ANDERSON — Stephanie Fertucci can’t help but just let the tears well up in her eyes. She’s never wanted something so badly, and the last year and a half has been a roller coaster of emotions, optimism and disappointment.
Every time she gets a glimmer of hope for the future of her family, anxiety and doubt temporarily consume her.
“It’s so overwhelming,” she said. “I cry a lot.”
She and her husband are facing fertility issues, making their dreams of being parents seem impossible. But now the couple – along with friends and family – is looking toward an unlikely savior: Etsy.
Fertucci and her sister are selling crafts on the marketplace website to raise money for fertility treatments. The sisters spend hours each week working on burp cloths, paper quilling projects, glass yard art and various other crafts to sell.
Stephanie said the In-Vitro Fertilization (IVF) package she and her husband, Matt Fertucci, are getting costs about $30,000.
“I was crafting every night,” she said, “but I know I can’t do $30,000 worth.”
After marrying in June 2012, the Fertuccis started trying for a baby right away. A little less than a year later, Stephanie said she had a feeling there was a problem.
“I just knew,” she said. “We should have been pregnant.”
The Anderson couple went to a fertility clinic and discovered Matt’s sperm count – and their chances of conceiving naturally – is low.
“(Finding out) was surreal,” Matt said. “Maybe I’m still in a little bit of denial. It hasn’t hit home.”
The doctors said their best bet to have a baby is through adoption or IVF, and when they found out adopting could cost just as much as fertility treatments, they decided to try for a biological child.
Dr. Bradford Bopp, a reproductive endocrinologist at Midwest Fertility in Carmel, said 1 in 5 couples aged younger than 35 have fertility issues. An additional 25 percent have issues conceiving after already having one child.
“Probably about half of couples out there will have some sort of impaired fertility at some point,” he said. “It’s incredibly common.”
The Fertuccis said they didn’t know anyone around them had issues conceiving until they revealed their own. Since then, Stephanie said she’s discovered how many of her friends have gone through the same thing.
“You don’t talk about it unless someone else has it, and I think that’s what’s so sad, that we do that to ourselves,” Stephanie said.
She said people who haven’t had fertility issues don’t fully understand how stressful it is to have to keep track of ovulation and having to have sex on certain days.
“And I think it’s that sex piece so no one want to talk about it and are embarrassed,” she said. “… We’re not, obviously.”
If either of them had cancer, Stephanie said they wouldn’t feel ashamed to tell people, so they don’t feel embarrassed about their fertility issues since it’s a medical condition.
She also doesn’t see Matt’s low sperm count as his problem, but their problem.
Bopp said oftentimes people put the blame on what’s wrong with the woman, but that’s not the reality of it. Out of the couples who have trouble getting pregnant, 40 percent of the problems are a female factor, 40 percent a male factor and 20 percent a combination.
After the age of 35, women’s fertility decrease significantly. By the age of 43, women have less than a one percent chance to conceive naturally, Bopp said. Meanwhile men’s fertility can start to decrease in their 40s and 50s.
Stephanie said she feels the pressure to get pregnant as soon as possible.
“I’ll be 31 in April and I know it seems young, but (gynecologically) it’s not,” she said.
The IVF package the couple is considering will give them multiple tries, and if it doesn’t work, they’ll get 70 percent of their money back. The package has a 90 percent success rate, Bopp said.
The problem: there is no payment plan, so the Fertuccis have to pay $30,000 upfront.
They had some money saved, but their sewage line broke and drained their savings. Both work at the Children’s Bureau and volunteer as youth leaders at their church, so getting extra jobs to pay for treatments doesn’t seem feasible.
Stephanie said she’s always been frugal, and now she’s an even bigger penny pincher.
“When I’m out shopping and want something I ask myself, ‘Is this more important than a baby?’” she said.
Her sister, Nichole Sommers, came up with the idea for the Etsy site with a friend and got the ball rolling.
Sommers, an elementary school librarian for Indianapolis Public Schools, said the heavy snowfall this winter has helped give her time to make burp cloths and blankets to sell.
“This is what I did all day for my snow day,” she said. “I watched ‘The Vampire Diaries’ and crocheted.”
The sisters sell their own crafts, but many friends and family have stepped up and given them items to post, giving them a portion or all of the profits.
Since launching in early January, they’ve raised about $100 for the baby fund, and have gotten more than 140 “likes” on their Crafts4BabyFertucci Facebook page.
They know the Etsy site won’t totally pay their way to become parents, but they figure every little bit helps. It also has shown the couple they have a ton of support from friends and family.
“Even if it’s not financially,” Matt said, “it helps us emotionally.”
Like Kelly Dickey on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @KellyD_THB, or call 640-4805.
On the Web To join the Crafts4BabyFertucci Facebook page, go to www.facebook.com/Crafts4BabyFertucci. To go to the family's Etsy page, go to http://www.etsy.com/shop/Crafts4BabyFertucci.