When Samantha and her husband, Jess, faced infertility issues, they consulted fertility specialists, including Kenan Omurtag, MD, a Washington University fertility specialist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital—a move that led to the birth of a daughter, Harper, 6, and a son, Abel, 4. But many surprises lay ahead on a journey that would ultimately lead to a third child and give hope to other couples dealing with infertility and miscarriage.
Though infertility can be a long road with many obstacles, Jess and Sam were grateful that Sam was able to conceive Harper and Abel relatively easily with fertility treatments, and they felt very fortunate. “A lot of families go through so much more,” she says.
Then, in the summer of 2018, Sam found out she was unexpectedly pregnant with her third child. After having had fertility treatments for her first two children, the news came as a welcome surprise.
“That was so exciting for us,” Sam says. “But then it didn’t work out.” She experienced a miscarriage and her physicians found atypical cells, which they said were pre-cancerous.
After considering her treatment options with Dr. Omurtag and her oncologist, Matthew Powell, MD, Sam decided to have a full hysterectomy. She went from hope to heartbreak in a matter of weeks.
“Wanting a baby and believing it was no longer possible was a crushing feeling,” Sam says. “It’s a really humbling experience. It was a really hard thing to go through—to be elated that I was pregnant to suddenly having no chance.”
But, as fate would have it, another miracle was in store for the family.
“Just minutes before surgery for my hysterectomy, I found out I was pregnant again,” Sam says. “I wish I could’ve captured everyone’s faces, because it was the furthest thing from everyone’s mind. It was completely unreal. I don’t think anyone thought it would be possible in a million years.”
In July of 2019, Sam gave birth to a healthy baby boy they named Zane.
After all of the stress they experienced with fertility care and miscarriage, the couple knew they wanted to do all they could to help other families in the same position. “Dealing with the emotional struggles couples face while going through infertility, and then on top of that dealing with financial stress is something that I cannot imagine," Sam says.
As a result, Sam and Jess established the Dragonfly Fund at The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital. The fund provides financial assistance to patients receiving fertility treatments.
For Sam, the name of the fund holds special significance. When she was a child, her brother passed away and a family friend sent them the story of the dragonfly as a source of comfort and hope. As the parable goes, when dragonflies leave the bottom of the pond as larvae and go through metamorphosis, they can no longer talk to their friends on the other side. But they continue to watch over them as they fly over the pond.
The metaphor has become a powerful symbol of hope for those grieving, particularly those who have experienced the profound loss of a miscarriage or infertility.
“The process of turning into a dragonfly—it’s about new life and hope. If I’m having a bad day, I’ve always managed to see a dragonfly somewhere,” Sam says. “It’s always been a symbol of hope for me, and that’s what I wanted when I thought about infertility. I wanted someone to feel hope.”