore, and then there’s the constant emotional downfall when you don’t end up pregnant,” Nield says. “It’s draining—emotionally and financially. It is worth every dime and every minute you put into it, but the reality is it’s very hard.”
Laurie’s second pregnancy was much more challenging than her first. She began hemorrhaging and ended up on bed rest for three months. The baby was due on Valentine’s Day, but Laurie’s water broke on Halloween. She remained in the hospital until November 22, when her second boy, Carson, was born. He weighed in around 3 pounds and had to be kept in the special care nursery until January 6, when he was sent home in perfect health.
“At that point, I thought we were done and we’d never do this again,” Laurie says.
But she still wanted a girl, and in 2009 the Nields decided they would try one last time. They embarked on their third fresh cycle, this time aided with new techniques Dr. Poe-Zeigler had begun using, including acupuncture.
“Every other time we had done this, they put in two embryos, and I got one baby,” Laurie says.
This time, during the first pregnancy ultrasound, the doctor left and came back with two nurses.
“I thought, ‘Well, this is different.’ I asked if the baby was OK,” Laurie says. “Dr. Robin said yes and showed me where Baby A, B and C were.”
Both embryos had taken, and the second embryo had divided. However, at the eight week appointment, they learned that while the identical twins were viable, the single baby had stopped growing. In August of 2010, Laurie gave birth to healthy twin girls, Coryne and Callie.
Although IVF has become widely accepted, naysayers remain. Laurie is a devout Christian, but she has experienced her fair share of hurtful comments by those who claim IVF is akin to “playing God.”
“God has given these doctors the knowledge and skills to help you have a baby,” Laurie says. “You would never tell someone going through an illness like cancer or diabetes to not take their medicine because that’s ‘playing God.’”
To those considering in vitro as their next step, Nield believes a strong support system is a necessity.
“Seek support from women who have been through this. There are tons of counseling and support groups available, so use those resources,” Nield says. “Most importantly, make sure your marriage is strong before you start down this road. It’ll destroy it if it’s not.”