Big Heartbreak for Little Couple: Jennifer Arnold on infertility and loss

Jennifer Arnold of TLC's

In November 2011, TLC’s “The Little Couple” Jennifer Arnold and Bill Klein saw their world shatter when the surrogate carrying the couple’s unborn child suffered a miscarriage. This wasn’t the first stumbling block the couple has faced on the road to parenthood.

Both Klein and Arnold, a neonatologist at Texas Children’s Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics-neonatology at Baylor College of Medicine, have a genetic condition that causes dwarfism.

“We both have a genetic condition, a rare form of skeletal dysplasia called Spondyloepiphyseal Dysplasia, that results in dwarfism and many orthopedic complications,” explains Arnold. “We opted for surrogacy because we wanted to avoid the possible risks and complications of carrying a pregnancy given my short stature and small size.”

In addition to the physical risks to Arnold, the odds of a healthy baby weren’t in their favor.

“If we have a child biologically we have a 50% chance of having a child with the same skeletal dysplasia as us; a 25% chance of having an average sized child; and 25% chance of having a child that may not survive past infancy. We understood and were ok with these risks for surrogacy,” she explains.

Coming to terms with fertility issues

In addition to the health risks of Arnold carrying a baby, she’s battled a degree of infertility, too. Her ovaries were not normally placed in her pelvis, making the egg retrieval procedure required for surrogacy challenging for Arnold’s doctors. And her body wasn’t producing the expected 6 to 8 eggs per menstrual cycle, even though she was on medications to stimulate her ovaries.

As a result, the couple had to wait over a year for the doctors to be able to obtain only two eggs, which were fertilized with Klein’s sperm to become embryos.

Many women experience side effects of drugs aimed at stimulating ovaries like nausea, feeling full, vomiting or mood swings.

“Thankfully, I did not really experience anything extreme. I had a sense of fullness that was sometimes hard to deal with given my small size,” says Arnold.  

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A stiff upper lip

While physical side effects were side-stepped, Arnold has experienced a lion’s share of heartache. In addition to the emotional toll of her infertility, Arnold and her husband had to deal with the gripping loss of the miscarriage.

She says she came to terms with her fertility challenges and made it through those tough first days with a lot of support.

“My advice for other women facing fertility issues is to never give up. Speak to family and friends for support and don’t forget to take care of yourself during the process,” she says.

The emotional toll of infertility has yet to dampen Arnold’s spirit. Or shake her marriage.

“Couples in this situation need to stick together and stay calm. I have found the support of my husband and family invaluable. The end goal is to become parents, but remember that first you fell in love with each other and that is what matters most,” she says.

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Not giving up 

Arnold says she and her husband aren’t abandoning their dream of becoming parents.

Adding an adopted little bundle to their loving nest is something the couple is considering. “It’s always been on our radar,” says Arnold. “Naturally, if we adopt, we are thrilled to adopt a child with skeletal dysplasia."

And while miscarriage and infertility are difficult to deal with, Arnold refuses to let it get her down.

“I have to keep going and trying in order to be at peace. The goal is to become a parent and there are many ways to do that, I just need to hang in there until I found the way it would work for me,” she says.

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