Local couple reflects on infertility issues, becoming parents

National Infertility Awareness Week is April 22-28

By: Maria Allard | C&G Newspapers | Published April 13, 2012

 Geraldine and Thomas Lanni of Macomb, with twin daughters Nadia, left, and Liana, underwent various fertility treatments until they became pregnant last year. “It was well-worth it to go through everything,” Geraldine said. National Infertility Awareness Week is April 22-28.

Geraldine and Thomas Lanni of Macomb, with twin daughters Nadia, left, and Liana, underwent various fertility treatments until they became pregnant last year. “It was well-worth it to go through everything,” Geraldine said. National Infertility Awareness Week is April 22-28.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Three-and-a-half-month-old Liana Lanni nestled inside her daddy’s arms after an evening feeding that left her satisfied. It was obvious she felt cozy and warm snuggling with new dad Thomas Lanni.

A few feet away twin sister Nadia relaxed in her baby chair as she cooed and smiled with mom Geraldine Lanni, who kept a burp cloth close by, just in case.

After trying for three years to conceive and start a family, the Lannis finally became parents when their fraternal twin daughters were born Dec. 29 at Beaumont Hospital in Troy.

“It’s kind of like a dream come true,” Geraldine, 35, said. “It’s everything I expected it to be.”

It was a long and often stressful journey for the Macomb couple who, after trying on their own to conceive and couldn’t, sought help from Dr. Carole Kowalczyk, medical director of the Michigan Center for Fertility & Women’s Health in Warren.

After attempting both artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization over the course of about three years, the Lannis finally became pregnant in 2011 after undergoing their third IVF treatment.

“As hard as it was, I just kept thinking about the end of it,” Geraldine said. “I look back and think how in the world did I do that? Three years of shots, doctors. It takes a toll emotionally.

“It was well-worth it to go through everything,” she smiled.

The journey begins
Kowalczyk, a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist, said about 10 to 15 percent of couples that try to conceive aren’t able to get pregnant on their own.

“Many times there is a problem with ovulation,” the medical doctor said. “They’re not ovulating because of hormone imbalance, the eggs are older or the brain is not stimulating the ovaries.”

Some women also suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome or their tubes are blocked. Other obstacles could be scar tissue in the pelvis, or polyps or fibroids in the uterus.

“Thirty to 40 percent of the time, it’s a problem with the men,” Kowalczyk said. “In over 90 percent of patients, we can find the reason and offer treatment options. Our job is to help people know what the problem is and help them make the choice they feel comfortable with. We will help you in the least aggressive way we can.”

The medical office offers a number of fertility treatment options, including fertility drugs, artificial insemination, shot injections and IVF. Staff also works with male fertility specialists and understands other factors that couples trying to conceive face.

“You look at religious beliefs, ethics, money, relationships and the psychology of (it),” Kowalczyk said.

As fertility treatments can be mentally taxing, there also is a wellness center within the facility that offers acupuncture, massage therapy, yoga, nutrition counseling and more. Treatments can be expensive, too, so the center incorporated a loan department. In Michigan, some costs are covered under medical insurance, but not all.

“Many insurances in Michigan will cover blood testing, ultrasounds and medication,” Kowalczyk said. “There is no insurance for in vitro or insemination. IVF can cost $10,000 to $12,000 a try.”

And while many couples are able to determine what is causing their infertility problems, the Lannis weren’t able to pinpoint any medical issues.

“We fell into the less than 20 percent where there is no known cause,” Thomas, 34, said.

Twice blessed
Geraldine and Thomas Lanni married in January 2007. One year later, they tried for a baby. Nine months went by and no pregnancy, so Geraldine’s ob-gyn recommended the couple visit Dr. Kowalczyk.

During the first year under Kowalczyk’s care, the Lannis underwent artificial insemination on three different occasions. Geraldine took a medicine called Clomid to help with the process. The drug is used to stimulate ovulation when the ovaries can produce a follicle, but hormonal stimulation is deficient.

“We were mostly of a very positive mindset,” Thomas said.

But none of the inseminations worked, bringing the couple back to square one.

“You don’t understand why it’s not happening. It’s a big mix of emotion,” Geraldine said. “You start to get worried — what if it will never happen. I felt like I was failing.”

After discussing their options with Kowalczyk, the Lannis decided to undergo in vitro. The couple did its first in vitro in September 2010. While it took, Geraldine unfortunately miscarried seven weeks later. The following February the couple underwent its next in vitro process.

“The second one did nothing at all,” Geraldine said.

In the spring of 2011, the Lannis underwent their third IVF attempt using three of Geraldine’s eggs that previously were frozen.

“Our last attempt was going to be my last one for a while,” Geraldine said. “I was getting burned out, and I was going to stop.”

But the couple received good news.

“I found out in early June we were pregnant,” Geraldine said. “I was excited, but scared I wasn’t going to fully go through (with the pregnancy.)”

Because their first pregnancy ended in miscarriage, the Lannis only told their moms they were pregnant after the last IFV. Three months later, they began telling excited family and friends, and their moms threw a baby shower where they “got two of everything.”

Geraldine originally expected triplets, but an ultrasound determined the third baby’s heartbeat was becoming weaker, and the baby was getting smaller and, unfortunately, did not make it.

Because her pregnancy was considered high risk, Geraldine visited the doctor’s office more than the average pregnant woman. Her pregnancy went well.

“I felt good the whole time,” she said.

Last December, Liana and Nadia Lanni came into the world five weeks early via emergency C-section. Weighing 5 pounds, 5 ounces, Liana came out first, with Nadia, who tipped the scale at an even 5 pounds, arriving two minutes later. Liana was 18 inches in length with sister Nadia just 1 inch shorter.

The Lannis have nothing but praise for the Michigan Center for Fertility & Women’s Health.

“Dr. Kowalczyk and her staff were one of the most amazing groups of people I ever met,” Geraldine said. “Whatever you needed, they took care of you.”

A national issue
National Infertility Awareness Week will be recognized April 22-28. The Michigan Center for Fertility and Women’s Health will kick off the week with a conference April 20. Updated Trends In Fertility Care is designed for couples seeking answers to their fertility questions, and will address genetic conditions, male infertility, preserving fertility with a cancer diagnosis, acupuncture and more.

The conference, featuring various speakers, will be at the Andiamo Italia Banquet Center, 7096 14 Mile Road in Warren. Pre-registration is required, and fees vary. To register log on to http://meded.beaumont.edu/womensfertilityconf or call (248) 551-0748.

“Our success rates in Michigan are very good,” Kowalczyk said. “There is so much expertise in Michigan.”

Kowalczyk always wanted to be a doctor, and helping couples conceive has been her calling.

“It is the most rewarding feeling,” she said of when a couple becomes pregnant.

“I am emotional a lot of the time when it happens,” the doctor said. “Our whole staff is the same way.”

The Michigan Center for Fertility & Women’s Health is located at 4700 13 Mile in Warren.

For more information, visit www.mifertility.com.