The Cole Creation
In every life there are those days that stand out above the rest. Some you hope to remember, and some you’ll never forget. In my life, one of those days was a cold Sunday in October of 2007. For some reason Kolette and I had our future family on the brain, and with the help of my PDA, we went back and forth writing our current feelings about the subject during our church services.
It was a subject we’d broached before, but things were significantly different now. We’d gone through the process of artificial insemination on three different occasions between 1995 and 1996. Each attempt left its own scar on our hearts.
When you go through artificial insemination much of the work is trying to regulate the woman’s cycle. So we knew exactly what happened on each exact day. We knew that 14 days after insemination, Kolette would either have her period or be pregnant. The 14th day would mean our dream finally coming true or another heartache. I remember going to work on each of the three “14th days” praying that I wouldn’t get a call from Kolette. For, I knew that the only reason she would call was if her period had come. Each of the three times some time during that 14th day Kolette did call, distraught and disappointed would tell me she wasn’t pregnant.
It was a difficult and frustrating emotional roller coaster. But, we wanted children, and in the program we were a part of we had to do artificial insemination before we could move into in vitro even though our odds were decidedly better working in in vitro. Needless to say we were ready and excited to move into in vitro where we felt our chances would be much greater.
Then, in November 1997 I was involved in a serious car accident. The car accident caused me to be in the hospital for the following 13 consecutive months, which were followed themselves by another 10 years of hospitalization, surgery and therapy. During that time, although our hearts yearned for children, we were in absolutely no position to make that kind of commitment. I was ill for the majority of those 11 years and Kolette was responsible for much of my needs. We knew there was no way we could care for a child when I required so much help myself.
In late 2006 my physiatrist (a physician that specializes in physical medicine and rehabilitation) recommended that I get an internal pump to offset some of the pain medication that my situation necessitated. This was the blessing we needed. The pump allowed the fog that the pain medication had put me in to be lifted. Kolette notice the difference straightaway. I think my first realization of the significance of the change was when I was sitting in church and a little boy turned to me and said, “Hey, your eyes are open.” I asked him what he meant, and he told me that usually during church my eyes were closed.
I had no idea that the change was as dramatic as it was. But with my mind finally clear my ability to participate in a life substantially increased. Not to mention the help the additional energy was to my overall health. In addition, my surgeries began to subside and for the first time since the accident I was working to get better simply to get better versus getting better in order to be healthy enough to endure another surgery. Our lives began to change and I began to become more independent.
This brings us back to the conversation on that cold October Sunday. We drove home from church in silence. Both of us were thinking about the feelings that had been expressed on the PDA. We pulled in to the parking stall in front of our apartment. I put the car in park and turned off the engine. Normally, we both would have started getting out of the van. But we just sat there. The silence broke when we turned to each other and said, “I think it’s time to try again.”
Kolette and I were shocked and surprised at the others response.We both began to cry as we worked to inquire if the other was really sure. I was especially concerned about this. I knew that I felt ready, but I also knew who the brunt of this responsibility would fall on. I was dedicated to be supportive and doing my part, but because of my paralysis the day-to-day care was going to be Ko’s to take care of. We were scared but assured.
That cold Sunday in late ’07 sitting in my handicapped accessible van we made our decision. We would try and see if we could have a family.
The decision had been made. Kolette and I were on the same page and prepared to move forward. We were excited and I thought somewhere in 2008 we would begin finding out more about what the process entailed.
At the time our good friends the Cranes were in the midst of the in vitro process themselves. In the past we would casually ask them about how the process was going for them and what they were doing. Now, I noticed a difference in the questions Kolette was asking and in the seriousness of those questions. She was no longer just asking casual questions to be nice, she was on a fact-finding mission.
Kolette found out everything about the process, the cost, the clinic they used, and the doctor they chose. I think from the first time we heard about Dr. Heiner and the Reproductive Care Clinic (RCC) in Sandy, Utah we felt good about working with them. I liked that we were getting information but felt we were simply preparing ourselves for moving forward sometime the following year.
I was again reminded about the way Kolette makes decisions. She spends a lot of time deliberating and discussing but once she’s decided–she’s done; and she had decided that she was ready to move forward now. I too was excited about everything but the “now” part. I didn’t feel well at the time and my poor health kept me from wanting to move ahead with the same vigor.
In June of that same year a bug bite had given me a septic bursa in my left elbow. I had a minor surgery and a few “in office” procedures to rectify the problem but still didn’t feel well.
Even though I was wondering when the right time to actually move forward was, Kolette knew that the right time was now. I’ll never forget the day she returned home from visiting the RCC with the pile of paperwork requisite to begin IVF. I asked her if we needed to finish the paperwork to start next year. She told me we didn’t need to finish the paperwork to start next year, but instead the paperwork was to start the process immediately.
I told her of my concerns about my health and we sat down to see if we could resolve them. As we spoke, Kolette brought up the fact that although I was experiencing a little health “hiccup” 2007 was the first year that I hadn’t spent a night in the hospital and my health was generally as good as it’d been since before the accident. Looking at things through this perspective instead of viewing them through the pain and lack of strength I was feeling helped me get squarely back on board. With concerns resolved we continue to move forward.
Before we even began we knew our situation was unique. I don’t think that we realized how unique until we began to fill out the paperwork. The majority of the questions didn’t even apply, or required answers longer than the page the question was on. We provided the best information we could and then, in order to paint the most accurate picture possible, we attached a cover letter that went through the specifics and complete detail of our medical, social due to the fact I was a quadriplegic and had such extensive surgical and health issues over last 10 years.
With the paperwork submitted the next step was to meet with Dr. Heiner. We set the appointment and waited for the day to arrive. Finally we found ourselves in his office hoping to qualify for a chance to try and have a family.
The nurse brought us back to Dr. Heiner’s office and invited us to sit across the desk from the doctor. Dr. Heiner, who had already completely reviewed our paperwork, looked up and asked us one question. He inquired, “How do you keep the faith?” I can tell you with complete certainty that of all the questions we expected this was not on the list. We replied, “”We just keep going and watch for the miracles that happen along the way.”
Then he asked us what we do when we don’t get the miracles we want. It was obvious that he was asking a question generally with reference to our lives, and specifically with reference to the miracle we were there to inquire about. In response we told him that we believed if we watch closely enough we could not only see miracles consistently happened but we could see how those miracles were right for us. He smiled and asked us how he could help us see if we could make this miracle happen.
It was at that moment Kolette and I knew we were in the right place.
We asked our questions and sure about the direction we were moving signed up to be a part of his next “batch.” At the RCC they put each doctor’s group of patients on the same schedule and call it a “batch.” That way everyone is doing the same things at the same time during the course of one cycle.
Kolette began what was required of her to get us in this batch. There were shots to help her ovaries provide more eggs and hormones to increase her uterus’ ability to capture the fertilized egg. None of it was fun but all that was necessary and Kolette move forward with her usual positive outlook.
Then, just before Thanksgiving 2007 we found out that my elbow wasn’t healing. In fact, things had gotten worse; much worse. I was going to require an additional surgery and six weeks of hospitalization. On Monday after Thanksgiving I was admitted. In my first week at the hospital my one surgery turned into two and I contracted MRSA (a type of staph infection).
We had to postpone our place in the “batch” and the concern I had before about whether or not we were ready “now” because of my health was heightened times ten. 2007 was supposed to be the first year since 1997 where I didn’t spend a day in the hospital and now here I was three weeks into a six-week stay.
I began to be filled with all kinds of self-doubt. I began to wonder if my health would ever allow me to be a dad. Frustrated, tired, and sick of being sick one night in tears,I shared my fear with Kolette.
Ko slid next to me in my hospital bed, put her arm around me, and began to gently talk with me. She spent an hour telling me about how she believed in my ability to be a father. She spoke to me about how this issue with my elbow was different from my previous health issues, how it could happen to anyone and wasn’t just another extension of the car accident that I was still trying to get over – it was an isolated incident. She reminded me of how good things were in our lives and how much more present I was able to be in our life together – and most of all, that we could do this.
In an hour I became sure of two things. First, that we should be a part of Dr. Heiner’s next “batch” and second, that I had married an incredible woman.
In order to be a part of Dr. Heiner’s next “batch” we had to get started right away, before I was even released from the hospital. As instructed, Kolette began to take birth control. Now it may seem odd to start birth control when you want to try to have a baby. But, at the Reproductive Care Clinic (RCC) they want to have all the women in the same group or “batch” doing everything at the same time. This means regulating menstrual cycles. The best way to do this is to start everyone on birth control which will in turn allow every woman to have their period around the same time.
The doctors use this time to gather a lot of other information as well. Blood tests, ultrasounds, and exams are all done to establish a baseline. Kolette had to go to the RCC to get her work done. Since I was already in a hospital giving blood and getting examined a number of times each day they just threw my tests in with the battery of exams I was already getting.
A week after I was released from the hospital Kolette began daily shots of Lupron mixed with FSH. Lupron and FSH are drugs that stimulate the ovaries forcing more follicles to produce more eggs. These are shots from a little tiny syringe that Kolette would give herself each day in her belly much like a diabetic would administer insulin. Kolette didn’t have any experience giving shots and was frankly a little nervous to do so. The RCC was prepared for this and had a class where the woman could take her partner and they could both learn the procedure together. This way, if there was a question or need for a helping hand both parties knew exactly what was going on. Unfortunately for Kolette, the class was held while I was still in the hospital, so, when the time came for Kolette to give herself the shots I was not only unable to help physically but I didn’t have much knowledge to bring to the fore either. A hearty “Go Kolette” was really all I brought to the table.
Continual blood draws and examinations brought us to the 29th of January, 2008. This was our big day. They would harvest eggs from Kolette, gather the sperm from me, and if all went well we would finish the day with fertilized embryos. You’re encouraged to make this time a period of low stress.
In true Jason and Kolette fashion the 29th also ended up being the day we were to close on our new home. Obviously we were going to be busy on the 29th so we asked the title company to move the closing to the 30th. Dr. Heiner thought this was an interesting way to keep “low stress”. To his credit, he was just getting to know us and didn’t yet understand that we just don’t do “low stress”.
We went into the RCC early that morning. In the clinic they have two little operating rooms. We would be in the rooms simultaneously. This meant I was going to need extra help getting onto the table in the OR. The staff was a little surprised when we bought a 22-year-old aide with us to what was traditionally a fairly private procedure.
Kolette went into her operating room, my aide helped me into mine, and we were off. During the hours we spent at the RCC that day Kolette’s parents and one of my three aides waited in the waiting room.
Kolette’s procedure was both standard and simple when it comes to IVF. Despite being 37 years old and considered “high risk,” her ovaries had cooperated and the doctor was able to harvest nine eggs. This was fantastic! Nine eggs! Nine eggs would give us nine chances to try and begin our family.
True to form however, my procedure was neither standard nor simple. Although we had had some success getting sperm in more “natural” ways before, the doctor felt that because of issues with motility and mobility a procedure called TESA (testicular sperm aspiration) was our best option. During this procedure the doctor would take a needle, insert in directly into my testicle and procure the sperm.
I have to admit I cringed a little bit when I first heard him describe the idea (frankly, talking about it now still makes me cringe a bit), but this was for a family. Most of what Kolette had gone through was no picnic either and we had decided we’d do whatever it took–and at least with the help of an anesthesiologist I’d be asleep.
They hooked me up to the anesthesia and I went to sleep in the same way I had for so many other surgeries. When I woke up however, I was still in the OR. The doctor asked me a few basic questions to make sure that the anesthesia had worn off. Once he was confident I was comprehending what he was saying, he proceeded to tell me that there was a problem.
Contrary to the tests that had been done before, the sperm that were retrieved by the procedure were dead and useless. My heart sank. I felt so sure this was going to work.
The doctor said that there was one more option. He began to explain that the procedure was rare, painful and maybe not worth the risk. Before he even finished the sentence or told me what the it entailed, I looked him in the eye and said, “Let’s do it!”
Dr. Heiner asked if I could let him explain it first and then decide. I told him that he could explain the procedure, but that there was nothing to decide. True to his word he explained that the new procedure meant taking a biopsy of my testicle to see if they could get any sperm from the biopsy. He told me that based on how the TESA went my odds weren’t good. True to my word I said, “Lets do it.”
Our real dedication to making this work was showing through. Just before he’d come to ask me about continuing with the second procedure, the doctor asked Kolette what she thought. Kolette told him, “ It’s Jason’s decision, because it’s his body. But I already know that he will want to do whatever is necessary, so don’t be surprised when he says yes.” We weren’t just dipping our toes in the IVF pool–we’d jumped in headfirst.
The anesthesiologist put me back under and about an hour later I woke to better news–not much better, but better. The doctor said the sperm weren’t dead but they weren’t really moving either. He said that they would know more in a few hours but the chances that the sperm were viable or small. There was nothing more to do but wait.
Kolette and I went out to her parents. We were all a little confused. Everyone in our inner circle had prayed so hard and felt so good about a positive result, and yet everything that happened seemed to speak to the contrary. Kolette and I went home to an empty apartment a little saddened by the news, but resolved to have faith. We both believe in a God that loves us and wants only the best for us. That afternoon we decided to accept God’s will happily; whatever that meant.
Because of our unique situation everyone at the RCC, from the receptionist to Dr. Heiner come had become a little extra emotionally involved in our case. Leaving, we felt that they may actually be as sad as we were. While we went home to wait, the people at the Reproductive Care Center watched for movement. Later we were told that around four o’clock that afternoon one of the nurses came into the main commons area at the doctors office and announced excitedly, “They’re twitching!” We got a call that night at 6pm that through a procedure called ICSI (where they use a tiny needle to insert the sperm directly into the egg) they had been able to potentially fertilize all nine eggs. They told us that we would have to wait until the next morning to find out if any of the eggs became fertilized yielding actual embryos.
There have been many nights in our life together where Kolette and I have prayed for a miracle. But, it’s hard for me to remember a night when we prayed harder than that night. When the doctor called the next morning we were awake. As one might imagine we didn’t have a lot of sleep. Gratitude filled our hearts as we listened together to hear a choked up Dr. Heiner tell us we had seven viable embryos. No one could really believe it.
There are those people in the world who will tell you that God is dead. There are those people who will tell you the miracles don’t exist. There are those people who will tell you that so-called “miracles” are nothing more than coincidence and chance. I know they’re wrong. Those two days were filled with enough miracles to last me a lifetime. If I ever question the existence of a being who loves and cares for me I simply have to remember that day–the day when He allowed the impossible to become possible.
We weren’t out of the woods yet. But we are closer than we had ever been before. Although Kolette was not yet pregnant we now had seven chances to get her there. Seven shots at having a family. Seven shots at having our dreams come true.
Once you have a viable embryo then you have to decide when you’re going to insert the embryo into the uterus. There are two big decisions when it comes to implanting the embryos. The first big decision is whether you do a three day or a five day transfer. The benefit to the three day option is that the embryo ends up where nature intended it earlier. The benefit to the five day option is that the doctors get to watch the embryo continue to grow helping to know which embryos are the most viable.
The second big decision is how many of the embryos you want to implant. Obviously any embryo that is implanted could eventually become a child. You have to take that into account. However, in most cases that doesn’t happen so you have to weigh your decision. The more embryos to implant the better your odds to have a child. However, the more embryos to implant the better your odds that you’ll have more than one child. So, you’ll back and forth wanting to increase your odds and be responsible all at the same time.
As Dr. Heiner watched our embryos grow he felt that a three-day transfer would be most prudent. He also told us that Kolette’s age put her in a “high risk” category and so he would allow us to implant up to three embryos if we chose to.
Kolette and I talked long and hard as we worked to make the decision of how many embryos to implant. We eventually decided to implant three. Dr. Heiner felt that three gave us a good chance for one, a small chance for twins, and a negligible chance for triplets.
We were prepared to have twins, in fact in some ways we hoped for it. IVF is by no means an inexpensive procedure and twins would allow us to feel content that our family was finished, allowing us to avoid going through this process again. Not to mention the fact that because of our history and lack of success in the past we were looking for any way of increase our odds to having one.
In addition, this also allowed us the opportunity to still freeze four embryos which depending on how this round went would give us the option to try again.
The day after the egg retrieval Dr. Heiner had Kolette start taking doses of progesterone to increase her body’s ability to accept the embryo. He told her that she could either get the progesterone through painful, intramuscular, shots twice a day or through a suppository. You don’t have to be very bright to figure out which of the two options Kolette chose.
On February 1, 2008 Kolette and I were back at the RCC for the implantation. One of the great things about the Reproductive Care Center is that they have everything under one roof. They do the extraction, the insemination, the insertion and all the cryogenics right there. It makes it really easy and convenient. Kolette and I went into one of the operating rooms. This time however, I was just a spectator. The doctors in the lab brought out a picture of the three embryos we were inserting along with little test tube carrying that special cargo. Dr. Heiner implanted the embryos and 15 minutes later the whole process was over. Now came the hardest part of all–the wait.
The next two weeks felt like two years. We felt like the days went in slow motion. We tried to think about and talk about other things, but in the end we both always knew that the only thing on the other’s mind was whether or not we were going to be pregnant.
During this time Kolette and I made a decision that impacts us today as much as it did back then. We decided that we would be grateful for the miracles that we had been able to witness through this incredible journey regardless of the result. As we prayed together daily we thanked our Father in Heaven for the blessings that we had received through this process. I wish I could say it took some of the sting out of Dr. Heiner’s call.
We picked up the phone to hear what was clearly a disappointed doctor’s voice tell us that Kolette wasn’t pregnant; that the embryos hadn’t taken. Kolette had begun spotting two days earlier and so we knew there was a chance this news would be bad. But, we’d read on the Internet that spotting didn’t necessarily mean a negative result. We done our best to keep our hopes high but now that hope was dashed.
We hung up the phone and cried. It was like we went into mourning. We had lost something so precious to us before it was even five days old. Our hearts were broken. Through the tears we reminded each other on the miracles we’d seen and the wonders we’d witnessed. We also took heart in the fact that we still had four embryos cryogenically frozen. Although we were disappointed and wondered if we would ever have success, we still had four chances to make our dream come true.
After allowing ourselves a little time to be frustrated at our lack of success (at our house you get an hour, and then you have to move on. For more information click here) we decided to press forward. We call Dr. Heiner’s office to let him know that we wanted to begin our “frozen cycle” as soon as possible.
There are some real benefits to doing a “frozen cycle” over a standard cycle. First of all, there is a significantly lower cost. Second, you already know you have embryos waiting.
It wasn’t long until Kolette was giving herself a little shocked her belly again. Previously, those shots were filled with both FSH and Lupron. This time she didn’t need the FSH to stimulate her ovaries, but did need the Lupron to prepare her uterine lining. In addition, she also needed the progesterone to prepare her body to be pregnant.
During our first try Kolette got the progesterone by way of a suppository. This eliminated the need for more shots that would have to be intramuscular from bigger (and more scary) needle. On our second attempt Dr. Heiner told us that although all the data dictated that the suppository was just as effective as the intramuscular medicine, he wasn’t completely convinced. The suppository was a new less painful option, but the shots were tried and true. We accepted his recommendation and Kolette prepared herself for shots twice daily.
To say she was a little leery of the tiny shots in her belly would be no exaggeration. You can imagine then the excitement she felt about the proposition of shots from a larger needle, twice a day in her thigh or hip.
Kolette thought long and hard about those intramuscular shots. Most women have their spouses give them the shot each day but for us, that wasn’t an option. I offered but, the lack of movement in my hands made her less than excited to take me up on the offer. Kolette had found the strength to give herself the little shots but felt unsure about her ability to give herself these larger intramuscular shots.
We were in the process of moving to our new home an hour away. We didn’t know anyone in our new neighborhood and didn’t have any family close enough to help either. Every day we tried to come up with a viable solution that we could feel good about to keep Kolette from having to give herself the shots.
In the end, after a great deal of thought Kolette decided to gather together all her courage and give herself the shots. She practiced at the doctor’s office with a syringe filled with sailne. She took a deep breath, stuck the needle in her hip, and injected the sailne–just like the nurse had instructed. I watched her take that same deep breath every time she gave herself those shots. She counts this achievement as a great personal triumph.
About two weeks before the actual embryo transfer Dr. Heiner scheduled Kolette for a “trial transfer.” He said he would use this trial transfer to essentially map out her uterus. This way, on transfer day, he would know exactly where he was heading. He felt that on the first transfer he wasn’t able to place the embryos in the best place to allow them to take. He did the trial transfer and fell to the results were fantastic. Now, although he still couldn’t be sure of the result, he was sure that on transfer day he could put the embryos right in the “sweet spot.”
On May 28, 2008 we went back to the RCC to transfer the frozen embryos. We knew that some embryos simply don’t make it through the thaw. That morning, just before the transfer, Dr. Heiner came in to let us know where we stood.
He told us that in order for an embryo to be considered viable at least half of its cells have to endure the cryogenic thaw. He said of all four, two seemed a viable. Of the four embryos one came out with seven of eight cells still alive. One was seven out of seven still alive. Another was two of eight alive, and the last had two of five living. Therefore, his recommendation was to implant the 7/8 and 7/7. I told him that two out of five was almost half and wondered if it didn’t make sense to implant that one as well. When I did, Kolette mentioned that she had a special feeling about that 2/5 embryo. He said it couldn’t do any harm and so that morning he implanted three of the four embryos.
Just as before, Dr. Heiner told us that our best chance for success laid in having Kolette endure the least amount of stress. We told him that wouldn’t be a problem. The only thing we had coming up was an assignment to be in charge of program called Especially For Youth where we would oversee twelve hundred 14-18 year olds at Brigham Young University (BYU) for a week long camp. Remembering that during the first transfer we closed on our home he told us we had an interesting idea of low stress.
We left his office and went home with hearts filled with prayer and nervous too hope.
On June 11, 2008 Kolette left our youth camp at BYU in Provo, Utah and drove up to Salt Lake City to complete her pregnancy blood test. She came back to BYU and our wait began. During our previous try, the doctor’s phone call came around noon. This time noon passed with no word. We worked to keep hope alive but as the hours passed it became more and more difficult.
At three o’clock I was sitting in a meeting in the Wilkinson Center on campus at BYU. The meeting was to review what happened with the youth in our care over the past 24 hours. It was something that happened every day of this camp at BYU.
The Wilkinson Center is a building that holds a lot of history for Kolette and I. When I was student body president at BYU, Kolette (who also was substantially involved in student government) and I spent the majority of our spare time in that building. Every corner and every room seems to hold one memory or another for us. When the call came from Dr. Heiner then, because of our history in that building Kolette knew exactly where to find me.
She pulled me from my meeting, and in a quiet corner of this building we loved so much, with her iPhone on speaker, we heard Dr. Heiner tell us the words we’d waited 16 years to hear–Kolette was pregnant.
I have not the talent nor the fortitude to describe the emotions we felt in that moment. What I can say however, is that my heart was filled with a joy that has rarely been mine to experience. After hanging up we hit our spiritual needs and thanked our Heavenly Father for the blessing of a lifetime. Our hearts were filled with a gratitude and thanksgiving that was unique to us in our lives.
Two weeks later we sat in Dr. Heiner’s office and through an internal ultrasound heard and saw Cole’s heartbeat for the first time. Tears streamed down my face as we interacted with this little life for the first time.
Now, Kolette and I wait with great anticipation to meet this little boy. We are excited to get to know his personality. We wonder often about what his hopes and dreams will be. We hope that he receives each good and righteous desire of his heart. We pray daily for his health and happiness.
We are amazed at the connection we have this little spirit and can’t wait for him to get here.