When Sara and Tracy Zaino set down the road to parenthood they likely never imagined what a complicated and often-frustrating journey it would be, but the arrival of their happy and healthy sons has put any previous challenges into perspective.
“Babies were always part of our plan,” says Tracy. Married in 2011, the couple started planning their strategy for becoming parents in the summer of 2012. They researched cryobanks, looking for the perfect donor and began the process of intrauterine insemination.
“I had always very much wanted to be pregnant and give birth,” says Sara, while Tracy quickly interjects “And I had not!”, so the decision about who would actually carry the pregnancy was not in question. With Sara being a healthy woman in her early thirties, they weren’t taking anything for granted, but were certainly not anticipating the maze of obstacles they encountered.
After undergoing six unsuccessful insemination attempts at another facility, the couple was referred to Dr. Judith McBean at Brattleboro Obstetrics and Gynecology/Four Seasons Midwifery (BOG), a BMH Medical Group member practice. McBean specializes in infertility, and began working with the couple to assess their options.
“We liked her right away,” says Sara. “She was very down-to-earth and knowledgeable and made us feel right at home.” Dr. McBean reviewed all of Sara’s medical records and tests and raised the option of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), a process in which eggs would be harvested from either Sara or Tracy, fertilized with donor sperm, and re-implanted as fertilized embryos in Sara’s uterus. After further testing and consultation, the couple decided to move ahead with IVF using Sara’s eggs.
“Dr. McBean was great,” both women agree. “She went over everything with us – the risks and the potential complications – so we felt good about moving forward.”
Before attempting the retrieval of Sara’s eggs, Dr. McBean scheduled the first of two “mock transfers”, in which the patient’s anatomy is mapped out to ensure a smooth transfer of the fertilized embryos. “They practice to make sure that everything is fine. In my case it was really good that they did that, as it turned out I was among the 1% of women in whom it’s not so easy,” says Sara. Her egg retrieval was scheduled for early January, and while she was under anesthesia the team performed another ultrasound-guided mock transfer to further familiarize themselves with the details of her anatomy. A few days later, the couple went back for Dr. McBean to implant the fertilized embryos.
“We were watching it on the screen, and got to see the moment she placed the embryos,” they recall. “We’ll never forget it — it was the most amazing thing!” Tracy jokes, “It was surreal – like watching the weirdest video game ever!” The previous mock transfers had served an important purpose, as the particular features of Sara’s anatomy made the implantation among the more difficult ones Dr. McBean had ever performed. Both women laugh as they recall Dr. McBean’s persistence. “She was sweating,” says Tracy. “But she was very determined and wasn’t going to give up.”
On Martin Luther King Day the couple went in for blood tests and found out that they were indeed pregnant, but didn’t find out for another few weeks that they were expecting twins. “Dr. McBean brought up the ultrasound on the screen and you could see the two little egg sacs,” recalls Tracy.
Since they had decided to implant two fertilized embryos, discovering that they were pregnant with twins wasn’t a complete shock. Prior to starting the process, Dr. McBean had explained that it might result in two babies “And she wanted to make sure we were prepared for that!” they laugh. “It was a little surreal,” Tracy continues. “But I have a twin sister and part of me really wanted twins because I’ve seen all the benefits, even though I knew it would be harder at first.” “We always knew we wanted more than one child, “ Sara chimes in. “So we figured ‘Well, while we’re at it….’”
The couple decided to stay with BOG and Dr. McBean for their prenatal care and scheduled their delivery at the BMH Birthing Center, even though they had other options closer to home. “Everyone at the practice was fantastic – such a warm and welcoming environment,” they recall.
“We really liked that we started with one doctor and stayed with her all the way to the end,” says Sara. “She was great about guiding us through the process – both of getting me pregnant, then managing my prenatal care and ultimately delivering the babies.”
As the due date approached, Dr. McBean reviewed all the eventualities the couple might find themselves faced with, including natural birth, medications, induction and C-section. “By then she just knew us, and we knew her, so we felt we could really trust anything she said to us,” says Sara. The couple also has high praise for all the staff of the BMH Birthing Center. “It was a fantastic experience,” says Sara. “I’m actually a little sad that I won’t be having any more kids because I really loved everyone at both BOG and the Birthing Center. We couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”
“I didn’t exactly opt for a C-section,” says Sara, “But I was already into a 36-hour induction that didn’t seem to be going anywhere, and so, with Dr. McBean’s guidance we decided the section was the best option. On September 18, 2015 at 12:08 and 12:09 pm respectively, Micah and Rory Zaino were born to the parents who now dote on them completely. While Sara and Tracy’s nights may feature a lot less sleep these days, they could not be happier. “All of it has been so worth it,” Sara comments as she and Tracy coordinate a double diaper change with military precision. “It was definitely a marathon and not a sprint, and there were moments where it all felt so hopeless and like it was never going to happen….” The couple credits Dr. McBean for her optimism and encouragement throughout the process. “There are times, going through this when you feel totally overwhelmed, and she was so great about keeping us focused on the end result we were after,” says Tracy. “She’s really the full package,” adds Sara. “She’s got so much experience on all sides – infertility, obstetrics, and gynecology. We really came full circle with her – she put the babies in me and then pulled them out nine months later!”
“In addition to medical care, my role is to help educate aspiring parents, and support them as they focus on their goals,” says Dr. McBean. “For couples like Sara and Tracy, who were very motivated to become parents, it can be frustrating when things don’t go exactly as planned or hoped, but with new technologies and advances in medicine, there are so many new options to pursue. As a physician, it’s exciting to be able to offer these options and see families be formed.”
Sara and Tracy have a unique perspective on the challenges of being new parents. “Someone commented the other day that we don’t seem to get too stressed out when the babies cry,” says Tracy. “After all we went through to have them – the crying, the sleepless nights – we just wanted them so badly that all the hard parts are no big deal.”
“We’re so grateful to everyone who helped us get here,” says Sara as she hands off one of the babies to Tracy for a post-feeding burp. “When we tell these boys how they were born, Dr. McBean will always be a part of our birth story. She’s a big part of our family.”