In November 2014, Mary Claire and Will Stickle’s struggle with infertility had hit another roadblock.
Having tried for a year on their own, the Stickles had sought medical treatments for another year, also without success. So, they participated in the Baby Steps 5K, a fundraiser that brings public attention to infertility and offers a round of expensive in vitro fertilization to the winner of the drawing.
Though the Stickles had recruited the most participants to the race, which gave them more tickets in the raffle that would decide the prize, it went to another couple.
“We got to the point where we were financially drained from everything we had already done, emotionally drained, physically drained, and we decided IVF is our best chance, so we’re going to have to take an indefinite break to financially save for it,” Mary Claire Stickle said.
Then they discovered that medical science isn’t the only thing making amazing strides. So is fundraising.
Mary Claire’s first cousin, Margo Mathews, proposed setting up an appeal on the Internet crowd-sourcing site GoFundMe. They felt awkward about it, but Will made a point his wife accepted.
“We want a baby more than pride should stop us from not being able to obtain,” she said.
And, in January, they expect to have one. Twins, actually.
The GoFundMe account began last January with a goal of $6,000 — not the full cost of an IVF treatment, but as much as Mathews thought they should ask for. It was met so quickly that she raised the goal twice, and people gave more than $14,000 in two weeks.
The Stickles had already made several unsuccessful attempts at intrauterine insemination, or IUI, in which sperm is placed into the uterus when she is ovulating. In IVF, eggs are collected from the ovaries and fertilized by sperm in a lab, then one or more fertilized eggs are placed in the uterus.
When medicines to stimulate egg production did not work as planned, Mary Claire’s doctor cancelled the IVF surgery and went with another round of IUI. The Stickles were disappointed, but Mary Claire became pregnant.
Waiting had not been easy. She smiled her way through baby showers, listening to mom talk she couldn’t join. People would ask when they were going to have children.
“I stopped asking her a couple of years ago,” Mathews said. “At first, we’d talk about it, but after a certain point … I knew they wanted that, and I knew they had to be having trouble. But I knew she would tell me when she was ready.”
Last year’s Baby Steps 5K was when Mary Claire said she “came out of the infertility closet.” Before that, she felt she couldn’t talk about it.
“People who are going through infertility are facing a medical diagnosis, sometimes more than one,” she said. “I think it’s hard for people to understand, like, ‘Why can’t you? Why don’t you try harder? Or, just relax. Why don’t you just adopt? Why don’t you just go on a vacation? I know somebody who adopted and right after they adopted they got pregnant.’ That happens and that is amazing, but it’s hard because people want to fix it for you, but they can’t fix it.”
But, as it turned out, they could help. Many did, some who didn’t know the Stickles but responded to their friends’ appeals.
“I’ve been very overwhelmed,” Mary Claire said. “How can you even put into words to thank people for changing your life. In a matter of weeks, our lives were changed. I guess in the end we didn’t do IVF, but we got pregnant, and anyone who donated to our GoFundMe did it in the spirit of wanting us to have a baby, and that’s what happened.
“You’ve never felt so overwhelmed, so loved, so supported, so humbled and so undeserving all at once,” she said. “You can’t say thank you enough.”