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They write of the need for IVF services in Newfoundland and Labrador, but the Faces of Fertility tell a story, too

Stephen Ryan: “For all you men out there that may be barely holding it together in the shadows - you are not alone.” -CONTRIBUTED
Stephen Ryan: “For all you men out there that may be barely holding it together in the shadows - you are not alone.” — Contributed

The campaign is now focusing on why it is important to make in vitro fertilization available in the province

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Some of them are smiling for the camera, but on many of the faces in the pictures, the hurt is visible.

The Faces of Fertility social media campaign documents the stories of people across Newfoundland and Labrador who have been trying to get pregnant for up to seven, eight, and nine years.

They’ve had failed treatments, miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, emergency surgeries, and years-long waits for specialist referrals.

Some have spent tens of thousands of dollars trying to have children, and have flown across the country to access services not available in this province.


Hi. I'm Ledon. I'm a Newfoundlander who has been dealing with infertility for 4 years now. We've had 8 failed IUIs,...

Posted by Faces of Fertility on Sunday, May 24, 2020

Some describe this journey as a “nightmare” that has made them angry and bitter.

Infertility was once a silent struggle, but more and more people across the province are sharing their stories in the hope they can effect change.

Thirty-year-old Mount Pearl resident Ledon Wellon started the Faces of Infertility campaign last month. Ever since, she’s featured a new person or couple every few days.

She initiated the campaign in an effort to have the fertility clinic in St. John’s opened during the COVID-19 pandemic. She questioned why the province was allowing hair salons to open, but wasn’t permitting time-sensitive fertility treatments.

Now that the fertility clinic is open for some patients, Wellon is shifting her focus to bring attention to the need for the in vitro fertilization (IVF) service in the province.

“I’m trying to get the attention of the government, (pointing out) that there’s so many of us who need IVF and don’t have access in Newfoundland, so we’ve had to travel and spend our money elsewhere.”

She said she hasn’t heard directly from government officials, but she’s had many people contact her, or comment on the posts saying they didn’t realize how great the need was in the province, and how much time and money some people spend to try to become parents.

“I just hope that people can understand that it’s not just a 30-year-old woman who’s going through this — that there are single women going through this, couples, men, non-binary folks, trans folks — there’s all kinds of different stories, people who are all just wanting to have a family, and that it’s just not available here.”

Personal stories

One of those people is Jessica Penney. Her post on the Faces of Fertility page focuses on what’s called secondary infertility, when a person isn’t able to become pregnant after previously having no trouble.

When Penney was 18 years old, she had a baby. When she got married, she and her husband wanted to have another child.

“That was the plan. Baby right after the wedding. Seems easy right? I got pregnant without trying before!” she posted. “Fast-forward a year. Still no baby. I was shocked, so was our family doctor, that my once extremely fertile body could not seem to get pregnant after a year of trying.”

Penney’s had 10 failed intrauterine inseminations (IUIs)and is waiting for the fertility clinic to fully reopen so she can begin pre-IVF support.


Hi! I’m Jessica. I was so lucky to be blessed with my now 10 year old when I was just 18 years old. When I met my now...

Posted by Faces of Fertility on Wednesday, June 24, 2020

IVF itself is not available in Newfoundland and Labrador (a procedure available in every other province except Prince Edward Island), and unlike some other provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador doesn't offer financial assistance for IVF.

It does, however, offer pre- and post-IVF supports, and other fertility services, such as donor insemination and ovulation induction.

“Our daughter cries for a sibling,” reads Penney’s post.

“People see us and think we are cruel for not giving her a sibling. ‘How can you make her grow up alone when you both have siblings you loved growing up with?’”

Men yearning to be fathers are also highlighted on the page.

Stephen Ryan’s post said he and his wife have been trying to conceive for six years.

“I carry an incredible sense of guilt that the failures of my own body have caused so much heartache and grief,” reads his post.

Ryan’s experience was posted to the page on Father’s Day.

“For all you men out there that may be barely holding it together in the shadows — you are not alone.”

Pandemic highlighted need

Several posts on the Faces of Fertility page also highlight the importance of fertility services for the 2SLGBTQ+ community.

The most recent post on the page features Katelyn and Alyssa McGrath.

The couple married last year and the two were excited to begin the process of having a baby. However, because they are both cisgender women, they knew they’d need help.


We’re the McGraths. After we got married in July 2019, we were so excited to begin the process of having a baby. Since...

Posted by Faces of Fertility on Sunday, June 28, 2020

They were referred to the fertility clinic in January, but learned it would be six months to a year before they could get their first appointment to begin the process. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“Every month that the clinics were closed was another month added to our wait time,” they posted. “Now that they’re open, we’re thrilled for the existing patients who get to resume their treatments. However, we’re not existing patients. The wait time continues to drag on.

“For us, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Our hearts are breaking for the baby that we want so badly and can’t have. Our only feasible option has been postponed, and the waiting is excruciating.”

As for Wellon, she and her husband have been dealing with infertility for four years. They’ve had eight failed IUIs, multiple miscarriages and one failed round of IVF which involved taking a month off of work to travel to Calgary in March before the pandemic hit.


Hi! I’m Charmaine. I was diagnosed with PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome) back in 2015. It took me a full year to get...

Posted by Faces of Fertility on Friday, June 26, 2020

Wellon would like to try another round of IVF with the frozen embryos she has waiting in Calgary, but she’s already lost four months of work as a hairstylist due to the last treatment, and then being unable to work for three months during the pandemic.

“The pandemic has just highlighted Newfoundland’s obvious need for an IVF clinic,” she said.

“There’s so many people who need access to it, and with the quarantine, and the fear of flying right now — plus the financial situation that so many of us are in, it’s just preventing so many people from having access to it.

“Whereas if it was in our own province, we could just take half an hour off of work to run and have our appointment instead of having to take a month off to go to the other side of the country.”

Twitter: @juanitamercer_


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