The Story of Hope

My goal this year, and in the years to follow, is to use my photography for good. I want to document real life moments and provide the photos as a heirloom for families. The story of life is hard sometimes. We have to learn to deal with the bad days so that we don’t take the good days for granted. I’ve set out on a mission to find a family who is struggling with infertility and capture their journey to parenthood.

Part of my mission is also to bring awareness to the heartache that infertility is. It is one of those things in many couple’s lives that prove to be one of the hardest chapters in the story of life and love. It is estimated that it affects 1 in 8 couples, yet so many people know nothing about it.

I can tell you that when you’re yearning for a child, it feels like every woman around you is pregnant. Going to a baby shower makes you want to cry. Walking past the baby aisle at Target breaks your heart. You feel like less of a woman if you can’t carry a baby. I want to bring light to these things, not to make people feel bad for those affected, but to show these men and women that there is a silver lining to the storm they are facing. Good days are ahead.

In my search for a family to document, I have read the stories of a few of these couples. Part of this storytelling experience is sharing their story. I encourage you to read each of them. Take time to think about the women or men in your life that are dealing with this. Educate yourself on the issue. Show love, support, and understanding.

Story #1 

“Very few people know, but for 2 years and 8 months, my husband I have been trying to have a baby. I’ll spare you every detail, but basically I have a freak birth defect called a Unicornuate Uterus, that makes it very hard for me to get pregnant and can affect blood flow once pregnant. Our first miracle happened in 2014 while taking oral meds, but we found out at 8 weeks that there was no heartbeat and I had to have a D&C. Our second miracle happened in 2015 while we were taking a break from IUIs and meds, but we lost that baby around 5-6 weeks. Now, we are trying to prepare ourselves mentally, physically and financially to do IVF. I have also had a dear friend volunteer to be a surrogate, but we haven’t done much research into that option yet….”

Story #2

“Never in a million years thought that I would have trouble getting pregnant but we have tried for a year with no luck. That isn’t a long time by any means but when you want so badly to be a mother it feels like a lifetime! We started treatment this week and I’m so nervous and scared, but I know it will all be worth it in the end. I have felt so alone…I had surgery in July to unblock my Fallopian tube and to remove endometriosis and he told us to try for six months on our own before we started IUI. I actually started clomid this morning, and we go back next Friday for an ultrasound and the hcg trigger shot. I’m so nervous, but I’m thankful to have a great support system!”

Story #3

“My husband wanted to start having babies as soon as we got married at the age of 22. I was in school working toward my Masters Degree in Elementary Education. Knowing the timing was not right, I still had 2 years left in school, I bought him a puppy instead! Once I graduated and got a permanent position at a local elementary school, we decided the time was perfect to start growing our family. There was only 1 problem, or so we thought. I hadn’t had my menstrual cycle for the second month in a row. I went to my Gynecologist and was told it wasn’t considered “missed” until I missed 6! Being someone who always had a regular cycle, I knew that didn’t sound right. The next month I went to a different doctor and had blood work done. My insulin levels were a little bit high, so I was put on medicine and 2 weeks later I had a cycle! Problem solved! We can have a baby! They told us to go to the Center for Reproductive Medicine so they could do some testing and my husband would have to give a specimen the be analyzed. We went at the beginning of January, 2015. My tests were all good and I was excited that now, we could have a baby. I went back in for a follow up and they told me that we would have to do IUI due to the results of the semen analysis. We were devastated. We researched for hours and hours on how to improve sperm morphology. I went out immediately and bought numerous vitamins. We changed our diet. Did whatever would could to help us get pregnant. We did our first round of IUI in February- it didn’t work. In March my husband was going on a cruise so we had to rush the IUI. I took the trigger shot and 22 hours later, before taking him to the airport, we were back at the doctors. We did our second IUI, my husband went to the Bahamas, and I went on with my every day activities. I anxiously waited those 2 weeks, not getting my hopes up because we already had 1 failed attempt and we had to rush it this time. I tested 2 weeks later and it came back negative. 3 days went by and I never started my period. I tested again, POSITIVE! I called my sister into the bathroom because I couldn’t believe it. I cried, she cried, my mom cried. I called my husband and told him it was a faint second line, but there were definitely 2!!! I called the doctor the next day and they told me to come in for a blood test. As soon as I left I drove to SC (it was spring break and I wasgoing to visit my best friend). They called me and told me to come back in 2 days because my HCG was low. I didn’t end up being able to go until I got back in town 6 days later. To my horror, they told me that this would not be a viable pregnancy. I didn’t give up hope and I didn’t want to believe them. At 6 1/2 weeks they wanted to do a uterine biopsy. I refused because I read that could make you have a miscarriage. The doctor told me that no matter what, I was going to miscarry and that this was not a viable pregnancy. My HCG was rising and that made me hopeful. It was doubling and I didn’t want to give up. At 7 weeks he told me he thought it was an eptopic pregnancy and we needed to do something now before my tube burst. He explained to me all the risks that came along with eptopic pregnancies and I was scared to death. I went ahead with the procedure and he w as right. My pregnancy was in my fallopian tube. At 7 1/2 weeks I was given Methotrexate to end the pregnancy. What are the odds? We over come female infertility, we over come male infertility, and just when things start to turn around… a miscarriage. I had a HSG to check for damage in my tube and uterus. Everything looked great. “It was just a fluke” they said. A fluke. So we had to wait 3 months after my HCG reached 0 to go back to the clinic. In September we went back. We completed 4 rounds of IUI, the last one being in December. Neither of our insurances cover any fertility costs and we just simply can’t afford it. 1,000 a month out of pocket- it’s just too much. I am interviewing today for a second job that has some fertility coverage! The coverage kicks in after 90 days and I found a new clinic that is much more affordable then the one in my hometown. As much as I love the people here, I cannot afford it anymore. Even with the insurance coverage (does not cover it all), I would never be able to afford IVF here. I have a phone consultation next Monday with a place in New York! If everything goes as planned, we will be doing IVF this summer, and hopefully welcoming a baby in the spring!

Story #4

“It’s an interesting thing when you know something is wrong with you body but you can’t pinpoint it.  Looking back now, I think I knew something was wrong around my junior or senior year in college. I knew my cycles were really irregular, ranging from 20 to 60 day cycles, despite being on birth control. I never really considered it a big deal, just kind of weird. Infertility wasn’t something that ever entered my mind. Lauren was one of my best friends, and I can remember her asking me if I had PCOS, and me looking at her like she had 3 heads. I had no idea what PCOS was, so to Google I went.  I quickly ruled it out because I never had the “C” of PCOS…or the cysts on my ovaries.

A couple of years went by, and I eventually got engaged and then married. We were young, so babies were still in a distant future. Two years in, we decided we would stop “preventing,” leaving it up to God to decide when we would be parents. About six months in, I had a regular annual exam with a new doctor. I brought up the fact that we were interested in starting a family, but it wasn’t working so far…could PCOS be a possibility? Without any testing, any question of symptoms, the doctor looked at me blankly and said, “you really just need to lose weight.” As an overweight person most of my life, this was not shocking news to me, but I had anticipated maybe some insight on how to do that since it had been a major struggle to lose even one pound. I was offered nothing but a “see you in a year.” Needless to say, I was angry and frustrated. Fast forward a year….still no baby, but a new doctor. She actually listened to me, and educated me that PCOS was more about matching symptoms and that some women can have non-cystic PCOS. I did, indeed, meet the criteria for PCOS. I never knew I would be so relieved to actually be diagnosed with a disorder. However, she wanted me to keep trying naturally for a while before any interventions.

My husband and I moved and at this point,  and we were 4 years into our marriage and baby fever had hit big time. People were getting pregnant “on accident!” everywhere around me. Even my BFF Lauren had beat the odds with her own fertility struggles and was pregnant. Luckily this time upon my first visit with my new doctor, I did, at least, have PCOS tied to my name so she believed my issues from the get go.  She had me “chart” for 2 months, just to confirm. With temperatures all over the place and a 58-day cycle, she believed I would need some kind of medical intervention to achieve our goal. I was referred immediately (finally, some pep in the medical step!) to a reproductive endocrinologist, who added the term “insulin-resistance” to my PCOS. (This made me want to find the first doctor who told me to “just lose weight” and stick my tongue out at her…). We started Metformin for the IR and Clomid to ensure ovulation. And charting. I immediately had picture-perfect 28-day cycles. With no luck. My doctor initially told me he would allow 3 rounds of Clomid before upping the ante.  The three rounds came and went., complete with high hopes and disappointment. On the fourth round, he introduced HCG injections. Once again, a perfect cycle (and a sore backside)…no baby. I never imagined the emotional toll this would take, wanting so desperately for SOMETHING to work, and having let down after let down every month. I can remember sitting in church and crying to God that I didn’t understand why we couldn’t be parents. Another coworker announced, excitedly, an unexpected pregnancy. I couldn’t even fake it…I ran out of the room in tears. How was it fair that we were trying and wanting so hard, and she was pregnant on accident?! This next round HAD to work.

So, round 5 started on my birthday. This one went a couple steps further. Now it was Metformin every day, twice a day, Clomid on days 5-9, an added HSG scan to make sure nothing was blocked, another HCG injection, and an IUI on Memorial Day (which we felt super special for, since they opened the doctor’s office just for us…enter Husband saying he would name our child something patriotic like Douglas MacArthur Jr. if it was successful…). Then it was time to wait. I had learned to expect disappointment and just wanted to get it over with. Two weeks from the IUI, I went for my follow-up pregnancy test. It was in the morning, so I had to drink a lot of water to make sure I could provide a sample along with some blood work. I sat in the exam room alone, positive the results would be negative. In walked the nurse practitioner, I held my breath, and she told me the news. It was negative. I remember not really feeling anything, like I hadn’t expected her to say anything besides “You’re not pregnant.” I left the doctor and went to work in a total funk. My co-workers could tell by my demeanor not to even ask. I worked for a few hours in a daze, completely out of it. A couple hours in, I got a phone call from the NP. She said, “Well, we have a change of plans. Your blood work came back, and you are pregnant!” I remember asking if she was serious, like she would actually call to prank me with that information. She said that yes, my numbers were low, but high enough to be considered pregnant. I would have to come back every 48 hours for follow up blood work to make sure my numbers doubled. Up to that point, I had never taken an at-home pregnancy test simply to avoid the disappointment of seeing nothing appear. However, as soon as I got home that day and took my test, two pink lines popped up like the biggest badge of honor I’ve ever seen.

To say that day is surreal is an understatement. As I sit here and write this at 36 weeks pregnant with a baby girl who currently has the hiccups, that pregnancy test still sits on my bathroom sink as a reminder of the miracle growing inside me. It reminds me of the journey that we took and of the ups and downs of that 4-year long ride.  Sometimes I forget the process it took for us to get to this point, and other times I am in awe of this medical process and how God allowed it to work in my body with patience. We were able to overcome infertility, and we have made it our promise to make sure this little girl knows how much she was yearned for and loved before she ever even showed herself in the form of two little pink lines.”

Story # 5

“My husband and I have been together for 12 years, since we were 15. We got married on our farm in Dec 2012 and have been trying for a baby since then. I have had two operations for endometriosis and struggling with PCOS which makes me have very irregular cycles. Despite this we have managed to fall pregnant twice, but unfortunately both ended in miscarriage. The first was an early unexplained miscarriage, the second a missed blighted ovum at 9 weeks.

We decided to try some treatment to help me ovulate, as after many tests the doctors thought this was our main issue. We had one round of ovulation induction but I didn’t respond at all. The docs recommended to go straight to IVF and we are halfway through this process now- had a successful egg collection and have lots of healthy embryos in the freezer, our first frozen transfer happens next month. We are quietly excited because we think that this year is going to bring us what we’ve wanted for so long.”

Story #6

When I look back over the past three years, there are so many emotions. I am happy and sad and hopeful and amazed and thankful for all we have been through. My mind takes me to the baby Adam and I conceived on our second round of fertility meds. The baby we lost ten weeks later. The road of infertility is a hard road to travel. It’s not one I ever expected to personally journey down-but here I am, three years into this rollercoaster. I am left wondering, when will the ride be over? How much longer do I have to hang on?

In all times, we turn to our faith. But in times of trial and heartache, we have learned that the only way to walk a tough road is with our Heavenly Father’s help. I don’t understand why this is happening to us, and I don’t need to. But what I do understand is that God has already walked this road ahead of us. God has this and is holding us in the palm of His mighty hands. He helps us cope, He gives us the strength we need to continue when we are so weary our legs give out. It hasn’t been easy for me. I feel less of a woman since being diagnosed with PCOS. I feel as if I am letting my husband down every month when my cycle comes. It’s a constant struggle with the enemy who wants to keep me in a place of disappointment and failure. So my faith tends to waver back and forth. It wavers but always finds it’s way back to where it should be within me.

There are days when I feel like I can’t take another minute of it. There are days when I have no hope left inside to keep on fighting. The reality is, no matter what the future holds, we will be okay. We will continue to keep our hope and faith alive no matter what His plan is for us. We will continue to praise Him in the midst of this storm and any others we are sure to face. And like all storms, this too shall pass. One day, we will be able to look back at this storm and see how we weathered it together. We will be able to see how God was present at every twist and turn. We will be able to see how beautiful this season was and be able to smile at the very thought of it.

So for now, we have decided to stop all fertility treatments. I know my chances of conceiving naturally are small. But that mountain is but a grain of sand next to the power of God. His word says you only need a mustard seed size amount of faith. So that’s the truth I have tucked away inside my heart. With Him ALL things are possible. And I will be thankful always.

———————-

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about the baby Adam and I lost. And on those tough days where I would give anything to be able to hold our little angel, I am comforted by these words that flooded my heart one afternoon. I believe God gave me these words to serve as a reminder that even though I may not be there, God is. And that is enough for me.

Please Hug My Baby For Me

God,

I know you are busy,
But I thought I would see,
If you would please do this one tiny favor for me?

Today I am feeling so much love,
For that little bundle of joy of mine up above.

I was hoping I could ask you for something simple and sweet.
I was hoping you would give my baby a hug for me.

Not just any old hug will do.
It’ll be an extra special one from me through you.

I can’t think of anyone better for this job.
Than her Heavenly Father who has held her all along.

Will you please wrap your arms around her,
And squeeze her oh so tight?
And tell her that her mama loves her with all her might?

Will you please hold her close for a moment or two?
Just like her mother would love to do.

Will you please give her a kiss on her rosy red cheek?
And tell her that it’s full of love from her daddy and me?

I have this feeling embedded in my soul.
One only a mother who lost her child is sure to know.
It’s a feeling that stands the test of time.
So, if it’s not to much to ask,
Will you please hug that baby of mine?