Contest gives hope to couple

Melissa Costa-Lac and Hong Lac hope their video will be the winning entry in a contest that awards $12,000 worth of fertility treatment

Melissa Costa-Lac and her husband

Melissa Costa-Lac and her husband

Melissa Costa-Lac and her husband, Hong Lac, are taking an unusual route in fulfilling their dream of having a child.

And after several years of heartbreak that would leave most people catatonic with grief, the couple is filled with hope that this will result in their much longed for child.

Melissa and her husband have just found out that they are one of three finalists for a contest whose grand prize is $12,000 worth of fertility treatment at an acclaimed clinic.

In a video made with the help of their good friend and local photographer, Kyle Perison, the couple shared their hopes and dreams of becoming parents, while also sharing the losses they have suffered to get to this point.

“We had four miscarriages, then we tried to adopt from Vietnam, where my husband is from, but international adoptions were suddenly stopped because of baby trafficking,” she said.

They next turned to adoption from the United States and travelled to Utah for the baby’s birth. They held their new son in their arms and were ready to return to Canada when they learned that the birth mother had changed her mind.

“By this point we were ready to give up,” said Melissa.

But a visit with a fertility clinic in Kelowna gave the couple hope and when their treatment worked on the first try, they were ecstatic.

But at 37 weeks, Melissa’s doctor could not detect a heartbeat. And on July 22, 2010, the couple’s son, Xakai Van Lac, was stillborn.

Devastated, the couple took time off from pursuing pregnancy before completing more fertility cycles, which were unsuccessful.

And just last Christmas, an adoption in Saskatchewan fell through, leaving Melissa and Hong bereft and wondering if they should continue.

After the death of Xakai, and much testing, Melissa discovered that she has an auto-immune disorder which means her blood thickens during pregnancy.

Through a friend with a similar disorder, she discovered the Sher Institute for Reproductive Medicine run by Dr. Geoffrey Sher in Las Vegas. Melissa had a consultation with the doctor via Skype and then found out about the contest.

It’s the latest step in many that the pair has taken in an effort to become parents.

“The grand prize is a full cycle of IVF. We found out on Monday that we are finalists out of more than 50  — there are lots of entries and the finalists will then be voted for online to determine who has the best story/video,” said Melissa. “I put my heart and soul in this video and I am honoured to share it and so proud of it.”

Through all of their losses, Melissa and Hong have remained hopeful that they will become parents and believe the tragedies they have endured on their long journey have not been in vain.

“Our greatest losses have become our greatest awakenings,” said Melissa, in the video.

Losing their son has helped the couple to understand the things that really matter. And even through the emotional highs and lows of fertility testing and treatment, the couple is not ready to give up.

“If you give up, then you don’t have anything,” said Melissa. “This has brought us closer together.”

Meanwhile, the couple is working hard to save up for the time when Melissa is on maternity leave. She works full-time as a dental hygienist, works in the child care at Excel Fitness, as a nanny several evenings a week and she and Hong are also a home stay family for international high school students from China.

As well, they have recently opened a health food restaurant in Penticton, where Hong lives three nights a week.

“After my son died, we decided to go off and try something different, and the reason we did it: our son showed us that life is short and precious,” said Melissa. “And it’s important for us: we don’t want to have a child and have $30,000 in debt.”

Married seven years and together for 10, the couple, originally from Ontario, moved to Vernon five years ago. In making their video, they wanted to share their hopes and not just their sadness over what they’ve endured in the last few years.

“I wanted to tell my story, and the insight I’ve learned and what it’s really like going through those things.

“There were times in my life I was really desperate, but this is how I’ve grown and this is what I want.”

Two friends have volunteered to act as surrogates for Melissa and Hong, an option they are considering.

“But I feel like the enlightenment and what we’ve learned in the process will make us better parents, and I’m kind of just hoping — it could be life-changing.”

To vote for the couple’s video, go to http://haveababy.com and click on the link for Melissa and Hong. Voting ends Thursday.