Last month I did a family session giveaway for National Infertility/Loss Awareness Week! We gifted a family portrait session to two families who have struggled with infertility or loss. We called this promotion the Buckets of Hope Project.
Why an empty bucket? As Newborn Photographers, we are constantly sharing photos of newborn babies on our pages but we are taking a break to share photos of our empty bucket set ups. The empty bucket symbolizes not only the emptiness that women with infertility often feel but it's also a symbol of hope for these women that when their miracle arrives, we will be here to celebrate with them! The acronym PAIL also stands for Pregnancy After Infertility or Loss. If anyone you know is struggling with Pregnancy After Infertility or Loss, please help them find a PAIL support group near them and know that you are never alone. 1 in 8 women struggle with Infertility and 1 in 4 struggle with Loss. We are here for you. ❤
I had initially intended to gift a session to only one family, but had such a hard time choosing, I ended up selecting two families! The first family session was with the incredibly sweet Dawkins family! Their submission story had me in tears! The amount strength, determination and heartbreak that they've endured throughout their journey to parenthood is truly inspiring. Here is the submission they sent:
Hi! My name is Katie Dawkins. I saw your Facebook page status and I wanted to share our journey through infertility and child loss with you. My husband Matt's and my journey to become parents started more than eight years ago. I can still feel the sting of all of those negative pregnancy tests and wondering why my body was broken. After a year of trying, we made an appointment to see a fertility specialist just to be checked out. He told us we were young and in good shape and instantly started us on fertility medicine and gave us so much hope. Over a year of fruitless ultrasounds and medicine took its toll on us emotionally and financially. The doctor told us we had reached the point where we needed to do more invasive procedures like IVF and that’s when we knew God was closing the door for biological children at that time. We went home and prayed and felt the doors opening for adoption and prayed hard about all the decisions that go into choosing to adopt.
We found an amazing Colorado agency that does domestic infant adoptions and set up an informational meeting. Once we met, we knew they would be our agency and signed up with them. It took us about a year to finish all of the paperwork and home study but we made it and we were officially put into the waiting family pool just waiting for an expectant mom to choose us to parent her child.
Every month in the wait was hard. It was just like seeing those horrible negative pregnancy test all over again, but with the added feeling of rejection added in. We tried to stay busy in the wait because we had no idea when we would be chosen and being busy helped. Then in the middle of work I get THE call that an expectant mother had chosen us and she was due in a week! We set up a match meeting where we met her and her father to talk and see if we made a good match and could move forward. It went amazing and we were officially matched with a baby girl. Little did we know that just 36 hours later that baby girl would make her grand entrance into this world a bit early! We drove a couple hours to the hospital in the Denver area. The hospital was great and had a room set up for us that was right next to the birth mother. When we got there they told us to wait in our room and the birth mom would be over later. It was just a couple minutes and then in walks the birth mom holding this tiny little girl! She walked straight in and placed her in my arms and said “Here’s your daughter!” Our sweet little Galilee was finally here.
We had a three day stay in the hospital, then we were finally discharged and we got to take sweet little Galilee home. Being home with her was amazing and I was in awe of how this little girl had already changed us. The next day I received a call from our caseworker saying Galilee’s birth mother was struggling with her decision to place her for adoption. She didn’t want us to panic, but she wanted us to be aware so that we could start praying. I knew at that moment what was about to happen and I just broke down. My husband and I wept together, and held Galilee together. For the small amount of time we could, we took care of that little girl and poured our love into her. But our hearts broke as we realized she might not be our little girl anymore. Three days later we received one of the worst phone calls and it was from our caseworker saying the birthmother had officially made a decision and wanted her baby back. There was nothing we could do. Legally, Galilee was still hers.
We tenderly and tearfully dressed her in an outfit her birthmother had bought her, packed away all of her things and included the blanket we had been snuggling with so she would have our scent and not seem so alone when she left us. We drove her to the adoption agency and handed this amazing, perfect baby to a caseworker who had also been crying. We kissed her, said goodbye, and drove back home. We felt lost and heartbroken, and we didn’t know where to go from there.
We didn’t want to immediately go back into the waiting pool because our pain and grief was so traumatic. It hurt so much I didn’t want to even think about another baby. I wanted the baby I couldn’t have. A few months later, we did decide to go back into the waiting pool, and just two months later we were chosen by another expectant mother. Our hearts were still aching, but we wanted to pursue this so we jumped in and met with this amazing woman and her mother. We had the match meeting and were officially matched again, with a baby due in a month. The wait didn’t bother me as much as I thought it would because it felt right. At 3:00 in the morning on December 21, 2016, we received the call that the expectant mother was in labor and to head to the hospital! We drove all the way to Fort Collins and made it in time! Our sweet baby boy Gabriel Lev Dawkins was born! He is perfect in every way and we have an amazing relationship with his biological family with visits and tons of pictures. This sweet boy doesn’t take away the grief of losing little Galilee, but he sure does ease that pain a lot.
In January of 2018, I was going about my day and doing what I did every month when my period didn't show up and took a pregnancy test. At that point in life (seven years of tests) I had conditioned myself to seeing negative results, so when that second line showed up, I was shocked! Oh, how happy we were. A couple of weeks later on the morning of my first OB appointment, I woke up and to my horror found spotting. I figured what was happening and just wept. We went to the doctor and he confirmed that I was having a miscarriage. How can something so tiny impact your life so much? We don’t know gender, but refer to her as female and we named her Api because she was the size of an apple seed.
We have had a very long and difficult journey to parenthood and it still continues. We do not know if or how more children will join our family, though we will continue to be thankful for any children that come to us no matter how long or short they stay with us.