“The reproductive endocrinologist suggested we try donor sperm,” says Jason. “This was something that had never crossed our minds. Maybe we would consider it later, but we hadn’t even tried with my sperm yet. This meeting scared us off completely. The process seemed so complicated and involved taking so many drugs, it just didn’t seem natural. Of course, Judith would take the brunt of the treatment, but did I really want her to have to go through all of that?”
The fact that the couple knew absolutely nothing about IVF, ICSI, or any infertility treatments made the entire process a nightmare. “We had both heard about test tube babies, but it was such a random, sci-fi -type concept that neither of us grasped what was involved.” The Browns decided to keep trying on their
own. They were just getting started in their careers, making decent money, traveling, and enjoying their freedom. They figured, Maybe we aren’t ready.
Their attempts to conceive led to more frustration. “It didn’t consume our lives, but it was always there, hanging over us,” says Jason. “Judith just got tired of getting excited every time her cycle was late, only to be disappointed in the end.” She adds: “We had pretty much accepted that we could possibly grow old
together, just the two of us.”
After three more years, Judith, an engineer, extensively researched infertility procedures so that she could understand the risks. Then she pushed to undergo the IVF with ICSI procedure, which in the end would cost about $20,000.
Judith responded well to the fertility medications. The doctor retrieved about 20 eggs. In the Browns’ case, Jason provided sperm on several occasions leading up to the egg retrieval to make sure there would be enough. The “backup” sperm was frozen and stored for potential future use. Once Judith’s eggs were retrieved, a needle was used to manually inject Jason’s sperm into each mature egg.
“After the ICSI, we waited for the eggs to fertilize,” says Jason. “I started to get excited, thinking about the possibility of being a father, something I never thought would happen.” So after years of coming around to this optimistic thinking, it was traumatic when the first round did not work for the Browns.
“This was one of the most miserable times in both of our lives,” says Jason. “Words just can’t describe the pain that we felt after this [unsuccessful] cycle. We blamed ourselves. We blamed the [reproductive endocrinologist]. Then we just felt sorry for ourselves. We tried to be strong for each other, not wanting to cry and mope around because it would just bring the other down. The only thing I could think about was comforting my wife. I felt that the burden was always on me. She could have children. I was the problem. Privately, I wished that we had never done it. The process was way worse than I thought it would be. I had to give Judith daily shots several times a day and watch her be miserable, and also deal with her mood changes without adding to the problem. I couldn’t understand how people did this.”
“I don’t think I ever blamed Jason, but I wish I could say that I never got upset about it during our journey,” Judith admits. “I wondered if I should have married him at all knowing how important having a family was to me. At the same time, I couldn’t make him feel inadequate for something he had no control over. I could never see him as ‘less,’ but it was diffi cult getting him to see that I didn’t blame him. I was just hurting for us both.”
Six months later, the couple tried a second time via a frozen embryo transfer (FET) using embryos from their original ICSI procedure. This process was significantly less stressful than the cycle where “fresh” embryos are used. Judith did not have to take nearly as many drugs, and Jason didn’t have to do anything but offer support. This resulted in the birth of their daughter in 2008.
“Imagine holding something that you believed you would never have. How do you describe that feeling? Blessed. Amazed,” says Jason, who believes that this journey kept him and his wife together.