A rollercoaster of fertility treatments made one couple a family

Parenthood was something Hejdi Feick always thought would be a part of her life. Growing up in the small community of Tantallon, Nova Scotia just outside Halifax, family was always a key aspect of her childhood.

“I don’t think this was ever a sudden realization, but a given – that I would be a mother one day.”

Hejdi is the older of two children. Her brother is just 13 months younger than her, so they were and still are very close. “We were a happy family, with parents who did everything to provide for us, instil strong work ethic and independence. We were taught there is nothing you can’t have if you work for it.”

As a teenager, Hejdi was a Girl Scout leader and worked as a babysitter, swimming instructor and a lifeguard. She was always around children. Motherhood was something that would come natural to her.

“Being part of a close family growing up taught me what it is like to be loved unconditionally,” says Hejdi, now 42. Family gave her the values and senses of security, acceptance, respect, direction and confidence through their love.

When Hejdi and her husband, Brian, were married, they wanted nothing more than to have children together – a person who was the result of their own love.

After over a year of trying to conceive a child and create that personal symbol of love, Hejdi began to feel overwhelmingly anxious. She describes this as feeling “anxious to do something about this incredibly frustrating situation, feeling I was in a race against time.”

With a gynaecologist, Hejdi underwent a laparoscopic surgery to see if there was an obvious reason for their challenges in trying to conceive. The results came back inconclusive.

To further increase her chances of conception, she had another surgical procedure to remove a polyp. There was no evidence to think the polyp was causing any issues, but it was decided that it should be removed just it case.

Still there was no success.

She and Brian were referred to the Regional Fertility Clinic in Calgary, Alta., to figure why they hadn’t been able to conceive a child, despite their year of trying.

At the time, Hejdi was 30 years old and Brain was 35. Both were considered to be healthy by their doctors.

They were diagnosed with unexplainable infertility and given no explanation for their inability to naturally conceive a child.

Hejdi says at the time of that diagnosis, she was very nervous about the costs and invasiveness of fertility treatments. She was even more anxious when she realized just how little she really knew about her own reproductive system.

To ease her mind and nerves, Hejdi dove into books and talked with other women to better understand what her options were and what she could do about her predicament.

Then she went to the fertility clinic. “The staff and doctors were wonderful. Our doctor had a gift for putting us at ease for what one would expect to be an awkward conversation. His dry quick wit was something I appreciated and somehow he managed to keep us hopeful, despite the rollercoaster we were on.”

With reassurance from the clinic and her new knowledge on infertility, the Feicks buckled up for a very difficult four-year rollercoaster ride.

“The hardest part for me was watching what Hejdi had to go through, her commitment.” Brian recalls. “It seems from my perspective that the women’s, or your partner’s, commitment is far more intensive on their bodies and as a result on their minds as well, than the guys. [I’m] not saying it was easy for me, but the hardest part for me was watching everything she had to go through.”

After three rounds of intrauterine insemination (IUI) over four months with no success, the couple started in vitro fertilization (IVF).

Hejdi remembers very well, “the day I realized what a sizeable bet we had just made.” With no guarantee of IVF working and already having spent thousands of dollars on the procedures, the stakes were very high. With Hejdi’s mind being so burdened, it hadn’t dawned on her that it might not work.

It took a number of times around the track, before she finally accepted there was little she could do to control the situation.

She began to feel the twists and turns at full speed, “you become a slave to your drug schedule, sneaking into the bathroom at work to inject yourself or waking yourself to take a certain medication at the right time.”

During 2004, the couple went through the IVF process. The couple’s first cycle of IVF was a fresh transfer, which means the embryo was fertilized and transferred without being frozen. Their second cycle was a frozen transfer and their third cycle was again a fresh transfer. There was still no success, but they remained on the ride.

It was an undeniably extremely trying time for the couple. “To put ourselves through that both psychologically and physically testing limits, it’s a very hard process. It eats up your head and for Hejdi it beat up her body,” Brian says.

A recent study done in Norway conducted just how emotionally taxing infertility experiences can be on women. The study, which analyzed 12,584 women, showed that women who were unable to achieve conception after 12 months of trying were somehow associated with greater levels of depressive symptoms.

By finding a way to disconnect and let go, realizing that she wasn’t operating the ride, Hejdi was able to relax. She became hopeful and during the next year and a half she meditated, visualized and believed.

After going through four rounds of in vitro fertilization Brain Feick was finally able to become a father to a healthy baby boy. Jack Feick was born on December 24th 2006 at 11:36 A.M., weighing 8 lbs 9 oz.

Photo courtesy of Hejdi FeickIn April of 2006, Hejdi became pregnant on her fourth round of IVF from a frozen cycle -with twins. It was time for the big loop. Reflecting back on that moment she wishes someone could have told her that it would all work out, that she should live in the moment, go to a movie without fretting about a sitter and sleep in. She is sure that people did try to tell her that, but when you’re so close to something, it isn’t so easy to hear.

At nine weeks into her pregnancy she miscarried one of the fetuses, but was able to carry one of the twins to full term.

On Dec. 24 2006, Hejdi and Brian welcomed their bundle of love into the world, a healthy baby boy.

In 2008, on her fifth cycle of IVF, a frozen transfer was able to make Hejdi pregnant for the second time, and again with twins.

Seven weeks in, Hejdi went through another miscarriage and one baby was lost. Despite this reoccurring tragedy, the family still had love to share and two days after their son’s second birthday, on Dec. 26, 2008, they welcomed a healthy baby girl into the family.

Hejdi and Brian rode the rollercoaster for four years, a true thrill for life. She estimates the total cost of her treatments was $40,000.

With their visits to the clinic part of their past, they still feel a little woozy as from the heartbreak of the miscarriages and the disappointing failed IVF attempts.

Although her last IVF treatment cycle was seven years ago, Hejdi still experiences the aftershocks of that tumultuous time, “I still bolt upright some nights with my brain scrambling to figure out what medication I may have forgotten to take, forgetting it is long behind me.”

Now, all of those feelings are replaced by the overwhelming love they have for their children and gratitude they feel for the clinic and support from their families.

After five cycles of In vitro fertilization The Brain and Hejdi Feick were able to become parents. Here the family celebrates christmas and the birth of their two children, Jack and Brooke.

Photo courtesy of Hejdi FeickThe succession of the last two IVF cycles has given the Feicks a whole new perspective on life, “I love that today I can look at my daughter’s feet – crazy long and narrow like mine with her Dad’s toes. They both have characteristics of both of us.”

“There isn’t a single favourite thing, there is many and all of them are the four of us together,” says Brian, when asked about his most coveted moments with his family. “Whether it’s skiing, mountain biking, sitting down and watching a movie or the kids sneaking in the room at 7 a.m. to snuggle with us and have a long lazy morning. There are just too many moments – the smiles on their faces when they realize they’ve done something pretty cool and their astonishment – there is just endless things.”

Hejdi acknowledges that with every injection, every poke and prod, disappointment and heartbreak, and twist and turn, that the she would absolutely do it again, without a question.

The support that Hejdi received from her family made her the proud mom she is today.

When asked what makes her such a great mom, Brian boasts, “She has endless love and support for those two kids. They are her world and she would do absolutely anything for them, to protect them and to grow them as strong-willed individuals.”

Now it is her turn to give back, “to help another couple realize the modest dream of becoming a parent.”

She is now a board member of the Regional Fertility Clinic’s charity organization “Generations of Hope.” Generations of Hope is a charity that helps create families for many couples who otherwise couldn’t fund the medical treatments it takes to become parents. In their 10 years, the charity has helped create 92 thriving families with 128 babies born and 21 on the way. Hejdi doesn’t believe that it is right that a couple’s financial situation dictates whether or not they could become parents.

She credits her children for truly inspiring her, “In their short lives they have taught me to love unconditionally, to be vulnerable, they have taught me patience and given me invaluable perspective. They are smart, funny, and as cliché as it sounds, they are the future.”

Brian agrees by adding, “I completely underestimated the growth I would go through as a result of two kids. They teach me things about myself I would have never have thought young people could teach me. For me, it’s just personal growth and understanding that these two kids have brought into my life, a new perspective.”

mwalsh@cjournal.ca 

For more information please visit IVFinCalgary