IUI

Post by John – By early 2015, I had gotten the help that I needed through counseling so Jenna and I were back to being a normal, happily married couple.  We knew that we still wanted to have a family, so we attended a seminar for Sher Fertility Clinic where they talked about anything and everything related to infertility.  We heard one common message that I’ve continued to hear to this day, “There isn’t much research done on male infertility.”  So the seminar was worthwhile, but we really didn’t learn much as to what can be done to fix our problem.  That didn’t stop us from scheduling a consult and moving forward with Sher to see what we could do.

Jenna wasn’t the issue, it was me – so the doctor recommended that we try IUI (Intrauterine Insemination) treatments instead of the IVF route.  For those who don’t know what IUI is, I’ll give you the non-medical definition.  Basically they time out and set (with meds) the woman’s ovulation cycle, then her legs go up on the stirrups, in goes the sperm, hope and pray.  The only question that was to be solved with us, is how do we get the sperm?

The doctor gave us a couple of options.  If we wanted to try, they could do a testicular biopsy on me to see if there was any sperm to be found at the source.  So they go in, take a slice, and then try to find some sperm to use for the procedure.  Any guy that isn’t squirming at the thought of this being done to them needs a serious check into your mental state.  As a bonus, she told us that if I wanted to, they could use anesthesia to knock me out – is there really anyone out there who wouldn’t take the anesthesia?  Who would really want to be awake to witness a slice of manhood being taken away from you?  Anyone that answered yes can go ahead and stop reading right now and go look into checking into a hospital to have your head checked.  Anyway – after doing all of the past tests and procedures, the doctor already was able to draw some conclusions.  They gave me a less than 5% chance of finding anything in me.  The other option was to use donor sperm.  Hmmm, donor sperm.  So it’s mine, but not really mine?  Is that how it would feel?

So my choices were to have an expensive, invasive procedure with a < 5% chance of working, or use donor sperm.  Did I mention this also isn’t covered by our insurance?  Not that money really mattered at this point, but something else to consider.  The choice was entirely mine, Jenna supported whatever I wanted to do.  I ended up going the donor route because it just felt like the right decision and I was honestly petrified to have the biopsy done.

That means we had to pick out donor sperm.  We ended up using California Cryobank as our bank, truthfully because they had the best website to be able to choose from.  We went down the path of picking someone that looked and sounded the most like me.  This is a hard task, think about it – I’m one of a kind!  So trying to find someone remotely close to me is a challenging task.  Plus there are so many choices, you can only slice and dice the filters so many ways until you just have to read profile after profile, but that’s part of the fun I guess.

Our first pass, we ended up with a couple hundred results.  Then we got a little more “picky” and got it down to around 70.  After a couple more rounds of weeding choices out, we finally got it to 5.  How do we narrow it down anymore?  We’ve already combed through height, weight, education, hobbies, interests, family medical history, etc.  How are we supposed to pick the best of these 5?  One of the nurse’s comments on one of the five said that he had cute baby pictures.  That was enough for us!  We had our donor sperm to use for the IUI procedures.  Donor sperm is expensive, but I couldn’t believe how expensive the shipping was.  $250 shipping for one vile.  Isn’t that crazy?  We chose to buy two vials (shipping is the same for one as it is for two), hoping that it will work the first time but hedging our bets by getting the extra one.

So we try our first round of IUI in July 2015.  Jenna has to do some shots and take some other medication leading up to the procedure, but for me it was pretty simple.  I just sort of sat back and let it all happen.  We show up to the doctor’s office on the day of the procedure and get called back into the room.  Jenna changes into her gown, doc comes in, legs go up, sperm goes in, we go home.  That was easy!  Now it’s a two week waiting game to see if the procedure worked.  Most of you reading this already know the results, so there’s not much I can do for climactic effect here….  Two weeks go by and Jenna takes a pregnancy test but it comes back negative.  That’s OK, we bought that extra vile, so we can try again next month.  August goes by, and other than the fact that Jenna had to do one of her shots from a Hero’s West bathroom (my mom’s 50th birthday party), we had the same results.

We decided to take September off, but try again in October.  Again, because of the crazy amount of cost for shipping, we bought two vials.  October comes and goes to no avail.  So we’ve tried this IUI procedure three times, and we’re 0 for 3.  We talked to the doctor, what can we do to “boost” the chances we asked?  The doc put Jenna on some different medication for what was going to be our last effort at the IUI treatments.   The medication increased the odds of it working, but also increased the chance at multiples from occurring.  We didn’t care – I mean in all honesty twins would have been the preferred route for us anyway.  So we try the last bout in December, it has to work, right?  Negative….the pregnancy test comes back negative again.

So where do we go from here?  They tell you to stay positive, but how can you possibly stay positive?  We tried to naturally have kids and failed.  Then they put me on shots and that failed.  Then we tried IUI four times and that failed.  Jenna and I had an agreement that if IUI didn’t work, we would end our journey of trying to have kids.  So January and February go by, but Jenna isn’t happy.  She doesn’t want to give up.  The only other option is to do IVF, but that is so expensive.  What do we do?

We had all sorts of ideas running around on how to afford IVF.  We knew we would need at least $30K to do the procedure, and we already drained our savings account doing the IUI procedures.  Also, Caterpillar was in the middle of doing 10,000 layoffs so we didn’t even know if we would have jobs in a couple of months.  We tried going the budget route.  If we nickel and dimed ourselves, didn’t ever go anywhere, go out to eat, bought the bare minimum and cheapest groceries, only drank water (it’s free), etc – we could scrape across about $1000 a month.  To get to $30k, that will take us about two and a half years.  The first month comes up, and bam – engine light in our Envoy comes on.  $600 repair.  So this month, we’re only going to save $400.  We looked at each other and knew this budget thing wasn’t going to work.  We had to seriously cut out one of our biggest expenses – that being our house.  We built our house and it’s perfect for having a family.  But if we don’t have a family then we really don’t need it.  So we were going to sell our house – remember that bit about Cat doing all the layoffs?  Well Cat pretty much runs the Peoria area.  Houses are selling – but the market isn’t all that strong.  At best, we think we can get what we paid for the house, but we’ll be able to save our $30K really fast without the house payment and all the other costs that comes with owning a home.

We’re all the way to Memorial Day now, we still didn’t put our house on the market because honestly I think we were afraid to do it.  At this point, Jenna and I still only told a handful of people about the fertility issues.  One of those was a friend of mine who I was talking to about it at a softball tournament.  In the past, he told me about this charity that puts on a golf outing for people going through fertility issues.  He brought it up again, “Just apply for it,” he says.  So I apply for the Birdies for Babies golf outing.  Literally hours later I am contacted from Todd Trader, founder of the charity.   We are picked – we will be the 2016 recipients of the golf outing.  Have any of you ever felt stress literally melt off you?  Well that’s the feeling I had.  Tears of joy, relief, and hope filled both Jenna and I.  Is it really going to happen?

Advertisements

Turning Point

Post by John:

My apologies for the long gap since my last post, but writing this is one of the more difficult things I’ve ever had to do.  I mean I’m a pretty open person and I don’t usually have a hard time expressing myself, but ask yourself this, “Have you ever opened up your deepest, darkest secrets to the world?”  It’s not as easy as it sounds.   But here it goes….

In case y’all forgot, I last wrote about the months following the discovery that I couldn’t have children.  To the outside world, Jenna and I were the same as always.  But behind closed doors, we were roommates at best, only putting up with each other just enough to stay together.  They always say that you shouldn’t assign blame, but I can honestly look myself in the mirror today and know that my inability to cope with failure was the root cause of our problems.

So it’s November 15, 2014 and it’s just another Saturday.  The Price is Right was coming to Peoria that week, so Jenna went over to a girlfriend’s house to make some cool t-shirts.  I was working around the house, watching college football, and just sort of being a bum.  It felt like a red wine kind of day.  Watching the game, the first bottle went down really fast.  Then I had another bottle.  Oh and by the way – we go big in the Hopkins household – so when I say bottle I mean one of those big bottles.  What’s a guy want after two big bottles of wine?  Chicken wings of course.  Oh yeah – and more wine.  Did I mention that I was by myself?  There’s a perfectly good bar that I could walk to from my house and pick up some wings, but I decide I’m cooking my wings on my own.  Jenna will be home soon so maybe she’ll eat some too.  (We still did nice things for each other).  So I get in the car (not one of my finer decisions) and head to the store to pick up another couple bottles of wine and some chicken wings.  I get home and crack open another bottle and get to work on the chicken wings.  I got them all prepped and stuck them in the oven to bake.  Here’s where my memory starts to become a little fuzzy.  Soon after that, Jenna comes home – honestly I don’t recall if it was before or after I put these wings in the oven.

Side story – Jenna is an awesome cook.  Just ask anyone that knows her.  She can cook anything, it’s usually from scratch, and it always tastes amazing.  Well she’s had a few hiccups, but almost always amazing.  With that being said, I’m an OK cook.  I usually do a good job, but I get really self-conscious cooking around her because I always feel like she’s judging me.  So I don’t like being helped by her when I cook – not sure why but I just like to try it on my own so I can learn.

OK, back to my other story.  So at some point of this wing cooking process, Jenna tries to help.  I’m sure I was screwing everything up in my inebriated state and she really only was trying to help.  The actual events still to this day I cannot remember, but Jenna stepping in set me off.  I remember shouting, screaming, and yelling.  I recall bits and pieces, but it wasn’t pleasant – definitely not one of my finer moments.  That was the last thing I remember.

I wake up on the couch in the middle of the night; everything is spinning and I need to lie back down.  So I head up to bed and Jenna’s not there.  “She must be sleeping in the bedroom in the basement,” I tell myself.  The next morning I woke up with the most god awful hangover.  I say it’s bad because I rarely, if ever, get a hangover.  (I’m one of those people that usually can drink all night then be up at 6am like the night never happened – trust me all sorts of people hate me for it).  Jenna is gone, she’s nowhere in the house. Where can she be?  My friend Andrew calls me and picks me up to take me to the gym of all places.  Apparently I called him the night before and he knew things went wrong and he wanted to get me out of the house.  I figure out that things must have been really bad, I mean Jenna has never left before, so I knew she finally called my bluff and had enough.  The feeling in the pit of my stomach was growing by the second.  I pushed away the only person that has been there from start to finish, my best friend, my wife.

I finally decided it was time to look in the mirror – I had a problem.  I could not deal with the failure and I was slowly ruining my marriage, and we finally hit our breaking point.  I need help.

I made a phone call and got the number to our Employee Assistance Program and made an appointment to meet with a counselor on Tuesday.  My encounter with him was not the best, as we didn’t really click, but I made a follow up appointment with a new counselor, a female.  (It sounds weird but as a man I can usually relate better about ‘feelings’ with a woman as opposed to a man).  I started meeting with her once a week to go through my problems, my struggles, and what to do with them.  It was a combination of dealing/coping with failure, handling my anger, and expressing myself that she taught me the most.  I went on to see my counselor for the next couple of months as I worked through these issues.  To this day, I don’t know where I would be without her, as she truly helped me get through the deepest, darkest place I have ever been to.  She taught me how to accept failure.  She taught me how to control my anger.  She taught me how to express myself when things weren’t going according to plan.  For those of you who think counseling is overrated, I can first hand confirm that it works wonders if you are ready to change.  The first step is accepting and understanding that you need help – but you really do have to make a conscious effort to change your lifestyle, your demeanor, your attitude.

In the meantime, Jenna came back to the house a couple of days later, and we started to talk.  Our relationship was on the fritz, and I needed to get better and show that I was better before we would ever go back to being “us”.  A week or so later she moved back in, but we were staying in different bedrooms.  That graduated to the same bed, but we were really just sleeping next to each other, not with each other.  That year, we went to Thanksgiving, Christmas Parties, and the Christmas holidays together – again to most people we were the same old John and Jenna – but really it was all still a show.

Finally, a couple months had passed and our relationship was starting to rebuild.  By early 2015, we were back to being John and Jenna.  I got the help that I needed and I got my wife back.  We were ready to try alternative options to have children.  Jenna was ready a year ago, but I was finally ready to try whatever it was that I needed to so we could reach our dream of having a family.

Excuses Galore

Post by Jenna:

Pardon the interruption, but I couldn’t hold in my side of this whirlwind of a journey any longer. Most of you that know me may be surprised to know it lasted this long! Ha! I’ll be adding bits and pieces from time to time so bear with me.

June 2009

I’ll go ahead and begin my story around our first anniversary where our serious conversations about kids first began. We decided to take a relaxed approach and just pull the goalie. This could be fun! Being the planner that I am, I began filing ideas as to how to surprise John and tell him that we’re pregnant. This is pre-Pinterest, so I just start coming up with random things, with nothing set in stone. I love surprises and just the thought of being able to come up with clues that said “We’re going to have a baby!” was bringing me joy. Immediately, I went to Wal-Mart and began perusing the baby aisles. Being a teacher in a small town, you had to be careful with stuff like that. That’s how rumors start, after all. Naturally, I ran into someone I know right smack dab in the middle of that baby section. I don’t remember what BS excuse I gave Dawn in that aisle, but I’m just glad I hid the “I love Daddy” bib I picked up under the his and hers composition journals. I wanted to make sure we each would journal every second of our pregnancy.

A few months came and went along with my monthly visitor tagging right along. Eeeehhhh. We’re not trying, I keep telling myself. We’re just not preventing. If it happens, it happens, Right? This is when my internal excuses really began.  I’m stressed. We’re moving to Miami at this point so we’re trying to sell our house. I’m teaching, coaching and getting my master’s degree. I’m trying to get over the fact that instead of accepting my tenure, I’m handing in my resignation. How am I going to adjust to life away from my mom!? Excuses were overflowing so I shrugged it off. We’re young, right!?

June 2010

Fast forward a few months and my excuses continue. Only this time, John and I had lived in different states for 6 months and the timing of my trips just weren’t right. Logical excuse this time, right? Well, and now that we’re living in South Florida—let’s just live it up.  I was still getting paid through the summer as well as working part time at a job I loved. Thanks, Amanda! That job allowed us to travel and live life to the fullest while we were in Florida knowing that we would be heading back to Illinois at the end of December to live in Peoria. While each month came and went with no signs of pregnancy, our relationship had grown and our marriage was flourishing. I was the happiest I had ever been; however, there was only one thing missing.

June 2011-2014

I’m going to go ahead and lump a few years together. We’re settled in Peoria. Hope comes and goes each month with my period. I find an OBGYN so when I get pregnant, I don’t have to switch Drs. I mention our situation and immediately he wants an ultrasound and writes a prescription for a semen sample analysis.  I attend my ultrasound and everything seems normal; however, the prescription for the semen analysis remained untouched. I start to extensively chart my basal temp each morning, chart my cycles, and take a few months of home ovulation kits.  Everything seems normal, except my sleeping patterns at this point. This couldn’t be some sort of issue with John, could it? Excuses continue to flow. It is John’s travel with work. Timing isn’t right. I’m not doing something right. Why aren’t we pregnant!? I thought I’d have my first child around 24 and now I’m nearly 30. Something needs to be done. Tension starts to grow, relationship begins to dwindle, and the unspoken truth is avoided.

Feb 2014

I again get an ultrasound from my OBGYN and again a semen analysis is ordered for John, yet this time he complies.  For whatever reason there is not sperm in his ejaculate and because of his age they deem the sample inconclusive and request he see an urologist. Let me tell you about the first time we walk into the urologist’s office.  I honestly didn’t know what to expect but I can tell you what happened next, wasn’t it.  Dr comes in, starts to ask about our story and asks John to stand up, and drop his drawers.  John looks at me like WTF, but it’s too late. The Dr goes in for the kill and I have “OMG I had no idea that was going to happen” look on my face, I’m trying to hold back my awkward fill the silence laughter and thinking John might divorce me after this appointment. The next diagnosis came back with zero sperm, with treatment of Tshots and clomid and that’s when our world was flipped upside down.

The world at that point for me wasn’t over. So, John doesn’t have sperm. That doesn’t mean we can’t have kids. This treatment will work and if it doesn’t, there are plenty of other ways in my mind. John didn’t quite feel the same way.  When he got the call, he shut down. Shut down hard. We talked and cried for a few hours the night the diagnosis came back. I felt like I was being 100% supportive at the time, so when all the sudden John doesn’t show up for work the next day and flees town without notice, I couldn’t help but think I did something wrong.  Was it me being too optimistic? I mean I know I always find the positive in situations, but had I gone too far? What did I do that was so upsetting? What did I say? Why am I being punished for this? Why is he leaving me because of this? This news is upsetting for me too, but why is this my fault? Last I checked we were in this together, but clearly I was wrong. When I say we faked our way through the remainder of the year, it’s no joke. Most people wouldn’t know there were any issues; however, it felt like we were more roommates than partners. Excuses on both ends need to stop. Finally in October of 2014 shit literally hit the fan, along with a plethora of excuses, and I left home for a short time for the first time ever.

First Reactions

Post by John:

I had recently done my awkward donation and was waiting on the results from the urologist office.  Jenna and I were driving to Cat Bowling League (side note: if anyone ever asks you to bowl in Cat Bowling league, say no.  I think the season starts in August and ends in May.  It takes forever).  We got a phone call, it was the nurse from the urologist office and she had a pretty simple message for me.  “Mr. Hopkins, we’ve detected a problem with your sample, we found that there is no sperm.  We’d like you to please come in for a follow up.”

‘No sperm?  How does that happen?  Does that mean I can’t have kids?  Do I still want kids if they aren’t mine?  Jenna really wants kids, should I leave her so she can find someone else to have kids with?’  Those are the thoughts running through my head all night that evening, I didn’t tell anybody or say anything to anybody – but I kept replaying everything over and over again in my head.

 

The next day, I can’t bear to go into work so I decide to work from home.  Around 3:00, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I had to get out of there, out of Peoria.  I had to forget about everything and clear my head to decide my next move.  I threw a bunch of clothes into a bag and started to drive back towards Lockport.  It’s Thursday night and all of my friends had to work, except for maybe Hutten.  He worked an odd shift so maybe there was a chance he was off tonight.  I called him and luckily he was off, so I told him I was heading up and we were going to the bar.  He knew something was off, so we get to the bar and order a drink and I lay it all on him.  There’s not really much you can say to someone in my situation, I mean Hallmark doesn’t make a ‘Sorry you can’t have kids’ sympathy card.  So instead I drowned my sorrows in the bottom of a Captain Morgan bottle.

Friday rolls around and Adam has to stay asleep to go to work that evening – so I decide to head over to Brooks’ house.  He was at work, but Monique was home with the kids so I decided to hang out with them.  Mo is one of those people that is great at listening – usually at the end of nights it ends up with her and I being the last two up and we talk for hours, so it was fun hanging out with her and the kids all day.  I also called up Gunner and let him know I was in town and he should stop by.  That night, Ryan gets home and invites over Gunner and I do a Round 2 versus that Captain Morgan bottle (you should start to see a theme here).

Saturday rolls around and I have to go to my stepdad’s surprise 50th birthday party in Lockport.  I was supposed to go early to help the DJ setup, but I wasn’t really feeling up to it (sorry Jameson).  It was an open bar, so I get another crack at that Captain Morgan that I haven’t had for about 12 or 13 hours.  Wason and Jo were there, so I got to complete my round to all my close friends to talk about everything.  Oh you know who else decided to show up?  Jenna did.  Notice how she wasn’t a part of this story until now.  She knew I left Peoria and went out of town, and figured out I was back home with some friends.  We didn’t talk much, if at all, over my long weekend home.  Even after Sunday rolled around – I stayed at Brooks’ house until as late as I could before I had to drive home.  I didn’t want to have the conversation with Jenna so I thought it was better that I hide out and wait as long as I can before we have this discussion.

So let’s do a quick recap – I get some bad news, run away, binge drink, and hide from my wife.  Yeah that about sums it up.  Not only for this weekend, but that sums up my entire 2014.

 

Jenna and I finally talk – she’s extremely supportive and says we’ll figure something out.  So we decide to go back and see the urologist.  He says that what I had is rare and there was a multitude of tests and treatments he had in mind.  First, I had to give another sample because maybe there was a false read.  Fast forward through another awkward hospital bathroom experience and the results are the same.

Second test, there was probably something blocking the path, so we had to do an ultrasound to see if there was anything in the way.  With modern medicine you would think we could do this through an MRI or an X-Ray or something, but that sure wasn’t the case.  This magic wand had to go inside to check my insides to see if there were any blockages.  I’m a guy, so guess which hole that had to go through?  I hope any guy reading this is squirming because it sounds as awful as it really was.  So I’m in my gown and in walks this beautiful nurse – you remember the one I was hoping would assist me in giving my sample?  Well here she was, in the flesh, and she tells me to lay on my side in the fetal position.  “Don’t worry, I’ll use a lot of lube,” she says.  About 45 seconds in, she tells me that this will last a few minutes and if I don’t breathe I’m going to pass out.  I learned three things this day:  1) I won’t be leaving my wife for another man.  2) I don’t ever want to be a nurse that has to do that to another human being.  3) There were no blockages – so that was not the cause of my body not creating sperm.

Third test, well this is really more of a treatment.  My FSH levels were extremely high and my testosterone was extremely low (probably why I can’t grow a beard), so the doctor thought giving my shots of testosterone would help to balance out and my body would start to generate sperm.  So I had to go to the doctor every other week for a shot of Profasi to boost my testosterone levels.  Throughout all of 2014 I kept going to the doctor for these treatments.  These started in February, and in July I gave another sample.  My testosterone levels went from about 150 up to 700, but still no sperm.  So I stayed on the shots through the end of the year.

In the meantime, Jenna and I are struggling.  On the outside, no one would know anything is wrong.  But I’m a wreck – I’m drinking a lot, I’m being extremely unbearable to live with.  Fights are the norm, I get angry about something really small like Jenna leaving her shoes in the middle of the living room and it turns into WWIII.  They say that when you’re hurting you always choose to hurt the people closest to you and that couldn’t be more accurate.  In November 2014, everything spilled over and an unfortunate event changed my life forever.  More on that next time.  Thanks for reading.

My Infertility Story – Life Before Diagnosis

Post by John:

It’s June 2016 and we’ve just shared our story with the world.  The internet is forever, right?  Well how did we get here?  Below is a recap of my life before infertility.

October 2003 – I’m a sophomore at Aurora University.  We just got back to the dorms after a party at our local baseball house.  My roommates and I invited people back to our dorm room for a dance party where this girl, Jenna Duffy, attended with some of her girlfriends.  After everyone left, my roommate took a liking to Jenna and asked me to send her an AOL Instant Message (you all remember AIM right?) to see if she wanted to come back to the room.  Well maybe it was the alcohol but I didn’t necessarily have the capability to type coherent sentences, so Jenna told me to come up to her room to talk.  “I’ll bring her back” I say to my roommate.  Spoiler Alert….  I never came back!  The story of what happened in Jenna’s room is PG at best, as we started talking about life and what we want out of life.  This girl is perfect: she’s gorgeous, has all the same interests as me, wants to start a family, and I just can’t get enough of her.  (OK I lied, she’s not perfect, no Cub fan can be considered perfect!  Ha).  All of a sudden the sun is up and we’re still talking, maybe it’s time for bed.  The next night I went back up to Jenna’s room and we again talked until the sun came up.  A few more nights of that and next thing I know we’re dating.

Fast Forward to June 2008 – Jenna and I have spent the better part of 5 years dating, we’ve both graduated college, gotten good jobs (Jenna as a 5th grade teacher at Serena Grade School, me as a Logistics Engineer at Caterpillar), gotten engaged, bought a house, and are getting married.  Sure, there were some bumps along the way, but what relationship doesn’t have its bumps and bruises?  The important thing is we always got through everything and were really happy together.  Our wedding was a blast, and happened to coincide with a White Sox vs. Cubs series.  Being huge baseball fans, we themed our wedding as a baseball theme.  The tables were named after baseball terms, everyone received peanuts and cracker jacks, we had everyone autograph a bat to commemorate the event, and we even wore baseball jerseys when introduced at the reception.  I can’t remember who won that weekend, I remember one team swept the other; you will have to ask Jenna which team came out on top.

Fast Forward to November 2009 – I received a job opportunity to join a Logistics Development program in which my first assignment will be in Miami, FL.  We’ve both spent our entire lives in Illinois, and moving to Miami was an experience that we both were looking forward to.  Jenna had to stay back with her parents to finish her Master’s program and her school year, so the first 5 months I lived on my own in Miami.  I was working crazy hours and on 3rd shift, so I didn’t have too much time to myself to enjoy the experience in Miami.  In June, Jenna was able to move to Florida and I changed to 1st shift.  We were able to live up our South Florida experience doing everything from baseball and football games to trips to Orlando to airboat alligator rides to the Florida Keys to swimming with dolphins to a Caribbean cruise.  Oh yeah, and there was Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, and South beach.  Nothing is better than being 15 minutes away from the beach that you can go to all year round.   We were still young and had our whole lives ahead of us.  We knew we were moving back to Illinois at some point (all Caterpillar roads lead to Peoria, IL) and figured once we got settled back at home we’d start a family.

Fast Forward to January 2011 – My next rotation moved us to – you guessed it – Peoria, IL where we still reside today.  It was at this point where we really started thinking about having kids.  We were both 26 years old, married for 3 years, so it was time.  That’s what married people do, right?  So we tried – we didn’t do anything crazy, we just stopped “not trying” if that makes sense to you.  Each month as we didn’t get pregnant, we figured it would happen at some point.  In July 2012, I accepted a more long-term position in the area, so we purchased a house in Peoria.  We love our house, we were able to build it and got to pick out most of the features to go along with it.  Although it’s probably too much space for two people, we bought it planning on having children.  Better to grow into a house than buy a smaller house and have to move in a couple of years, so we thought.   After moving in, we tried a little bit harder to have children, but still no luck.  Jenna went to her OBGYN to get tested and everything looked to be in order with her.  It couldn’t be an issue with me could it?  I have ten siblings, and a ridiculous amount of cousins.  Cousins of mine on both sides have had kids – so it would seem like my genes wouldn’t have any problems.  I figured it must be a timing thing and it would happen according to God’s plan for us.

Finally, in January 2014 Jenna convinced me to go get tested.  For those of you who haven’t ever had to give a semen analysis, let me let you in on a little secret…..  it’s really awkward!  I go to the hospital and they bring me back to this waiting area.  Finally they call my name and this woman gives me a cup and tells me they will take me back so I can give my sample.  I envisioned some sort of room with some privacy, and I also joked with Jenna that there would probably be all sorts of videos and magazines and probably a really attractive nurse to lend a hand if I needed it.  But that wasn’t my luck, they stuck me in a bathroom that was roughly 3ft x 3ft and sat right outside the nurse’s break area.  So I’m sitting in this really tight room and I can hear the nurses gossiping and chatting about their day like there wasn’t even a closed door between us.  If I could hear them so easily, I assume they could hear me just as easily.  So there I sit with this empty cup, and well you know the rest.  Let’s just say it wasn’t the most fun experience I’ve ever had.

A few weeks later we get the results and it’s not at all what I was expecting.  Our journey towards infertility was about to begin….

Birdies for Babies Application

We started this blog after being selected as the 2016 beneficiaries of the Birdies for Babies Golf Outing.  The application tells the story of how we got here.  Throughout you will hear from both of us as we recap the past and talk about our future as we continue our battle with infertility.

Thanks for reading.

John and Jenna Hopkins

Birdies for Babies Application

Jenna and I have been together for 13 years, married for the last 8. About 7 years ago, we decided to stop “preventing” ourselves from having kids.  We figured we’d quit birth control and we’d get pregnant in a couple months.  It can’t be that hard, right?  After two years had come and gone with monthly disappointment, Jenna went to her OBGYN to make sure everything was in working order and to see if there was anything physically standing in the way of conceiving.  Everything checked out, but they had ordered a test to have me evaluated and follow up with an Urologist.  Results were inconclusive, but after another round of tests/exams it was discovered that my body does not create sperm.

Following the azoospermia diagnosis, I went through about 12 months of testosterone shots hoping that a boost in testosterone would help. In addition they looked to see if there were blockages or other causes in my body’s lack of sperm. All non-invasive attempts failed, and the only other option would be to do a testicular biopsy. The hope here was that they could find some sperm at the source and extract it from me to use for IVF; however, chances of there being any sperm in the testes, we were told, was very slim to none.  Due to the intensive surgery required in addition to our insurance not covering any form of infertility treatment, we chose not to go down this option. It was at this point that I had to accept that I would never be able to produce a biological child of my own.

We still wanted to follow our dream of having children, so in early 2015 we decided we would look into other options. We attended a clinic with Sher Fertility Institute in Peoria to learn more about the options that were available to us.  After listening to our options and figuring out of pocket costs, we chose to try IUI with donor sperm. We hoped and prayed that IUI would work as nothing was wrong with Jenna and that was initially a much cheaper option to go with.

We spent countless hours choosing the perfect donor and made our purchase. After three failed IUI attempts over a 4 month period we decided to take a break for a month and try one last time with our last sperm vial we had purchased. We decided to increase our chances by changing the medication that Jenna was on, even though it was at a greater cost. This posed a higher risk of multiples, but also gave us a higher percentage of conception. In the end, this last effort again did not work.

We have now arrived at our last option, being IVF with donor sperm. We have just started trying to save for the treatment, but we’re struggling to make a dent in the huge amount of money we need to save. We just recently received our quote for IVF with one cycle along with medication being in the $23K range with two cycles being around $36K.  These costs are in addition to the $15-20K out of pocket for the various testing, treatments, medications, and trials we’ve already had to do. We had just paid off all of our outstanding bills only to get an additional $600 in the mail this past May. Once we pay off the last bill then we will be back to square one.

We currently live in Peoria, IL due to our jobs, but I am originally from Lockport and Jenna is from Sheridan.  We met each other in college at Aurora University.  We both have good jobs, a beautiful home and we generally live a nice, simple, and happy life.  Due to our insurance not covering anything, coming up with the money for these treatments has been a challenge. We’ve managed so far but after four failed IUI attempts, our baby fund is exhausted to date.  Our whole relationship has consisted of discussions around starting a family, what we would name our kids and how they would be raised, but at this point actually achieving that feels far out of reach.  So many of our family and friends have kids and as much as I love holding their 2 week old infant or playing baseball with their toddler or taking older kids to the museum or the zoo – I really want to be able to be able to do these things with one of my own. Struggling with infertility is very daunting and often not understood by many unless you or a loved one has gone through it. If you selected us for your outing we would be forever grateful and would help support the cause in the future not only to help other couples in our situation, but to raise awareness as well. Please help us make our dreams come true.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

John & Jenna Hopkins

Learn more about Birdies for Babies at http://www.golfinvite.com/bfb