When a family doesn’t come easily

Kristen and Michael O’Dea swing their 1-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, in the backyard of their Bloomfield Hills home. For the O’Deas, Elizabeth was something of a miracle after 11 years of trying to conceive and three lost pregnancies.

Catholic couples share heartbreaks and triumphs with infertility, Natural Family Planning

Bloomfield Hills — Kristen and Michael O’Dea’s home can be very loud these days.

With 1-year-old Elizabeth O’Dea bouncing around, playing with her toys, climbing on her parents and making her presence known, Kristen and Michael sometimes have a hard time getting a word in.

And if you ask either of them, they wouldn’t have it any other way.

To them, Elizabeth, born June 15, 2016, is a miracle. The destination of a very long, and at times heart-breaking, journey in their marriage.

“Most moms may not like waking up at 2 a.m., but to me it’s a miracle,” Kristen said. “I’ve never had a complaint about getting up or changing a bad diaper. I’m very thankful for it. Every little thing is a milestone.”

The O’Deas’ journey began 11 years ago when Kristen and Michael married at the Church of the Transfiguration in Southfield.

During their marriage preparation, the two took Couple to Couple Natural Family Planning courses.

“Once we got married, we were about three to four months into it when we thought, ‘OK, there is an issue based on the initial charting,’” Kristen said. “At the time, when you had an issue, you had to send your charts away so they could try and figure out what was wrong.”

Carrie and Derek Mazure, parishioners of Our Lady of Refuge in Orchard Lake, began an infertility support group at St. Fabian Parish in Farmington Hills.

Solving infertility for couples is complicated and often times can be guesswork, involving trips to multiple doctors, using various techniques and often relying on God’s will to conceive a child.

Kristen and Michael, now of Our Lady of Sorrows Parish in Farmington, eventually tried the Creighton Model FertiltyCare System, but the closest classes at the time were in Flushing, just outside of Flint.

“It was a lot of driving,” Michael recalled. “Doctors told us what was happening. They take a doctor’s approach of ‘Let’s poke you and take this medicine.’ The classes were about knowing yourself and writing it down on paper.”

In all, the O’Deas visited a dozen doctors between the two of them, trying to figure out why they couldn’t conceive, a frustrating process that tested their faith. Eventually, they learned they had to rely on each other.

“Creighton teaches you more than just having kids,” Kristen said. “They teach you how to get through the rough times, but also the good times. They have a spiritual aspect to it, talking about communication through the good and the bad.”

After every approach, the O’Deas got a little closer. The couple kept trying to have a baby, a process that involved four pregnancies with two miscarriages — one was a set of twins — and a still birth before Elizabeth was born.

“Part of the process for me was to figure out what was broken and get it fixed,” Kristen said. “It was getting the right doctors who could help us keep a pregnancy longer. Part of infertility is figuring out first what’s your problem to get pregnant. And then for us, how do we keep myself pregnant and keep the baby safe.”

 

Growing through setbacks

It’s an experience to which Carrie and Derek Mazure of Our Lady of Refuge Parish in Orchard Lake can relate.

The couple met four years ago, married in 2014 and started taking NFP classes and learning about the Creighton method.

“Through a person we met at NFP classes, they suggested a NaPro (Natural Procreative) doctor,” Carrie Mazure said. “She found out that I have PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome), a hormonal imbalance where I don’t make the correct hormones.”

Mazure said she had two miscarriages before seeing another NaPro doctor.

“The first meeting we had was nerve-racking, but she’s great, so helpful,” Mazure said. “She did this whole workup, blood drawn in one cycle, able to determine the underlying issues.”

That visit was about two years ago, resulting in two more pregnancies that ended with miscarriage, but each time the term was carried out further.

“Currently, we’ve been taking some time off,” Carrie explained. “Derek has been having some health issues, but we’re hoping in the future to try again. But for right now, it’s been trying, seeing all your friends and family having kids easy and fine.”

Derek added the process has made the two of them value the magnitude of life.

“Infertility definitely puts a strain on your relationship with your spouse when you don’t talk about it,” Derek Mazure said. “You need to talk about it, need to work through it. Use the setbacks as an opportunity to get closer to each other.”

The Mazures have started a support group for couples struggling with infertility, which meets every second Monday of the month at 7 p.m. at St. Fabian Parish in Farmington Hills.

“When you realize you’re not the only ones who’ve gone through this, it really opens your eyes,” Carrie Mazure said. “I’ve had my ups and downs, but you have to remember the good points and the bad points. With infertility, it can be hard to find someone to talk about it.”

 

Community support

Kristen and Michael O’Dea understand how difficult it can be to talk to someone about infertility. When they were pregnant with Elizabeth, they avoided telling people until very late in the term, worried they’d have to explain another miscarriage to friends and family.

“For us, we were afraid to tell people,” Kristen O’Dea said. “We didn’t want to call people and say we lost another one. It was very hard to be excited for a pregnancy. There was a fear of telling people about another miscarriage.”

For couples struggling with infertility, answers and support can be hard to find, but they are out there.

It’s natural for people to focus on the good when it comes to pregnancy, and the joy a family experiences when a baby is brought into the world, but for some families, the setbacks and heartaches are all too real.

But whether it’s relying on the support of one another or other couples in the support group at St. Fabian, Michael O’Dea says couples struggling with infertility need stay together and stay with it.

“You have to be dedicated to each other; you have to be in it for the long haul,” Michael O’Dea said. “Every day, it’s a miracle with this little one. But there isn’t an owner’s manual for this. It’s all fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants, and things are going to change a lot. But there is an answer out there. It may not be the first doctor you go see, but the answer is out there.

“Through it all, it’s been an interesting adventure.”

 

NFP Awareness Week

Natural Family Planning Awareness Week is July 23-29. For information and resources in the Archdiocese of Detroit, visit www.nfponline.org, call (313) 237-4679 or email nfp@aod.org.

 

Infertility Support Group

A support group for Catholic couples struggling with infertility meets every second Monday of the month at 7 p.m. at St. Fabian Parish, 32200 W. Twelve Mile Road in Farmington Hills. For information, call (248) 553-4610.