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Infertility is Bigger than Babies

February 5, 2020

Written by Guest Contributor, Tiffany Johnston

Let’s talk a bit about the psychological warfare that is infertility.

For those that have been following our story with What The Fertility, we began sharing about our journey about 3 years ago. We experienced a large number of failed treatments, loss of hope and eventually a few miracles. Just over a year ago I shared that we were pregnant naturally via video on #nationalrainbowbabyday with all of our friends. It was a feeling I thought we would never experience! What caught me off guard was that I was equally as terrified as I had been with our infertility procedure babies.

I have spent more than my fair share of time in post partum depression counseling, dealing with onset OCD, anxiety and feelings of loss that no matter that time seem to be unshakable. I feel guilty that we have three beautiful boys and yet every time someone announces a pregnancy or a gender reveal I cry. I cry because I am jealous that they get to enjoy a natural experience and that they won’t be under a mountain of debt when their child is born. That instead they get to take that money and pay bills, travel or create the perfect nursery for their expected blessing, Five years later and not a single one of my kids bedrooms is styled or complete. 

I have even felt a sense of loss over the fact that my memories of conception do not entail a moment of passion and love, but rather recollections of shame and fear. I have memories of my husband being taken away to masturbate in isolation to provide the needed sperm sample, and personally having to experience the joy of being turkey basted over and over again after each failed transfer. It has taken me over five years to realize that all of these feelings of loss, shame and sadness are natural and very common. Let’s talk about why…

For those new to the infertility world I like to remind followers that the term infertility is generally defined as a condition of the reproductive system that inhibits or prevents conception after at least one year of unprotected sexual intercourse. To account for the natural decline of fertility with age, the time frame is reduced to six months for women 35 and older. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 12% of women between the ages of 15 and 44 have “difficulty getting pregnant or carrying a pregnancy to term.”

I bring up the definition of infertility because I believe we must educate society because I recognize that it can be hard to fully grasp what infertility involves unless you’ve dealt with it personally. I also am guilty of being one of the many people that originally believed that infertility was all about the end game, a baby. I truly believed that if we could just get to that prize, the pain of infertility would fade away. But infertility is bigger than babies. I want you to hear what I am saying so let me repeat myself.  Infertility is bigger than the baby. It can affect our physical and mental health in insidious — and sometimes enduring — ways.

Some researchers argue argue that the definition of trauma should be expanded to include the psychological and emotional response to not only physical threats, but threats too deeply held expectations of life. To understand a bit better I want you to take a moment to think about the grief that occurred for you after the death of a loved one. The relationship you had with your loved one was probably clearly defined, and you have memories of that person to look back on. The loss is easily identified because of the relationship you formed and the feelings you experienced over the years, not only by you but by others who were aware of the death.

It’s likely that your friends and family expressed sympathy and gave you their condolences,  you may have taken time off work for bereavement and attended a ritual such as wake or funeral that helped to facilitate your grief. Your loss was likely recognized, acknowledged, validated and supported in a multitude of ways. Now I ask you to think about the losses associated with infertility. One of the most common forms of loss and grieving is that of the imagined or expected family, women with primary infertility, who do not have biological children, face the loss of the entire life stage of parenting.

What seems to be the hardest for people to grasp is that with infertility, feelings of loss can come from an absence of something that has never been rather than the absence of something that used to be. Reproductive trauma also stems from the fact that many people begin imagining their futures as parents long before they even dream of starting a family. For many people their reproductive stories started when as children, they heard things like, “Someday, when you have kids…”, we start imagining what our experiences will look like long before we reach the age of reproduction. This doesn’t even touch on the emotional trauma caused by all of the babies lost early on, still born and those families that experience recurring miscarriages. There is so much more loss in infertility than what we see and understand as a society. 

I want to tell you today that you don’t have to feel guilty for having emotions, your emotions are valid, worthy of discussion and that everything you are feeling is natural and perfectly normal!  It is common and normal to experience shock, grief, depression, anger, and frustration, as well as loss of self-esteem, self-confidence, and a sense of control over one’s destiny. Infertility changes how you see yourself and the world.

Somewhere along the journey, many of us stop feeling as though infertility is happening to us, but instead begin to believe that it is ingrained as a part of who we are. You become used to living in a constant state of fluctuating despair, loss and hope; that seems even worse during the dreaded two week wait and as many of us later learn it doesn’t just turn off when and if you get pregnant. For many of us it has never turned off, we experienced those feelings through each ultrasound, the birth and so on.

I now have a 5 year old and 3 year old that we got through infertility and an 11 month old that we were blessed with au natural and I am still trying to turn it off. Just last weekend my sister in law who is 20 years of age announced the gender of her surprise baby and I cried for over two hours, hysterically. Want to know what my counselor said? “ That’s okay Tiffany, your heart is battered and worn by your experiences and your feelings are YOURS. You do not need to feel guilty for not experiencing the emotions that are expected of you.”

More than anything I want you to read that again! Lock it in your emotional vault and hold tight to the validation that your emotions are valid whether you are 6 months into trying for a family or 5 years past your very first IUI. Other’s may not understand your feelings or understand how you can simultaneously love the children that you hold earth side at the same time as you mourn the loss of those that you never got to hold and the experiences you never got to have. Hold strong in the fact that you have a safe and understanding community here @whatthefertility who see and acknowledge all that you are experiencing.  

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Conceiving With Love: Increasing Fertility, Healing Shame

January 2, 2020

Written by Denise Wiesner, Guest Blogger

I recently received an email from a 43 year old patient who wrote about her journey in coming to terms with the sexual molestation she experienced at only five years old. Like so many young victims, she was threatened not to speak a word, a threat she took to heart for most of her life. But in this email, she discussed trying to dismantle the belief she had grown up with, “I can’t ask for help or tell anyone my truth.” By writing about what had happened in her childhood, she asked me to witness her story — a story that had affected every relationship in her life until now. 

In reading her words, I wondered… 

How many of us have beliefs from childhood, and even adulthood, that have affected our capacity for intimacy? 

How many of us are too ashamed to tell anyone? 

And how do negative beliefs, stress, and trauma affect our ability to become pregnant? 

I see situations in my Chinese Medicine practice where women and men carry shame around infertility. One of my patients, lets call her Lisa, was a very successful and beautiful business woman who came to see me after an ectopic pregnancy. At first, the doctors hadn’t found the ectopic, but Lisa felt that something was off. And as it turned out, she was right. 

They had to take out her tube because she was at risk of losing it. It was a devastating loss for Lisa, and yet she was determined to get pregnant again. However, she told me that she and her husband had very little time for intimacy, and she described making a baby with her husband as “a ten minute in-and-out experience.” But for me, the more disturbing thing was that she felt she was being punished, as if she couldn’t conceive because she had done something wrong. It felt to her almost as if God didn’t want her to have a child. 

I wanted to bear witness to this untruth. I wanted to hold this belief she held strong and question its very existence because it is already hard enough to have fertility challenges let alone believe we are at fault for them. 

When it comes to fertility, there are so many blogs, books and advice about what to eat, what supplements to take, and how to become fertile-ready. But what is missing (and equally important to talk about), is what gets in the way of us being our fertile, sexual, and intimate selves. Or in other words, how do we deal with our stress, trauma, and negative beliefs in order to make a baby from a place of love? 

I have made it my mission to speak about the things that no one wants to discuss, and listen to the words that men and women are ashamed to say, because I believe that it is an important step toward conceiving. Secret shame must be addressed so that it doesn’t get in the way of our fertility and intimacy with our partners. 

In my book, Conceiving With Love, A Whole Body Approach to Creating Intimacy, Reigniting Passion and Increasing Fertility,” I talk about techniques to heal trauma and stress in order to get back to a loving place with ourselves and with our partners. First, we have to be able to be honest with ourselves about our story. I can’t tell you how many people I work with who keep secrets from their partners. 

For example, one of my fertility patients was struggling with Bulimia, and her partner didn’t know. While another one of my patients never told her partner about the molestation that took place in her childhood. These women were holding onto shame, and it was getting in the way of intimacy. 

In Chinese Medicine, we talk about feeling all emotions, but not becoming fixated on any one of them. It is the ability to feel, let go, feel, and let go again. Fertility struggles are bad enough to experience, but when we disconnect from our partner, we only isolate in the pain. 

It is also common to feel as if our bodies are failing us when we cannot conceive. This too is a form of shame. I see many social media posts that say, “I failed,” with the illusion that they are a failure because they didn’t get pregnant. 

I am no stranger to any of these feelings and thoughts. You see, I felt the same way when I miscarried, and again when I struggled to conceive my second child. I couldn’t understand what I had done to hold me back from conceiving, and I shouldered the blame on my own. So, I started writing letters to God asking why I wasn’t getting pregnant; and slowly, my sense of self began to erode. I realized I had been trying to affect the outcome I desired, and that simply wasn’t up to me. This was sad, because it questioned the belief I was taught — do good things, and good things will happen. Instead, I adopted the new belief that life doesn’t work on rewards and punishments, and we all have our own struggles to overcome. 

It took me years to reframe my thinking; but today I am living with an open heart knowing I can get through whatever life offers me, and each challenge makes me a stronger person. One day at a time. 

If you are trying to conceive, and think that shame could be getting in the way, what can you do to reconnect to LOVE? 

1. Communicate with your partner – Allow yourself to be vulnerable with your partner – it increases intimacy. Tell your partner about your wants, likes, and desires. How often do my patients feel uncomfortable asking for what they want? I would say, 98% of the time, especially if it is in the sex department. Sometimes people don’t even know what they want. If you can relate with that, there is a section dedicated to foreplay in Conceiving With Love, for more suggestions.

2. Know your story – but don’t let it run your future. Are there any lessons from your past that caused you to establish negative beliefs that you are carrying into the present moment? If so, don’t be shy to ask for help from a friend, healer, and/or therapist.

3. Notice your triggers. Do you react to situations in bigger proportion than necessary? This can happen even when revisiting the doctor’s office where you were last pregnant before a miscarriage. Sometimes acknowledging and understanding your triggers can help you dismantle them.

4. Become aware of the negative beliefs about yourself that you carry into your relationship. For example, “I don’t want my belly touched, it is fat.” After having a negative thought like that, make sure to look in the mirror and see the beautiful body that houses your spirit.

5. Take time away from electronics and be with your partner. Making love with your beloved is sacred, and making time to connect with an open heart can be a game changer when it comes to conception. 

My own fertility journey is in the past, and today I am lucky to have two beautiful children. I appreciate them every day because I know how much some women and men struggle to make children. I know most of them didn’t expect this process to be difficult. I also know that there is a lot of suffering that people go through and don’t talk about. 

If you are struggling, please find someone to bear witness to your thoughts and feelings. It could be a healer, therapist, best friend, or your partner. Don’t forget to wrap yourself in the healing power of love. As Lao Tzu, the famous Chinese Philosopher said, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” 

If you’d like more information or to connect with Denise, you can find more over on Instagram, her website, or the website for Natural Healing Acupuncture!

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Creative Ways to Remember Your Angel Baby This Season

December 13, 2019

Written by Alexis Marie Chute, Guest Blogger

If your heart has been broken by the loss of a child in miscarriage, stillbirth or any time after delivery, the holidays may be tough. It’s a season that emphasizes children, family and togetherness. All the things bereaved parents yearn for. 

When a baby dies, no matter what the age of the fetus or the child may have been, parents are left shaken, shattered and searching for hope. When my son, Zachary, passed away in my arms just moments after entering the world, I felt like my heart was torn in two. Even though those moments I had with him were heartbreaking, I also treasured each and every one. Nothing, I discovered, could part a mom and dad from the love they have for their child.

 What I didn’t learn until later, however, was that losing a baby very tangibly means the loss of their future. I knew this conceptually, but on a practical level, this translates into the absence of touchable objects, photographs and mementos. You can’t save their first drawing, report card or Christmas photo with Santa. While I have bursting memory boxes for my living children, Zachary’s box is mostly filled with air.

I did save the blanket Zack was wrapped in after birth. The baby hat that matched the onesie we dressed him in also lives in his box. I was fortunate to have a Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep photographer at his birth. That one small album of pictures is another object I treasure. But besides these things, there is not much I can physically cling to on the rough days.

This is why memory-making is so important in life in general, and especially after the loss of a child. As an artist and writer, using my passions to help me remember Zachary comes very naturally to me. In the six years since his death, I have experimented with creating many kinds of keepsakes. These are things I add to Zach’s box, replacing the air with objects that help me remember.

The holidays are a great time to get creative and celebrate the short but important life of your child. Here are some ideas to get you started:  

  1. Sew: Make a stocking for your baby to hang on the mantle. Visit a fabric store and choose meaningful colors, patterns and textured fabrics. Cut out the first letter of your child’s name and sew it to the front of the stocking.  
  2. Art: Cut a large piece of cardstock into a circle to make a collage wreath. Include photographs of your family and your baby if you have them, along with magazine clippings, drawings and meaningful words. Use a hole-punch at the top and then loop through a ribbon to use in hanging the wreath.
  3. Make: Buy a candle making kit and create candles that you can burn every holiday season in memory of your baby. Choose colors and smells that bring you joy. You can also include little objects like sea shells or pieces of jewelry in the candle so that when you burn it, these small keepsakes reveal themselves over time.
  4. Write: Buy or make a Christmas card or write on holiday themed note paper. Write a letter to your son or daughter. Share memories from his or her birth, how you are coping, and what brings you joy this time of year.
  5. Photograph: Start a tradition of taking a holiday picture while holding your deceased baby’s photo, blanket, urn or another memorable object. This symbolically shows that your child is still a part of the family and honors his or her life.
  6. Craft: Decorate a Christmas ornament for the tree. You can incorporate a photo, your baby’s name and even symbolic words to you like forever, love, hope, joy, remembering. Some ornaments can be opened to allow a photograph or small object to be placed inside. You can also use acrylic paint, glue, sparkles and scrapbooking stickers to create all kinds of meaningful designs. 

ALEXIS MARIE CHUTE is an award-winning author, artist, filmmaker, curator, and inspirational speaker. Her memoir, Expecting Sunshine: A Journey of Grief, Healing, and Pregnancy After Loss, and the award-winning YA fantasy series, The 8th Island Trilogy.

To learn more or connect with Alexis, find her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or her website!

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Infertility and the Holidays

December 5, 2019

Written by Danisha Keating, Guest Blogger

I was pregnant in July and lost the baby in September. I thought the hardest part about infertility was seeing “negative” on my pregnancy tests, but something is starting to slowly sink in…. Holidays and infertility. 

Robert Bell Photography –

The common questions are just around the corner, “Have you guys considered trying?” or “What about trying now?” or “Do you even want children?” or the little comments of “One day you’ll have your own, but today you get to practice by loving on so-and-so’s baby.” The comments that stung when I heard them way before we got pregnant and had a miscarriage. 

My husband works for a church, and as any woman, married or unmarried, the pressure can be real… People feel comfortable talking about timelines of when I should get pregnant, or that they will pray that it is soon that we have a baby or even how their miscarriage led to 3 healthy pregnancies. Some people have asked how many years we have been married, when we say 2, they respond so quickly with, “So babies are around the corner…” and my heart sinks. 

I work in education and people will ask if I have kids and I respond with “no” and they follow up with, “Don’t you want kids though? You are not getting younger Mrs. Dani?” My heart aches… If this is my every day, I know holiday season conversations at families houses will be worse. Holiday seasons are also rough because it seems there are more holiday baby announcements and my heart is so excited to see them, and aches that we would have been pregnant for 5 1/2-6 months. We would have known the gender. We would have gotten Christmas gifts for the baby… We would have……. 

This Christmas or holiday season, you may be facing the same worries that the holiday dinner table conversation will include questions on when you’ll have a baby or feeling awkward about the “infertility talk” with friends and family who just don’t get it. I am with you friend. I’m with you. Please remember now more than ever, it’s ok to lose it and cry. It’s ok to say, “I’d rather not discuss this.” and it’s ok to walk out of the room and excuse yourself. This season just isn’t easy. I’m with you in this. 

To connect with Danisha, you can find her over on Instagram, Facebook or her website!

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My Pregnancy Gave Me Cancer

November 21, 2019

Written by Michelle Velez, Guest Blogger

Hi my name is Michelle Velez and I want to share my story of how my pregnancy gave me cancer. What happened to me is very rare – one in 40,000 pregnancies – but what caused it is a lot more common and it bothers me that most people have never heard of it.

I’m a wife, mother of two, and local news anchor for the NBC station in Las Vegas. This pregnancy was my third. The baby would have been the family tie breaker. There was nothing I wanted more than to give our little boy and baby girl a brother or sister – the final piece to our family puzzle. We were thrilled. Unfortunately that joy was short lived when at six weeks we were heartbroken to see an empty gestational sac on the ultrasound. My doctor told us it was something called a blighted ovum – basically a very early miscarriage where the baby never forms. 1 in 4 the doctor told me. For some reason that number made me feel a little better – a little less alone in this terrible nightmare. My doctor told me that because it was so early he’d like to let my body miscarry naturally. So we made a plan for me to come back in a month and off I went to lose my baby in the privacy of my own personal hell. For weeks I anticipated the moment, equipped with pads and depends, never knowing when it would happen. But that’s just it – it never did happen. Instead of having a miscarriage, my body started to show more signs of pregnancy. It started with extreme fatigue, then I started to have food aversions and finally severe nausea. I also started to bleed, lightly at first but then more excessively to the point where I was passing clots the size of my hand. When I finally went back to see my doctor, he took one look at the ultrasound and asked me how I felt. I told him I felt horrible and he said “Well that’s because you didn’t have miscarriage, you have a molar pregnancy.” I was dumbfounded.. what in the hell is a molar pregnancy?

Molar pregnancies affect one in every one thousand pregnancies – and happen when the placenta from an abnormal pregnancy continues to grow even though a baby never forms. Invasive tissue will continue to reproduce and if not removed, can in some cases, grow beyond the uterus and spread to other parts of the body. Along with the tissue, the mole also causes the body’s HCG levels to skyrocket to astronomical levels. HCG is the pregnancy hormone that produces a positive pregnancy test and common symptoms like morning sickness, fatigue and food aversions. That’s one of the first signs of a molar pregnancy – high HCG and extreme sickness. My HCG was 800,000 at the time of my molar diagnosis. It should have been around 25,000 at 9 weeks gestation. It was the equivalent of being pregnant with five babies at once. I was as sick as a dog. At that point a D&C is done to evacuate the uterus and then the HCG is monitored until it hits zero. Usually that is enough to remove the mole and you will be checked regularly for a year to make sure your numbers stay at zero.

For me, the D&C worked at first, but then my HCG started to rise and within three weeks was back up again. That’s when my doctor sent me to an oncologist. When a D&C doesn’t work, the next step is a low dose chemo administered through a shot. It’s the same medicine used for an ectopic pregnancy and other non-cancer related issues. Still, being at an oncologist was nerve wracking. I knew in some very rare cases my condition could cause a rare cancer – with the most severe form known as Choriocarcinoma. The doctors kept re-assuring me that at this point I did NOT have cancer because the tissue from the D&C had tested negative. I held onto that with everything because I was So. Freaked. Out. The plan was to have another D&C and a CT scan just to make sure the tissue had not spread. The night of the CT scan I had my first legit breakdown. What if it had spread? What is it was cancer? I looked up hashtags on Instagram and saw women with no hair getting chemotherapy and lost it. My husband grabbed me and said “those women aren’t you!” My doctors and mom said the same thing. It took all night for them to talk me down. The thoughts were endless and torturous.. but they finally calmed me down. I even managed somehow to fall asleep. Good thing, because that would be my last decent nights sleep for a while. The next morning I was awaken by a call from my doctor’s office telling me to come in immediately to discuss my scan results. I knew it was not good news.. and I was right.

I can’t really explain what it’s like to be told those dreaded words “You have cancer.” Unbelievable and terrifying describe it best for me. My co-anchor and best friend Krystal left work early to meet me there because I was all alone that day. My mom was flying in later that night and my husband was at work.. and we knew this was an appointment I should not attend alone. My doctor sat across from us in a tiny room, and while Krystal held my hand and my mom listened on FaceTime, she told us the scan results showed at least 15 legions on my lungs, more on my spleen, liver and uterus and that it was Stage 4 Gestational Trophoblastic Neoplasia – caused by an invasive mole. As soon as I heard that I fell out towards the floor and Krystal literally caught me in her arms. Through my sobs my doctor continued to explain that we had no time to wait and that I needed to start an aggressive chemotherapy treatment immediately. My head was spinning. How could I go from being pregnant to having cancer? How is this possible?? Why didn’t I know about this? Again.. endless questions.

The next week was a whirlwind. I had a port placed in my chest and then got admitted into the hospital because the bleeding got worse. Turns out I was anemic from the blood loss and needed several blood transfusions so I could start chemo. That’s another sign of molar pregnancies, anemia. Four days after my diagnosis I was discharged from the hospital and went straight to chemotherapy. Three days later, after two days of more heavy bleeding, I passed out in my bathroom and had to be transported by ambulance back to the hospital. I needed three more transfusions – six units of blood total. The human body only holds about eight. I also had another D&C to curb the bleeding coming from the tumors in my uterus. Together that was enough to get me stable enough to eventually finish my first round of chemo. All of this happened within one week of being diagnosed. While I was in the hospital, my in-laws drove up from Arizona and took the kids back. They were supposed to stay a week. They were there for three. It was so hard, but we knew it was the best decision until I could get stable. We didn’t want them to see what was happening to me.

The good news about this type of cancer is that its highly treatable and comes with a very good prognosis. The doctors told me with the right treatment they had no reason to believe I wouldn’t fully recover. That’s what I chose to focus on – even when my heath seemed to be getting worse. Once they finally got the bleeding under control, the chemo got its chance to work. And it did. After the first round, my HCG levels dropped by 50,000 to around 2,500. After my second round the my numbers dropped to 55. Zero is what we want. Zero means the cancer is gone. Once I hit zero, I have six more weeks of precautionary chemo to make sure we get it all. Yes I will likely lose my hair, but at least I’ll have my life. Not everyone with cancer gets to say that. Still, it doesn’t make it any easier.

I want you to know about this, because this type of cancer – albeit rare – comes from a pregnancy that by all accounts looks just like your typical normal pregnancy. Yes it’s treatable, but only if you catch it in time. Women do die, because by the time they realize their baby bump is not a baby – but rather – a killer monster, it has spread too far. Again not all molar pregnancies turn into cancer – but we women need to know what to look for. One in 1000 is not that rare – and I think you might be surprised by how many women are affected by molar pregnancies. I don’t know exactly why this happened to me, but I’m going to do my best to use my journey to shine a spotlight on this rarity and hopefully make a difference. Otherwise… what’s the point of all this, right?

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Our Rainbow Baby; A True Miracle

November 13, 2019

Written by Vishakha Deora, of, Guest Blogger

I wear my rainbow-colored Teekri ring for a reason. It’s a symbol of strength and an ode to the baby we lost, and the amazing one we gained.

When we first found out we were pregnant, it completely took us by surprise.  We had talked about starting a family but didn’t think it would happen so fast.  However, we embraced the news and excitement, as I was still in school, getting my MBA.

While sitting in class one day, I got an incredibly painful, persistent cramp.  After going to the restroom and discovering some spotting, I became extremely scared and called my husband and was rushed to the hospital. After a long night, we were presented with devastating news: at 8 weeks pregnant, we lost our baby.

Like many women who miscarry, it took quite a toll on me both mentally and physically, taking me some time to feel normal again. Even then though, the feeling of emptiness never went away.

After miscarrying, we were adamant about getting pregnant again, and once our doctor told us it was safe to try, we did. With that being said, that too became an emotional roller coaster. The first time around we had gotten pregnant right away… this time, it took over a year and considering fertility treatments. Low and behold, however, as we were preparing for a small vacation, I started to feel nauseous…

My husband was eager for me to to take a pregnancy test, and while I was hesitant, I did it… and guess what?! I was pregnant!! I’ll never forget the feeling; so hard to put in words: amazement, relief, worry, concern- but when we made it past 12 weeks, we started sharing the news and it became very real. Nine months went by in a blur, and before we knew it, we were in the hospital having our rainbow baby.

At first, everything seemed amazing!  Being a mother was the most amazing feeling in the world!!  Yet shortly after my daughter’s birth, I noticed that her eyes fluttered and she never seemed to focus.  My husband and everyone else around me said it was normal, but my mother’s instinct thought otherwise. 

At two months old, my husband’s friend, an ophthalmologist, visited us from out of town.  I asked Charlie to look at my daughter’s eyes and he reaffirmed my suspicion: something was wrong.  He called one of his colleagues (a pediatric ophthalmologist) in the area and got us an appointment right away.  The doctor immediately suggested an MRI of her brain to see if there was an underlying condition. I’m sure you can imagine the pain and concern that brought me and my wandering mind.

When we received the test results, we learned she had suffered an in-utero stroke and a portion of her brain was damaged.  Based upon where it was, we were told we were lucky.  There would be no cognitive issues, but she could develop some challenges. 

Soon after, we learnt her vision was severely affected and she had right side disability.  At the age of 5 months, our baby was put into physical and occupational therapy.  We were also told that she would not be able to walk independently and would need a cane or walker at a minimum… and maybe even a wheelchair. 

This was something that we had never expected and weighed on us heavily. 

Obviously, we decided to do whatever that could help make her stronger.  When she was 3 years old, she was strong enough to start using a walker.  This was a very difficult process.  Up until this time she had never put pressure on her legs or feet.  When we started walking with her, it would take an hour to go our neighbor’s house.  But we did not give up… and neither did she.  Within 3 months, she began walking with her walker comfortably.  She would walk for hours on end with no problems.  And that’s when we decided she transition to a cane.

But she hated the cane… literally despised it.  And so, finally, we gave her two options: either use the cane or walk on your own.  She thought about it for a minute and then said, “Fine, I will walk on my own!”

And that she did.

We started with working with her on the carpet.  My husband would make her stand from the floor and then I would sit a couple steps away and ask her to walk towards me.  She would fall, but only on carpet. Slowly, we moved to the hardwood floor and then outside on the sidewalk. 

I still remember how I kept telling her she will be able to walk one day!  I didn’t show it to her, but some days I would be so discouraged in my heart and cry all wondering if she would ever walk.  I didn’t want my baby to have a difficult life. 

Beyond our greatest belief, she slowly started to walk.  It started with a few steps, but it eventually turned into step after step after step.  And soon enough, she was able to walk independently!  This was the best day of our lives as all our prayers were coming true!  She was now five years old and able to do something the doctors didn’t think possible.

Today, she walks with a limp and has no usage of her right hand.  She has taught herself to do day-to-day activities with one hand such as changing her clothes, washing her hair, etc.  Her vision is extremely poor where they have to enlarge print in school for her.  But guess what?? She’s now in her freshman year of high school, thriving in pre-AP classes, and flaunts straight As. The struggle will never be over, but she makes it seem so easy. 

Our daughter has taught so much. She is the epitome of persistent. Usually, parents have to teach their kids these lessons, but this Rainbow Baby has gifted us the most precious lessons possible.  We have learned to never take anything for granted, and to go through life with determination and a smile.  This rainbow baby shines bright in our lives, and all the lives she graces.

To find out more about Teekri jewelry and see all the unique pieces, visit them on Instagram or their website!

Babe In My Arms, Babe In My Belly, Babe In My Heart, Blogs, Uncategorized

Infertility to IVF Success

November 8, 2019

Written by Monique Farook, Guest Blogger

My name is Monique.

I am a stay at home mom & wife. My husband and I were married for two years before we sought the help of a reproductive endocrinologist. My desire to have a child was burning inside of me and it quickly became my obsession. At the time of the first treatment in 2012, I was 29 years old and the IUI cycle was unsuccessful. We had never fallen pregnant on our own and I had never been pregnant in my entire life. We buried ourselves in our work and did not seek help until four years later in 2016.

We were married for approximately five and a half years at this point. I knew there had to be an explanation. Why was my body failing me? My menstrual cycles were regular every month and nothing appeared to be out of the ordinary. I was grieved at the thought of getting help for the one thing I felt my body should do naturally and with ease.

In the spring of 2016, I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism and underwent a hysteroscopy to remove uterine polyps. Once my conditions were treated, we opted for natural-cycle IVF. NCIVF is when little to no hormonal injections are used in an IVF cycle. One to two eggs are retrieved for fertilization. Our first natural-cycle IVF treatment in July was canceled due to the non-fertilization of my egg. The second cycle was in August. I recall us eating at one of our favorite restaurants before the egg retrieval day. The alarm on my phone went off reminding me to administer my medication that would suppress ovulation. I stopped eating and made haste to the restroom. I giggled to myself thinking about what I was willing to do to grow our family. This cycle was a success and I gave birth in January of 2017.

For the couples currently experiencing infertility/IVF treatment, I know first-hand your frustrations, tears, and the loneliness you feel. I had one family member that I could relate to during our journey; it wasn’t enough. No one knew how to comfort me, so they listened. As a black woman, I felt isolated even more; it’s still taboo in my community. I felt shame at my RE’s office too and everyone was there for the same reason as us lol. Everywhere I went in public and when I logged onto social media there were expectant couples.

Once my husband and I submitted to our infertility and IVF journey, we were able to connect on a deeper level and move forward. We vowed to get through it together and without resentments. There was no use in pointing fingers and playing the blame game. Infertility is an emotional and arduous battle. Studies continually show that stress reduction helps tremendously, but it is difficult while in the midst. No matter your outcome, know that there’s an abundance of peace awaiting when you accept and surrender to the process.


Babe In My Arms, Babe In My Belly, Babe In My Heart, Blogs, Uncategorized

Cherished Embryos

September 24, 2019

Written by Katie Aist, Guest Blogger

Privilege. Honor. Gift. 
These are the words that will always accompany my small painting business, Cherished Embryos.

About a year ago, while selling my original paintings to raise money for the adoption of our daughter, a friend came to me with a very special request. Her journey to motherhood, like so many who walk through infertility, was long and difficult, but resulted in two beautiful children through embryo adoption. She had a dream to have the first pictures she ever received of her two children as embryos turned into beautiful pieces of art. To have the treasured black and white, grainy medical pictures turned into colorful representations of her precious children.

Infertility was a phrase I was well acquainted with. After a year of trying to have children of our own, my husband and I began the all too familiar tests to see what was going on. After a couple of months of pokes, prods and a procedure, we found out that I had endometrial cancer. Cancer. 34 years old. One I had never even heard of. Our world flipped upside down, as we now faced the reality that the treatment to get rid of my cancer was a hysterectomy. After trying an alternative treatment for 6 months to no avail, my journey through infertility, was done. I was now infertile. 

We were devastated, but hope for a family still remained. Before we were married, my husband and I talked about our desire to adopt a child. I am so thankful that seed had already been planted in us. After having time to regroup physically and emotionally, we began the adoption process and within five months brought home our incredible, beautiful daughter.

I never imagined that selling my artwork for her adoption would turn into what it has. Cherished Embryos became official in 2018 and I have had the privilege of painting over 100 sweet baby’s first embryo pictures. I do not always know if the orders I receive represent embryos that made it or if they are for families to have a keepsake of ones they lost. I do know that by the time a family gets to me, they have walked through many ups and downs, dreams and sorrows, discouragement and hopes. No one has the picture of an embryo without a long story behind it.

I love to paint. I love to be creative. But the reason I always feel so thankful painting for Cherished Embryos is the incredible honor it is for me to be a small part of these families’ journey. To be able to create a piece that is beautiful of someone they will cherish forever.

If you’d like to connect with Katie, you can find her on Instagram, Facebook, Etsy or her blog!

Babe In My Arms, Babe In My Belly, Babe In My Heart, Blogs, Uncategorized

To the Mama who Miscarried

September 14, 2019

Written by Jeanette Opheim, Guest Blogger

Stories of pregnancy loss, infertility, and the pursuit of parenthood are as complex and as diverse as snowflakes; no two are the same. My story is a simple one; it is not the most tragic or the most compelling, but it is my story and I am grateful for the opportunity to share it. There is a sisterhood in the struggle to conceive and pregnancy loss and each time we share our story we are strengthening the bonds and supporting one another through one of life’s most heartbreaking and discouraging experiences. 

My husband Zach and I began our marriage with the mentality that we wanted biological children and adopted children…one day. We spent the first year and a half traveling, growing our careers, and being “the couple without kids.” It was a great time in our marriage and we thoroughly enjoyed it. I knew kids would come one day but for that first year and a half of our marriage the thought of giving up the “glamorous” aspects of our child-free life was something I absolutely dreaded. I lived for our multiple international trips a year. I was traveling all over the country planning and executing event sponsorships for the brand I worked for, attending festivals, concerts, and enjoying the company of celebrities and music industry moguls. I enjoyed a spontaneous social life where I could make plans at the drop of a hat and spend evenings out with friends without a care in the world. Zach lived a similar social lifestyle. For us, kids were a one-day element that we would add in when we were good and ready. 

            During this time I had an immense fear of pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. Now that I had a husband, the reality of motherhood was imminent and we practiced Natural Family Planning to avoid getting pregnant. I tracked my cycles and took my temperature each morning religiously because the thought of becoming pregnant was an absolutely terrifying thought. I needed to know when I was ovulating so that we could avoid sex. The underlying calling to become a mother was still there, but the reality of what becoming a mother entailed scared me in a way that was new and real. The way a pregnancy would change my body, the pain that childbirth would cause, the sacrifices we’d have to make to our jobs and social lives with a little one around…all of it was overwhelming and the fear was always lurking. 

            Sunday, May 13th 2018 started just like any normal day for us. It was Mother’s Day. We started our day by attending church with plans to celebrate Mother’s Day with Zach’s family later on. I walked into church with all of those fears of motherhood prominent in my heart and in my soul. I had no idea that I would be walking out of church an hour later a completely changed woman. At some point during the service while I was kneeling and praying a literal wave of change washed over me. I was not asking for God to open my heart or mind to motherhood, I was not praying about anything related to parenthood, I was not preparing myself for change, but God had something in store for me. 

Photo taken by: Lisa Wolfe

            During my time in prayer I began noticing the mothers around me. The young tired ones bouncing infants in their arms and the ones who were not only mothers but also grandmothers and even great-grandmothers. I saw the lives they had created sitting around them and all of a sudden the fears I had about motherhood washed away. They never came back. Like a gust of wind blowing leaves off of a tree God whisked away every element of fear I was using to guard myself from falling head over heels into the pursuit of parenthood. He redirected my focus and instilled a deep desire to be a mother into my heart in a matter of moments. 

            Zach and I left church and walked through the parking lot towards our car hand in hand. About halfway to the car I said “Zach, I am ready to become a mom. I am ready to start trying for a baby.” Zach smiled down at me and simply said “Me too.” I told him about the miraculous experience I had just had in church and we hugged tearfully, smiling and laughing. Just like that our hearts were changed and we had a new focus in life: becoming parents. 

            One day while we were on a walk in our neighborhood with our two dogs Zach and I had a very close-minded and silly disagreement. I call it silly because looking back on that moment from where I am now, it is quite amusing that we thought we had as much control over our family that we did. I brought up to Zach that I wanted our firstborn to be adopted; Zach was adamant that our firstborn be a biological child. We bickered and never really reached a compromise during that walk. A few weeks later I decided it was pointless to be stuck on which child came first and decided I’d be totally fine with our firstborn being biological as long as we could start the paperwork process of adoption shortly after our first was born. We agreed on this and set our sights on conceiving. 

            I was under the impression that conceiving was as easy as pie. I grew up around families with multiple biological children and I never heard conversations about difficulty conceiving. My religious upbringing gave me the impression that just looking at a boy the wrong way would get you pregnant (this is a joke, but I was raised under very strict rules about boys!). I knew that my mother had had a miscarriage in between myself and the birth of my sister but she rarely talked about it. The little I did know made it seem like it was a minor occurrence that was just a small blip in the growth of my family. 

Photo taken by: Lisa Wolfe

            We started trying to conceive that May. My cycle came and went with a couple negative pregnancy tests and I chalked it up to starting mid-way through my cycle. June ended with negative pregnancy tests, too, and I began to wonder if we were missing our mark. After July’s negative pregnancy tests, the fears of infertility began creeping up in my mind. I still had an iron grip on the control of our family’s growth and was having a difficult time understanding why three months of trying to conceive were not generating any positive pregnancy tests. Although the thought of infertility crossed my mind it was not a major fear and in August I took a positive pregnancy test. Life was on track just how we planned it; we were pregnant! 

            I was pregnant for sixty four days. Those days were an exciting time for us! We told our family and close friends and began envisioning what life would look like as a family of three. We went to a seven week appointment and got to see our little one via an ultrasound. It was just a small dot but that small dot became our world. After our appointment we treated ourselves to a fancy dinner to celebrate the life we had created together and giggled like school children as we told our waiter we were pregnant and celebrating. 

            I went to the bathroom at work one morning and glanced at my toilet paper before I tossed it into the toilet; it was tinted pink. My heart and everything around me seemed to freeze. I tried to calmly reassure myself that spotting was normal during the first trimester and for some reason thought putting in a tampon would be the best course of action. I called my midwife and let her know that I was spotting; she reassured me that it was totally normal and to only call her back if the blood increased in volume and intensified in color. I sat back down at my desk and got back to work and eventually the pink tinted toilet paper took a back seat in my mind as I got wrapped up in phone calls and meetings. At some point I had to go back to the bathroom and remembered that I had a tampon in. I pulled it out and again my heart stopped and my world froze. The tampon was covered in bright red blood. 

            I called the midwife back. She again reassured me that it was normal; if the volume intensified, I began to cramp, and if I started discharging dark colored tissue, then I needed to call her back. I mentioned the tampon and she told me to avoid using those for the remainder of the day. I had to leave work to go purchase pads, and at that point I lost all concentration. I went to the bathroom dozens of times and the blood was still present and red. I eventually confided in my boss and she allowed me to head home. 

            I tried to keep my mind off of everything when I got home. At this point I had filled Zach in on what was going on and he came home early, too. We were still unsure of what was happening and held onto the hope that this was just spotting. We lounged around for the rest of the day until it was time for bed. By bedtime I had begun experiencing some cramping and that is when I knew deep down inside that I was miscarrying. 

            The night was restless and I spent most of my time in the bathtub. Zach sat vigilantly by my side as I tried to get through the slowly intensifying pain. At this point I was beginning to expel the dreaded “dark colored tissue” and began to shift my focus from being hopeful that it was spotting to being anxious to get to the midwife in the morning for her to confirm that it was indeed a miscarriage that we were experiencing. I knew the baby was not okay. 

            We were at the doors the moment the birthing center opened the next morning. A midwife took my blood and confirmed based on my signs and symptoms that we were indeed suffering a miscarriage and that she would sent over the hcg levels as soon as she got them back from the lab. I broke down and sobbed all the way home. 

            That day was the worst. Losing your child slowly and in pieces is something I do not wish upon anyone. Zach and I got through the day as best we could, and our “best” consisted of a lot of crying. There was a specific moment where the majority of the pregnancy came out and we stood over the toilet debating what to do. There was no manual for how to handle a miscarriage. Should we take the contents out of the toilet and hold an impromptu funeral in our backyard? Should we just flush? We stood in the bathroom and debated our course of action; I could not come to a decision. Eventually Zach took the reigns and flushed the toilet. We watched our baby disappear forever. 

            Miscarriages are traumatic, therefore there isn’t a textbook way to respond to them and to navigate the emotional aftermath. For me I mourned and I mourned hard. I spent moments to myself keeled over in the kind of grief that takes your breath away, the kind that hurts your throat and chest and leaves you feeling physically exhausted. It horrified me that miscarriages were as common as they were and treated so “hush hush.” It wasn’t until I had miscarried that I found out about dozens of friends and family members who had suffered the same thing, sometimes multiple times in a row. It was an unspoken truth that was not revealed to me until I became a member of the unfortunate club myself. Knowing that my story could potentially help others I decided to share our miscarriage story on my personal Facebook. Below is what I wrote:

A little over a month ago Zach and I experienced a loss that really threw us for a loop and knocked us down emotionally and mentally. Writing is therapeutic for me, so to cope with our loss I penned out three letters to three different people. Being this vulnerable on a platform like Facebook is terrifying, but I am ready to share our story and I think the best way of doing it is sharing the letters that I wrote.

First LetterDEAR BABY,

These days I have constant thoughts swimming through my head, yet putting them into words feels next to impossible. You existed in this world for only 64 days but you never got to see the light of day. Your life began and ended inside my womb, and my heart is shattered knowing I will never get to know you.

I will never know if you were a little boy or a little girl. I will never know who you were going to resemble; your father or me. How tall you’d be will forever be a mystery to me, along with what your personality would be like or what color hair you’d have. I’ll never hear you cry, but I cry enough for the both of us knowing that I will never truly know you.

Your little life was passionately celebrated while we knew about you. When I saw those two pink lines on the pregnancy test I sunk down onto the bathroom floor and happy tears would not stop streaming down my face. I excitedly pulled out the “this guy is going to be a dad” t-shirt that I had bought and saved for your father for this exact moment and folded it on the bed, placing the positive pregnancy test on top of the shirt. When he came home and he saw the shirt he started crying tears of joy, too. We hugged each other and laughed and smiled and felt complete. We did it! We tried hard to get pregnant with you, and you were finally real.

Telling your grandparents, aunts, uncles, and our friends were some of the best memories I have so far. Everyone was just so happy. You would have been the first grandchild for both sides of the family, and you had many people praying their hearts out for you to come along for the past couple of years. Confirming that you were finally here and growing rapidly inside of me brought out so many smiles and happy tears. You and your life were celebrated so joyfully.

The day we saw you and your heartbeat on the ultrasound became the best day of my life. Getting visual confirmation that you were real, you were alive, and you were growing gave your father and me such a pure feeling of elation, and we walked out of the birthing center like giddy little children. Your heart was beating at 158 beats per minute, a strong and confident heartbeat, and it was all I needed to fall completely head over heels in love with you.

We never got to show anyone the ultrasound pictures of you or the sound waves of your heartbeat, because the day we got them back was the day we lost you. Something went wrong in the week that we saw your heart beating strongly on the monitor. Somewhere, something happened that snuffed out your little life and forced you out of my body, and it kills me knowing that I will never know what that “something” is. Everyone tells me that it’s a chromosomal malfunction, that you wouldn’t have been able to survive because of something that went wrong with your genetic composition. I hate hearing that generic reasoning. There is already so much I will never know about you, the least I deserve to know is the reason why I lost you.

I am so sorry, my sweet baby. I did everything I could to grow you and bring you into this world, but something about my body failed you. I know that I will never know you or hold you or hear you cry, and I feel completely lost with this knowledge. What do I do? Trying for another baby will not bring you back. Nothing I can do will bring you back. I miss you so much and I love you so much and I will do everything I can to keep your memory alive.

I find comfort knowing that you are in the glory of God’s presence now, and that you were celebrated while you were with us. All sixty four days of your life brought multiple people happiness and put joy in their hearts. I will celebrate you the rest of my life. Whether or not we get pregnant again, I will always make sure you have a place in our family. When we shared the news that we were pregnant with you, a friend gave me a bouquet of flowers. After we lost you, I pressed those flowers and framed them, and now I will always have a visual reminder of you through a gift that was given in celebration of your life.

I love you, sweet child. Thank you for the joy you gave me and the unwavering love that you put into my heart. Thank you for making me a mama. I love you forever.

Second LetterTO ZACH

These past two weeks have been the most emotionally draining two weeks of our lives, I almost can’t believe we’re still functioning. I feel like we’re the last two warriors standing victorious after a long and draining battle.

We lost our baby. That is an undeniable and unchangeable fact that we will have to carry in our hearts for the rest of our lives. I know that you will carry that pain differently than I will, but I rest easy knowing that neither of us will ever forget our first child whom we never got to meet, and we will both do our best to keep its memory alive.

I know life throws married couples challenges, and I feel like one year and ten months into ours, we’ve had our first defining challenge. Sitting here two weeks after our miscarriage, I am confident in saying that I am proud of the way we handled this together as a united front. I may have been the one who had to take on the physical pain of the miscarriage, but you were by my side the entire time carrying on the emotional pain when I was just too exhausted to go on. There was never a time where I felt like I was bearing this burden alone, or that we were misunderstanding each other’s way of processing pain. You stood by my side and we were as equal as we could be during this time.

You were so protective and cognizant of me. Not only did you physically care for me, you were my first line of defense if anything outside of our home tried to penetrate our extremely private time of grief. You became our spokesperson and kept me sheltered. You handled it with such grace and strength, qualities that I knew you had but never truly appreciated until now. You stepped up and became everything we needed you to be. You were brave and I am forever grateful for your courage.

I learned a lot about you in these past two weeks, to a point where I feel like I’m getting to know you all over again. I am seeing the man that you are in an entirely new light and I am very much in love with that man. This miscarriage has brought a lot of pain, but there is also good that has come out of it. Our marital foundation is stronger than it’s ever been and we are learning how to exist as husband and wife during times of heartache and grief.

Life will continue to throw us challenges but I know now that we can take them on harmoniously. I know we might not always see eye to eye but we are always on the same page and will always be a team. Thank you for all that you are, I love you.

Photo taken by: Lisa Wolfe


I am so sorrowful for your loss. I mourn for you and with you. Maybe you’re like me, and this was your first pregnancy that you had been hoping and praying for for a long time. Maybe you’re already a mama of one or more children and this baby was going to be the perfect addition to your little tribe. Maybe you weren’t trying to get pregnant and didn’t want to be, and now you’re sitting here wondering what the heck just happened. Maybe this isn’t the first time you’ve lost a baby. Or maybe you’re none of those women and you’re journeying through a miscarriage in a completely different way. I don’t know who you are specifically, but you and I carry a pain that stems from the same source of loss, and therefore we are united in a terrible but special bond.

Everyone’s miscarriage story is different and unique, and if you’re like me you’re sitting here still in disbelief that it even happened to you in the first place. I don’t know what to tell you. I’m not going to say “one in four” because honestly, statistics mean nothing. You can research and study the likelihood of a miscarriage or stillbirth at any week of a pregnancy but no matter what, those statistics will not predict, include, or exclude you from what will end up happening to you and your child.

I am not going to write to you and tell you how to feel or what you should do to recover, but I will tell you this: stay true to yourself and how you want to deal with your miscarriage. You are entitled to handle it however you want to. If you do not want to see anyone and mourn privately, then keep your door locked and do not feel obligated to check your phone. If you need friends and family around, vocalize that to them. No matter what, understand that this time is all about you. You are not obligated or responsible for walking a family member through their grief of your loss. You’re not even responsible for your partner’s grief. Focus on you and do what you think is best for your body and mental health.

Strong mama, you are a part of a mighty sisterhood, one that is unfortunately still expected to keep quiet and “keep trying.” Don’t keep quiet! When you are ready, share your story in a manner you’re comfortable with. Your story will strengthen other miscarriage mamas and educate those who are unaware of the gravity of a miscarriage and the toll it can take on a woman and her body.

Sweet mama, heal how you need to heal. There isn’t a right or wrong way, and don’t be afraid of it. Healing doesn’t mean forgetting. Take your time, tap into yourself, and do what you need to do to get your body back on track and your mind feeling healthy. Try to love your body again. I haven’t forgiven mine yet, but I know that with time I’ll hopefully come to terms with what happened and give my body the grace it needs to fully heal. Hopefully.

Writing is therapeutic for me, which is why I am writing you this letter now. There’s no textbook way to mourn, so do what you need to do, mama. I’ll mourn my way, you’ll mourn in your way, and with time we will both heal.

I am struggling trying to find a way to end this letter, since ending on a hopeful note feels too cliché and ending on a sorrowful note is too depressing. I’ll end by saying this: miscarriages suck, and it’s scary to think that it could easily happen again. I don’t know what the future holds. Maybe I’ll get pregnant “right away” like people keep telling me, or maybe I’ll only ever have miscarriages, or maybe I’ll never get pregnant again. Right now, I have no idea what the future holds. For now I am tapping into the things that make me happy (nature, long hot bubble baths, writing, friends and family…) and trying my best not to let the overwhelming feeling of loss consume me at random moments of the day. For now, I’m just “hanging in there,” and I’m okay with that. From one miscarriage mama to another, I encourage you to do the same. When you’re up for it, tap into your happy, but also allow yourself to be sad or mad or any other emotion that you need to feel towards your loss. Do what you can to keep your body healthy, and above all, unapologetically do what you need to do to heal.

Photo taken by: Lisa Wolfe

I was met with a flood of responses. People who had multiple miscarriages. An acquaintance from college who lost twins due to a recent miscarriage. People who had never experienced a miscarriage themselves but sympathized with my story. Every single person thanked me for sharing my story and it was very easy to recognize how healthy it was to knock down the doors of silence that surrounds a miscarriage. 

After our miscarriage we wasted no time in trying again. Three more months went by and I grew extremely discouraged, thoughts of difficulty conceiving creeping back into my mind. I had been told by multiple people that I would get pregnant “right away again,” but that didn’t seem to be the case for us. I tried my best to be patient and wait for God’s timing, but I began to resent God’s timing. I wanted complete control over our family planning! What did God know that I didn’t? What was the reasoning behind all of our loss and discouragement, and why was it happening to us? What I didn’t know was that God had the perfect plan in store for us, a plan beyond my wildest dreams. All He was asking from me was to be patient, and I had the most difficult time tapping into that request. I felt like my patience tank was completely on “empty” and looking back at that time now, I am embarrassed of how impatient I actually was. 

Around Christmas time Zach and I began talking about adoption again. We knew that an adoption doesn’t just happen in a blink of an eye, that it requires planning, fundraising, paperwork, and lots and lots of waiting. Understanding that conceiving a child was becoming quite the difficult task for us (literally and emotionally), we decided to take a step that we could control, a step towards becoming active in an adoption. The first thing we did was write our close family and friends letters letting them know the exciting news. We wanted them to know that our talk about adopting was becoming an action. Shortly after sending them out in the mail we began the paperwork process of adoption. 

I could write an entire book about the adoption process alone, it’s very complex and extensive. Just like childbirth, it is different for everyone. Some families adopt internationally, some adopt domestically, some adopt via foster care and some adopt family members, step-children, and children in their community who need a stable home. For multiple reasons we decided to pursue the domestic infant adoption route. We began the paperwork process at the beginning of the year and on May 21, 2019 we got the news that we had been matched! This had happened much more quickly than we had anticipated. A mama had carefully chosen us to be the adoptive parents of her child. The joy I felt that day is incomparable to anything I had ever felt before, although it was tinged with sadness for a woman I did not yet know who had just made the heartbreaking decision to place her child up for adoption. I quickly learned that adoption is just that: joy and sadness and loss intertwined like a strand of DNA. A quote that perfectly summarizes the complexity of adoption is one from Jody Landers: “A child born to another woman calls me Mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.” 

We knew we would fall in love with our child but we had no idea the depth of love we would feel for our birth mother. We met her the day before she was induced and hit it off in a way that left me feeling an abundance of gratitude that she was our birth mother. I had been nervous that we wouldn’t get along, that we’d be wary of one another, or that we just wouldn’t click. It couldn’t have been more opposite. I will forever thank God for the beautiful and incredible woman that our birth mother is and the strong bond that was created the night we met her. 

Our perfect son Barron was born on June 24th, 2019 at 2:24pm. He was tiny and alert and stole our hearts the moment we met him. The first week of his life was miraculous, exhausting, joyful, heartbreaking, and overwhelming all at once. We are very careful and mindful of the details we share regarding those emotionally intimate days since the story is ultimately our son’s and we must protect it and respect it for his sake, but I will summarize by saying adoption is not natural, no matter how often it happens or how much it’s talked about. The harsh reality of what is happening cannot be ignored; a woman is walking away empty-handed and heartbroken while another woman walks away with the other woman’s child in her arms. We are very very blessed that we have such a strong bond with our son’s birth mother and that our son will get to know and love her through an open adoption.

Since July we have been home adjusting to life as a family of three and it has been the most joyful experience of our lives. Barron is the sweetest soul I have ever had the privilege of knowing and it is a miracle to watch him grow and thrive each day. At the time I am writing this he has just recently turned two months old and his personality is beginning to shine through. He is morphing from a newborn into an interactive and inquisitive baby and he is a constant reminder of God’s grace and complex grand design. 

One day in March while we were wrapping up our adoption paperwork I took what had become a routine pregnancy test. I left it upstairs and got distracted with dinner, chores, and the dogs for the duration of the evening. While we were wrapping up dinner I remembered I had a test sitting on the bathroom counter upstairs and mentioned it to Zach. He sighed and reminded me not to get my hopes up. By this point I cried with frustration every time I took a negative pregnancy test and I could tell the negative tests were wearing on Zach, too. We agreed not to allow our emotions to get the best of us as we headed upstairs to check the test. 

We got into the bathroom and glanced down at the test and saw two pink lines. They were faint, but they were there. Thinking back on that moment it’s a bit hazy, but I do know that there was a lot of hugging and happy tears. We were relieved to see that we were finally pregnant again, but I could tell we were still hesitant with releasing our full joy. We knew what happened the last time we were pregnant and we knew it could easily happen again. 

There was no definitive moment that the fear of another miscarriage washed away, but eventually it did because, as I sit here writing this, my 3rd trimester baby bump is in my peripheral vision and I am feeling the baby kick me quite enthusiastically right now. It’s like the baby knows I’m writing about it! We are due in December 2019 and are allowing ourselves to be surprised by the sex of the baby when we give birth. We are humbled by God’s abundance in our lives and excited to meet our fourth family member. We feel extremely blessed that we will have “Irish twins” and that Barron will grow up with a very close sibling. 

Our family bible verse and mantra, Ecclesiastes 3:11 (“and He will make everything beautiful in its time”), is a steadfast example of how God works: mysteriously, wisely, surprisingly, and always always always in His timing. At one point, after our miscarriage while we were struggling to re-conceive, I grew to resent that bible verse. It hangs on a canvas in our kitchen and I used to glare at it as I walked past, a few times very tempted to take it down. Something inside me told me to keep it up, and I think that’s a symbol of my faith in God, as feeble as it was at the time. He knew what He was doing and I weakly trusted Him. 

The same week we miscarried was the same week Barron was conceived, and had we not miscarried he would never have become our son. Our miscarriage lost its senselessness the moment we realized Barron’s date of conception and I have felt restored in my faith in God ever since. I will forever mourn the loss of our miscarried baby but I know that I will meet it at the gates of Heaven one day, and that thought puts a God-given peace in my heart. Our life as a family is a mosaic that God has carefully and intricately designed. I do not know what it looks like in completion but I can feel it’s beauty and wholeness around me at all times.  

If you’d like to connect with Jeanette, you can find her on Facebook or Instagram!

Babe In My Arms, Babe In My Belly, Babe In My Heart, Blogs, Uncategorized

Storm to Rainbow

August 22, 2019

Written by Guest Blogger, Melisa Ellena

After years and years of trying to get pregnant, my husband David and I were finally thrilled to say, “We’re having a baby!” All of those infertility treatments, clomid, letrozole, inseminations, mini stimulation cycles, IVF, you name it, I went through it. Finally, I could put these treatments to rest. I can still remember the morning of my egg retrieval, I could barely put my shoes on because I was so bloated from all the medications. But it was all worth it; to hear that sweet-sounding heartbeat of our baby, knowing nothing could take away my pregnancy glow.

The early weeks of my pregnancy had gone by and being pregnant felt like a dream come true, “How is this happening? How did we get so lucky after all this time?!” I could actually visit the baby aisles in stores and not just look, but buy, I could pin all those cute ideas on Pinterest because I was in fact having a baby. Symptoms of nausea, tender breasts, watching my little bump grow and my bras getting too tight was something that not every woman gets excited for, but I loved it all. Does that sound crazy? I was looking forward to buying those crazy large bras.

During my pregnancy, my younger brother and now sister-in-law were preparing for the most magical wedding in the spring in England. My bump, that was now five and half months along would be traveling overseas and I was so excited to buy a traditional English fascinator, (fancy hat) and celebrate with family. Before I left, I had a couple tasks at work to complete and I had to make sure I was cleared to fly per my OBGYN. Everything was set and ready as we packed up and headed across the pond. While we were going abroad anyways, David and I took this has an opportunity to travel; can you say Babymoon. David is Italian and we thought going to Italy would be the perfect choice to celebrate. The culture, the food and the weather would be perfect.

After my brother’s wedding we traveled to Rome, Florence and Venice. We walked a lot and eventually the heat did get to me. I was six months pregnant after all, and even though I swam regularly with my bump and did the occasional Zumba class, I was tired, almost beyond my normal pregnancy tired.  Venice was lovely but after a day of sightseeing, I wanted nothing more than to return to the hotel, use the restroom like most pregnant women do and kick my feet up and take a big ol’ nap. After my visit to the restroom, I noticed some pink spotting. Initially I thought, “Great, my body hated walking and sightseeing.” We were scheduled to head home the next day, I just need to make it back home, be back at work and check my emails, no more walking for this pregnant lady.

A train, a plane, and a car ride put us right back to England, right near Heathrow airport. This was our final goodbye to an amazing trip filled with even more amazing memories. We had to stay at a hotel before flying out the next morning and all the while, my pink spotting had gone from pink to red, bright red. Trying not to lose my shit, I made some phone calls back home to see what the advice nurses would have me do. After a few phone calls, and a small about of phone tag (a ten-hour difference and all), I was instructed to head into the nearest hospital for a quick vaginal exam. Knowing that I would be boarding a long flight home, everyone, including myself wanted peace of mind that everything was normal. It was exhausting mentally and physically and I just wanted to be home. Don’t think that I didn’t google and yelp the nearest hospitals. Why couldn’t I just be seen at St. Mary’s hospital, oh that’s right, I’m not Kate Middleton.

When we arrived at the hospital, I was taken back to an exam room alone. I figured with all our luggage, I could handle this exam by myself. But after a thirty second exam, the resident doctor, threw the exam backwards that sprung my legs from 180 to 90 degrees and left the room. Carting all of our luggage back to the exam room, a resident doctor and their on-call doctor were staring at David and I, “What is going on?” David said. What happened next was something I could never imagine.  

I was being admitted into the labor and delivery department immediately for exposed membranes, pre-labor rupture of members. (PROM) My room was at the end of the hallway and actually the coolest room they had. England was having a rare heatwave and everyone assured me that I would be most comfortable in there.  I remember all the nurses and staff in the department. Everyone was kind and gentle when taking my blood samples and wanted David and I to feel safe and well taken care while we were there. Upon seeing our first doctor, she said, “You’re already dilating and your membranes have been exposed. Have you been feeling ill?” Uhhh.. WHAT. What are you saying now? Exposed? My membranes are exposed? Yes, I don’t feel good, you just gave me horrible news, but what is happening to my body? Am I in labor? Is my baby ok? When can we go home? How did this happen? Is my baby going to be ok?” I don’t think I could process what was being told, I just had a million questions in my head and they all circled around, “Is the baby ok????” Panic set in and the crying began… for days, and days. David and I didn’t even know who to contact or what to say when we did eventually call back home. The bloodwork had come back and my white blood cell counts were doubling each time, I had been checking my levels. The answer was, infection. I had an infection in my body and the baby had the infection in the amniotic fluid. The infection was overtaking my body and the baby’s. I would not be able to keep my baby.

When hearing life alternating news about your pregnancy, your body, and hearing it not in your doctor’s office, in the comfort of your own home; your world comes crashing down. What was once a delightful family wedding, turned joyous Baby moon, turned nightmare, no words can describe the dark and awaited outcome.

While we were waiting any possible answers to save both myself and my baby, the hospital staff kept me comfortable, made me feel safe, knowing that I wouldn’t be going home and I would be waiting here, in their care, for my water to break. I wasn’t a candidate for a rescue cerclage (a cervical stitch that is placed to hold in the pregnancy) as I was getting sicker each passing day and the idea of holding the pregnancy with a stitch would only take me so far; maybe one or two weeks. Regardless, the outcome of my baby being born alive and healthy was very, very slim.  David and I didn’t sleep much, and we didn’t eat much, our minds were clouded with thoughts that new parents should never have to face. We were in shock from it all. Amongst our swollen eyes from crying so much, it was hard to find the right words to say each other, except, “I love you.”

Defeat, heartbreak and numbness were the only feelings I could process during our stay. By day 5, my doctor said my infection was reaching dangerous levels that we could no longer passively wait for my water to break on its own. With medical intervention, we began the process of inducing labor. My water broke, somewhere in the night and I was weak, mentally, physically and emotionally. My midwife whom I now refer to as my helping angel, guided me through a birth I never thought I could face, and David stayed strong with me during the entire process. When my brother and sister in law heard of our news and had just returned from their honeymoon, and they wanted to say with us as it was just David and myself in the hospital. We didn’t really know anyone.  Knowing this wasn’t a typical delivery, they had wanted to give David and I our privacy and said they would return when we were ready to see them, post-delivery. God, the thought of negatively impacting my new sister-in-law put more strain on my heart. This isn’t how we were supposed to bond.

With minimal communication to family and close friends back home, I didn’t know nor did I care what hour or what day it was. My baby would come be coming into this earth and leaving this earth in one moment. Why, why was this happening? What did I do wrong?

The birth and death of my son was gentle, quiet and heartbreaking. My midwife had kept insisting that even though I had just experienced something so painful, “You must see him. He’s beautiful.” Some mothers who have loss, want to see their baby, but David and I could not bring ourselves to. How could I look at someone so beautiful and innocent and know I could not take him home? I would never hear his heartbeat or feel his mighty kicks. I felt like a failure in knowing I couldn’t keep him safe. I could only see him in my dreams from now on. I wanted to keep his image of what I thought he looked like in my mind, and in my heart. I am his mother and I know what he looks like.

When the time came for the doctors and staff to witness our signatures for his birth and death certificate, I had to sign and date it, May 8, 2016. I took a long pause and looked at David. A lump in my throat started to form as I forced myself to swallow, “It’s Mother’s Day back home.” I had given birth to my first-born son on Mother’s Day. To say my heart sank would be an understatement of this lifetime.

From the hospital we were instructed to stay in the hotel for another week before we were finally cleared to fly home. Grieving on the airplane, wearing my dark sunglasses and headphones to hide my eyes and keep my tears at bay was a challenge. “Just don’t make eye contact with anyone” I thought.

We returned home and months and months had passed. I had returned to work, was healthy and healing, in the physical aspect. We had seen our families and friends and we were adjusting to the somber lifestyle we were given. There were good days and happy days, but mostly bad days. In the realm of grieving, there is no “correct” way to grieve the loss of your baby and there aren’t nearly enough resources out there that help. The unfortunate part about loss is there aren’t many tools out there to help you with coping and understanding what you went through and what you will be going through now and forever. However, throughout my breakdowns at the gas station, or while shopping at the local stores, I turned to Instagram as my main source of comfort. Finally, real women, couples and families who had their own stories and were brave enough to share them to make me, a girl in Oregon feel not so alone. Their passed-on words of hope, gave me strength to feel like, maybe I could still be a mother again.

In the coming months, David and I found a wonderful counselor through my fertility doctor. She was beyond helpful in navigating us through the crashing waves of emotions and validating my breakdowns. We felt stronger with each session, we felt heard and we had come to terms with what happened to our son.

Flash forward to eight months later, we were ready to meet with our infertility doctor and perinatologist to discuss our plan for another pregnancy. It was soon time for another embryo transfer. David, my driving force of optimism, “You have to believe we will get pregnant again” wanted a transfer sooner that I was ready for. In December we did an embryo transfer and the outcome was negative. No luck. My heart wasn’t quite there and I felt as if I was going through the motions. But I knew I wanted to try again. After the holidays and after ringing in the New Year I was ready for another transfer. I was seeing my acupuncturist regularly, who works miracles by the way, and my mind set was dialed in. This was it. I was going to get pregnant.

Embryo transfer day came and everything went as smooth as it could. I did my usual transfer rituals of eating pineapple core, keeping my feet warm with wool socks, listened to classical music, talked to my embryo and kept my crystals close by. On day 5 post transfer, no symptoms, no signs, no nothing. I headed into work on day 5 trying not to cry every second of the day. I knew it was over. I just knew it.

Superbowl Sunday (day 10) was coming up and I had big plans to pee on a stick, see a negative line, get dressed, get my nails done and cry the rest of the day. That was the plan and I was OK with that. Seven am came, my urine pregnancy test was already underway and after 3 minutes, I would be getting on with this miserable day.

TWO. Two pink lines. Two pink lines on a stick that I just peed on…??!! WHAT. A sight I never thought I would see again and there is was starting at me as if to say, “Of course I’m here.” I got dressed and drove straight to David’s work and showed him the stick. This was the beginning on a tiny rainbow.

I wish I could say my pregnancy was normal and I lived out my nine months in gestational bliss…but that wouldn’t be true.

I lost my son at six months and we chose to see a perinatologist (high risk provider) to have peace of mind that my pregnancy plan would be followed closely. In the hospital back in England, we were looking for more information regarding PROM. Our obgyn clinic had referred us to the perinatology department as they are the experts in high risk situations. Our doctor who consulted us over the phone would soon become our doctor to our subsequent pregnancy. The plan was to watch my cervix and see, would this happen again, or was this a cruel fluke of nature? We also decided to add in progesterone shots to prevent any preterm labor. I had gone through IVF injections, frozen embryo injections, what’s another shot in the backside.

I had standing appointments for cervical monitoring and I was coming up to my twenty-two-week appointment. We had talked about a cerclage, a stitch that could be placed in my uterus to hold the baby in. We talked about risks, benefits, outcomes, all of it. David and I couldn’t decide if there was a need for one, but on that twenty-two-week appointment it was decided for us. My uterus needed one. It was doing the same thing it was doing in Venice, Italy. To have your doctor catch what my body wanted to do the first time around was incredible. This is why we choose to see the perinatologist.

The operation happened on the same day and for anyone wondering, was it painful or scary, I would have to say “not really”. The anticipation of checking in and waiting around was more stressful than the procedure, which only took five minutes. Honest. Recovery was a little tough as its basically bedrest, but you do get to spend the days looking at everything online. A dangerous situation when you’re pregnant.

Soon enough, it was time to meet my rainbow, my daughter. The thought of giving birth and losing her was terrifying and I will admit there was a lot of tears leading up to her birth. All I could think about was “what if this happens again?” what if my body decides to do something it shouldn’t, will everyone survive this time, will I be strong enough if the doctors deliver bad news?” the stakes were high and too emotionally. My past was meeting up with my present.

My due date was 10/14 and on 10/13 we had our last appointment. There was talk about the baby being too big and my options were induction or a c-section. The truth is, I had already gone through the process of a vaginal birth and the anticipation of not knowing how long it would be, would I be reliving any memories, would I be present in this birth…I didn’t have the answers. My heart said no and I accepted the choice of having a c-section. And in the end, I am so happy we did.

Out she came, happy, healthy and crying with all her might. David couldn’t hold back any tears as he proclaimed, “She’s here! Oh, my word, she’s right here.”

Milan Rosalia Ellena had made her entrance in our world and quickly made it known that I was hers and she was mine. For so long my heart ached and worried that I would never hold another baby again, but I was proven wrong that morning; Rainbows do come after the storm and they shine the brightest when you open your eyes.

Milan is almost 2 years old and her spirit is pure, gentle, loving and carries David and I through the wondrous world of parenting. Our tiny tot has taught us so much about love, grievance, patience, and celebration of life. Life is hard without my son here and not a day goes by that I don’t think about him and see him in my daughters eyes. David and I didn’t believe for so long that our rainbow would come, but Milan changed all of that.

 “No matter how your heart is grieving, if you keep on believing, the dreams that wish, will come true.” -Cinderella

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