Chrissy, Grayson and Jackson Walters at home in February. Photo by Tina Eshleman
When we interviewed Chrissy Walters for our Top Doctors issue in April 2012, she and her husband, Grayson, had been trying to have a child after Chrissy was treated for uterine cancer. She told us about how Dr. Cecelia Boardman, a gynecological oncologist, had worked with her to treat the cancer without Walters having to undergo a hysterectomy, keeping open the possibility that she could become pregnant.
Walters also talked about the collaboration between Boardman and Dr. R. Scott Lucidi, a fertility specialist who, she told us, always seems to know exactly the right thing to say to an emotionally vulnerable patient. Walters began fertility treatments in October 2010 and became pregnant, but had an early miscarriage. She and Grayson tried several more months of treatments through July, then took a break before beginning a cycle of in vitro fertilization (IVF) in January. At the time the previous article went to press, they were awaiting results of the IVF treatment, in which eggs and sperm are combined in a laboratory and resulting embryos are transferred to the woman's uterus.
In late February of this year, while taking turns holding their 4-month-old son, Jackson, the Chesterfield County couple filled us in on what happened after that.
Two years earlier, in February 2012, their first round of in vitro fertilization had resulted in another early miscarriage, which never advanced beyond the initial positive test. A second IVF cycle in March was unsuccessful.
After taking a break for a month, they tried two cycles of intrauterine insemination (IUI). As with in vitro fertilization, the woman often takes medicine to stimulate egg production. Then, washed sperm are inserted into the uterus at the time of ovulation. In June of that year, Walters received a positive pregnancy test result. But two weeks later, she experienced another miscarriage. Lucidi ordered additional testing to look for possible causes of the recurrent miscarriages. The tests came back normal.
"At one point, we looked at each other and said, ‘We can't go through this anymore,' " Walters says. After five years (starting in 2007), three miscarriages and tens of thousands of dollars, they were exhausted.
Lucidi recommended that the couple talk to a psychologist. That July, they began seeing Erica Mindes, who specializes in reproductive issues. She encouraged them to take time to grieve their losses before making a decision about their next step. In August, the couple held a private ceremony in Rockwood Park, a place where they had found respite during the fertility treatments. They released three balloons, one for each of the babies that might have been.
"We were leaning toward adoption at that point," Chrissy Walters says. "Then, toward the end of August, I told Grayson I wasn't ready to give up on having a biological child." After consulting with Lucidi, they decided to try four more months of IUI, starting in September. "We decided December would be the last fertility treatment," Walters says.
But by the end of December, she still was not pregnant. Because of her risk for uterine cancer returning, she needed to have a way of regulating her menstrual cycle and shedding the lining of her uterus. That could have been done through birth control, but she couldn't stand the thought of actively preventing a pregnancy. Lucidi suggested another option: metformin, a drug that can increase the regularity of menstrual cycles for women with polycystic ovary syndrome. "It was kind of a shot in the dark," Walters says.
After she began taking the drug, she had a menstrual cycle in January 2013. When she didn't have another one at the expected time in February, she thought the medication wasn't working. Still, she did a home pregnancy test.
"Instantly, there was a second line," she says. Another home test, and then a blood test, confirmed the result. At six weeks, an ultrasound showed a heartbeat. A healthy boy named Jackson John Patrick Walters was born on Oct. 28, weighing 7 pounds, 8 ounces. Now, at 4 months old, he's an active, inquisitive boy with a heart-melting smile.
"I thank God every day," Walters says. "I know that everything we went through makes us love him so much more. He's the one we're supposed to have."