Rapid City, South Dakota Birth Photographer | Do You Believe in Miracles? ~ A Family's IVF Journey |

Do you believe in miracles? Do you believe that if you really want something bad enough you can make it happen, as long as you don’t give up. Even if you keep getting knocked down, you get back up and try again. You start over from the beginning. I have a story for you today. It’s a story of hope, struggle, endurance, courage; it’s a story about a family that didn’t give up. It has a happy ending! Just figured I’d tell you guys that so even though it’s going to take you on an emotional roller coaster, you’ll at least know that the ending is how we want it to be. So, here goes… it might be kinda long, but it’ll so be worth the read ;)

I received a Facebook message from Tess on August 23rd, 2018, that she had been referred to me by several people for birth photography. She told me they had gone through IVF to get this baby girl they are expecting and that she will be their one and only baby, so they want to document every moment. I read her message and thought OMG!!!!! I have three babies of my own, I can’t imagine what they went through. We messaged details about my birth photography and such and due dates and we set up a coffee date for a consultation. All I could think of was that I want her to choose me to document what would be one of the most important moments of their little family’s life. Please choose me.

I love all my client’s. They are all unique and each has their own story. I think people are brought into our lives for a reason. Things have been really crazy for us this year and meeting Mike and Tess and hearing THEIR story and about their struggles, it has really put things into perspective a little for me I think. I’ve learned to have a little more faith and I’ve learned that I really need to appreciate what we DO have more than focus on the things I don’t.

Anyway, on with the story. LOL!!!

We had our coffee date and chatted. Got to know each other a little bit. And within a couple of days everything was planned and on the calendar. She picked me :)

Now we wait. Her due date with a little girl they had named Aubrey Alicia (named Alicia after her aunt) wasn’t until October!!! Before we get to the tale of Aubrey’s arrival, we’ll flash forward to today, where I received an email that I cannot thank Tess enough for, that laid out the story of Aubrey’s creation and the struggles these two went through to have this little miracle join their family.

Their IVF journey began about a year after they were married, August 2015. They’d been trying to start a family almost immediately after they were married and had been unsuccessful. After a year of trying they finally were able to visit a fertility doctor locally and after some tests were run, they were referred to a specialist in Denver, Colorado to begin the process of In Vitro Fertilization.

Most people know in around about way what the process of IVF includes, but a quick definition for those that don’t: fertilization of an egg in a laboratory dish or test tube specifically : fertilization by mixing sperm with eggs surgically removed from an ovary followed by uterine implantation of one or more of the resulting fertilized eggs —abbreviation IVF - Merriam Webster

There are soooooooooooo many statistics about the success about the procedure the failure of the procedure, but I won’t get into all of that. It doesn’t matter! Tess says: “It was our only option and we decided that we had to at least try so that we didn’t regret not trying when we were older. Even with one embryo it was a chance.”

So, Mike & Tess headed to the Rocky Mountain Fertility Center, in Colorado around November of 2016. They arrived to meet with Dr. Smith for a consult about the process of IVF and what the potential cost for IVF is. After some testing to make sure all was ready to go, January of 2017 they began what would be a long process of medical visits, back and forth between South Dakota and Colorado, medication regiments to make sure the body would do what it’s supposed to, physiologically and timing wise. Stressing over if everything is working, checking hormone levels to get ready for the next step in the process, and on and on and on. Tess had to give herself injections. She said: “Secretly I was kind of excited to start giving myself shots, mainly because I knew it was going to be the start of making our family.”

The first round of injections complete for the designated number of days, Tess went through some blood tests to check her Estradiol levels. If those levels were good, they would get to move on to the next step in the IVF process. Sadly, that next step wouldn’t be taken. Her levels were too high and she had to stop injections right away. Dr. Smith proceeded to tell her they had to start from the beginning and wait for another cycle. :( Mike & Tess were heart broken. They waited for another cycle to start, went back on birth control to start the whole process of getting the body ready for egg extraction again.

In March they got to give it another try! They awaited the Dr.’s phone call and received the devastating news that Tess’s levels were better but still too high to move forward. And to add to that disappointment, they received another phone call that urged them to make a trip to Colorado immediately. Mike was in testicular failure. They needed to get there as soon as possible to freeze as much sperm as they could. Up and down the roller coaster goes…

After Mike’s appointments went well and sperm was frozen they marched forward, toward round three of injections in May. Well, round three turned out the same way the previous two had. Not good. After investigating into what was making Tess’s Estradiol levels spike like that, an ultra sound revealed Tess had a cyst on her left ovary that produced estrogen. After three very painful times of trying to remove the fluid from the cyst, finally success. Except, yup. Let’s throw another hurdle into their path. The fluid that came from Tess’s cyst was cloudy and needed to be tested to see if there was any cancer.

They went home. Waited for the OK phone call to start round four of injections. They got through round four. Now, dreading the phone call from the doctor to see if they are able to proceed. Guess what though? FINALLY!!!!!! Finally her levels were all good to go.

It’s now the beginning of September. Mike & Tess head back to Colorado for dr’s appointments for egg retrieval. On Labor Day (of all days lol) they head to harvest the eggs. “It’s finally happening!” In the recovery room, after the procedure, the doctor gave them the good news that they were able to harvest 26 eggs!!! Roller coaster was on the downward slope again though. Tess had fluid on her uterus and they are unable to do the transfer that week. If they did do the transfer, the pregnancy probably wouldn’t take. :(

Seriously!!!!! The strength these two people have. It’s unbelievable. To have gone through all those ups and downs over an extended period of time. I can’t imagine the emotional turmoil and stress, and the travel, and the waiting….. the waiting has got to be the worst.

But, attitude is everything. And courage. The courage to not give up. They head back home and wait for the embryos to “cook.” After harvesting 26 eggs from Tess’s ovaries and waiting the time period for them to “cook,” they received the devastating news that they only had one embryo that made it to freeze.

A little more waiting, giving Tess’s body a chance to heal and level out they get to November, 2017. They begin the injection process again and have planned date for the embryo transfer of December 5th. Except…. the cyst was back and now had to be surgically removed. Another round of injections and finally her numbers were exactly where they needed to be. Embryo transfer was now scheduled for the end of January 2018!

FINALLY everything was going as planned. Her tests came back as perfect as they could and her uterus was determined to be super receptive. ONE embryo. They got one shot at this baby making thing!!! Can you imagine knowing that if it doesn’t happen this time, it will never happen.

Colorado bound, they were ready!!! They were doing this, making it happen! During the procedure, what would become baby Aubrey got a little stuck in the test tube (I didn’t know that embryos that are in the process of being transferred were sticky), LOL, but on the second try she stuck right to the uterine wall. They left Colorado after an ultra sound that showed them their first picture of their sweet baby!!!

Now the real torturous wait begins. 14 days until they have a blood test to determine pregnancy. After a week however, Tess told Mike she just couldn’t wait any longer. They ran out for some home pregnancy tests. You can imagine the emotions of waiting to see if those lines show up on the test stick!!!

I went into the bathroom and took the test. It instantly showed up as a positive!!! I cried, tried to pull myself together, opened up the door to see. It took everything in me to contain myself and I showed him and he started crying. We were so excited, we had never seen that before. We could hardly contain ourselves. We were finally pregnant!!!! We had blood work done at 14 days later and sure enough our numbers were perfect and indeed we were pregnant!!

Fast forward to October 2nd. I got a message from Tess that said that she was being induced because her blood pressure was too high. Only two weeks ahead of schedule after almost 24 hours of labor and a chance for me to get to know these guys a little better (I spent all that time in the labor room with them and their stream of excited friends and family that came to visit) little Aubrey Alicia Williams arrived at, I believe 6:59 am on October 3rd, 2018, at Rapid City Regional Hospital. Perfect! That baby is absolutely perfect and a miracle. I can’t tell you how excited I was after this to have the opportunity to get to shoot newborn pictures of Ms. Aubrey. That happened about a week later.

This! THIS is why I love the work I do! THIS is why I do the work I do! I like to think my work makes a difference. I get to document the history of families.

Take a peek at the video above and the images below of this sweet, sweet family!!!

Mike, Tess, & Aubrey (and their family), thank you for letting me tell your story!

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