My journey to motherhood: From disappointment and frustration to the family I always dreamed of

Mother’s Day has special meaning to Kristine who wasn’t sure whether she’d ever be able to have her own children before fertility treatment at U-M

Bowdell family

Kristine Bowdell with daughter Patty, 3 and husband Martin.

Every year, the commercials begin again. Moms in pajamas waking up to flowers, presents and breakfast in bed from their little ones. Mother’s Day – a recognition of the special relationship between mothers and children and a reminder of the one thing I wanted most for so long and wasn’t sure I’d ever have.

I never imagined not being a mom. Everything in my life stemmed from my love for children.

It’s why I worked as a basketball camp counselor as a teenager, why I became an elementary school teacher and why my husband Martin and I bought a house by our families in a community where we imagined raising our kids someday. When our doctor told us children might not be in our future, it was a shattering blow to so many of our dreams.

But in 2010, we turned to the University of Michigan Center for Reproductive Medicine at Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital for help and this is where our journey begins.

My “coaches” through fertility treatment

They say there is an inner “athlete” in all of us.  Athletes compete – they work hard to achieve a goal. It’s a mantra I followed as a college basketball player. My whole life, when I had something I wanted to achieve, I could take the necessary steps towards reaching that goal.  If I wanted a faster mile time, I could get up early and go for a run.  If I wanted to be stronger, I could stop in the weight room for a workout.   I really struggled with accepting the fact that I wanted to have a baby, but I had to rely on others for that chance.  It is not something I could do on my own. It was out of my control.

The doctors, nurses and staff at the University of Michigan are like my trusted coaches and teammates.  When I receive my treatment calendars (telling me what medicines and tests to take and when to take them), I am thrilled.  They look just like sports training calendars.  I feel confident knowing I am on the best “team”, and win or lose, I am going to follow that calendar to a “T”  and give it my best shot.

 It’s worth a try

Throughout my journey, I have had many failures.  Many disappointments. Many back to the drawing boards.  I get angry, sad, and discouraged as a woman each time.  My husband, faith, and family hold me together.  During one of my lowest points, DeLynn Howe, a nurse from U-M, called my home but not with medical advice or test results. She simply called just to check on me – as a friend.  I am crying as I write this because it meant that much to me.

Even throughout the failures upon my journey, I still felt good in my heart for trying.  When my heart tells me my journey is over, regardless of the outcome, I know I will be able to hang up my cleats and know I did my best with the best.

But…Did you try this?

As many women who are struggling with infertility know, we encounter a lot of “helpful” friends and family.  Have you tried not thinking about it so much?  Have you tried yoga?  Have you tried drinking green tea?  The suggestions go on and on.   We want to be able to have a baby so badly we would try just about anything, so I am always eager to run all my possible new found theories by the staff at U-M.  Dr. Michael Lanham is always so compassionate.  He answers all of my questions and even types up the answers for me to take home to Martin.  Dr. Lanham offers me sound advice based on medical knowledge and studies to help me separate the facts from the myths.

There are still many mental battles to overcome. Along my journey, I often ask myself “Why can so-and-so have kids so easily and I have to struggle?”  I find jealousy creeps in.  I get angry and frustrated.  I am human.

My work once sent me to a health conference and the first speaker was an emergency room doctor.  He opened his speech by saying that he has seen enough in his 30 years as an E.R. doctor to let us all know that “things don’t happen for a reason.” This really resonated with me.  The U- M Center for Reproductive Medicine has helped me turn my “why” into a “what”.  What are our fertility issues?  What can we do about them?  Because I am human, I still slip into the “why” more often then I should, but it feels a lot better to rely on the “what”.

Mother’s Day

Thanks to the University of Michigan Center for Reproductive Medicine, our little blessing was born on Palm Sunday, April 1, 2012.  This Mother’s Day will be my third one celebrating motherhood with my sweet, brown-eyed daughter Patty. I am eternally grateful to all of the staff at U-M who played a role in helping us realize our greatest dream to be parents.

We hope to someday give Patty a little brother or sister and I am currently in the midst of an IVF attempt.  I am at peace with my efforts.  I am hopeful.  I am more than thankful for the staff at the University of Michigan Center for Reproductive Medicine who continue to offer me the coaching support I need through this journey.

Dr. Lanham and the rest of the team at U-M have always been so supportive, caring and kind to us.  I know without them, I would not have had the wonderful opportunity to be the mother to this free-spirited three year old girl who loves nature, make-believe, running and her pink kitty. I love watching her grow, experience joy in so many little things and develop her ways.  On Mother’s Day, I am so grateful for the gift of Patty.

Take the next step:

vvwh blog - fertility thumbThe University of Michigan Center for Reproductive Medicine brings the expertise of infertility specialists and research scientists together to give each of our clients access to the latest fertility therapies and technologies available through one convenient center.  We offer a full spectrum of assisted reproductive technology options, including IVF, fertility preservation, intrauterine insemination, donor insemination, and pre-implantation genetic diagnosis.


university of michigan women's hospitalUniversity of Michigan Von Voigtlander Women’s Hospital opened in December 2011, offering women a state-of-the-art place to welcome their babies to the world in the most caring and comfortable way possible.  From private rooms to birthing tubs, each feature was designed around mom and baby’s every need.  Learn more at www.UofMhealth.org/birthcenter.