The single most special thing we can create in this world is new life. But, what happens when the body you’ve been given doesn’t allow you to have a child of your own? Some people accept their reality, some choose adoption, and others look to other alternatives such as in vitro fertilization (IVF). This process can require a lot of IVF needles.
And that’s exactly what Patricia and Kimberly O’Neill did. What they didn’t expect, however, is the challenging and seemingly impossible road they had ahead. Mothers everywhere will attest to the fact that having a child is no easy feat and the O’Neills story gives new meaning to that.
Patricia and Kimberly’s baby, London, was born on August 3, 2018. If you were to see her in the street, you would think she’s an absolute cutie. What many people aren’t aware of are the four years, three miscarriages, and 1,616 IVF shots in total (including the ones which sadly ended in miscarriage) it took to conceive their little miracle.
1,616 IVF Needles
To commemorate their daughter, the O’Neills hired Samantha Packer of Packer Family Photography to take baby and family photos. Little did they know, Packer would capture the one shot that is inspiring and giving hope to people – especially women – around the world.
“Kimberly decided as soon as I started shots that she would save the needs and that we would do a photo at the end of our journey,” Patricia told BuzzFeed.  “I never expected there would be so many needles.”
Don’t worry! On top of being tightly swaddled, each of the 1,616 IVF needles was securely covered. Although it doesn’t look like it in the photo, Patricia ensures she and Kimberly were right next to London and that she was a good distance away from them.
London O’Neill, A Symbol of Hope
“We want [London’s photo] to bring hope for women that are hopeless in this journey and a voice for women that are afraid to speak of it… We both were amazed and teared up when we saw the set-up. We were overwhelmed with joy looking at the miraculous completion of our journey in the photo.”
One can only imagine the fear and disappointment and sense of failure some women must feel when they can’t conceive… let alone having to rely so heavily on medical professionals. But, with this photo of London, the O’Neills are able to reflect on their long and hard-fought journey in a new light – a light of strength, hope, perseverance, and love.
We will never know why some people are faced with this hurdle, but the O’Neills have some encouraging words for you or someone you know. And who better to hear it from then a couple who lived it?
“It’s really easy to let this journey overcome your life, but you can’t let it. Find someone to talk to that’s been through it. There’s strength in that.”
What Is In Vitro Fertilization?
According to the American Pregnancy Association (APA), IVF is a form of ART… assisted reproductive technology. Penn Medicine reports that 61,740 babies were born in 2012 thanks to IVF, which translates to 1-2% of all U.S. births annually.  It’s a process in which a woman’s egg is extracted and manually fertilized with sperm in a laboratory dish. Once this is done, doctors transfer the embryo(s) into the woman’s uterus. 
In 2015, the U.S. Society of Assisted Reproductive Technology reported that “the chance of having a full term, normal birth weight and singleton live birth per ART cycle using fresh embryos from nondonor eggs is 21.3 percent for women younger than 35.”  Clearly, that stat comes with a long list of factors that could affect the chances of a successful IVF treatment.
The APA breaks the actual live birth rate using IVF into four groups: 
- Women under age 35… 41-43%
- Women ages 35 to 37… 33-36%
- Women ages 38 to 40… 23-27%
- Women over age 40… 13-18%
How Much Does IVF Cost?
IVF can be extremely costly for most people exploring this option. Since many insurance plans will not cover, individuals or couples are faced with taking on the full cost. While the numbers range, on average, the cost of one IVF cycle can rage anywhere from $10,000 to $20,000. [2-5]
And that’s without the extra medicines many people end up requiring and the fact that, according to FertilityIQ, the average patient undergoes 2.3 to 2.7 IVF cycles in total. (That’s close to $50,000 in treatments.) 
The Health Risks of IVF
Because IFV is dependent on so many factors, the process can be incredibly challenging. In addition to its high cost, the invasive process, how long it can take, being too old or the specific cause of infertility, there are also numerous potential health risks involved: 
- Multiple births
- Premature delivery and low birth rate
- Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (from injectable fertility drugs)
- Egg-retrieval procedure complications
- Ectopic pregnancy (when the fertilized egg implants outside the uterus)
- Birth defects
- Ovarian cancer
- Stress (e.g., financially, emotionally, and physically)
On top of all that, some couples even “felt they had failed at something that should be so natural and easy.” Other women were taken aback by how clinical the IVF process was “and felt the romance of trying to conceive had completely gone… that something so special had been destroyed by IVF.” 
At the end of the day…
Whether or not you think people should go the IVF route, the choice is ultimately theirs. If anything, we should sympathize or empathize with the women and couples who are on this journey. As Patricia, Kimberly and London’s journey makes so clear, love, understanding, and patience is so important. You may not think it, but showing someone love, understanding, and patience can go a long way.
- “This Baby Was Photographed With The 1,616 IVF Needles It Took To Conceive Her.” Buzzfeed. Terri Pous. August 27, 2018.
- “IVF by the Numbers.” Penn Medicine. March 14, 2018.
- “In Vitro Fertilization (IVF): Side Effects and Risks.” (2018, September 10). Retrieved from American Pregnancy.
- “More women using IVF than ever before.” CNN. Jen Christensen. February 18, 2014.
- “40 years later, why is IVF still not covered by insurance? Economics, ignorance and sexism” CNN.Elissa Strauss. July 25, 2018
- “The Cost of IVF By City.” Fertility IQ.
- “In vitro fertilization (IVF).” Mayo CLinic.