Written By: Women & Infants Fertility Center on October 5, 2016
Doreen and Kirk Kenfield are crazy about their son Reece. “He’s our whole world,” they say enthusiastically to anyone who asks. But what many of their friends may not know is that Doreen and Kirk endured hardship, a long journey of strife and IVF treatment to get to be as happy as they are today.
The couple from Montana met in physician assistant school and got married in 2010.
“Two years after we got married, we took our honeymoon vacation in 2012,” says Doreen.
After they returned from their honeymoon, Doreen took out her IUD (intrauterine device) birth control.
“I never got a period, so I saw an ob/gyn to see what was going on,” says Doreen. “My doctor’s husband was a reproductive specialist so she had the lab do some blood work to check on my fertility.”
Doreen found out that her hormones were low – estradiol (estrogen), FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone). Her ovarian reserve was also low. Doreen had amenorrhea (absence of a menstrual period) and a hypogonadism problem, which meant that Doreen’s pituitary was not signaling her ovaries as it should.
With this diagnosis, Doreen went to the only reproductive specialist in Billings, Montana, and began her fertility treatments with intrauterine insemination (IUI).
“We did three cycles of IUI with no success. However, he had also put me on birth control so I could have a period.”
Since her uterine lining was thin, the doctor surmised that Doreen’s IUD could have gotten stuck to her uterine lining. They took her into the operating room in June 2013.
“I had a diagnostic hysteroscopy and they found adhesions from the IUD. While they were removing the adhesions they perforated my uterus,” says Doreen. “They converted the surgery to a laparoscopy and had to sew the perforation.”
After Doreen recovered, she tried two more cycles of IUI and both were unsuccessful. When her doctor suggested in vitro fertilization (IVF), Doreen had some hesitations about IVF treatment. This led her to reach out to her mother-in-law, a nurse practitioner at Women & Infants Hospital. After this conversation, Doreen and Kirk decided to call Dr. Carol Wheeler at Women & Infants Fertility Center for a second opinion.
Dr. Wheeler thought Doreen hadn’t been given enough medication or enough time to see if the treatments would work. Doreen and her husband were already planning to travel to Rhode Island to meet her mother-in-law and stepdad before departing for a vacation to Spain. At this time, they met with Dr. Wheeler.
“We really liked Dr. Wheeler,” says Doreen. “We thought she and her team were very positive and uplifting. I didn’t feel like she was blaming me for my issues.”
For example, the reproductive specialist in Billings that Doreen had been previously working with had suggested that she gain weight and implied that she wasn’t eating enough.
“We didn’t know why, but the IUD had definitely changed things,” says Doreen. “Dr. Wheeler and her team at WIFC basically said, This isn’t your fault – we can help you.”
Doreen still wasn’t sold on IVF treatment. “I didn’t know if I wanted to put my body through that … the drugs, the injections, the mood swings.”
She and Kirk had met with adoption agencies prior and she still considered that option. And there were financial concerns as her insurance wouldn’t cover IVF. They agreed to think about it while they were vacationing in Spain.
Doreen’s family encouraged the couple to try IVF, and agreed to support them. Doreen recalls her stepfather assuring her that he’d not allow finances to be an obstacle, and that he’d do whatever it took to support her as she underwent IVF treatment.
Doreen agreed to try one round of IVF with one caveat: she wanted the summer off to clear her head, do some mountain biking, and prepare – mentally and physically – for IVF in the fall.
In August 2014, Doreen and Kirk were both set to ride a 50-mile mountain bike race with 500 other riders. Competitive in nature, Doreen – miles ahead of Kirk – was found unconscious between mile 12 and 13.
Kirk, who happened to be riding with an anesthesiologist at the time, had heard that there was a rider down.
“As soon as I saw her shoes and bike, I knew it was Doreen who had gone down,” says Kirk.
As healthcare providers, Kirk and his friend assisted in stabilizing Doreen’s neck and keeping her warm, as it began to rain while emergency medical assistance arrived. The two weeks following, Doreen lost all memory of the accident and the time shortly thereafter.
“I was put on short-term disability leave from work for six weeks while I went to see a neurologist,” says Doreen.
Luckily, Doreen’s head and neck CT scans came back fine. “Two weeks later I regained my memory,” she says. “I didn’t remember the two weeks or the accident, but I did remember IVF and Rhode Island.”
Kirk was skeptical. “Okay, you just suffered a head injury and had a two-week memory loss,” Kirk remembers saying. “Are you sure you’re ready to do this?”
“Absolutely, we are doing this,” Doreen said, and she began her medications to prepare for IVF treatment.
Dr. Wheeler wanted to be sure that Doreen was okay to continue with the procedure. She warned Doreen that her head injury could make the IVF process more challenging.
“During that time, Dr. Wheeler’s IVF coordinator Teresa Correia was incredible,” says Doreen. “She gave me a lot of information throughout the process.”
“I went out to Rhode Island and felt the most relaxed I had felt in a while, ready to go through with the procedure.”
They were only able to retrieve two mature eggs, but both were inseminated using intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI). Both eggs fertilized into embryos in the lab and were transferred into her uterus in October. Two weeks later Doreen found out she was pregnant.
“It was a crazy journey,” says Doreen. “The head injury, then flying out to Rhode Island for IVF after we’d looked at adoption and all these other options. I know I’m fortunate, because I know people who have tried IVF four or five times and been unsuccessful.”
“When we felt that the stress of it all was coming between Kirk and me, we would take a break from the treatments,” says Doreen. They reminded each other that none of the fertility struggles would be worth it if they weren’t married.
“Everyone in Rhode Island was so positive,” says Doreen. “I also owe a lot to my mother-in-law who approached Dr. Wheeler, told her about our situation, and asked her if she could help.”
Doreen still keeps in contact with Dr. Wheeler and the Women & Infants Fertility Center staff and sends pictures of their son Reece.
“All of the staff was great. I remember Dr. Buster was the one who did my egg retrieval and Dr. Wheeler saw me right before that. From Dr. Brayboy to the medical secretary Jean Manfredi to embryologist Benning Cao, Doreen recalls them all fondly and feels that she and Kirk had exceptional care.
Doreen and Kirk’s son Reece is a mellow, happy-go-lucky baby, even though he ended up developing colitis at week three. Doreen had to remove milk and soy from her diet in order to breastfeed him for nine months.
“That diet sucked,” Doreen laughs. “It’s amazing what you’ll do for your child.”
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