Understanding the Importance of Dr. March's Testimony: The "Trying to Get Pregnant" Culture
By Carey-Ann Sandell
I remember when I first heard that a pregnant woman from Modesto was missing from near her home on December 24th, 2002. Sadly it was only natural that I - along with what seemed like the rest of the world who were beginning to follow this breaking story - wondered if her husband was somehow involved in her disappearance. I, like so many following the “story” of Laci and Scott Peterson, found that in some strange way it was easy to relate the average life that the Petersons seemed to be living. A young couple fixing up a first home, working their jobs, spending time entertaining friends, preparing for the birth of their first child, a son.
I would read guest books meant to offer comfort and prayers to the family and friends of Laci, and I noticed that quite often people would state how they felt “connected” to the family of Laci or to Laci herself, “My daughter was 7 months pregnant too when Laci went missing”. “I look at my grandson with tears knowing you should be sharing special time with your grandson”, “I love gardening just like Laci”. The comparisons go on and on, each one sharing a story that was meant to show they are able to relate to the “story” of Laci and Scott, because they were able to share from their own personal life experiences.
As time went on, the majority of the public began to suspect Scott was guilty of whatever happened to Laci, and they began looking for the WHY. They wanted to know the motive behind murdering his pregnant wife on Christmas Eve and to this day I still have not heard a single motive that has convinced me that he was involved. Even the Prosecution could not decide on a motive until closing arguments, when they came up with the only motive left. Scott did not want to be a Daddy, Conner was not wanted by Scott.
This is the life that Scott Peterson wanted. Not necessarily to be with Amber Frey, although he was completely obsessed with her. The reason he killed Laci Peterson was that Conner Peterson was on the way. Things were going to change. No more of this running around, living this double-life thing.
He wants to live the rich, successful, freewheeling bachelor life. He can't do that when he's paying child support, alimony and everything else.
He didn't want to be tied to this kid the rest of his life. He didn't want to be tied to Laci for the rest of his life. So he killed her. There's no big secret there.
~~Closing arguments – Distaso~~
Well the jury was able to accept that as a motive, but I couldn’t. The reason that this motive just didn’t work for me was how I was able to relate Scott and Laci’s average life. Early, very early in the case I had already started to lean towards Scott not being involved in Laci’s disappearance. My reasoning was the simple fact that Conner was not an accidental, unplanned pregnancy on either part. Conner was planned, and not only was he planned but Scott and Laci had gone through what thousands of young couples go through when they set out to start a family, a problem with conceiving. I could understand the frustration, the heartbreak, and the hard work that goes into getting pregnant by both the woman and the man. Not only from my personal experience with TTC - trying to conceive - but the hundreds of women I met on the internet when I joined a support group (www.preconception.com).
After a year of “trying” to get pregnant, I had decided to search the Internet for information. I learned two valuable things during my 2-year search. One being that I was not alone in my struggle. The second being the misconception regarding when a woman is most fertile during her cycle allowing her to become pregnant. I was shocked how misinformed even my own Doctor was about the issue of trying to conceive. How could someone in the medical profession not know what I had learned during my search and interaction with other women who were trying to conceive? What we learned is that women didn’t need to guess at their “window of opportunity”, or even worse, use the assumption of a Doctor from 1850 that all woman’s bodies worked exactly the same. The misconception was that all women had a 28-day cycle and ovulated on the 14th day of their cycle. I felt disheartened to know that this assumption from the 19th century was still very much in practice today.
In fact that assumption was the practiced method used by Laci’s OB/Gyn, in turn it was used to assume Laci’s ovulation/conception date, and therefore, calculate her due date.
GERAGOS: Okay. Is that based on, one of the other people from your office was in here, said you have some kind of wheel of fortune that you dial in order to get an age?
EDRAKI: The first way that we determine the gestation age or the due date is from the last, first day of the last menstrual period. And so the first day of her last menstrual period was May 6th. So the due date came out to February 10th. And that wheel is for gestational age up to forty weeks. It determines when your due date is, and where you are in your pregnancy at different times. So when Doctor Yip wrote 20 weeks and one day, he was using the due date of February 10th. The first ultrasound, as you can see on July 16th, also gives us a due date of February 10th.
GERAGOS: Can you tell the jury why that is? Is that just because you know the date?
EDRAKI: Because, according to the last menstrual period, we're assuming that a woman is ovulating two weeks later. So those wheels are made to put the date of conception two weeks after the last menstrual period. So that's how we're doing it. But if somebody ovulates three or four weeks after their period, then it would be less accurate to use last menstrual period. Then it's better to use the date that she ovulated or conceived.
GERAGOS: And so if I understand you correctly, this wheel assumes that everybody ovulates two weeks afterwards?
GERAGOS: And we know that that's not the case. That's just an assumption to give us a due date, correct?
GERAGOS: We know that women ovulate anywhere from one week after to four weeks after, roughly?
EDRAKI: Three weeks. Depends on their cycle length. Depends on that.
~~ Testimony – Tina Edraki (Laci’s OB/Gyn) ~~
As the public dug into the history of Scott and Laci Peterson, we learned about the schools they attended, how they met, where they married and how they came to live in Modesto. The general public crawled into the “closet” of the Petersons’ life. One of the most asked questions was, did Scott want the pregnancy? Was he looking forward to becoming a Dad? Or was that the reason Laci was gone? But as their family and friends publicly and frequently expressed, Scott was excited about his impending fatherhood. We also learned about the struggle that they went through to conceive Conner: the fact that it took them nearly a year and half, using OPK (ovulation predicator kits), and scheduled “deposits”.
HARRIS: Okay. And from that did you understand that that there was a problem with her getting pregnant?
ROCHA: I remember her mentioning sometimes, we would talk and she'd say, Oh, we're really going to try this month. I remember her mentioning something about an ovulation calculator where she was going to find the time that she was most fertile so she could be successful in conceiving.
HARRIS: And you understand an ovulation calculator to be a device that tells you pretty much, gives you the time that there's most likely, likelihood for pregnancy, correct?
~~Testimony Rose Rocha (Brent’s wife)~~
Having been through the exact same struggle, it was more than enough to convince me that Scott not only was excited about becoming a Dad, but more importantly, he WANTED baby Conner! If Conner had been an accidental or unplanned pregnancy then I could have accepted the pregnancy as a motive to get rid of Laci, which in the process would of eliminated an unwanted pregnancy, but instead we learned that Scott fully and completely participated in what it took to get Laci pregnant, which included re-scheduling business meeting so that they didn’t miss Laci’s most fertile time.
Then on top of that, he went beyond what a majority of fathers-to-be do. Scott attended Prenatal appointments and participated in private Lamaze classes with their friends, Greg and Kristen Reed. He worked on re-decorating the spare room in their home into a nursery and helped pick a name for his son. He was actively participating in Laci’s pregnancy. We learned through testimony that just days before (December 14th) Laci went missing, Scott not only showed public affection to Laci but also to their son. All of which should logically lead to the assumption that he was excited about his impending fatherhood. That didn’t stop the MPD, District Attorneys, the media and general public from ignoring all the facts that pointed to the obvious, that Scott was happy and excited about baby Conner.
HARRIS: And it was your understanding from talking to Laci that in order for her to get pregnant Scott had to come home during those time periods that were the most able, she was most able to conceive, correct?
HARRIS: And she made it very plain to you that it would require an effort on both their parts for her to get pregnant, didn't she?
~~Testimony - Rose Rocha (Brent’s wife)~~
GERAGOS: Okay. And you also known, knew that he had gone to all of the doctor's appointments with Laci for the baby, isn't that correct?
GERAGOS: Okay. And that, you told the police that Laci told her, you, that both she and Scott liked the name Conner and that they both made lists of names and they decided on the name Conner, isn't that correct?
~~ Testimony - Amy Rocha ~~
GERAGOS: And there was, in fact, he was showing affection toward her, wasn't he?
GERAGOS: And rubbing her stomach, etc.?
~~Testimony - Tori (Victoria) Brooks, Pawn broker~~
So when Dr. March was called to testify, based on his expertise and experience as a Doctor who specialized in infertility for over 30 years, that Conner died after Laci went missing, making it impossible for Scott to have murdered them, I was both excited and afraid. Afraid that the jury wouldn’t understand what he was trying to explain to them, since it was clear to me that unless you have traveled the “TTC” road, most people assumed the well accepted misconception. I was right to be fearful.
During Dr. March’s testimony, the Prosecution proceeded to badger him about a typo in his first report to Geragos until he became flustered, which apparently caused the jury to disregard his whole testimony. The jury was not as harsh with Doctor DeVore’s 2-day error. I believe that even the Prosecution didn’t fully understand what point Dr. March was trying to make regarding the actual age that Conner was when he died, not based on the 19th century assumption to determine the due date. Instead he used a much more accurate method, adding in the key element of when Laci finally found those two lines on her home pregnancy test that Sunday morning, June 9th 2002, which based on his experience with thousands of “infertile” couples, could come closer to determining those critical days’ difference between the misconception of when she conceived and when it was most likely she did. The importance of this difference would show that Conner died days after Laci was reported missing.
Couric: “How did you hear the news Laci was pregnant?”
Sharon Rocha: “Well, she’d been trying for a year-and-a-half to get pregnant and occasionally she would tell me about that, and it was like, okay, I don’t need to hear this information... but by 7 a.m. on Sunday, June 9, I think every one of her friends and family knew.
~~Interview with Katie Couric on June 9th/03~~
GERAGOS: Okay. So that I got it right, the 8th you had your baby shower?
GERAGOS: At her house?
GERAGOS: She didn't mention anything about being pregnant?
TOMLINSON: No, not that day.
GERAGOS: Okay. The first day that you heard from her that she was pregnant was the following day, even though she told your husband first, then you talked to her after that?
GERAGOS: That was June 9th?
TOMLINSON: June 9th
~~Testimony – Rene Tomlinson (Laci’s Friend)~~
During the trial Dr. March’s biggest obstacle was that no where in Laci medical charts/file did it state the day she took a home pregnancy test or when she finally saw the positive test. We do know based on testimony that her OB/Gyn’s office required that an individual has gotten a positive HPT or a referral before making an appointment. Neither was noted on her medical charts, which according to testimony indicates Laci did a home pregnancy test to determine she was indeed pregnant. Although it was never noted on charts or files, it is easy to assume that June 9th by 7:00am is the day that Laci finally saw the results of a home pregnancy test that she had been waiting to see for a year and half.
GERAGOS: On the 11th, based upon the testimony we have on there, it appears that she must have been doing a home pregnancy test, because if it had been a physician referral, you would have notated it?
~~ Testimony – Tina Edraki (Laci’s OB/Gyn) ~~
It is common knowledge that to get the most accurate results on a home pregnancy test, it should be used with first morning urine because the hCG hormone would be at its highest concentration. This fact, when added with the fact that Laci was known to start her day at 7:00 a.m., would explain her early 7:00 a.m. call to tell everyone her exciting news. Had she gotten a positive test on a earlier date, why would she choose to wait until 7:00 a.m. on a Sunday morning to call everyone? If she had received a earlier positive result and had waited to tell everyone, why wouldn’t she wait until a more reasonable hour on a Sunday morning to announce her news?
It is important to note that if the first day of Laci’s LMP (last menstrual period) was May 6th/02. Added with the information recorded in her medical records that she had a regular 28 day cycle with a 5 day flow, she was expecting her period to start on June 3rd/02. Based on the following information regarding Home Pregnancy Tests, Laci could of tried testing as early as May 31th.
- Home pregnancy tests can be positive as early as 10 days after fertilization - a couple of days before you miss your period.
- You can get a negative test result if you are not pregnant or if you ovulated later than you thought you did.
- Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG – pregnancy hormone) levels should double approximately every 2 days for the first four weeks of pregnancy and by 6 to 7 weeks gestation, the levels may take as long as 3 1/2 days to double
- For earliest detection of pregnancy, use first morning urine, as this sample contains the most concentrated amount of hCG.
- If you take a test too early, you may get a false negative (when the test says you are not pregnant but you are). Your body needs time for the hormone to rise to a high enough level to be detected in a test. If the test comes back negative but you still think you could be pregnant, wait a few days and try again.
~~ information found on http://www.babyhopes.com/articles/results.html ~~
Are we to believe that Laci, who had been actively trying to conceive for at least a year and half waited to be a whole week late with her period to test for the first time? After month after month after month of failed attempts to conceive, the heartbreak of finding that once again her “monthly visitor” had come, washing away all hope that this cycle she was finally pregnant.
Or did she do what every single woman I have ever meet through my “TTC” journey does, try taking a home pregnancy test as early as possible because this was a new cycle filled with the hope that this time they had succeeded. As the end of a cycle draws closer for a woman actively trying to get pregnant, it is filled with anxiety. Fear every time she uses the washroom, as she holds her breathe afraid that what she might find is that her period has come again. Hope, when each hour passes that it doesn’t show up. Excitement at each little twinge, or wave of nausea that causes her to wonder was that her imagination? or is it really possible? Wanting to know as soon as possible.
Well, I had some spotting this morning! D*** it! I am wearing thin on this whole miserable journey. I could cling to my false hope that I spotted with DD too, but I can feel cramps coming now. I have to go to work now, so I'll come back later with more. :(
Okay, so now most of today- except for early morning- I have had the nausea back. Very weird. I did test again this am (I'm an idiot) and it was neg. I told myself that I wouldn't test again until Sunday or Monday, but I did it anyway! I am hopefull still.
tested again this afternoon but got a BFN - bummer. I'm not usually this late (4 days late at this point) so I'm going to test again in a couple of days. I knew that once I had that test in my hands, I wouldn't be able to wait. I had a very large Dr. Pepper at lunch and I had peed about an hour & a half before I took the test. (I'm so silly - I should have waited.)
Everyone keep your fingers crossed for me
Yep. It's the end of cd 29 and no AF. She has come a couple of days late before but that's not common. I should have seen some sign of her already. I have been EXHAUSTED this week and part of last, which is what happened very early on in my 1st pg. Sooo...maybe it's wishful thinking, but time will tell. So I tested BFN. I'm going to wait a few days (to see if AF shows late) before I test again.
~~ Posting by different woman at preconception.com – names removed to protect privacy ~~
There is a feeling of
confusion when a HPT comes back negative, yet there is still no sign of her
period. Waiting for some finality to the cycle so that the anxious feelings can
give way to either disappointment or excitement. A whole week is a long time to
someone waiting to know which way her cycle is going to end.
I’ve even considered the fact that Laci waited until she was a day or two late (June 4th or 5th) to take her first test. We will never know for sure how many tests Laci took before finding out that they had finally succeeded. What we do know for fact is that she was expecting her period to start on June 3rd.
According to all I have learned, and Dr. March testified to, it is much more likely that she ovulated later in her cycle therefore causing her not to get a positive HPT until June 9th , than it is that she waited to be a week late to test for the first time. Was it normal for Laci to ovulate late in her cycle, or did some unusual circumstance occur this cycle to cause a delayed ovulation? Stress among other cause such as lack of sleep or eating disorders can cause the body to delay or completely miss ovulation all together.
Stress can interfere with getting pregnant. In fact, if you're stressed because you're having a hard time getting pregnant, people often say: "Just relax, and it will happen." Although this can be insulting, there's a grain of truth to it.
That's because stress can affect the functioning of the hypothalamus - the gland in the brain that regulates appetite, emotions, as well as the hormones required to release the eggs. If you're feeling stressed, you may ovulate later in your cycle or not at all. So if you're only having sex around day 14 - thinking this is when you're about to ovulate - then you're probably not going to get pregnant.~~ Toni Weschler – Author of Taking Control of Your Fertility ~~
Charts of other women with 28-day cycles that include late ovulation (also includes negative Home Pregnancy tests before a positive result).
According to this chart, the woman ovulated on Cycle Day 20, She took her first HPT on the 28th day of her cycle which was negative. She tested again on CD 30, also negative. She received a positive HPT on CD32 (12 days past ovulation)
Date: indicates the day of the month
Day: indicates the cycle day
Test: indicates home pregnancy tests taken & results
Red Vertical Dotted Line: indicates the CD ovulation occurred
DPO: indicates how many days past ovulation
CM = cervical mucus
BD – BabyDance (“deposit”)
CP – cervix position
blue dots = temperature
horizontal line is a cover-line indicating when temperature raised signaling ovulation
~~ Successful Pregnancy Charts from fertilityfriend.com ~~
it is impossible to know why Laci ovulated late in her cycle, the fact that she
did not announce a positive home pregnancy test until June 9th is a clear
indication that she didn’t ovulate on CD14 of her cycle but up to 6 days later.
Which is later corroborated by the 2nd sonogram and her adjusted due date on her
medical records. Both indicate that Conner was actually six days younger when
Laci went missing on December 24th.
As Dr. March said, he was not disputing the testimony of Dr. Peterson or Allison Galloway's findings that according to bone measurements, Conner's fetus age was 33-38 weeks. It just proves that when adding in when it is most likely Laci conceived Conner, he was only 32w1d when she went missing, which would indicate that he died at least 6 days AFTER she was reported missing.
HARRIS: So the ultimate conclusion, based on your examination of Conner Peterson's remains, were his age that you reported back to Contra Costa County was 33 to 38 weeks?
GALLOWAY: That's correct.
~~ Testimony – Allison Galloway (Forensic Anthropologist) ~~
GERAGOS: And date?
GERAGOS: There's a number 32. What's that for?
HILL: That was how many weeks gestation she was, written by Dr. Tow
~~ Testimony - Lisa Hill (Medical Assistant, OB/GYN)