In vitro fertilization and surrogacy helping Chicago area women become mothers despite the odds

Before she was even old enough to really know where babies came from, Katie Davis thought she’d lost her chance to be a mom when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She was 12.

It was a secret she guarded closely. Then she met Patrick her sophomore year in college and fell in love. They wanted children, but they knew it wouldn’t be easy.

“My dream was just to have a pregnancy, go through labor, experience that part of womanhood since my womanhood got taken away so young,” says Davis, of Bolingbrook.

But after two failed cycles of in vitro fertilization using donor eggs, the couple found themselves out of eggs and out of money to start the process over again with a new donor. That’s when a woman who read her blog stepped forward out of an act of kindness to donate her eggs free to the couple.

Their baby girls, Avery and Hannah, were born in July. Davis believes the girls will grow up with kindness in their genes.

“I think because I came from a place where I didn’t think it could ever really happen and seeing what I have now, I still pinch myself thinking this is my family. I love it,” Davis says.

Now through the sleep deprivation, she and Patrick recently talked about trying again in a year or so. They have four embryos left.

“Miracles happen every day,” Davis says. “I get to see my two miracles smiling back at me every morning. I know that it does get hard and sad, but take that energy and push through it. When you get your babies, all of the pain and suffering is a blur. You don’t remember the details, all you remember is the happiness.”

Like Davis, Katie O’Brien, of Wadsworth, never gave up hope of being a mom. Diagnosed with uterine fibroids, she knew getting pregnant would be difficult, if not impossible.

After she married in July 2009, she and her husband started trying right away for the family they dreamed about.

“I always had a glimmer of hope that maybe it would work out and I would get pregnant myself,” she says.

Through Dr. Angeline Beltsos and the Fertility Centers of Illinois, they went through four rounds of IVF. When that didn’t work, Beltsos helped them find a surrogate.

Erin and Jack were born in July.

O’Brien took a year off from teaching first grade to spend every moment with her babies. She particularly enjoys their morning walks.

She says she wouldn’t change a thing. “They’re perfect.”

Her advice to other woman dealing with infertility: Be your own advocate, get as much information as you can, get multiple opinions and connect with women who have gone through similar experiences. When the other women she met got pregnant, she says, it gave her hope.

“I think hope is so powerful. You can never take that away,” says Beltsos, medical director of Fertility Centers of Illinois.

One in five couples experiences infertility, she says.

With research and developing science, the ability to strengthen weak eggs and sperm is on the horizon, she says, helping more couples realize their dreams of a family.

“There are many ways to have a family and sometimes it works in a very easy way. (These couples) show you sometimes in order to have your family, there are unique ways to get there,” Beltsos says.

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