r5-1Yellow Team: The Stewarts

Our Story, as told by Ryan:

Jason and I met online through Roomates.com when we were both looking for a roommate in Roanoke, VA. When we initially met, we discovered that we had many things in common and we hit it off right away.

Though we didn’t officially become roommates, we dated for around a year, moved to Richmond, and got married in 2008 at a beautiful winery on the Blue Ridge Parkway. We laugh that we became “roommates for life!” We now live with our two rescue Jack Russell Terriers, who are our family members with (lots of) fur and big personalities.

Children were always a part of our plan- a non-negotiable. I have always loved children and began volunteering with children with developmental disabilities at age 14, and have been a pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist for the past 13 years. My clients always tell me that I have a way with children and are always surprised to hear that I don’t have any kids of my own. I honestly don’t think I have ever met a child that I didn’t love and connect with. My students always laugh at the way I am always dancing and singing and trying to make therapy fun.

Jason grew up working with children with special needs through his local Civitan club, and later served as a substitute teacher and went on to pursue a Master’s in Education, and then in Public Administration. He currently works as the Director of Planning for a nearby county. Jason is known for being “pet-obsessed” and spends countless hours playing with and walking the dogs, as they are his pride and joy. Jason and I love being aunt and uncle to our two sets of nephews and have the best time planning fun activities for them each time they visit.

We always envisioned having at least two children, and had even come up with possible names. We were in our prime in our early thirties. We had followed the traditional life plan- go to college (check), get married (check), buy a house (check). About a year after we got married, we started trying to conceive. We tried for over a year, knowing that due already being in our thirties, we needed to try to start our family sooner rather than later.

During this process, I started having health problems that were not easily diagnosed. I went through a series of very expensive medical testing and nothing showed up. Having been given a clean bill of health, and wanting to continue our attempts to have a baby, we went to our first Reproductive Endocrinologist (fertility doctor) in 2011, and were given the diagnosis of unexplained infertility, and were given a round of Clomid to help ovulation since my cycle was slightly irregular. We did a second round of Clomid following the first and this time did an IUI. We became pregnant and were elated, but the pregnancy was very short lived and ended up being a chemical pregnancy. We switched to Femara and did another IUI, which was unsuccessful.

During the aftermath of the chemical pregnancy, I suffered a relapse of my health issues and finally got a diagnosis of Lyme disease. After regaining my health, we decided to revisit our fertility options. After some testing with a new RE in 2014, I was diagnosed with high FSH and low AMH, and told that that even with aggressive IVF, I might still not produce enough eggs, and eggs of good enough quality to have viable embryos. We were devastated to receive this news. We decided that due to our lack of finances, which were already very stressed due to medical and fertility treatments (not covered by insurance), and the low probability of success, not to pursue IVF.

To say what we have been through the past few years is hard would be an understatement. The emotional and financial impact of infertility (and health issues) is indescribable. During the 6+ years we have been trying to conceive, we have witnessed a plethora of pregnancies of both close friends and family. Each new pregnancy announcement brought new pain and tears and left us wondering, “why not us?” and “why something so easy for most people so hard for us?” It never gets easier. The bright side to our struggle is that these circumstances have solidified our relationship, and made us stronger people, and more resolute in our journey to become parents.

We wholeheartedly believe that we demonstrate the values that are integral to being a parent: patience, unconditional love, sacrifice, understanding, putting others needs ahead of your own. Despite everything we have been through, we long to be parents now more so than ever. Becoming parents is our dream, and we have vowed to never give up on our dream. Our two-person family has been put under financial and emotional strain from infertility and Lyme disease. As any remaining options we have to build a family will be very costly (infant adoption can cost up to $50,000), having financial assistance to help us achieve our dream will be invaluable to us. We are honored that we were chosen to become part of the Race to Parenthood and thankful for the chance forge a pathway to achieve our dream. We could like to conclude with a French phrase that resonates deeply with our fertility journey: “Vouloir, c’est Pouvoir (Wanting is Being Able to).

We are planning to pursue embryo donation (possibly with a surrogate) or traditional infant adoption. All funds raised would go towards this.