“You spend 36 years trying not to get pregnant and you think it’s so easy,” says Krisi Jenkins. “But it’s just not!”
Krisi married her husband, Chris, when she was 36 and he was 41, and they started trying to get pregnant right away. Even though she knew getting pregnant as an older woman was tougher, she had no idea of all the difficulties that were ahead for them.
Krisi became pregnant quickly, but had a miscarriage. After another year of trying without success, she didn’t exactly get encouragement from her OB-GYN.
“My OB basically told me that failure to get pregnant was probably because of my age,” Krisi recalls. “She said, ‘I could send you for testing if you want, but I don’t know that it will do anything.’ I said we’d like to at least try. That’s when we were referred to Women & Infants Fertility Center. I primarily saw Dr. Carol Wheeler.”
Since her husband had two children from previous relationships, Krisi figured the problem was probably with her. But testing didn’t turn up a definitive answer, which resulted in a frustrating diagnosis of unexplained infertility. The strain of it all started to weigh on them.
Treatment started with intrauterine insemination (IUI), a simple procedure placing sperm directly inside the uterus to facilitate fertilization, which Krisi had never heard about until her problems. Krisi underwent four IUIs in all. She started with oral meds in two cycles at home where she tracked her own ovulation. Then the second two IUIs were medicated cycles, so she took fertility medication injections, went to the clinic daily for ultrasounds, and when the eggs were mature enough went into the clinic the next day for the procedure.
“People always say, ‘Don’t think about it, and it will happen.’ But it’s impossible not to think about it when it’s in your face 24/7, and you have three appointments this week, you need to pick up your meds, and give yourself shots,” says Krisi. “The stress of it all doesn’t help.”
Stress is a common side effect of both having infertility and undergoing infertility treatment. Studies show that many couples discontinue their treatment for a variety of reasons. These include relationship problems, personal reasons, physical burden, psychological burden or both together. Krisi experienced some of those herself.
“Your life is always scheduled around first your cycle, then the medications, appointments – and sometimes it’s so last minute: ‘We need you to come in tomorrow.’ I live across the border in Connecticut and it’s a 45-minute drive on a good traffic day – sometimes an hour,” she says. “That added another pinch to the treatments.”
Krisi and Chris supported each other from the start. Turning to counseling after her miscarriage two years before treatments began also was an important step.
“It was hard, and we both went into counseling. We both had grandparents who passed away around that time so we were dealing with a lot,” says Krisi, adding that they continued with counseling throughout the process. “I knew myself, and I didn’t want him to take the brunt of any anger I had, so I wanted to make sure we had a way to deal with it. And we just talked about it all the time.”
Dr. Wheeler and the Fertility Center staff were also very supportive. And they shared with the couple their professional, medical perspective and determination.
“They never made me feel like it was a dead end,” says Krisi. “There was always hope with them. After the first two IUIs I did with home monitoring, I asked if there was something we can do different this time. And they said, ‘Absolutely, we’ll do a monitored cycle.’ They would try something else.”
Talking things out together as a couple, Dr. Wheeler’s encouragement and having professional counseling support made a big difference – particularly when her medications got the best of Krisi.
“At one point the oral hormones with the IUI made me almost enraged, and I couldn’t calm myself,” Krisi explains. “The first two rounds didn’t bother me too much. But oh my God, by the third round I was having a hard time holding my tongue! It took me a while to wonder, Why am I so on edge? Oh, this is coinciding with when my hormones peak.”
Chris took it in stride and was very supportive throughout. He told Krisi that he was fine with her moods, as long as it wasn’t him causing them.
“It’s hard, because as much as he tried to understand what I was going through – and you go through a lot of it together – it’s your body,” she says. “He was great through it and very supportive. But I don’t think he totally understood it.”
More pressure and anxiety piled on. She got a positive blood test on one of her IUIs, but it was very, very low, so they knew it was not going to be a viable pregnancy. That phone call about a positive test after the negatives gave her a good feeling, though fleeting, since she knew it wasn’t going to happen. And the pregnancy didn’t.
This was a time when deciding to continue on with the next level of treatment created a strain on their relationship. But they handled it with a plan.
“Well, my husband and I differed on our thoughts of going into IVF (in vitro fertilization). I wasn’t sure I wanted to do IVF – I wasn’t sure I could handle it emotionally, it takes such a toll and is an emotional roller coaster. If I went through all the shots and didn’t get pregnant, I didn’t know if could handle that.”
Krisi was ready to give up infertility treatment and adopt a child. They had already attended an open house of Foster to Adopt, and she came away ready to adopt. Chris presented her with an option. “He said, ‘Can you just give me this year? Let’s try till the end of this year, and if you’re not pregnant, we’ll start the classes for the adoption.’ I said, ok.”
To their great relief, IVF was easier on Krisi than the IUIs had been. They handled the scheduling and the meds. Krisi didn’t like to self-inject, so she got a family member to give her injections when Chris had to work late. In their first cycle of IVF, Krisi became pregnant.
Given their trials up to that point, they were very surprised IVF worked the first time. But it wasn’t the end of their suffering.
“Originally we were pregnant with twins, but we found out at our 12-week appointment that we lost one child: that’s called a vanishing twin,” Krisi relates. “It was a blow. It’s hard for people to understand that. They say, ‘Well at least you have one still.’ Yes, we’re so thankful we have a healthy baby, but for the last seven weeks we thought we had two healthy babies.”
On March 5, 2020, daughter Maizie was born. Her two thankful parents call her their miracle rainbow baby. The term rainbow baby refers to a baby born to a family after a miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death. Rainbow baby comes from the concept of a beautiful rainbow appearing after a turbulent storm, symbolizing hope and healing.
Maizie is certainly a rainbow baby for Krisi & Chris, who experienced both a miscarriage and a vanishing twin.
And they remain hopeful of another possible addition to their family. Chris’ children are 19 and 7 for quite an age range in their family.
“They transferred the best two embryos in IVF, and we have two more frozen embryos. So, we go back and forth on that prospect,” says Krisi. “We’re both older parents. Right now, we’re saying, Yes, we’re going to try with those two maybe in a year, see where we are with our daughter and his other kids and see how that goes.”
That would put them back in the care of Dr. Wheeler and the staff the couple greatly appreciates for their professional determination shared with personal hope.
“I was very discouraged from the message I got from my OB-GYN originally about having no chance of pregnancy. So to be at Women & Infants’ and have them say, ‘You’re 38, we have plenty of people that age’ – and you see all the different people in the clinic – it is very encouraging.”
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