Gift of Hope growing families struggling with infertility

Gift of Hope growing families struggling with infertility

Hopelessness, heartache, emptiness - those are all feelings shared by couples struggling with infertility. The "Gift of Hope" is helping to grow families that will not give up on the dream for a child.

As Shawna and Colby Cormier sing nursery songs to their 10-month-old daughter, Layla, they beam with pride and love. "I always wanted to be a dad," said Colby, "I was ready for a family within our first year of being married."

Shawna and Colby started dating at age 15, married at 22 and just celebrated a big anniversary. "We've been married for 10 years, so we've been together a long time," said Shawna.

After their first year of marriage, they were ready to have a baby. Months passed by, but no pregnancy. "We did tests," said Shawna, "lots and lots of tests and then we got back that his sperm count was low."

Thousands of dollars was spent on IUIs, or artificial insemination, but nothing. At that point, Shawna was being treated by Dr. John Storment with Fertility and Women's Health Center of Louisiana in Lafayette. He is the same physician behind the Gift of Hope, the state's only charity awarding a free in vitro fertilization procedure worth $15,000.

On their own, that was an out-of-reach price tag for the Cormiers, desperately waiting to have a baby. "I could provide her with anything else," said Colby, "I just couldn't provide her with that. It was heart-breaking."

Shawna says every month brought disappointment. When she looked around, she felt like everyone was pregnant or raising children - except her. "I'm still emotional about it," she said, "it was a long's hard."

Eight long years of trying to get pregnant with no success took an emotional toll on this couple. When they found out about the Gift of Hope, they applied but were not selected. Still, they kept the faith in a family the next year and could not believe the phone call they received. "I saw the phone number and said, 'Oh my goodness. Could it really be?'" said Shawna. "I answered it and it was Dr. Storment saying I have good news for you and we won! I was ecstatic!"

Dr. Storment says he feels like he is giving away the ultimate sweepstakes award. "That is definitely my best day of the year to call them," he said, "and then we bring them in, they get all of their blood work and pre-screening labs in and actually jump right into a cycle to begin treatment."

The process was fast for Shawna. Two of the three embryos that were created in a lab were transferred to her uterus. Within a week, two pink lines changed this couple. "It was positive and I took a million other ones," said Shawna, "I took a lot. I took a lot of tests!"

Layla was born on April 3rd. "She's funny. She's a character," said Colby, "she's amazing."

The Cormiers know all too well the pain of infertility, but have this message for other couples enduring the hurt. "If I would've given up, I wouldn't have her," said Shawna, "so don't give up. Just keep on going. I know it's hard to keep on going."

The Cormiers have one leftover embryo and hope to try for another child next year. That process is much more affordable, costing about $2,500.

Applications for the 2014 Gift of Hope will be accepted beginning March 1st. Couples must earn less than $80,000 per year, have insurance for pre-natal care and a doctor's referral to document the need for fertility treatment. You can see the full list of requirements here.

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