Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My Little Miracle Essay Contest *Honoring the Crider Family*

Last week I had the privilege to attend a luncheon at Florida Institute for Reproductive Medicine to honor Amy Crider & her beautiful family.
This is a story that is near and dear to my heart & has really come full circle for me. Before I tell you about the party let me give you a little background on the relationship that I have with Amy's family.
This past year I was introduced to Amy by our mutual friend and hair stylist Pam. I had mentioned to Pam that I really wanted to photograph a birth & that if she knew of anyone who was interested to send them my way. I received a call a couple of weeks later from Pam telling me that she had a client that was interested in birth photography & that she also needed a maternity session.
One of the many blessings of being a photographer is the special people that God puts in your life. Amy and Tracey are such beautiful people inside and out & it has been a true gift to document such a special time in their lives. In the past nine months we have done a maternity session, birth, newborn session and this luncheon.
Amy is a wonderful Christian woman who today, I am proud to call my friend!
Here is some of what we have captured over the last 9 months:

This is Amy & her sweet daughter Ella
This is the day that Miss Reece came into the world

Reece's first breath.

The first time Amy saw little Reece...I just love these!

Amy's mom Robin holding Reece. Can't you just see the love in her eyes...

This was taken at our newborn session. I love how comfortable and content Reece is on her Daddy's back.

A couple of months after Reece was born Amy wrote a very touching essay for the "Little Miracles" nationwide essay contest sponsored by Ferring Pharmaceuticals. The fifth annual contest celebrates the birth of children who were conceived using Ferring’s MENOPUR® and/or BRAVELLE®. Amy was Runner Up!!!!
Here is her essay & some images from her Little Miracles luncheon:

A Modern Day Miracle: My Daughter, Reece Elizabeth
If I Knew Then What I Know Now

“The problem with infertility is that I am mourning children that do not exist and I'm the only one who misses them."

I once read this quote, during my infertility journey. It is hidden in my heart so I will never forget what others feel as they pursue their own journey to parenthood. It is hard to know where to begin this essay; I have written and re-written it in my head a million times. My husband and I have been on an amazing journey and it is hard to put into words. Infertility, is a powerful, heart wrenching, scary word, and if spoken aloud-thoughtlessly, can bring one to tears in a matter of seconds. Am I an infertile? Yes. Did I ever imagine I would be one of “those women?” No. Am I thankful that I am now considered part of this elite group? Absolutely.
Our journey to parenthood has been a life changing experience, one we will never take for granted. With the support of our family, my amazing doctor, a very special nurse, our increasing faith and new pharmaceuticals, we have experienced in all regards a modern day miracle.
In the fall of 2004, I gave birth to my beautiful daughter, Ella. After exactly 12 months of charting, temperature taking and perfectly timed intercourse; we were finally on the road to building our family. Little did we know our journey had just begun. Convincing myself everything was fine regarding my fertility, especially after conceiving Ella on our own; we decided to try again for a second child. After experiencing months and months of disappointing negative pregnancy tests, I knew it was time to head to the doctor.
On November 9, 2006, my daughter’s second birthday, I received devastating news of two very large tumors attached to my ovaries that were possibly cancerous. My husband was deployed to the Persian Gulf at the time, and it felt as if our world was tumbling down. After extensive doctor visits and second opinions, I was referred to Dr. Kevin Winslow at the Florida Reproductive Institute. There was no cancer found, but Dr. Winsolw discovered I had stage 4 endometriosis and had severe damage to my abdomen and reproductive organs. We were so thankful that I did not have cancer, but at the same time realizing our life-long dream for more children was no longer a possibility; that is until we learned we did in fact have options. He explained that with new medical advances and specialized stimulating drugs such as Bravelle and Menopur we would have a chance of recovering a few healthy eggs. My husband and I embarked into unknown territory. At that point I became an advocate for my body as well as for my future children; learning all I could about my physical body system and in turn learning about my inner spirit and strength. After undergoing a laparoscopy to drain the endometrioma’s (endo tumors) we started our first IVF process. Excited, scared and anxious we shared our story freely with others, extended family, friends and even strangers; one mistake we would decide not to make again. Not knowing how we were going to pay for this process, but not willing to accept a hysterectomy, I started raising funds and made a website and began selling my handmade necklaces. With the news of our exciting journey, our families and friends began selling the necklaces to pay for our awaiting miracle. Upon hearing of our adventure, my nurse shared our story with Dr. Winslow and in turn he provided his services without charge. This act of selflessness was more than we could comprehend. We had been in a whirl-wind of emotion and we were so optimistic, we just knew our first IVF would result in a child. Sadly, our pregnancy test was negative and we lost our embryos. We were completely devastated. It was so hard for us as a family, but to have everyone question and offer advice was almost unbearable. From that point, we had a small support group that we were able to confide in. Looking back, it was so important to accept our loss and move forward, for I had so much to live and be thankful for. I knew that we hadn’t been on such an amazing journey to end up sad and bitter. After losing the embryos and having time to grieve, I began to realize that I needed to take all of the energy that I had put into getting pregnant into something positive to help others, just like my healthcare team had taken care of my husband and I. I then enrolled into college, pursuing a nursing degree at night, inspired by my IVF nurse, I hope to one day advocate for others in the same way she did for me.
After taking a short break, it was decided we could try one final IVF and if it failed, we would continue with a hysterectomy. This time, I first underwent abdominal surgery and had all of the endo removed, six weeks later we started our second and final IVF. This time, we were very private with each step of the process, more realistic of the odds and were more emotionally prepared for the unknown outcome. We surrounded ourselves with a small support group, focused on our daughter Ella, made long term plans of becoming a nurse and strengthened our marriage and faith.
It is with the utmost pride I write today, that I am just 7 months short of graduating nursing school; my daughter Ella is now a proud big sister as my daughter Reece Elizabeth was born May 23, 2008; beautiful, healthy and absolutely our true modern day miracle.
If I knew then what I know now; I actually wouldn’t have changed a single moment. I have learned that you can’t compare your own fertility journey with others, you have to be an advocate for yourself, be informed about your body, have an intimate support group, follow the doctor’s orders explicitly and most of all be thankful for the opportunity be part of something bigger than yourself. Am I thankful to be infertile? Absolutely.

Some of the sweet girls that work at Florida Institute for Reproductive Medicine

Tracey, Amy, big sister Ella, Lil' Reece, Brian & Robin (proud grandparents)

The prize! I still don't know how they got that in their car...

Patty...The BEST IVF nurse EVER!!!!! :)

Kevin Winslow M.D.

Daniel Duffy M.D.

And of coarse...a couple of HOT MAMAS!!! LOL

Amy & Tracey, Thank you so much for inviting me in to your lives! I have enjoyed capturing your special moments & getting to know you as friends. God truly has blessed you with each other & both of your little miracles.


Amy Crider January 22, 2009 at 12:10 PM  

Perfect. that is all I can say. everything is perfect and your words are just as beautiful as the art/ photographs you take. You have a special way of capturing emotion and the moment....and that makes all the difference, it is your gift. I will look at the blog a million times, just as I have every other picture you have taken of our family. What a treasure you have given us.

thank you. love you, Amy

Stefany Gess February 17, 2009 at 1:04 PM  

Hello, I am Amy's siser in Denver. I could not be there for this special day although I feel like I was because of your wonderful pictures. Thank you for being a part of their lives. You are so talented.


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