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Mother Nature's Helper

Catching fish, playing volleyball, camping…

For years Caren and Ben Hammer enjoyed their life as a couple. Then came an important question: Was it time to bring a Little Hammer into this happy picture? Both wholeheartedly said yes, but neither imagined it would take years to get there.

“I just figured it would be a matter of not using birth control, then letting Mother Nature do her thing,” says Ben, laughing. “But when the second year passed and the third year, pretty soon the flags went up -- what’s going on?”

After trying unsuccessfully for four years, the Moorhead couple asked a new question: "Where do we go from here?"

The birth of a plan

Caren’s knowledge about options for couples with fertility issues far surpassed most people’s. Since 2006, she’s been an embryologist at Sanford Reproductive Medicine Clinic in Fargo. Day in and day out, she works in Reproductive Medicine’s highly advanced lab, ensuring the best possible environment for early embryo growth.

But Reproductive Medicine wasn’t the Hammers’ first stop on their journey to pregnancy. Early on Caren talked with her OB/GYN, who prescribed fertility medication. But after three months? Still no pregnancy.

Next she talked with Dr. Stephanie Dahl, one of three board-certified reproductive endocrinologists at Reproductive Medicine. A thorough assessment of Ben’s and Caren’s reproductive health led to a plan: Continue with the fertility medication, but add intrauterine insemination.

Says Ben: “We liked knowing we had a step-by-step process that was well thought out and planned. If one process didn’t work, we’d move to the next.”

When two rounds of IUI failed, the Hammers decided to take their dream of a family to the next level: in vitro fertilization.

“The decision was more difficult for me than for Ben because I knew the statistics,” says Caren. “Ben reminded me that without IVF we’d had zero success -- IVF gives us a chance. He was behind this all the way.”

Adds Ben: “Even if IVF was just a 1 percent chance we would’ve done it! That’s how much we wanted a baby.”

Surrounded by support

Caren and Ben went into the month-long IVF process with eyes wide open. They knew it would be intense, time-consuming and an emotional roller-coaster. They knew it would involve several appointments, precisely timed injections, a procedure to retrieve the eggs and another procedure to transfer the embryos into the uterus.

But they also knew they had a strong, experienced team supporting them. Says Caren: “Everybody at Reproductive Medicine was very encouraging -- and not just because they knew us. They’re like that with all their patients -- passionate about their jobs and doing the best they can for everybody.”

In particular Ben and Caren appreciated:

    Readily available answers to questions. “The doctors and nurses consistently said any time you have questions, just ask -- even if it’s after hours,” says Caren. “That meant a lot to us.”
    The convenience of Reproductive Medicine. “Everything needed is easily available in one location -- that’s awesome,” says Caren.
      A smooth transition to obstetrics care, including access to Sanford’s fetal medicine specialists and advanced ultrasounds.
      Confidence in knowing the physicians and nurses are certified in reproductive medicine. “That in itself was a huge stress reliever,” says Caren.

    And the result of their IVF back in August 2011? Pregnancy!

    “We felt very blessed,” says Caren. “IVF worked for us the very first time.”


    Nine months later -- on April 30, 2012 -- the Hammers welcomed Alissa Lynn. Their healthy baby girl was 7 pounds, 13 ounces; 19-¾ inches long. She impressed everyone with her head of thick, dark hair.

    “We learn something new about her every day,” says Ben, gazing down at Alissa, now sleeping in his arms. “We went through a lot to get her, but it was so worth it. For us, the end definitely justifies the means.”

    And those camping trips Ben and Caren enjoyed as a couple? Now they enjoy them as a family. At 5 weeks old, Alissa has already been camping three times. She’s been introduced to volleyball, too, watching Ben play on Tuesday evenings.

    Fishing can’t be far behind…

    Posted Date: July 2012