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A Childless Life Is a Barren One for Some

August 06, 1988|JAN HOFMANN | Jan Hofmann is a regular contributor to Orange County Life

Candace Hurley of Laguna Beach never wanted to see another baby shower invitation as long as she lived--unless it was hers.

In the spring of 1985, 10 of her friends were happily pregnant. But instead of taking regular trips to the obstetrician as they were, she and her husband, Brian, were making frequent visits to an infertility specialist. What her friends took for granted was out of reach for her, and none of them seemed to understand the frustration she felt.

Hurley says: "People would say, 'Oh, you shouldn't worry about it. You have a wonderful marriage. You should feel lucky.' Nobody knew how I felt, but everybody was telling me how I should feel."

Their friends were full of well-meaning but misinformed suggestions: Take a vacation. Don't think about it so much. You don't really want children; they're too much trouble. Think of all the money you're saving. Adopt, and then you'll get pregnant.

When the Hurleys and three similar couples wanted so much to be understood that when a documentary producer from KCET-TV in Los Angeles asked them to let camera crews into their lives for a program on infertility, they agreed.

Neither they nor producer Nancy Salter imagined those cameras would be there off and on for three years, witnessing moments of hope and heartbreak, elation and resignation. The cameras followed them not only into the examining room but the operating room, in some cases. From low sperm motility to Fallopian tube blockages, every detail was documented.

The result is "Expecting Miracles," a KCET Journal report to be shown Monday from 9 to 10 p.m.

"Our intention was to do a documentary on infertility and the types of treatment available," Salter says. "We wanted to see people as they were going through the process. At the time, we thought at least one of the couples we were dealing with would be pregnant within a year. That's what happens with about half the couples who go through infertility treatment. But no one did.

"We were lucky that it worked out that way," Salter says. "It gave a much more realistic view of what it was like for them."

"I always wanted children," says Hurley, 34. "That's something that was forever in my mind. Brian had nine brothers and sisters, and it was always in his mind too. When it didn't happen, that was very difficult for me to take.

"I was determined I was going to make it happen," she says. "It became a really huge part of our life. It was like having a second job. I never missed a month (her monthly doctor's appointment) in five years, except for surgery and my miscarriage. I never took a vacation that didn't jibe with my ovulation time. I needed to explore every medical aspect before I could let it rest.

"I was working with an adoption agency when I got pregnant. The next step was in vitro (test-tube) fertilization."

At one point, Candace Hurley says she told her husband to "find a woman who's fertile. He tried to reassure me that he didn't marry me for my baby-making ability.

"When we found out he had a problem, I was secretly extremely relieved. I had such guilt; I really felt I had failed him. As much as you know it's completely insane, you still feel it.

"I never felt that he wasn't quite a man because of it. But for me, I really equated being a mother with a huge part of being a woman, so a huge part of my womanhood was not there," she says.

Thanks to an experimental technique in which Brian Hurley's sperm was washed with a drug to increase motility, they are now the parents of a 1-year-old son.

And now, thanks to Mother Nature, they are expecting a second son sometime next month. "There was a one-in-a-million chance that we would have been able to get pregnant on our own," Candace Hurley says. "For us, this was just another miracle."

After Teri Phillips of El Toro, now 33, had a miscarriage in 1983, she and her husband, Maurice Sanchez, 32, assumed that they were fertile.

When Sanchez found that he had a sperm motility problem, he was shocked. "It did make me feel like less of a man at first, but then later I tried to divorce myself from that feeling and really go with the feeling that it was a medical problem that might be fixed. Once we narrowed it down, it didn't intrude on my manhood as a whole."

After three years of trying to conceive, Sanchez and Phillips adopted a daughter in 1986. But they continued medical treatment, including their monthly visits to an infertility specialist for artificial insemination with Sanchez's sperm. Now they have a 6-month-old biological child as well.

"Had we not been able to eventually have a baby," Sanchez says. "I would have felt, gee, I can't create children. A big part of my life is gone."

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