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Seeds of Success: The Martin Family

Coming from a big family, Devona Martin never even considered infertility an issue. So when she and her husband at the time were having difficulty conceiving, they didn’t visit a specialist until Devona’s primary care doctor recommended Reproductive Associates of Delaware.

Seventeen years ago, Reproductive Associates of Delaware (RAD) was located in the Christiana Medical Center on Stanton Christiana Road in Newark. RAD had been open for two years and its founder, Dr. Barbara McGuirk, was the only practicing doctor.

Devona said she remembered her first appointment well. It was a tiny office, and she was just 22 years old. 

“She sat with me and went over a lot of information. She shared with me a lot of information that I never knew,” Devona said. “And she assured me that she would do the best she could to help me through my process and to better explain what the issue could be.”

Devona Martin

She assured me that she would do the best she could to help me through my process and to better explain what the issue could be.

Finding The Issue

As part of the couples’ initial work-up, Dr. McGuirk tested Devona’s fallopian tubes with a hysterosalpingogram (HSG). During an HSG test, a dye is injected into the uterine cavity and the results are monitored through x-ray. If the fallopian tubes are blocked, the dye won’t reach the abdominal cavity. “I remember Dr. McGuirk was the one that did the procedure, and that is when she found out I had blocked tubes,” Devona said.

At the same time, Dr. McGuirk also referred Devona’s husband to a urologist, where he discovered he had a low sperm count. Devona and her husband tried several intrauterine insemination cycles without success. It was then that they decided to consider other options.

During that time, RAD was in the process of moving to an office in Pike Creek at Brownstone Plaza. Dr. Ronald Feinberg, a colleague of Dr. McGuirk’s from the University of Pennsylvania, had also just joined RAD and was developing an IVF program for the practice.

Dr. McGuirk said that because of her age, Devona and her husband were great candidates for IVF. “I was only 22 at the time so my chances of getting pregnant were much higher than someone coming to her at 30 or 40,” Devona said. “We both felt very confident that it would work for me.”

Dr. McGuirk introduced Devona and her husband to Dr. Feinberg, who explained how the IVF process works, and their likelihood of success with the procedure. “I told him I was up for the challenge,” Devona said.

Moving To IVF

“I want to say that I was probably one of the first few people who had done IVF at RAD, “ Devona said. “There were maybe two or three of us. I know I was definitely one of the first with the blastocyst transfer.”

Dr. Feinberg transferred three embryos for Devona’s first IVF cycle. The amount of embryos may seem high today, but the average number of embryos transferred during an IVF cycle in 1997 was 3.7, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). At the time, transferring three blastocyst embryos meant RAD was at the cutting edge of assisted reproductive technology.

Devona remembered receiving the news at work that she was pregnant after her first transfer. However, after taking a blood test, she found her human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) levels were dropping. Her transfer had only resulted in a chemical pregnancy. She said the news left she and her husband devastated. “That was the worst news that I could have ever received,” she said.

However, they weren’t ready to give up yet. “I stayed positive and they said, ‘We want to try it again,’” Devona said. “My husband and I discussed that we had more than enough embryos to do that, so that’s what we did.”

Dr. Feinberg transferred another three embryos, and the couple hoped for the best. “The second transfer did work, and I can remember that phone call,” Devona said. “I got the phone call again at work. I went to go get the blood work, and the levels went up quickly.

“I was pregnant, and I was the happiest person in the entire world.”

Devona Martin’s son Zavia.

Looking Back At The Journey

Devona said the most difficult part of the IVF process was waiting and believing that she would eventually become pregnant and be a parent. “I knew I was in good hands, but believing it and dealing with infertility is gut-wrenching,” she said. “You want to say, ‘Why me—why did this happen to me?’”

She said it was especially difficult because she and her husband both had factors contributing to their infertility. “I felt like it was a curse, and we were never going to have children. So just coming out of that mindset that I was not going to be a mother one day,” Devona said. “I think that was the hardest thing.”

The easiest part of the couples’ journey was not having to worry about choosing the right fertility doctor. She said that even though RAD was in its earliest stages, she was sure Dr. McGuirk could help her.

“If it could happen, she was the one that was going to make it happen,” Devona said. ”She made me feel very confident that we were going to be in it altogether and attack the issue. Her staff was going to do everything it took to make sure it was successful.”

Devona Martin

She made me feel very confident that we were going to be in it altogether and attack the issue. Her staff was going to do everything it took to make sure it was successful.

An Ideal Place

Devona’s son, Zavia, is 16 now. “My son is an amazing kid. He plays piano, drums, guitar, bass guitar,” Devona said. “He is an extremely gifted child and is able to do things that most children can’t do. I am so blessed to have the opportunity to be his mother.”

One piece of advice Devona has for those seeking an answer to their fertility challenges is to remain patient. “Your expectations may not always be when you want them and how you want them,” she said. “Have patience, and believe that no matter the outcome, you are in good hands.

“If you are looking for hope and answers to your infertility needs, Reproductive Associates would be the ideal place,” she said. “I wouldn’t recommend any other place to go to.”

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"Dr. McGuirk is a very holistic doctor. She doesn’t just treat the fertility issues. She also points out personal health ideas (juicing, whole 30) to help heal/treat the whole patient. She is honest and open. Be open minded and trust in her process. This is a marathon, not a sprint! Dr. McGuirk will be with you the whole way."

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