Seeds of Success: The Pena Family
Christine Klimik-Pena and Jamie Pena knew they would need the help of a fertility specialist to build their family, but they had no idea of the challenges they would face on the road to becoming parents.
Both women started their journey knowing different aspects of fertility care. Jamie knew friends at work who had gone through intrauterine insemination (IUI) and IVF cycles, while Christine didn’t know a lot about the process. Christine researched fertility centers that would help them, and found Reproductive Associates of Delaware (RAD). After reading a few online reviews, the couple scheduled an appointment to see Dr. Adrienne Neithardt, the Director of Donor Services at RAD.
After talking to a coworker about RAD, Christine learned that his wife was a patient of Dr. Neithardt’s. “He spoke very highly of her,” she said. “I just thought that was perfect—that she had a good experience with her. I thought RAD was the right place.”
Easing Initial Concerns
“As a lesbian couple, we weren’t really sure how we were going to be received,” Jamie said of their initial appointment at RAD. However, their experience with the staff was very positive. “It went incredibly well,” she said. “We felt really comfortable talking to all the doctors, and Dr. Neithardt is super sweet.”
One concern they had was not fitting into the category of a typical patient who visited RAD. “People associate going to a fertility center with having problems getting pregnant. At the time, there was no problem other than the fact that we needed help getting pregnant,” Christine said.
Meeting with Eileen Ramos, who was RAD’s financial counselor at the time, proved to be a source of encouragement for them. As a former patient in a same-sex relationship, Eileen was able to connect with Christine and Jamie on a personal level while also putting them at ease about the financial side of their fertility treatment. “Knowing that she went through what we did, she could totally relate to our situation,” Christine said. “It just made us feel so much better.”
“Knowing that she went through what we did, she could totally relate to our situation. It just made us feel so much better.“
This Changes Everything
Because Christine’s insurance would not cover her treatment until the couple could prove an infertility diagnosis, she began treatment with an IUI cycle. Christine’s insurance company would require her to undergo three IUI cycles before covering her IVF treatment. “I think when we left, we felt pretty hopeful that we would be successful,” Christine said.
But Christine’s tests and blood work came back with a surprise: the results showed she had a diminished ovarian reserve. “I was thinking I was perfectly healthy and wouldn’t have any issues getting pregnant, but then I thought, ‘This changes everything,’” she said.
Unfortunately, Christine’s three IUI cycles were unsuccessful. At that point, the couple decided to take a break for the summer before moving forward with IVF that September.
The Change To IVF
When Christine and Jamie started their journey, they didn’t think they would need IVF. “It wasn’t like we could go home and try it ourselves,” Jamie said. “There was so much relying on this one shot and this one chance.”
But more bad news came during the day of Christine’s egg retrieval. She found out that she only had a single good egg. “I was really upset about it; I was crushed,” she said. “Jamie was really positive and pulled me through it.”
“I’m a very positive person by nature,” Jamie said. “I would always say, ‘Let’s keep moving. Whatever barriers get in the way, we’ll keep going.’ For us, it was more of me being her support and encouragement.”
The single egg later fertilized and created one embryo, which Dr. Neithardt prepared for transfer. “The day we had the transfer ended up being the 8th anniversary of the day Jamie and I met,” Christine said. “It was random, and we didn’t even know it. We looked back and thought that was so significant.”
Christine, Jamie and their son Chase during the 2016 holiday season..
The Two-Week Wait
After the embryo transfer, Christine and Jamie were anxious to hear the results. “The two-week wait is pretty rough,” Christine said. “You are just waiting and hoping and praying it all works out.”
Christine remembers exactly where she was when she got the call. “I was at work, and it was around 2:00 pm. I wanted to wait so that Jamie and I could hear the message together,” she said. “They said, ‘You are pregnant, and your HCG levels are great.’”
After overcoming that barrier, Christine said that the rest of her pregnancy was uneventful and enjoyable. “It was a sigh of relief, and then we got to enjoy our visits,” she said. “The first time that we saw an ultrasound where it actually looked like a baby, it was so awesome!”
Their son, Chase, was born in June of 2014 without any complications. “Christine went all-natural for her delivery—no drugs,” Jamie said. “I am very proud of her for that.”
A Friendly, Comfortable Experience
Christine and Jamie said they were thankful for the staff at RAD, who were available to help them at every step in their journey. “The staff was so friendly and sweet, and always reaching out to me,” Christine said. “I felt like I was able to contact everyone through the patient portal email system, even Dr. Neithardt. We could get answers right away.”
“The staff was so friendly and sweet, and always reaching out to me. I felt like I was able to contact everyone through the patient portal email system, even Dr. Neithardt. We could get answers right away.”
They said one of the hardest parts of the process was not being able to let their friends and family know about the details of their treatment. “When we went through the first couple of IUIs, we learned to not tell people what we are doing. Going through such a difficult process and not telling people about it was really tough,” Christine said.
Jamie also said she had to be the one to tell Christine to slow down during pregnancy. “It was like she didn’t skip a beat. I would tell her, ‘You need to go lay down.’ She was working out until two weeks before she had Chase.”
“That was a hard part for me, because I am a fitness professional. I work in a fitness center.” Christine said. “Working out is a huge part of my life and during IVF, I couldn’t do anything.”
Planning For Next Time
Overall, Jamie said that staying positive was one of the most important things she learned from the IVF process. “I think so much of it is your mental state and how you view the process. When they were looking at the numbers and our chance of getting pregnant with the drugs, it was a slim percent,” she said.
“We still said that we were going to go ahead with it. You just have to stay positive and know that whatever may be, will be. The doctors are phenomenal and give you great information, but sometimes you just have to go with your instinct.”
Christine and Jamie are already planning for their next child—but this time, they will use Jamie’s eggs instead of Christine’s.
Christine and Jamie returned to RAD in 2017 to continue to build their family. This time, they used Jamie’s eggs to create embryos and Christine underwent the embryo transfer. They found success and became a family of four by welcoming Asher in the Summer of 2018!
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