ROANOKE, Va. – 10 News is taking an in-depth look at infertility — sharing the new treatments, struggles, medical technology, cost of infertility and more. You can find more of those stories by clicking on the Only on 10 tab at the top of wsls.com.
One in eight couples experiences infertility. It's a silent struggle for many, including our own Jenna Zibton.
You see her smiling every morning on "Virginia Today" but what you haven't seen is her heartbreaking journey to have a baby that took years. She's sharing her emotional story to help other couples going through the same struggle.
"We started going to see a fertility specialist and the very first appointment, within two minutes, he said, 'You probably have endometriosis.' I had never heard of endometriosis," Jenna said.
"Most women who have it don't know and most obstetrician-gynecologists don't recognize that their patients have it," said Dr. Chris Williams, Reproductive Medicine and Surgery Center of Virginia medical director and Jenna's doctor. "Endometriosis is staged from 1 to 4 and you [Jenna] were a 4. That created a lot of inflammation in your pelvis. We tried a number of other things to try and help you get pregnant."
Depending on the case, many women will have surgery before they can continue on their journey of trying to have a baby.
"I see it every day. It's very common and the problem with endometriosis is it's a lot more common than we even think because there's no way to diagnose it definitively without a Laprascopy or some other surgical procedure where you look inside," explained Dr. Williams.
After surgery to clear out some of the problems of endometriosis, Jenna had a short window to get pregnant.
"It was tough; it was very tough. As a guy, you like to be able to help and fix things when you're the husband but in this situation, you just kind of had to be there. Moral support and to comfort you whenever you needed it," said Rob, Jenna's husband.
"When we started going through fertility options, I said, 'I don't want to do IVF.' We did IUIs, which are a lot easier on your body, a lot less invasive, a lot less medicine. We did two of those and didn't get pregnant. It was such a disappointment and I think going through that I realized how bad I really wanted a baby. I said, 'OK, yes, let's do IVF. I don't know what this is going to mean, but let's try.'"
Jenna learned IVF meant a box full of drugs, costing thousands of dollars and lessons on how to use the medicine.
It took four needles to do the injections every night.
"Going through all the needles, I knew you hated needles and you remember how hard that was at first, so it was tough to sit back and watch you go through everything," Rob said.
Jenna tried to remain upbeat through all the blood draws, tests and what the drugs were doing to her body. But some days were hard.
"There was one time where I was in the middle of a newscast, it was 6:30 in the morning, I'm supposed to be smiling and happy and getting everyone ready to start their day and all I wanted to do was cry. You just have to push it all down and perform. I was going through all of these treatments while still being on TV every morning. It was hard but I just kept reminding myself it's going to be worth it, it's going to be worth it."
Jenna remembers taking the test to find out if the embryo transfer after IVF resulted in pregnancy.
"As soon as I put it on the counter, I started seeing a positive. I was like, 'Don't get excited because you have to wait the time; don't get too excited yet.' The time went up and it was a big positive and it was amazing. Rob didn't believe it so he said, 'Take another test,'" Jenna remembers.
"It was very emotional. I couldn't believe it at first. I was very cautious about it. So I made you take a test again just to be sure. I didn't want to get all excited and then after the second test, I believed it. It was just an amazing moment," Rob said.
All the doctor's appointments after that were fun. They got to hear the baby's heartbeat for the first time and watch her grow before finally getting to meet her.
"That moment was just amazing when they give you your baby and you're looking down and she's here," Jenna said.
"She's obviously the greatest thing that's ever happened to us. I've smiled and laughed more in the last year than probably every other year combined," said Rob.
Jenna says she wants other couples to know they are not alone.
"I was very quiet about everything when I was going through it just because it was a difficult process but now that it's over, I do want women to know it's way more common than anyone knows about. As I've been sharing slowly with people over the last year, I've had so many women say 'I had trouble with fertility, I had to go see a doctor, I had to see a specialist,' or they had friends or relatives. We just don't talk about it enough."
Jenna wrote more about her experience, including the highs and lows. You can find that here.