Focus on Fertility: Faith, science and fulfilled wishes

By: Leslie Penkunas

Wishes do come true. Sometimes they just need a medical nudge.

Ever since she was old enough to talk, Rosie Padelsky, now age 7, begged her parents for a brother and sister. She’d wish for them when blowing dandelion seeds and birthday candles. She’d add them to her nightly prayers.

Rosie’s parents, Hannah and Mark, opted to wait a while before getting pregnant again. They didn’t want the expense of having two kids in day care. When Rosie turned 4, they agreed it was time. They didn’t expect any hurdles as they’d had no difficulties conceiving their daughter.

“I just assumed it was going to happen once we decided it could,” Hannah said. When initial efforts failed, Hannah carefully tracked her cycles, her basal body temperature - “the whole nine yards,” she said. A marketing and consumer insights analyst in Penn State Health’s Office of Marketing and Communications, she’s a data-driven person. Statistically, she knew she should have gotten pregnant already. At six months, she sought fertility treatment from another health system.

“I felt weird about seeing people I may work with for my fertility care,” Hannah said.

She and her husband underwent various tests that turned up no clear reasons why they couldn’t get pregnant. Hannah’s provider gave them just two options: “relax” and try on their own for another six months or “just start IVF (in vitro fertilization) right away.”

Because of her faith and the probability that IVF would yield “leftover” embryos, Hannah didn’t want to pursue that treatment. Instead, she tried to focus on reducing her stress while not focusing so much on getting pregnant.

It didn’t work.

Young woman and man holding their newborn babies in an operating room setting.


Respecting their faith

Meanwhile, Hannah got to know Dr. Samantha Butts, a reproductive endocrinologist and chief of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at Penn State Health, while working on a few projects with her. She found the fertility specialist to be “the most amazing person. So supportive. So kind. So nonjudgmental. She was a godsend for what I needed at that moment,” she said.

Butts listened to Hannah’s concerns about IVF and helped her and her husband understand what other options they had. She suggested intrauterine insemination (IUI), a procedure in which sperm is placed directly into the uterus using a small catheter when the woman is most fertile.

Hannah and Mark went through the process, which included frequent ultrasounds to help determine when Hannah was about to ovulate. Finally, it was time for her to go in for the procedure. On her way home, Hannah “prayed and prayed” about it. And then she saw a fox.

“Throughout my entire life, whenever something significant has happen, I’ve always seen foxes,” she said. “I’ll maybe see one every few years. I’ve done this drive to and from Hershey for work hundreds of times and never saw a fox. But that day, there was one just sitting in the field. I pulled over, got out of the car and just watched him. It was a sign.”

Sure enough, the IUI worked.

Hannah was briefly pregnant with triplets and experienced all the related emotions. Only two babies survived the first trimester. Twins. Just like her daughter wanted.

“So much for carefully planning not to have two kids in day care at the same time,” Hannah said, laughing.

But Rosie had one more wish.

Young family celebrating twins birthday party outdoors.


Hurdles in the homestretch

“We’d been planning an elaborate sixth birthday party for Rosie for months,” Hannah said. Then, when she was 30 weeks pregnant, she was rushed to Penn State Health Children’s Hospital for heavy bleeding. She stayed there for 48 hours - including Rosie’s actual birthday. As Rosie blew out the candles on her cake, she wished that her mom would be home in time for her party. She was.

But just three weeks later, Hannah was back in the hospital again - where she’d remain until she reached the 36-week mark and it was time to have her babies.

Violet and Ace entered the world on May 31, 2022. Hannah says they’re the happiest babies she’s ever seen.

And Rosie? She’s never been happier that all of her wishes came true.

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