At the age of 22, I received a rare diagnosis for my age — premature ovarian failure. In short, I had early menopause. I knew someday it would be hard to conceive because I didn’t get a menstrual cycle on my own, and medication would be required.

But I always knew I would be a mom someday, and I was willing to do whatever it took.

When I met my husband and fell in love, we both talked about our dream of being young parents. As soon as he proposed, we started trying. I was 25 and he was 32.

After two years without a pregnancy, we began to lose hope.  I was told by my doctor that I could never carry a baby. We were devastated.

Determined to become parents, we began looking into international adoption. But as we began the process, the laws changed. I had been married once before, and the new law stated that if either spouse had been previously married, they must be married to their current spouse for five years to be eligible. Disappointed, we waited and saved money in hopes of trying again in the future.

During a visit to her gynecologist, my mother shared my story. And my mother was surprised by the answer she received.

“Who told her she can’t carry a baby?” retorted her physician. “She can absolutely carry a baby. She doesn’t need a surrogate, just a good fertility center.”

She then referred my mother to Fertility Centers of Illinois.

At this point, trying to have a family had become a family affair. We wanted a family so badly, and our family wanted us to experience that joy as well. In the middle of a blizzard, the four of us — my mother, my husband, my husband’s mother and me — fought snow as high as our thighs to make our appointment.

Meeting our doctor at FCI was our ray of hope after the storm. We fell in love immediately.

The amount of information in his head astounded us. For the first time, we felt heard and understood, and we knew that everything was about to change.

Our doctor ran some tests and confirmed what I already knew — I had premature ovarian failure. To make things worse, I had also had a mild case of endometriosis that had been helped by surgery. But we all agreed to see what my body could do, and I went on medication to see if I would ovulate. I didn’t.

The only way I would be able to carry a baby was if we used a donor egg.  The news was especially hard on me, but over time I came around to the idea and we started the process.

When we began reviewing egg donor profiles, we had a specific list of criteria in mind. We wanted someone that was a little taller since I am only five foot two. We wanted similar features, so she would need to have dark hair. I love theater and music, so the donor would also need to have similar interests. We found a donor that fit all of our criteria.

The donor cycle produced 10 eggs, of which 6 survived and 4 fertilized. We transferred two of the four embryos and were elated to find out we were pregnant. But at nine weeks, I began to bleed. An ultrasound revealed a tiny heartbeat — there was a chance. I went home and stayed on bedrest. At 12 weeks during another ultrasound, we couldn’t find a heartbeat. We had lost our baby.

After all of this loss, we needed a break to put things together again. We waited three months to heal, then dusted ourselves off again. We only had two embryos left, and financially we couldn’t afford further treatment. This was our last chance.

Our doctor transferred the two embryos and when I was confirmed pregnant, I was cautiously optimistic. But during a restaurant management shift at nine weeks into the pregnancy, I began to bleed. More heavily than the last time. An ultrasound found a heartbeat. Again, we had another chance.

I was on bedrest for the entire first trimester, and I can say with certainty that it was the longest 15 weeks of my life. But soon I was back on my feet. At 34 weeks, I woke up in the middle of the night with severe itching. My feet, my hands, everywhere. I called my doctor, and he told me that I would be having my baby today.

On September 24th, Reese was born six weeks early at five pounds, four ounces.

After she was born, I learned that I had Cholestasis, meaning that the flow of bile, a digestive fluid from the liver, slows or stops. It didn’t pose any harm to me, but it could be potentially fatal for the baby.

Reese loves music as much as I do. She loves it all across every spectrum. I catch her dancing in her car seat all the time. We have dance parties and sing songs together, and watching Frozen is a daily activity. Reese is a joyful little girl, and the epitome of happiness.

If you are reading this and you find yourself losing hope, keep the faith. If it can happen for me, it can happen for anyone.

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