- Associated Press - Sunday, May 21, 2017

ROCKFORD, Ill. (AP) - Ezra and Oliver Dusing are 22 months old, but they’ve already acquired personalities that are “the complete opposite of each other,” said their mom, Cortnee.

For example, Ezra likes electronic music, namely MGMT, while Oliver is a punk rocker who prefers The Vandals.

“They have brought so much happiness into our lives - their smiles,” Cortnee said. “They’re at such a fun age right now.”

The fraternal twins were conceived using in vitro fertilization (IVF), a medical procedure where an egg is fertilized with sperm outside of the body. The embryo is then transferred into the uterus.

The Dusings, of Pecatonica, are among many couples whose plans to build a family were thwarted when they were unexpectedly faced with infertility - and the tough road that lay ahead.

According to Resolve: The National Infertility Association, infertility affects roughly 1 in 8 couples and is defined as the inability to conceive or carry a pregnancy to term after 12 months of trying. For individuals over the age of 35, the time of trying to conceive is reduced to six months.

Dr. Todd Deutch, a physician at Advanced Reproductive Center in Rockford, said there are various risk factors that can lead to infertility in men and women that include age and disease, but for some couples the reason is unexplained.

“We can treat it but it’s frustrating because we can’t say it’s exactly this one issue,” Deutch said. “In general we do have a relatively high success rate if we have a couple who’s open to various types of treatment options.”

Resolve lists the following family building options for individuals or couples with infertility: intrauterine insemination (IUI) - a procedure where sperm is transferred into a uterus to facilitate fertilization - IVF, using a donor egg or sperm sample, surrogacy, adoption and foster parenting. Choosing to live childfree is also a form of resolution for infertility.

Cortnee Dusing, 31, and her husband, David, 36, sought fertility treatment after being unable to conceive for two years. Cortnee did three rounds of clomid, a medication that aids conception, and underwent a 10-month series of holistic treatments, both without results. She was then referred to Dr. Deutch, who wanted to start treatment with an IUI. However, ovarian cysts and imbalanced hormone levels caused complications to Cortnee’s uterine environment, making conception through IUI unlikely.

The couple decided to try IVF and had two embryos transferred. They did a pregnancy test nine days after the transfer that came back positive.

“It’s a really long nine days,” Cortnee said.

Aside from being physically taxing - “At one point I was getting four shots in my belly a day,” Cortnee said - treatment was expensive, and feelings of uncertainty, failure, guilt, frustration and jealousy clouded the experience.

“If we went to stores and I saw a pregnant woman, I’d try to take us down a different aisle so that (Cortnee) wouldn’t have to see because she would get emotional,” David said.

But in the end, with a healthy boy in each arm, the couple said they’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.

“I don’t know how many times I’ve been told that I have my hands full, but I wouldn’t have it any other way,” Cortnee said.

Loves Park resident Kristin Lindvall and her husband, Ryan, both 36, didn’t anticipate having issues after naturally conceiving their son, Jackson. Neither did Dakota residents Ashli Asche, 32, and her husband, Steve, 36, after naturally conceiving their son, Carver. Both couples tried for a year before seeking fertility treatment from Dr. Deutch.

Like Cortnee Dusing, Lindvall and Asche did rounds of clomid and IUI before turning to conception through IVF - and both women said they also struggled with feelings of inadequacy.

“Your period comes again, and it’s just this epic sense of failure that you feel, and it’s hard to explain it to someone unless they’ve gone through it,” Lindvall said. “Not everyone believes in fertility treatment, and a lot of people are very outspoken about the fact that if you can’t get pregnant naturally then maybe you’re not supposed to get pregnant.”

Asche, who is 13 weeks pregnant with twins, had previously miscarried during an IUI - a heartbreaking event that has left her cautiously optimistic.

“I’m kind of waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the next bad thing,” she said. “(This pregnancy) has been kind of hard to enjoy because of what I’ve been through.”

Still, she said she could hardly see the ultrasound screen because of the tears rolling down her face when she and Steve saw the flicker of their twins’ heartbeats.

And Lindvall, whose second son Carter is now 16 months old, said the highlight of her IVF pregnancy was when she told Jackson that he was going to be a big brother.

“His eyes got as big as saucers, he was so excited,” Lindvall said. “That was by far the climactic moment.”

Marie Epling, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist at Rockford-based Counseling Associates, said couples going through infertility face chronic feelings of grief and loss on a monthly basis.

“It’s an emotional roller-coaster,” Epling said. “I believe women, from the time that we’re little girls, we’re taught that being a mother is an important part of our lives. … Women identify themselves more in that way, and when they find out they can’t (conceive) it’s a huge loss to their identity.”

Epling said she has encouraged couples to cope by examining other aspects of their lives that bring them joy, talking to someone on a weekly basis who has gone through infertility and can identify, and employing stress-management skills.

“I encourage them to avoid that all-or-nothing thinking,” she said. “Just because one month doesn’t work, doesn’t mean that it won’t ever work.”

She also suggested that loved ones offer hope rather than advice and be ready with an open ear.

“Avoiding comments like, ‘I can get pregnant just by looking at someone,’ or, ‘You’re just nervous, you need to relax and chill out’ - those comments just aren’t helpful,” Epling said. “It’s inevitable, friends and family members become pregnant. … It’s still very hard to go to a baby shower when you’ve been trying for a year or so and then your cousin or sister tries for one month and gets pregnant. Be understanding toward your loved one if she’s just not able to show a high level of enthusiasm. … Eventually it will pass. Some sensitivity is good.”

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Source: Rockford Register Star, http://bit.ly/2qqh5bu

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Information from: Rockford Register Star, http://www.rrstar.com

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