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Some of you have followed along with me on my IVF journey, after a life-changing pregnancy loss. Some of you also know I'm currently pregnant with a rainbow baby. I've walked in the footsteps of another IVF mom from Overland Park, Kansas named Lesleigh Cetinguc. So I was deeply moved by a profoundly-emotional letter she wrote to her newborn son on the Love What Matters website. It details her own IVF journey, her two crushing losses, and her joy at finally holding her rainbow baby, Lennon, in her arms.
Cetinguc welcomed her first son, Lochlan, via IVF, and said that experience was filled with "unabashed naivete." The process worked, and she and her husband now dreamed of adding a sibling to their family. "There were two frozen embryos remaining and we thought about them all the time," she writes.
Sadly, Cetinguc's second IVF journey wouldn't be as "easy" as her first. The mom would go to hell and back before baby Lennon was born, and posed in this incredible rainbow image, captured by photographer Kelley Walker Chance.
While the picture of Lennon manages to show both the the pain of IVF and the beauty of new life, as Cetinguc writes, there's a lot we don't see:
"It doesn’t show that we had a canceled cycle just days before our scheduled transfer, and then a dilation and curettage (D&C) to correct new issues that had surfaced. It doesn’t show that our subsequent transfer worked – that we had our number two. It doesn’t show the excitement that surged through our veins. It doesn’t show that a few short weeks later, we sat in a cold exam room staring at an empty black circle on the screen. It doesn’t show me alone and scared in the bathroom at work the moment I began to lose that baby. It doesn’t show my tear-stained body curled up on the bathroom floor at home after the miscarriage was complete. It doesn’t show that we had a spontaneous pregnancy a few months later, and that it ended the same way. It doesn't show the near crippling anxiety – the way I removed myself from friends and family, questioned my body, and my choices."
Anyone who has endured loss feels those words so hard. Because she's been there, on that bathroom floor, too. Lord knows I've been there, unsure of how to keep going. Wondering how I got here, and whether sticking countless needles in my body is strong or stupid. And refusing to let anyone inside my world, other than my husband.
I also relate to what Cetinguc writes next about the photograph of Lennon: "What [it] does show is that we never gave up. We never stopped fighting for you and battled at every turn, refusing to be knocked down for good."Cetinguc further explains the inspiration behind the image of her rainbow baby, writing:
"I dreamt of creating something for you to see that would encompass everything about your journey in one visually piercing shot. I needed to turn what most view as harsh, painful, or medical waste into what it was, for us, the beautiful tools necessary to get you in our arms. This picture of you at the base of a colorful rainbow created from every single needle, vial of medication, patch, and pill bottle that we used in the past two years became that shot. It represents hours of injections, sticky residue from medicine patches, and pills carefully tracked."
Now, this brave IVF mom is finally able to revel in these moments with her boys.
"Lennon Kemal, you were our last hope that day in the waiting room. You were our last embryo, frozen in time for three years and 6 days before you were transferred back to us," Cetinguc ends her powerful letter. "You arrived exactly 3 years and 3 days after your big brother. You, his medical twin, were born on December 14, 2017, as our ‘double rainbow’ (baby born after two losses), and you are nothing short of a miracle."
Cetinguc admits she would never have chosen this path voluntarily. Who would want to suffer losses that nearly kill your spirit? I'm still not sure if I'll ever find peace in my loss. But I hope to get to where this mama is, rooted in her belief that she was meant to walk this journey with her son, and that she is so very blessed despite her pain.
As for what she hopes others will take away from her story, Cetinguc tells BabyCenter, "I hope that families going through struggles related to infertility, find some hope. I also hope that it helps them continue push through, no matter how hard it gets." She adds, "This picture, and accompanying story, will also give friends and family a glimpse into the trials and tribulations of infertility. While going through it is the only way that you can truly understand, it might help them gain a little more empathy and understanding to the process. I want to make the topic less taboo and provide a platform to open discussions if a family should choose to share their story."
Photos used with permission of Kelley Walker Chance / Kelley Photo. Find her on Facebook and Instagram.
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.