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Catherine Harrell

After years of responding to midnight pager alerts as a medical resident, Fort Worth dermatologist Dr. Catherine Harrell, now welcomes waking to the sound of her crying baby Samuel, who arrived in December of last year. Catherine, 33, and her husband Jason spent one year struggling to conceive. When months of fertility treatments failed, Jason’s pastor suggested they try IVF — it only took one round for Catherine and Jason to become Mom and Dad.

WHAT WAS THE IVF PROCESS LIKE?
We started on the IVF journey in January of last year and by April I was pregnant because, fortunately, I only had to go through one round. First, you go through a stimulation process, which is about 2 ½ weeks of going to the doctor every other day, getting ultrasounds and blood work done. Injections were twice a day and would increase depending on my hormones. When the process was finally completed, they harvested 19 eggs and took my husband’s sperm. Of those 19, only 14 fertilized, only 12 started to develop and altogether we ended up with seven embryos.

HOW WAS YOUR PREGNANCY?
Pregnancy seemed like a breeze compared to everything else I went through — giving myself injections and going through the procedures.

DID YOU HAVE ANY WEIRD CRAVINGS?
I should have known I was having a boy because all I wanted in the first trimester was barbecue.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE SEEING YOUR SON FOR THE FIRST TIME?
I thought from things my friends had told me that I’d automatically be so in love with my baby, that I would feel like I’ve known him forever. Well, I looked at him and said, “I don’t know you. You’re this whole other person that I need to get to know. You have your own personality. You are not me.” That was honestly my first thought which isn’t as romantic as I thought it was going to be.

HOW HAS YOUR MARRIAGE EVOLVED SINCE SAMUEL JOINED THE FAMILY?
It’s deepened the relationship. We’ve always been a pretty good team, even without the baby. Truthfully, I have the best husband ever. He loves to be involved, loves to help, doesn’t complain and is just so overjoyed to have a baby that it is fun to watch him be a dad.

WHEN DID IT REALLY HIT YOU THAT YOU’RE A MOM?
I was speaking to a patient and referred to Samuel as “my son.” I had to stop and get used to that.

WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU MOST ABOUT MOTHERHOOD?
Breastfeeding has been something no one really prepared me for. It has been a labor of love to try to make sure my child is getting breast milk and enough of it. The hospital says breast is best, but I had to give him formula supplement a few times because I literally wasn’t making enough. Because of that, I kind of have this guilt that I wasn’t enough — I wasn’t providing enough food for my baby.

HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH SLEEP DEPRIVATION?
It’s manageable knowing that it’s temporary and won’t be like this forever, knowing that it’s worth it and you get to hold your baby. There have been times in my life where I didn’t sleep for 36 hours straight because I was in the hospital every night working. So for me, it is easier to hear my baby cry and pick him up than respond to my pager in the middle of the night.

ANY ADVICE FOR OTHER MOMS?
Go with your heart, go with your gut, enjoy your child. If you’re doing something because someone else told you to do it, it takes the joy away.