It has changed me, it has hurt me and it has empowered me.

Five years ago, we lost our first pregnancy. In the years that followed, we would go on to lose two more. After the first loss, I began working with a fertility specialist who suggested that the cause for our loss might have been my uterus shape, an abnormality I was apparently born with. I had operation after operation after operation….then, we tried again. There was no pregnancy this time–just exhaustion, over 20k in medical expenses and the realization that carrying my own child might not be possible.

Last month, we hopped on a plane to travel to meet with a new set of doctors and undergo a day of testing. Within hours they had feedback. I returned home with the instruction of undergoing more tests, including a mammogram. The mammogram, repeated scans, and biopsy added a whole new level of fear to this process.

Next, we wait for a talk with our doctor to determine what is next, another surgery or the search for a gestational carrier. Most know me as a wife, a designer, a business owner, a home cook, a new homeowner, and a cat lady but so much of me is this. It has changed me, it has hurt me and it has empowered me. It has taken my breath away many times, but I have fought religiously to get hope back. Thanks for listening.

Photo: @suzuranphotography

It’s been 18 months since my last visit. A lot can happen in a year and half. When we last chatted, Kevin and I were just starting to find our voice and we had just created an account (@comeondolly) to share our story. We had already come so far, survived what now feels like the brunt of our battle and were processing what was next.

At that point, we had lost three pregnancies and my uterus had been operated on 4 times. We had recently hopped on a plane to meet with @ccrmfertility Denver who would test and devise a new plan for us. Step 1 was to begin to heal my angry over-treated uterus from infection and a polyp, and then operate for a fifth time. This time removing a septum that ideally should have been removed previously and likely a contributor to our losses. Once we made it through those steps, we’d determine with our doctors if a gestational carrier or my uterus was the most safe place to grow our embryos. At the time, we had 3 embryos in storage. I was 39 and we felt safe spending time on a second opinion.

In all honesty, I simply wanted to heal my uterus regardless of our future. I needed to find faith in this body again. In October 2017, we were told by Dr. Gutofson of CCRM that my once not -so-happy uterus looked happy and were okay to proceed with a second retrieval. That wasn’t quite the response we were prepared for given our past, we were prepared for the other response. We took a big exhale and the holiday season to process it all (I focused on my second mammogram and biopsy in 18 months and began a life-changing fitness program that would reshape my body and mind). In January 2018, we did a mock cycle to test-drive the new uterus. She did good. Not perfect, but better. By mid March we had lost the 3 embryos that were in storage and were flying to Colorado for 2 weeks for our first retrieval at CCRM. Mid June, we were back for our transfer. We almost didn’t move forward but we followed Dr. Gustofson’s lead because in the many months we had spent together he had never been wrong. By July, we were pregnant with our sweet number 4. In less than a week, I’ll turn 40 and we’ll hopefully meet the little one that made us believe again.

Often, it’s hard to think reflectively in the midst of pain and loss but when I look back on this journey I can’t be more thankful for the perspective, the lessons learned and the molding of “me” the last 7 years have brought. Sure, I’d trade some of the pain, the years of infection and the loss of embryos but I cannot say any other moment of my life has taught me how to feel, how to breathe, how to sympathize, how to hurt, how to focus on what matters, how to mother. If you find yourself in a place that feels like it has no end, a place that suffocates you and your hope—dig deep. Focus on hours and days not months or years. Focus on the baby steps because baby steps become big steps, minutes become days, days and months become years. You will arrive at your destination. It maybe a completely different looking destination but once you arrive, you won’t imagine any other road to get there and you won’t trade the knowledge gained along the way for anything. —@comeondolly | @christinewisnieski