Air Force Graduate Celebrates His Unusual Beginnings

Frederica and Eugene once feared they would never have children of their own. Now they’re the proud parents of an Air Force Academy graduate

Eugene, Nicholas and Frederica Gieda

Like many couples, Frederica and Eugene Gieda dreamed of having a family of their own. But when time passed and there were no babies, the couple realized they needed medical help. Hopeful, Frederica underwent several surgeries and tried new medications, but she still couldn’t become pregnant.

It was 1983, and the couple wasn’t sure where to turn for assistance. They eventually met Dr. Patricia McShane at the Boston Hospital for Women. (Dr. McShane is now a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist at University of Colorado Advanced Reproductive Medicine.) Dr. McShane suggested the couple try IVF, a fairly new technology that would harvest Frederica’s eggs, fertilize them to create an embryo, and implant the embryo back into the womb.

Today’s IVF technology has the ability to examine prospective eggs and embryos, determining which embryos have a better chance of survival. Twenty years ago, however, the IVF field was still in its infancy, and few people had heard of it. It sounded promising, though, so the couple decided to go ahead with the treatment.

The Giedas made six attempts at a successful pregnancy. All of them failed.

“It was heart wrenching when it didn’t take,” Frederica says. “Trying to get pregnant was all-consuming. You live for blood levels, how you’re progressing, how big your follicles are. It just seemed to consume our lives, and it was so hard to see others with children.”

Knowing how important having a child was to them, Dr. McShane eventually suggested the Giedas try adoption, and wrote a letter of recommendation to the agency.

“She spoke glowingly about us. She was one of the reasons we were able to adopt,” Frederica says. “We adopted a baby boy, Tristan. He arrived nine months after my last failed IVF. It was almost like he was born to us.”

The Giedas were overjoyed with the new addition to their family, but still harbored hopes of giving birth to their own child. When Tristan was two years old, Frederica and Eugene decided to try one more time. They went to Dr. McShane again, who was then the medical director at the Reproductive Science Center of Boston.

Dr. Patricia McShane with Nicholas Gieda at his Air Force graduation
Dr. Patricia McShane with Nicholas Gieda at his Air Force graduation

This time, it worked! On November 18, 1989, Nicholas Gieda was born. The couple was overjoyed, and proudly showed him off to Dr. McShane.

It wasn’t the last time Dr. McShane would be involved in Nick’s life. When Nicholas was a teen, he needed an internship for high school. Remembering all the help Dr. McShane had given their family before, Frederica suggested he contact the doctor about an internship at her office.

“I was always aware of how I came to be,” said Nicholas, “but working at Dr. McShane’s office gave me a new appreciation for the whole process.”

In 2011, 21 years after he was born, Nicholas graduated from the United States Air Force Academy. Frederica discovered, much to her surprise, that Dr. McShane was now working at University of Colorado Advanced Reproductive Medicine near Denver, just an hour from the Air Force Academy. The Giedas were honored to invite Dr. McShane to the graduation.

“It was an honor to have her there on such an eventful day,” Frederica says. “Dr. McShane has had a wonderful impact on our lives.”