National Infertility Awareness Week | Buckets of Hope Journey 6

This beautiful empty set is to bring hope that one day, when your miracle baby finally arrives, you'll know we have been hoping and waiting for them as well! All those hard emotional days, remember this set up and how your perfect little one will cozy right in. One day, it will ALL be worth it! When you feel like giving up, that the road of infertility is too rough and windy, there is hope.

 
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Here is the Kitchen family’s journey

“When I got pregnant with my first baby, I expected to miscarry. My mom miscarried her first, and I had heard of so, so many people miscarrying their first babies so I kind of expected it. I was SO lucky and so grateful to carry our little boy full term.

When our son was a little over a year old, we got pregnant again! We weren’t “trying” but weren’t preventing. It was so exciting. We felt so ready to bring baby #2 into the world.

What I wasn’t expecting was to miscarry my second baby. It was completely off my radar. Because I had already had a baby, I thought it wasn’t likely to miscarry during my second pregnancy.

It was the Fourth of July 2017 when I realized I was spotting a little bit. I googled like crazy to make sure it was normal to spot at 7 weeks. I kept telling myself it was fine, and thought it would go away. On the 5th, the spotting continued. I went and had my HCG levels tested on the 6th and the doctor confirmed that they were normal for being 7 weeks along. I didn’t feel good about it and asked for an ultrasound. They scheduled me for one on the 7th.

I woke up on the 7th with much more than spotting. I knew it wasn’t good. We went into the ultrasound and were told there was no heartbeat. We looked up at the little peanut-shaped baby on the monitor as they took measurements to find out when the baby’s heart stopped.

I didn’t expect a miscarriage to hurt so bad. I think that’s the issue with infertility & pregnancy/infant loss. You think that because so many women experience it, that it’s just a normal thing. I tried really hard to be brave about it and be okay with it, but I was sad.

There are so many things people don’t tell you about having a miscarriage, so I want to list out some of the good and the bad.

The bad: I was sad. I was grieving a loss and a lot of people didn’t understand. I couldn’t explain the pain well to others. I was still dealing with the hormones and craziness that come with pregnancy but with no baby or pregnancy to show for it.

The good: My sister in law miscarried about two months later, and I was able to connect with my brother on a new level as we both grieved a lost life. Both were second pregnancies and totally blindsided us. I grew closer with Scott. I cherished my time with my son more. I could empathize with those who also experienced miscarriages.

After our miscarriage, it took us another 6 months to get pregnant. We were so lucky to get pregnant again so quickly! But trying is the WORST. I empathize with those who do it for years and years. Every month passing is a painful reminder that you aren’t growing your family, and that can sting when it’s such a good desire to be a mom or dad.

Because of my miscarriage, I cherish my two boys more than I think I would have otherwise. I stand in solidarity with those battling infertility or infant loss. It SUCKS and there isn’t a much better way to describe it. So for the parents out there who want to grow their family so badly but are dealing with this, I see you. I pray for you. And I know it’s so hard, but keep your spirits up and keep going. “

National Infertility Awareness Week | Buckets of Hope Journey 5

This beautiful empty set is to bring hope that one day, when your miracle baby finally arrives, you'll know we have been hoping and waiting for them as well! All those hard emotional days, remember this set up and how your perfect little one will cozy right in. One day, it will ALL be worth it! When you feel like giving up, that the road of infertility is too rough and windy, there is hope.

 
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Here is the Connor family’s journey

I was diagnosed with PCOS at the age of 16 and then at 18 I was diagnosed with stage 3 endometriosis. Between the age of 16-19 I was told by so many doctors and specialist that it would be my best interest to have a full hysterectomy. But I refused. In 2015 I suffered through two miscarriages.

The first I lost at 6 weeks and the second I lost at 11 weeks. I was in agonizing physical pain in my uterus every single day. In 2017 I went back to my doctor complaining of severe pelvic pain and he told me that there was nothing he could do for me anymore.

So I sought out for a 5th opinion after 4 years. This doctor told me that going a year without a period was not okay and that It would never happen again under her care. She told me that of course I’m not getting pregnant because I’m not having periods so I’m not ovulating.

She ran blood work after blood work. Over the course of 5 months I had 5 periods induced and multiple blood draws to test everything you can possibly think of. I had ultrasounds almost daily. My ovaries were doing next to nothing.

So we started clomid. My first round of clomid was 100mg and it was a failed cycle. I did have a small ovulation so my doctor doubled my dose. Round two of clomid at 200mg we started. I lost my mind on that round. The clomid crazies hit me hard. But we came back on cycle day 21 to a strong ovulation and on cycle day 33 to a positive pregnancy test that resulted in my beautiful daughter!

National Infertility Awareness Week 2019 | Journey 9 The Styles Family

 
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Here is the Styles family’s journey.

Infertility is never something you can prepare for. It’s mind consuming, it overwhelms you, and there are so many emotions to walk though. Struggling through a miscarriage nearly tore us apart...our marriage...everything felt like it was crumbling. Then finding the funds for IVF...a whole new battle. A battle that took almost two years. However, that rainbow on the other side was worth EVERYTHING!

National Infertility Awareness Week 2019 | Journey 8 The Long Family

 
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Here is the Long family’s journey

Our fertility story began in 2006, before we even met, when I was diagnosed with PCOS in the spring of my senior year of high school.  At 17 years old I went through all of the testing, internal ultrasounds, birth control, metformin (the terrible side effects), I joined a gym, and began a low carb diet. It was a major blow for me because I always dreamed of having a large family but I was told that it would still be possible if I lost weight and took the medicine and it finally explained why I had trouble losing weight and my period didn’t come regularly.

That fall I went off to college and left behind the metformin, the birth control, the gym, and the low carb diet. Luckily I managed to stay within the same 10 or so pounds all through college but I wasn’t doing anything to really help my situation until senior year of college.  I worked out with a friend, I took the stairs, tried to eat better, and went back on the medicines.  Then I got mono, lost a ton of weight because I couldn’t eat but I also couldn’t work out. The weight came back on and then some.

The summer between senior year and student teaching in 2010, I met Matt and we began dating. He is a larger guy, 6’3” to my 5’4”, and I began keeping up with him and his eating. By the time we got married in 2013, I had gained 20 pounds.  After the first year I switched jobs and quickly gained 30 pounds from September to December. I share so much of my weight journey because it seemed that so much of this PCOS and baby journey revolved around someone telling me that I just needed to lose weight.  
We weren’t actively trying to get pregnant at first but we weren’t doing anything to prevent it.  Sometime after this, we decided to get down to business and I consulted with my gyno yet again who suggested I lose some weight and then I could begin Clomid.  No matter what I did, I could not make myself stick to anything and ultimately did not lose weight.  The stress of it all probably made me gain weight but we decided to give Clomid a go anyway. I took the Clomid along with it’s crazy hormonal effects and got the bloodwork done and I was ovulating after 2 rounds! But after 4 months, still nothing.  We took a break and decided to try again in a few months.  Another round of Clomid over several months and nothing.
       After more research I began tracking my symptoms and cycles and taking the Clomid and using certain essential oils and taking my temperature every morning. The joys of making a baby felt more like work. I literally felt as though trying to get pregnant was a full time job. Each month brought depression and a loss of hope. I remember calling Matt at work one day right before Christmas to tell him I wasn’t pregnant yet again and just crying to him.  I had a constant feeling of failure and disappointment and like I was less of a woman because I couldn’t get pregnant for us.  We needed a break and so we stopped for awhile.
       While Matt and I were dealing with this privately, people would share their thoughts and opinions, “It’ll happen”, “you just need to lose weight.” “When are you going to have a baby?” “Why don’t you have kids?” “You are moody, are you pregnant?” “Just relax and it will happen when you least expect it.” “You should have a baby.” “Why don’t you just adopt?”  With each comment I spiraled farther and farther down mentally.  Every baby announcement on Facebook, I’d lose my mind. I actually had to leave Facebook, deleting the app from my phone and at one point deactivating it completely. I wasn’t happy for anyone else and some people started feeling as though they had to tread lightly around me which made me feel guilty. I put on a brave face when I could but if it got brought up, I would crawl back into my shell.

Battling infertility also puts quite the strain on a marriage. You begin to knit pick everything because you are frustrated, sad, hormonal,  and just give up on everything in general. The fertility drugs can make you a little cuckoo on top of the depression.  Sex is no longer fun, so what’s the point?  Not a good move for a healthy relationship.

       In the fall of 2017, we were back to trying, again. With the Progesterone to kick start things, and then Clomid, monitoring, and the bloodwork monthly. By December I told Matt that it was time to do something more. Then the bombshell came, my little brother announced Christmas morning that him and his girlfriend were pregnant. My whole world shattered but I had to put on a happy face and say that I was glad about the whole thing. In reality I was pissed and hurt and honestly being pretty selfish. This triggered so many emotions and I had to deal with it privately because again, I was supposed to be happy for them.

This announcement also made me call the fertility doctor and schedule a consultation which I was miraculously able to get the same week. I wasn’t a fan of the doctor but I wanted a baby. We had to schedule an appointment for Matt to get an analysis of him. The results came back that he had no swimmers. There was a brief sigh of relief because here I was beating myself, trying to figure out why things weren’t happening and this whole time he had an issue too that we just didn’t know about. Then the reality set in that it was now up to Matt to get this ball rolling.  I told myself that I was putting it in his court now and I wouldn’t say anymore until he brought it up.

In May of 2018, my nephew was born and soon after holding him and his presence sunk in, all of my jealousy and feelings of self destruction began to diminish.  I loved this little tiny thing so much. Matt met him the following month and fell in love as well and I fell more in love with Matt watching him interact with him. This little guy helped to bring me out of my funk and helped me protect my heart. He allowed me to love other people and their babies.  I know it sounds weird, I can’t explain it really. I wasn’t really mad anymore, I just loved him.  
       Christmas day 2018, Matt finally brought up having a baby again and we began exploring our options. We went to a different doctor in January and we both liked him but he didn’t give us the easy out that we had gone in with the plan for.  He wanted Matt to get more testing done and to see a urologist. After one of the tests welding the same results, Matt has not done anything further medically. Insurance will cover most or all of the testing but it will not pay for any of the fertility treatments or procedures. Trying to save up for whatever we might have to do (sperm donor, adoption, medical procedures, IUI, IVF, etc.) is probably the current goal so that as soon as we find out our new options we don’t have to wait, we can get going right away.

As of today I have lost about 20 pounds and Matt has lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 to 30 pounds. We are working out several times each week, drinking lots of water, and watching what we eat. This lifestyle change that we have made can only help our fertility journey even if it doesn’t solve all of our problems like people try to tell us all of the time.  We both have also made some friends going through the same thing as us which has helped having someone other than each other to talk to.  

Matt always comments how in school it’s like they tell you if you look at a girl the wrong way they will get pregnant and in reality it’s not as easy as they make it seem. Here we are almost 6 years into this and nothing to show for it but bruised arms, swollen eyes, an empty womb, and a hole in our hearts, but we have each other. Having a baby probably won’t “just happen” for us even if we “just relax”, although we can still pray for it to happen that way. We are ready to start our family and we pray for the day when we can hold a child of our own in our arms. And when we do, all of these ups and downs and hormones and procedures will be worth it. But until then, here we are, just the two of us, together.

National Infertility Awareness Week 2019 | Journey 7 The Phillips Family

 
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Here is the Phillips family’s journey

My wife and I met on a tropical island in San Blas (Guna Yala) - Panama, in 2013. She is originally from Germany, and I am originally from South Africa, but had relocated to the United States. We had both lived and worked abroad and were well into our thirties. The fact that both of us came from completely different corners of the globe, and our paths somehow crossed on this tiny, Robinson Crusoe island, was a sign from the universe that this was meant to be.

We got married on a beach in the Outer Banks, NC, in 2016 and figured that since time was marching on, and we still wanted to have a family that it was time to take things a bit more seriously. In spite of all the effort and planning to make my work schedule line up with the “fertile window”, nothing happened. The clock was ticking so we went in search of professional help, and started with “NaPro Technology” in an effort to accurately track that fertile window. Every month turned into a frustrating emotional roller coaster ride.

We wanted to make sure that we had done everything that we could, so after several consultations, my wife had robotic laparoscopy surgery to remove endometriosis, but still no success unfortunately.

We looked into adopting, but felt that the costs involved were out of our financial reach, and finally decided to go the IVF route- in Prague, in the Czech Republic. The travel, accommodation, and procedure were a fraction of what it cost to do it here in the States, and, best of all- we were successful on the first attempt, which surprised us both!

My wife gave birth to two perfect little boys on the 26th of February this year, and in spite of the fact that we (the new parents) identify more closely with zombies than humans at the moment, we are both ecstatic that they are finally here, and with the knowledge that the four of us have just started the greatest chapter in our lives! It’s a huge learning curve, one day at a time… but we’re looking forward to the journey, with all its challenges and rewards.

National Infertility Awareness Week 2019 | Journey 6 The Bristow Family

It is hard to find the right words to say when you find out someone you know is struggling with infertility. Do you ask questions? Do you ignore it? What in the world do you say? I’m actually not sure there is anything correct to say. It stinks, no matter what way you look at it. Lending a listening ear and providing comfort are perfect ways to support them.

Infertility is a hard road to be on. Doctors make you try to conceive on your own for an entire year before they recommend a specialist. That’s 12 negative pregnancy tests. 12 times your heart drops to your stomach. 12 entire months of what feels like a total waste of time. 12 months that could have already given you a child to hold.

Finally, you see a specialist. Your heart pounds like crazy while they explain the process of testing both you and your spouse to find out where the problem exists. After weeks to months of testing you HOPE they have found the root issue and that there are options to get past this huge hurdle. Then, you begin to form a game plan on what to do to hopefully become pregnant.

These months (sometimes years) are extremely emotional and incredibly difficult. They are frustrating and devastating. Tiring and long. Painful and draining. Having a strong support system makes these obstacles a little less scary and the days a little less hard.

If you find out that someone you know is facing infertility I hope you lend your ear and a helping hand if possible. They may not show how infertility is wearing them down but, they could use a friend who cares.

It is hard to feel alone in this struggle. You don’t have to be alone. There is an amazing community to lean on. We are not alone. We are 1 in 8.

 
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Here is the Bristow family’s journey

“When are y’all planning to have kids? It’s the question that hurt the most. I know it’s not meant to be hurtful in any way, but when you’ve “planned” for almost two years and continue to get a negative test every month it starts to sting more each time. I would always laugh it off as “oh practice makes perfect” just to avoid talking about it anymore. After trying for so long my best friend, who had her own struggles and heartbreak, encouraged us to go see her infertility doctor. That was an appointment I was scared to make. Yes, we wanted answers but yet we were worried of what the doctors may find. It was appointment day, I had my list of questions, I’ve been tracking my cycles, we were ready!  January 2018 our journey began with Dr. Lucidi, who we highly recommend if you’re in the Richmond area. 

To be honest I was so scared. After meeting with Dr. Lucidi and getting our initial tests done we went back for a follow up, and he told us that we both checked out great. Well my first reaction was anger; “if we are good then why aren’t I pregnant yet” is all that went through my mind. Then he continued, my cycles looked right on track but he wanted to run a few more tests to verify my ovulation schedule. Leaving that appointment, we were thankful that all test came back good but were still uneasy as to what else may be going on.  Thankfully we found out that my ovulation days were off according to my cycle so over the next few weeks we needed to test for ovulation. The morning I got a smiley face he performed an IUI! Our chances of it being a success were only 20%, so we held onto that small percentage praying we would finally see those two pink lines and we did. The emotions that come over you “is that it, are those the pink lines?” It was like in that moment I didn’t know what the color pink looked like. I immediately called Jordy and then FaceTimed my best friend to verify I was looking at it correctly...I was so anxious and trying not to get my hopes up that I was almost in disbelief being all the past tests I’ve taken.  We made it, we were a success. We had our first ultrasound, hearing that heartbeat for the first time will be a day I’ll never take for granted.  I remember Jordy walking up to the monitor as close as he could get to listen to our sweet baby, seriously my favorite moments were to see him light up with the sweetest grin every ultrasound we had. Overall I had a smooth pregnancy with a few hiccups of low iron but baby and I continued to be happy and healthy!  We welcomed our sweet baby boy Emmett into the world November 2018. 

I did not realize, the range of infertility is so widespread and so different for everybody. I’m grateful for this journey, that more people are talking about infertility, and I’m grateful for the sweet boy I’m rocking as I write this. Thank you to, my husband that never let me give up, and for all of our close family and friends for being understanding and praying for us. My journey feels like it was an easy one compared to some stories that I’ve read. I hope and pray to any woman reading this understands you are not alone, don’t give up, and it will all  be worth it. It’s an emotional roller coaster that I didn’t realize so many are riding. We all have the same goal but yet our journeys are so different. I just hope that maybe our story will encourage someone who is struggling like I was to get checked out and they could find the happiness that I finally have. “

National Infertility Awareness Week 2019 | Journey 5 The Jasion Family

Each journey this week has been different. Diagnoses, treatment plans, game plans, timelines, everything varied in some aspect. But, the one thing that remained common between each journey was the term “infertility”. 1 in 8 people are struggling with infertility.

Fertility coverage isn’t offered for the majority of people. It’s not a requirement by most states to be offered through insurance. It is extremely expensive making it hard for the majority to have access to help. RESOLVE is working diligently this year to make it widely accessible.

I encourage you to take some time looking around the www.infertilityawareness.org website. Here you will find a lot of information about infertility, what organizations are trying to do to help, and even local walks/support groups. They are a great organizations making strides in the right direction!

 
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Here is the Jasion family’s journey

Brian and I knew we wanted a family, but never imagined it would be such a challenge getting there.

We got married in March of 2012 and started trying to get pregnant. After about 6 months of trying we went to see a doctor- after checking us both he determined I had PCOS and prescribed letrozole for ovulation. Not long after that, we were pregnant!

The pregnancy was confirmed by blood test and ultrasound-our baby had a heartbeat and looked to be growing on track! We were so excited- told family and friends- we thought our dream had come true! Unfortunately, our hearts were broken when we had a 10.5 week ultrasound- our baby’s heart had stopped beating. We were crushed, but still wanted to pursue our dream. We got pregnant again relatively quickly. Again, everything appeared to be fine...until it wasn’t. Our hearts were broken a second time about 7 weeks into our second pregnancy.

We tried again after a small period and were hopeful that we would get to hold our 3rd baby, but were distraught when our 3rd baby’s heartbeat stopped. The 3rd baby had genetic testing after we’d lost them- but that offered no explanation.

We took a break here to evaluate our path. After a lot of thought, prayer, and wine, we decided to try again- our doctor told us that each time we had a better chance of a healthy pregnancy than facing another loss- unfortunately our 4th pregnancy- a baby girl- would also end in loss at 8 weeks.

I was completely lost and heartbroken. We spent a lot of time trying to decide what to do. We considered adoption, choosing to be childless.... all the while I was facing a full whirlwind of guilt, frustration, and despair. I did not find many other people with the same struggle I was having- recurrent miscarriages.

After several months, a friend of ours who was also struggling in their infertility journey and facing losses shared with me about an acupuncturist and some dietary changes she was making. It gave me peace to try something different and we decided to try one more time.... on January 2, 2017- about 3.5 years into our infertility journey- Sadie Delaney was born. She is an amazing and spirited little girl! I still think of her siblings often and will always miss them, but so much peace has come into my heart through this little girl.

National Infertility Awareness Week | Buckets of Hope Journey 4

This beautiful empty set is to bring hope that one day, when your miracle baby finally arrives, you'll know we have been hoping and waiting for them as well! All those hard emotional days, remember this set up and how your perfect little one will cozy right in. One day, it will ALL be worth it! When you feel like giving up, that the road of infertility is too rough and windy, there is hope.

 
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Here is the Branch family’s journey

“In March of 2013 my husband and I made the decision that we were ready to start our family. Deep down, I knew that our journey would not be easy. I was put on birth control at 16 because my periods were horribly irregular and the hormones wreaked havoc on my skin. I always hoped that one day I would stop taking birth control and magically my body would have corrected itself. I was wrong. I went months between cycles. I was a hormonal mess. We were “trying” to get pregnant but I knew in my heart that my body wasn’t actually cooperating. By September I was done. Mentally, physically and spiritually. I felt lost and overwhelmed. Around the same time, my husband decided to step outside of his comfort zone and audition for the worship team at our church. He came home from his audition and said, “Emily, I just met your best friend. I can’t wait to introduce you to the new worship leader. She loves monograms and bows and can’t wait to have a baby.” In my current state of pain, I blew him off and assured him that I didn’t need a new best friend. Little did I know that the Lord was sending me someone to renew my desire to chase after Jesus. A few weeks later we invited them over for dinner at our house and four hours later we were best friends. I had no idea that those friends would walk alongside us during some of the darkest days of my life and lift me up to the Lord time and time again.

In December, I finally managed to jump through all of the hoops to see a GYN at the Naval Hospital. I arrived for my first appointment and was introduced to my doctor who just happened to be the Department Head. She listened to my concerns, looked me square in the eye and said, okay, we are going to run a few tests and then we’re going to get you pregnant. All of the tests were clear but I wasn’t ovulating on my own. Otherwise, there was no medical explanation as to why we weren’t getting pregnant. She started me on medication immediately and scheduled my next appointment for a few weeks later. Month after month came and went and we still weren’t pregnant. We were officially labeled as a case of “unexplained infertility.” I was broken. I was exhausted. I was tired of the mood swings and hot flashes and I was convinced that the Lord couldn’t hear my prayers. I found myself hiding from everyone. Every pregnancy announcement felt like a dagger to my heart. I felt sick to my stomach with every negative test. I sobbed on my bathroom floor more times than I could count and yet I continued to cry out to Jesus.

That spring my husband and I joined a small group hosted by a sweet couple who had children our age. We were the youngest couple by quite a few years so we were hesitant to open up at first but slowly found our place in our little group. Towards the end of the study a pastor from the church came in to teach on the Holy Spirit. At the end of his teaching he offered to pray over each of us. I was terrified of what He would say but I let him pray over me anyway.

What happened over the next few minutes would forever change me. This man didn't even know my name, let alone the struggles that we were facing. No one in that room did. As I closed my eyes the pastor specifically prayed that he saw a black cloud of my past being lifted from my shoulders. That it was time for me to be made new. That he saw my desire to be a mother and that we were facing fertility treatments. He prayed that the Lord would provide for us in unimaginable ways and that we would be given the gift of fertility and new life. I sobbed. And sobbed. And sobbed. In that moment I knew that the Lord could hear our prayers. He knew the deepest desires of my heart and his plan was so much better than my plan.

In June we met with our doctor and she told us she was getting out of the Navy. She basically said, “if you want to proceed with a procedure we can try now or next month and then I’m gone.” Without missing a beat we agreed that we would move forward with that cycle and everything moved very quickly. A few short weeks later we had our first IUI and entered the two week wait. On Tuesday, July 15, 2014, I took my at home test as directed by my doctor and it was negative. I was devastated. We had plans to volunteer at a special event that night and my husband had to drag me out of the house. At the end of the event my sweet friend from the worship team pulled me to the side and said, I need to pray for you. She prayed that I wouldn’t lose hope, the she believed that I had new life in my body and that I was pregnant. She spoke truth and life over me and again all I could do was cry. The following day I decided to take a second test about halfway through the day. I waited and waited and waited. I immediately hit the ground. It was positive. 16 months after our journey had begun. We were pregnant. Just a few weeks later, on our doctors last day in the US Navy, we got to see our baby’s heartbeat for the very first time.


Fast forward to Fall 2017. We had been trying for another baby, unsuccessfully, for many months and decided that it was time to seek treatment again. This time we fell back into the familiar category of "unexplained infertility." We had a busy schedule in the fall so we had to be strategic about our timing but we knew that we would move straight to a medicated IUI. September came and went and the first IUI failed. My body reacted terribly to the medication. I was in a lot of physical pain and emotionally I needed a break. In October we traveled to Pensacola to spend a week with our dearest friends. Our trip just happened to line up with the first Wednesday service at our old church. At the end of the service the Pastor invited some of the prayer team to come forward for anyone who needed prayer. The Lord very clearly spoke to me, "when O Come to the Alter comes on, you will seek prayer." The worship team played the first notes and I almost hit the floor. It was O Come to the Alter and who was standing directly in front of us but the couple who led our small group in 2014. I instantly burst into tears. My husband asked if I wanted to go pray with them and of course I said yes.

Again, what happened over the next few minutes would forever change me, again. They prayed that the Lord would provide us with another baby. Without any treatments, without any pain, with just the hand of the Lord. They called the baby by the name that had been hidden in our hearts, Isaac. I was broken. Again, the Lord could hear our prayers. He knew the deepest desires of our hearts. After the service ended another Pastor/friend pulled me to the side and said, I don't know why but the Lord is telling me to pray for you. He prayed for complete healing, for restoration and for a miracle that would shock my medical team. I was simply in awe.

We came home and decided to pursue another round of treatment. In early December we found out that once again, the IUI had failed. I was heartbroken and emotionally drained. We decided to take a break for the holidays to focus on the people around us instead of the chaos of another round of treatment. At some point over the course of that month I came to an overwhelming peace that we may never have another biological baby. That maybe the Lord had other plans in mind. That He was pruning me during the wait and His plan was far better than my own.

Little did I know that His plan is always greater than mine. On January 19th, just four days after our sixth anniversary I woke up feeling a little off and I decided to take a pregnancy test. Of course I just knew it would be negative even though I was over a week late. Nope. It was positive. Instantly. I came downstairs in complete shock and my husband said, “you're pregnant, aren't you.” He had had a dream the night before that I came downstairs and told him I was pregnant.

Friends, The Lord works in the most incredible ways. He has changed me in unimaginable ways during the season of waiting for both of our babies. They are miracles and I pray that the Lord’s faithfulness will forever be honored by both of their precious lives. “

National Infertility Awareness Week 2019 | Journey 4 The Streeter Family

“Your only option is IVF with ICSI”. This sentence is one most never expect to hear. The terms are scary and unknown to many outside of the fertility community.

After the words sink in, you go home and research everything possible. What it means, the chances of it working, costs associated. The fear of the unknown. But, you’re still left feeling lonely. It can be difficult to find someone who has been through this.

I was incredibly fortunate to connect with this sweet family early on in our fertility treatments. We went through the same process at the same time. In fact, our babies are just a couple weeks apart in age!

Having a village that is in your corner helps so much. They help you carry this burden. Freeing your shoulders just a tiny bit. You can breathe again. Someone else has gone through this. You will get through this. It is HARD. Way beyond words can ever describe. But, leaning on others who walked this path before you helps. They know the terms, the emotions that follow along a cancelled cycle or negative test. They also can help celebrate and uplift you in such an amazing way.

Here is the Streeter family’s journey

 
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“In the summer of 2016, we decided we were ready to grow our family. Little did we know that over a year later it would still be just us and our two dogs.

Two rounds of clomid. A failed IUI. A delay from a cyst.

Every month in this journey felt like a year. Every period like a dagger.

But then in September of 2017 after months of medication routines, doctors appointments and daily injections, we found out our IVF transfer had taken and started anxiously awaiting our little miracle who would eventually join our family the following June.

And while this is the what of our story, it’s really just a small fraction of the journey.

I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason. A few months before we found out that infertility would be part of our lives, I met someone that would eventually change my life. A local photographer that was also struggling with infertility, who had started an online community to bring women together in their season of waiting.

When we got the news of our diagnoses, I reached out and with the most open of arms, she welcomed me into her community of women. Women who understood the emotional rollercoaster of this journey without judgment or explanation. Who gave me a safe space to share my story. And, who, ultimately, empowered me to be the most brave and vulnerable I had ever been.

In the spring of 2017, exactly two years ago, I shared my story publicly for the first time. In that moment, an experience that had felt so constricting suddenly left me feeling free. Messages and emails from others suffering in silence poured in. And suddenly I realized that there was meaning in this struggle. That my story could provide comfort to others knowing they were not alone.

It was one of the scariest things I had ever done.

When we first got thrown into this scary journey, I only saw obstacles. I didn’t realize all of the blessings that lay before me. The countless women I would meet. The friends I would re-connect with. The tears we would shed together. And the miracles we would celebrate in what seemed like some of the darkest of moments. In the end this journey certainly wasn’t easy. Life never is. But I can’t imagine having walked any other path to get to where we are today.

 

There are days where the anxiety still grips me. When the jealousy of this journey being so easy for others takes over. And moments where I still wonder, “What if we have to do this all again?”

 

But then I stare into the bright curious blue eyes of my tiny miracle and my mind quiets. Her giggle and grin from ear to ear as I catch her dancing or as I attempt to wipe her face, grabs my heart in a way I’d never felt before and I fight so hard to stay present in this moment. To honor the journey that led us here, to appreciate the community that prayed for us, to acknowledge the families that are still on this path, and to celebrate the gratitude that on a daily basis overwhelms my heart.”

National Infertility Awareness Week | Buckets of Hope Set 3

National Infertility Awareness Week

Buckets of Hope

This beautiful empty set is to bring hope that one day, when your miracle baby finally arrives, you'll know we have been hoping and waiting for them as well! All those hard emotional days, remember this set up and how your perfect little one will cozy right in. One day, it will ALL be worth it! When you feel like giving up, that the road of infertility is too rough and windy, there is hope.

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National Infertility Awareness Week 2019 | Journey 3 The McLaughlin Family

While working on this passion project I had the privilege of talking to many people struggling with infertility. When you allow yourself to be open on a very vulnerable level, there’s an immediate pure connection that forms. As they spoke of their journey there were waves of emotion, raw pieces of their lives they laid out for me.

Each journey had many things in common, but the one that consistently stuck out was how lonely they felt. There was no one to talk to about this. They didn’t know anyone else who struggled getting or staying pregnant. Daily routines included putting on a brace face and pretending this wasn’t happening. Buying gifts for baby showers never knowing if they’d celebrate one for their own child.

However, when they decided to let friends and family know what they were going through, something changed. They realized so many others had experienced something similar. They didn’t know because no one dared to speak about it. Somewhere along the road infertility became taboo, which is extremely sad.

My hope is you find your voice through these stories which brave individuals have shared. There is nothing easy about becoming vulnerable. Each and every one of them allowed their story to be shared on a public forum in hopes of helping others feel united. You are never alone in this battle. We are 1 in 8.

 
 

Here is the McLaughlin family’s journey

“Cody and I got married in 2015. We knew soon we would start trying to have a family. Together we had 14 nieces and nephews that we absolutely adored spending time with. We were the fun aunt and uncle but in January of 2016 we knew we were ready to start a family of our own.

After six months of trying without me ovulating I made an appointment with the doctor where I was diagnosed with PCOS. July 2016 I was put on metformin and I started my first of six rounds of clomid. I felt like a completely different person. I had such a wide range of emotions and many were extreme. There were days I felt like I didn't even like myself. My poor husband had to have felt like he was married to a crazy woman although he'd never admit that. Instead he was so sweet and did his best to help me.

After that round of clomid I went in for an ultrasound and my body had not responded at all. The next month came and we tried again but with a higher dose of clomid. My emotions were still erratic but this time I often felt weepy and very emotionally dependent on Cody. I just wanted to lean on him and know it was going to work out.

With the different emotions I wondered if this was our month and we would get pregnant. The time came and once again I had not responded. For six months we tried different doses of clomid and for six months I suffered from the "clomid crazies" while still never ovulating. We were at the one year mark and were referred to a specialist.

Our new doctor made us feel great. We felt like we had a solid plan to move forward with. Our doctor suggested femara and a trigger shot. Our first month with the new treatment was wonderful. I felt like myself and I even ovulated!

Unfortunately I still did not get pregnant. I was starting to feel hopeful though since we had at least made some progress. The second month was hectic. We were in the middle of buying a house and I was working towards a promotion at work. My stress level was to the max. I even considered taking that month off since my focus was elsewhere.

After much discussion we went forward with the next round. I took the femara then went for an ultrasound to see if I could trigger. My heart sank when the doctor said my follicle was not yet big enough. I thought for sure we were out for the month but instead he told me to take the shot home with me and I could trigger the next day.

I was convinced this was another failed month but when the test was positive I was speechless. Even after confirming with a blood test and hearing a heartbeat at 6 weeks I couldn't believe it. We were cautiously optimistic. I spent the whole first trimester scared that anything would happen.

Overall my pregnancy was great. In January 2019 exactly one year from the date of our first appointment with the specialist I was admitted to the hospital to be induced. The following day we welcomed our daughter, Avery into the world.

Infertility is a journey we never thought we would find ourselves on. We wouldn't have made it to this point without our wonderful doctors or the love and support we received. I feel for anyone facing the struggle of infertility and I will always lend an ear to someone needing it because I know there were times that the support and love is what kept us going.

We do hope to continue to expand our family one day. I'm not sure what treatment it may take next time but I know it'll be worth it. I know every up and down through our journey was completely worth it when I get to see the smile on our sweet girl's face.”

National Infertility Awareness Week | Buckets of Hope Journey 2

This beautiful empty set is to bring hope that one day, when your miracle baby finally arrives, you'll know we have been hoping and waiting for them as well! All those hard emotional days, remember this set up and how your perfect little one will cozy right in. One day, it will ALL be worth it! When you feel like giving up, that the road of infertility is too rough and windy, there is hope.

Here is the Reynolds family’s journey

 
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“I always knew I wanted to be a Mom. I always knew that no matter what great achievements I might make in life that being a Mom would be my ultimate and highest achievement. My husband and I talked about children but we knew we wanted to get a few life “things” in order first. I had also heard from so many of my friends to truly indulge in that first year of marriage and not rush into having kids. Therefore, we soaked up every second of just the two of us that first year of marriage. I won’t lie – I mentally had a timer in my head & eagerly waited for it go to off so I could start trying for a family.

 

And that is what we did – 1 day after our one-year anniversary we started actively trying to build our family. One month goes by and it was fun and exciting! I couldn’t wait to be able to take a home pregnancy test. And then one month turned into 7. Sex was not fun anymore. It was a chore (confession: I used to cry every time after sex because I knew it didn’t work). My days were filled with calendars, ovulation strips, and basal body temperature readings. Any time my period was late I was filled with such joy and anticipation and then I would sob when the test was negative. At that time, it felt like every.single.friend was announcing they were pregnant. As we were coming up on a year, I just so happen to have my annual exam scheduled so I decided to bring it up to the doctor. Since I had irregular and very painful periods my doctor ordered some bloodwork to see if there was anything she could do for me before sending us to the fertility clinic.

 

That is when we got some unexpected news. My bloodwork showed that I had an elevated level of prolactin (prolactin is the hormone you secret when you are breastfeeding). This elevated level could be affecting my ovulation and could be the culprit to everything. However, the scary thing was one of the main reasons for elevated prolactin is due to tumors in your brain that push on the pituitary gland. I had to go in for a brain scan to eliminate a tumor. All scans came back clear. Another round of bloodwork was done and since my levels were still elevated my doctor fast-tracked us to the fertility clinic.   

 

Our first trip to the clinic was overwhelming yet surprisingly reassuring all at the same time. It felt good to have a plan and be in charge of this chaos instead of feeling like infertility was running my life. We went through all the routine tests to determine if our infertility was female or male factor. Upon review, my prolactin levels were completely normal! The doctors couldn’t explain that, but I took it as a good sign of things to come. The conclusion to our infertility was “undetermined”. That word was such a double edge sword for us. On one hand part of you is saying “yay, nothing is wrong with us” but the other side is thinking I almost want something to be wrong so we can tie a name to all the heart ache we have been feeling for the past year.

 

Our treatment plan was 50mg of Clomid and an IUI. After we received that news, I broke. I never wanted to be the person who had to do a fertility treatment. There was such a negative connotation around them. I was wrestling with God’s timing. Maybe we weren’t ready for kids and that is why this is happening. Who am I to impose a timeline on God? We were also quoted almost $5000 for the treatment. We couldn’t afford that. We decided to take a 6-month break. We had determined nothing was wrong with either one of us so we would give it one more shot all natural.

Six months came and went. Still nothing. We changed insurance plans to one that actually covered infertility treatments, so the financial burden was no longer there. We performed the IUI and I had an immense peace about it. It didn’t feel invasive or like I was challenging God’s timing. The two-week wait was horrendous but receiving the call of “congrats, you guys did it!” is still the very best phone call we have ever received to date. 9 months later our son was born, and our world felt complete.

 

Fast forward a few more months – I knew I wanted more than one child and I didn’t want them to be too far apart. Plus, I had my son when I was 31, my biological clock was ticking. Soon after weaning him from breastfeeding at a year old we started the round of tests again. Since the moment he was born we had never stopped trying for a baby. It felt surreal and very disheartening to have to go through this again. I had heard so many wonderful stories of mothers who struggled for years and then had a “surprise” second baby. I wanted to be one of those people. Nope.

 

We had an IUI procedure back in February that failed. I was sad but not devastated nor shocked. I knew we were incredibly lucky to conceive on the first try with our son. I also knew this cycle was doomed from the moment we started (ever just have that gut feeling?). So here we are in the midst of cycle number 2. I start my monitoring appointments on Tuesday. More than usual I am hoping for a positive outcome from this. My doctor highly suggested IVF after our failed IUI as the statistics are higher. I was able to push back, and they agreed on one more round of IUI. I truly don’t want to walk down the IVF path as I know how invasive that process is, and I would also struggle with what to do with the embryos as we are fairly certain we only want 2 children.

As with all fertility cases ours is a complex rollercoaster of emotions and various factors. There is no “one story”. All of it is grey and there are plenty of blurred lines in our pursuits to complete our families.”

National Infertility Awareness Week 2019 | Journey 2 The Handler Family

Starting this passion project has brought so many wonderful and kindred families into my circle. Some I have followed along their journey for years. I shed many tears at their infertility diagnoses, negative pregnancy tests, heartbreaking news from doctors, miscarriages, and losses of their sweet babies. I shared an immense amount of smiles and hope for them as they received glimmers of positive news. There is a deep connection to those who are walking along the infertility path together.

Becoming part of the infertility community is not something anyone wishes for. However, we are given strength by the support of others as they lift us up during these emotional times. You are not alone in this journey. We are 1 in 8.

 
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Here is the Handler family’s journey

“George and I were high school sweethearts, in my mind first we dated, then got married, then had babies. The dating happening, no problem, the marriage happened, no problem. Then came the babies. That took much, much longer.

After trying for what felt like forever (really it was only about 9 months, but in the TTC world that feels like forever), we went to see a specialist. I have PCOS and while we had been trying for that long I had only had a handful of cycles, none of them regular. So the reality is I was probably never ovulating.

We tried all the oral pills we could and nothing worked, I didn’t even ovulate on them. I was feeling discouraged and hopeless. After this we went on to try gonal-f and IUI. It worked! But ended up being what is a chemical pregnancy, it just never took off.

After that we dove headfirst in to this treatment and ended up getting pregnant with quadruplets. We were equally devastated and excited at the prospect of welcoming 4 babies to our family. Unfortunately after a rather uneventful 17 weeks my body couldn’t take anymore and delivered one baby. After a week in the hospital I delivered the rest of the babies, all who lived for almost an hour. George got to hold and love on them while they took their first and only breaths. We were absolutely devastated. It felt so unfair. Here we were, a married couple, desperately wanting to start a family and we kept hitting wall after wall.

After this we ended up falling pregnant on our own! This pregnancy also ended after discovering it was a blighted ovum. After this I had, had enough. I needed a break. We took a lot of time to ourselves, traveled and that fall, 9 months after losing our precious baby boys we went back to our doctor. This time we decided to go with IVF since it was more controlled and we did not want to end up pregnant with multiples again.

The day after thanksgiving of 2016 we had our egg retrieval and this yielded us 20 beautiful embryos. We did a frozen transfer in January of 2017 but again, this ended in miscarriage. If your counting along this is now 3 early miscarriages and a 2nd trimester loss, again, we were devastated but decided to do one more transfer before taking an even longer break from the TTC rollercoaster.

This pregnancy took on March 27, 2017, which also happened to be my birthday. We were cautiously optimistic but week after week passed, ultrasound after ultrasound passed and we began to become excited about this baby. We welcomed our beautiful baby girl on December of 2017, 3 years and 3 months after we initially decided to start trying.

Through it all we have clung to not only each other but to our faith. God has played a huge, huge roll in getting us through the hard days and the good days. Without Him there is no way I would have been able to go on.

Recently we started trying for baby number 2 and in March of 2019 we transferred another embryo. This embryo took but unfortunately we miscarried in April.

Infertility is a funny thing. You have a baby finally, you think this won’t be the same journey and then it happens again. We are determined to expand our family and plan on jumping back on the horse soon, for now we plan on spending as much time as possible as a family of 3 and in His timing, we will have another baby.

The biggest thing I hope people take away from these posts are that you are NOT alone, there is nothing to be ashamed of and your babies and journey are not taboo. Speak of them and it often, it can be so healing. As far as our embryos, we hope to bless a family one day and donate when we are done building our family.”

National Infertility Awareness Week | Buckets of Hope

National Infertility Awareness Week

Buckets of Hope

This beautiful empty set is to bring hope that one day, when your miracle baby finally arrives, you'll know we have been hoping and waiting for them as well! All those hard emotional days, remember this set up and how your perfect little one will cozy right in. One day, it will ALL be worth it! When you feel like giving up, that the road of infertility is too rough and windy, there is hope.

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National Infertility Awareness Week 2019 | Journey 1 The Lane Family

 
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April 21, 2019 begins the week of an extremely important and raw topic, infertility. 1 in 8 people suffer from infertility. You likely know someone who has struggled with infertility, though they may not have shared their journey yet.

This week many strong individuals and families have stepped forward and are sharing their journeys through Heaven Blunt Photography. I am incredibly honored to be a platform for these journeys to have a home. My hope is to bring awareness to infertility and help people find their voice on this emotional path.

My heart strongly lead me to creating this passion project. A pull I felt so intensely I blindly reached out to others, asking them to open up, become vulnerable, and put an end to the stigma that surrounds infertility.

Throughout this week you’ll hear many words that are very common to those with infertility. Miscarriage, PCOS, male factor, unexplained infertility, low egg count, IVF, IUI, trigger shot. As specialists spoke those terms they became earthquakes in the lives of the stories being shared.

It is hard to open up and become vulnerable about such a personal and intimate part of your life. There is strength in numbers and knowledge. You are not alone in this, I promise. A wonderful and extraordinary community of others who have traveled a similar path exists. They provide a listening ear and tender heart for you to lean on as you navigate your story.

You may have found yourself following this passion project because you have struggled with infertility yourself. Possibly, you’re reading because you know someone who has experienced this. I encourage you to read the journeys that will be shared this week and leave an uplifting comment to these special people who are opening up and speaking out about being 1 in 8 suffering from infertility.

 
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Here is the Lane family’s journey

“After knowing each other since 4th grade, falling in “love” in 6th grade, Brandon and I began dating again during our first year in college. During our 5 years of dating before getting married, we talked a lot about the family we wanted and the children we would have! We decided on 4 and often talked about how we would raise them.

Not long before getting married in 2011, we found out I had Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). We knew that we wanted to start a family soon after getting married and this would definitely put a little bit of an obstacle in the way. Thankfully, our doctor told us we had a bunch of options, so we remained hopefully.

First we started with a pill called Clomid. Let me tell you, this pill was no joke with me! I felt like a crazy person. It gave me hot flashes and I would flip out over the littlest things. Brandon was usually on the receiving end of my crazy, like being yelled at for putting a drinking glass on our glass table. Yes, I look back and realize how silly that is since the glass wouldn’t have damaged the table at all and the condensation would have cleaned up easily, but this medication turned me into a different person sometimes.

During these treatments, I would have to go get checked by the doctor to see if it would work and much to our disappointment they did nothing… except make me crazy! I think it was during our 2nd round with Clomid that we went in and saw it was doing nothing. Our doctor decided to up our dosage pretty significantly to see if that would trigger anything and while I was sad it wasn’t working in the moment I felt like there were still options. That was until I got in my car to get back to work and got a message announcing my brother and sister in law were expecting their first child! In that moment, it hit me like a ton of bricks on how hard this journey was going to be for us. Not only were we going to be struggling, I was going to be loaded with all these extra hormones that may or may not make us parents and in the meantime, it felt like everyone else was proceeding with life and getting their family started! You have to understand that being happy for someone else and sad for us are two emotions that can definitely co-exist but it also hindered me from being able to be present sometimes. Sometimes I would have to skip dinners celebrating pregnancies since I didn’t feel like I would be able to keep it together and knew that it wouldn’t be fair for me to fall to pieces in the middle of such a joyous event.

Sometimes friends and family don’t understand, sometimes struggling with infertility means missing out on things we want to be a part of for the sake of keeping our sanity. Sometimes it’s smiling through a broken heart and showing up to celebrate something that we are terrified we will never have. Sometimes there are comments made or the infamous “when are you guys going to have children” question. If you find yourself in a position where a friend struggling with infertility is absent or distant, know they are truly happy for you and love you dearly. At the same time incredibly sad for themselves. I beg you to give them grace. I am so grateful during this really difficult time, mine did!

Fast forward to two more Clomid rounds, being referred to a specialist and one last super dose of Clomid (all of which did NOTHING), we decided to move on to our next treatment option, injections. Thankfully this didn’t give me the crazy side effects! I’m sure Brandon was extremely grateful as well! During our first round of injections we were so excited to find out that it actually was making my body work! This, in itself, was a HUGE victory. Baby or not, my body was working and responding and that gave us a lot of hope. Although that first round of injections wasn’t successful in conceiving a baby, we were very optimistic!

Our second round of injections not only responded but sure enough got us pregnant! Of course, I was a nervous wreck most of the pregnancy, but it was an easy one and we were incredibly blessed with a baby boy, Nolan, in February of 2013!

Life was wonderful and we found a fertility treatment that worked. So, when Nolan was about 1.5 years old, we decided to try for baby number 2! We had a game plan, we knew what worked and we really weren’t anticipating many issues will expanding our families. Oh, we were so wrong.

In 2014, 2015 and 2016 we did two round of injections each year. Each with no success. As expected, life was still moving swiftly around us. We were still getting pregnancy announcements and smiling through the pain as we had to accept each failure. Sometimes it was finding out a round didn’t work while celebrating three of my sister in laws being pregnant at the same time, or seeing that negative on a pregnancy test and having to go to the hospital to love on my new baby nephew. It was still just as hard as it was in the beginning, but I kept telling myself that we were still blessed with our son and didn’t give myself a lot of grace or room for feeling emotional since that made me feel like I was being ungrateful. So through painful smiles we marched on.

Then in 2017, after one failed injection round, our second round we found out we were expecting! We were excited and grateful that finally we would be adding to our family. This time, I didn’t feel as nervous since Nolan’s pregnancy was so easy. Then, at about 6 or 7 weeks, I miscarried. WOW! The feelings came in abundance! I was sad, devastated, angry, confused. Why did our family have to be the one that struggled for years to have a child, only to get tricked in to believing we would finally get one and have it ripped away so quickly. I was angry we didn’t get to hear their heartbeat. I was sad that Nolan wouldn’t get to meet that sibling and I was exhausted after years of failures.… I was lost. It was a really painful time.

Going into 2018, I was heartbroken, still feeling really lost and questioning how in the world was I going to be able to move on from this and how we would be able to still expand our family. Thankfully this year brought us a lot of blessings. We were able to find an incredible church and another support system to add to our amazing family and friends. We found ourselves in a position to be able to get rid of ALL of our credit card debt. Our marriage became stronger. We were loving each other more intentionally and as cliché as it may sound, I found myself falling in love with my husband even more than ever before! Towards the middle of the year we decided to start investigating adoption and fostering. This was always part of my game plan but not quite on my radar this early in our family planning. I’ve always seen our family having 2-3 children before fostering or adopting. So, we signed up for fostering class that would begin in January of 2019.

While we were in the car one day, Brandon and I were having a conversation and I remember feeling like he wanted to give fertility treatments one more try before moving forward with the fostering classes. He would never ask me to do them again, but I just knew his heart was really hoping we would try again. So, I told him we would give it one more shot and we would find out if it worked in just enough time to start the classes if it didn’t. We both agreed this was the plan!

So, one more round came and went and one morning I woke up to take a pregnancy test that would reveal it was positive! Holy cow! It was happening again. We were pregnant. Of course, this time my hopes were NOT up AT ALL! But blood tests were looking really good and so the first ultrasound was scheduled.

It felt like I was holding my breath for weeks, waiting for that first ultrasound to hear a heartbeat, praying that a miscarriage wouldn’t happen. Then the day finally came. Brandon and Nolan came with me and as soon as the ultrasound started the doctor went straight to the heart and let us heart it. What a beautiful sound it was! And then upon further investigation, he found a second heartbeat! That’s right! TWINS! We were expecting twins! He told us we would need to take another look around 10 weeks just to make sure they were growing and progressing like they should! Our family was so excited for us and for them! We were about to add two more babies to our family and it felt like all the time we were waiting was for this moment.

Our next ultrasound was amazing! Both babies looked strong and healthy and were growing right on track, were the perfect size and had identical heartbeats of 155 beats per minute! This was amazing and I felt so good!

The next ultrasound was our 12-week appointment. There were no complications and no indication of an issue at all. We walked into that ultrasound really excited to see our babies and get sent to my normal OB instead of our fertility specialist. Then the doctor started the ultrasound. Instantly, you could tell there was a problem. On the screen one baby looked like it has tripled in size since the last ultrasound while the other one looked like it was exactly the same size it was just a couple weeks before. I remember the doctor checking the smaller baby pretty quickly, not mentioning if there was a heartbeat or not and proceeding to check on the growing baby. I was relieved to hear one heartbeat that day but there was no way I was able to smile through the pain I was experiencing. This was a greater loss than I had ever felt. There were no signs there was a problem, we had seen these beautiful babies growing, not once but twice and heard their heartbeats. It was hard to imagine our family without both of them! But that was our new reality.

I quickly found out that Vanishing Twin Syndrome was a thing… who knew?! Eventually that baby would get absorbed back into my body and it would be like it was never there. Of course, I didn’t help myself by googling. This wasn’t just a normal VTS. This was a more rare VTS since they had been growing and we could see and hear their heartbeats. Our chances of this happening were very slim, yet, it was happening.

In the weeks following our news, I had three, YES 3 friends, announce healthy twin pregnancies! What are the chances! It was a hard pill to swallow. Just like with all of our infertility journey you get pounded and forced to deal with watching people having what you don’t have or have what has been taken from you. Again, please know this doesn’t mean there are any bad feeling or ill wishes on others miracles, just a constant reminder of our heartbreak and loss.

It’s hard to grasp the fact that the heartbeat we heard will never beat outside of me, that we will never get to hold a baby we watched grow. Nolan will never get to meet the sibling he watched on an ultrasound and our other sweet baby will never get to grow up with their twin. These are still things I cry and lose it over. These are things that make me so upset that we don’t get to experience. With every ultrasound, it’s hard not to hope the doctor was wrong and our baby started magically growing again and this was all a bad dream. Since there are still no physical signs of a loss, it’s hard to accept. It’s hard to accept that we will never get to hold or love on our sweet baby in this world. But this is our reality, this is the loss and heartache we have to endure.

I have to keep reminding myself we are still the lucky ones. We still have a lot to be grateful for. Our son is a healthy and happy 6 year old and we found out our sweet baby is a little girl. We have named her Eloise, our little warrior. At 26 weeks pregnant, physically things have been very easy and pleasant. So, grateful we will continue to be.

I still cry. I am still grieving the loss of our baby, that heartbeat, Nolan’s sibling and Eloise’s twin. BUT, I’m still joyous for Eloise’s arrival and can’t wait to see the person she turns into. I am anxiously anticipating seeing Nolan and Eloise together. It’s an exciting time and through it all we have a lot to look forward to!“

Christmas Minis- McCune Family

I absolutely ADORE this family! These boys are the sweetest and just full of belly laughs. I loved watching them snuggle their mama and play airplane with their dad. Kara is the owner of McCune Photography! She has the greatest heart and soul. Chatting with her everyday is a total highlight of my days! It’s always really fun to get together with another photographer and capture life’s moments.

Campfire Minis- Kendrick

I spent part of this particular evening with Allie, and her sweet boys around a campfire. There’s something so special about the bond between mamas and their sons. “I am your calm place and you are my wild.” That saying is so true with little boys. They laughed, tickled each other, roasted marshmallows, and ran around! Then they’d come back for a snuggle and kiss.

Samantha + John | Washington DC LDS Temple Sealing | The Via Club at Pebble Creek

I spent a wonderful morning with Samantha and John at the Washington DC LDS Temple. They were sealed for all time and eternity to each other. We had our eyes on the radar all morning hoping the rain would hold off. Guess what? IT DID! It was beautiful as they had a first look before going into the temple. It rained while they were in the temple and right before they walked out the skies parted. It was perfect! We spent some time around the beautiful grounds of the temple as well.

Everyone headed to The Via Club at Pebble Creek for their ring ceremony and reception. This venue was gorgeous. Everything from the stone fireplace to the gazebo out back. I could have spent all evening out there!

Before the ring ceremony, we went to the cemetery to visit her daddy’s grave. Samantha had an extra bouquet made for him. John held the back of her dress as they walked across the grass to lay the flowers down. I am so honored I could capture those moments.

During the ring ceremony, they exchanged vows. Samantha’s vows revolved around Disney as they both love Disney, their first date was even Beauty and the Beast! She had John’s ring engraved to say “Tale as Old as Time”. When they exchanged vows they were smiling and looking into each other’s eyes, so in love!

All day they were by each other's side, holding hands, kissing, just soaking in every second of their big day! The way John's lips fall onto Samantha's forehead, like a fairy tale!

Before the first dances Samantha had a slideshow of pictures of her Daddy playing. Her brother danced with her, it was the most heartwarming moment.

The whole day was filled with laughter, smiles, and LOTS of love! I am so happy for Samantha and John!

Emma Henrico Maternity Session

I was SO excited when Emma contacted me about a maternity session! I've known Emma since high school and have loved seeing pictures of her sweet babies' faces over the years. Lilli, was so cute, between kissing on her mama's belly to holding her beautiful lace dress up in the breeze. Emma's natural beauty is unreal, her smile and laugh are so contagious! There was a beautiful glow over Emma the entire time, can you believe she gave birth only SIX days after this?!?! One of my favorites is where her little girl, Lilli, is peeking around her mama's dress with the sweetest smile!

There's a big brother and sister who welcomed their baby sister into the world this past week. I cannot wait to see her!!!

Jarred + Katie James River Engagement

I LOVE this couple, they are such rays of sunshine! Jarred had Katie laughing and smiling the entire session! There's one picture in particular, you can see both of them smirking right before a kiss, seriously my favorite EVER! The way Jarred looks at Katie, you can just tell how much he adores her. I am already so, so excited for their wedding next year!

Jarred and Katie met during high school at a church camp, kept in touch and a friendship turned into a relationship. They dated long distance throughout college and ended up back in Richmond together! A year and a half later Katie took a job in North Caroline while Jarred stayed in Richmond for his. FINALLY, after another year apart they are both in Richmond for good!! :) I LOVE relationships that work through everything and are able to make their dreams come true!!! Love conquers all!