Some parents will say their children are the light of their lives. But what if you were one of the 6 million infertile Americans watching the clock tick?
For many parents, the desire to conceive a child is very strong. But it becomes even more powerful after facing continued failure. As a last resort, many will turn to in vitro fertilization, better known as IVF.
In Crystal and Drew Harper’s home, you’ll find pictures of the two of them. For a long time, that’s all there was.
“As long as I can remember, even being a kid, I wanted kids,” said Drew Harper.
“Whenever I wasn’t getting pregnant and every one around us was having kids, it was getting harder and harder,” said Crystal Harper.
For four years of marriage, The Harpers tried, but couldn’t conceive.
“You try to be happy for them and you’re like, ‘oh, im so happy!’ But really you’re like, ‘I’m not happy for you,” said Crystal Harper.
After trying everything, the couple says in vitro fertilization became the final option.
“It is complex but IVF has been around for 30 years and it has been gradually refined over the years,” said Dr. Dean Moutos, the medical director of the IVF Program at Arkansas Fertility and Gynecology in Little Rock.
Dr. Moutos works for the only practice in the state that can perform the procedure. Under a microscope, his team will manually fertilize and culture a woman’s eggs with her partner’s sperm, before implanting them back into the uterus.
“It’s the final solution for patients that have failed other treatments or who have uncorrectable problems that cannot be solved by other means,” Dr. Moutos said.
For the Harpers, that also meant four and sometimes five shots a day to get the outcome they always wanted.
For over a year, Crystal Harper saved every single needle and vial so she could remember what it took to create her angel, a newborn son, Wesley.
“If you have a fear of needles like I do, you need to hope you’re with someone who will do them for you,” Crystal Harper said.
“I did them all,” Drew Harper chimed in.
“Yeah, he did all of them. I didn’t do a single one,” Crystal Harper agreed.
But it wasn’t just syringes piling up. So did the bills.
Arkansas is one of 15 states in the country that has passed laws requiring insurers to either cover or offer coverage for infertility diagnosis and treatment. But insurance won’t cover everything. So when it came to the actual procedure, medications and travel expenses, the Harper’s ended up $22,000 in the hole.
“I got a credit card offer for 0% interest for 21 months, so I just put everything on that,” said Crystal Harper.
Dr. Moutos says it costs around $13,000 per cycle. When you factor in medications, expect to dish out around $17,000. And the procedure may not even take the first time around.
“Far and away the biggest limiting factor is the finances,” Dr. Moutos said.
Even with collectors knocking, the Harper’s remain adamant: Their bundle of joy is worth every penny and they can’t wait until they get another voicemail with good news.
“It’s emotional, again. Good grief! I’m hoping that I get another voicemail like that again someday,” said Crystal Harper. “I just hope that people that are going through this journey, too, know that it can happen, and if it’s meant to happen this way, it’ll happen this way.”
Even if parents choose IVF, the success rate is not guaranteed. For those families, Dr. Moutos suggests a different option. Tomorrow, in part two of our series on alternative options for parents, we explore adoption. How two different couples are navigating the highs and lows, financial mountains and valleys, of bringing an adopted child into their home.