One of the most difficult parts of shuttering my studio during the shutdown of businesses was that I was not able to continue the Extraordinary Love Project and to have to tell the participating families that we would not be able to go ahead with their newborn session. That is why I am especially thrilled to introduce to everyone today to baby Oakley, my first Extraordinary Love baby after the closure. Welcome to the world Oakley!

Extraordinary Love Sessions are meant to honour a family’s struggle with miscarriage, infant loss, or infertility. You can read more about these special sessions on my website here.

With physical distancing still in place, parents Ally and Denis brought Oakley out for their session later after birth than we usually schedule these sessions and in a bit of a modified format but I was overjoyed that the experience was just as special.

Ally and Denis were married in the Fall of September 2015 and decided to start their family early in 2016. They were excited to welcome their first baby that same year. Once their son, Zaiden, was one year old they decided it was time to try for their second child. Because of the ease and speed of their first experience they assumed it would be just as easy and as fast to become pregnant the second time. Ally and Denis instead found themselves experiencing the frustration and pain of secondary infertility. 

Secondary infertility is when one is unable to become pregnant or carry a baby to term after having already had a previous baby. Secondary infertility can be a shocking blow to those experiencing it and the emotions that can come along with it are overwhelming.

Foolishly I thought it would be as easy as the 1st time. I was wrong. It took us 1 miscarriage, 19 months, millions of tears, countless negative pregnancy tests, useless ovulation predictor sticks and many appointments at the fertility clinic. We were fortunate enough not to have to go further than medicated cycles but it didn’t make the journey any easier. What a blow to my self esteem when I found it it was my fault we couldn’t have a baby. Diagnosis: secondary infertility due to inconsistent ovulation. I didn’t even know that existed. Why did my body do it before and why wouldn’t it, why couldn’t it do it now? -Ally

Ally and Denis continued through many difficult months of fertility centre testing, waiting, trying, medications, and even the loss of a pregnancy in their efforts to add to their family. Throughout this time they juggled parenthood, their normal lives, and also the staggering emotions that come along with infertility and loss. 

I internalized the struggle and with each passing month of not becoming pregnant I felt that much more defeated and inadequate. It’s such a conflicting feeling when friends call/text/post their pregnancy announcements. Every bit of you wants to be happy for them but you’re bitter, angry, and sad that it isn’t you. You put a smile on your face and congratulate them while inside another piece of your heart has died. You couldn’t stay pregnant and now you can’t even get pregnant yet here is everyone else blissfully unaware of your journey and struggle you are enduring. Making a family was supposed to be easy. I mean that’s what a woman’s body is made to do.  -Ally

In April 2020, after 19 long and difficult months of struggling to find the hope and strength to continue, Ally and Denis were overjoyed to welcome their second son Oakley. He is absolutely perfect indeed!

Pictured above is Oakley wearing Ally’s Rainbow Rose Seed necklace from Seeded Hope: “Storms can be long and dark. But the beauty that comes after a storm can be brilliant. There are two ends of a rainbow. One side is where it all began and the other is today. Both ends of the rainbow are just as beautiful. But attached together they display a journey that paints a gorgeous picture of strength, heartbreak, and joy. Celebrating the days that have brought you here. A journey that lead straight to you.”

It was important for Ally and Denis to be a part of the Extraordinary Love Project so that they could share their experience with others in an effort to raise awareness about pregnancy loss and secondary infertility and to also share hope with others.  

Sometimes it’s hard to see the rainbow when there’s been endless days of rain and it’s hard to wait around for something you know might never happen but it’s even harder to give up when you know it’s everything you want. -Ally

2 month old baby posed at the end of a rainbow

From Ally and Denis to those with similar struggles:

Where I found hope, humour and a whole lot of great information was on Instagram and Facebook following @hilariously_infertile. Karen says what we are all thinking and can make you cry and laugh and see that even in that darkness there is some light. Her content is super relatable. 

Some of the other blogs and Instagrammers I chose to follow are The Fertility Tribe @thefertilitytribe and Fertility Matters @Fertility_Canada. I found these were just the right combination of fact, myth busting, relatable content, and truth. Not all fertility journeys end in a baby and for me it was refreshing to read such truths.  I also loved the rawness of many of the posts. Families shared their vulnerabilities, their stories, their truths and it gave me the strength to keep going on our journey and the courage to want to find a way to normalize infertility and loss. There is no reason to hide it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of but so many of us feel that it is. 

For Denis, he really appreciated the detailed explanations and pamphlets given to us by the Ottawa Fertility Clinic explaining the available options and how we would progress through the steps as necessary. Both Denis and I would encourage anyone who thinks they may be suffering with infertility to have a candid conversation with their doctor and advocate for themselves. There is absolutely no reason to suffer in silence.  Doing your research is a key part of how to navigate through your infertility journey. Prior to my own experiences I was quite ignorant to the various tests and options available. It is really quite amazing what a little hope and some science can do. For people struggling with infertility I would recommend learning as much as possible about the different methods available to conceive, that way from early on you can determine what you’re willing to do. Sometimes drugs like Femara can be all the science you need, other times procedures like IUI or IVF may be required. The sooner you understand what each option entails the sooner you can work with your doctor to create a plan that you’re comfortable with. Every option has a varying level of commitment and timing is key. You learn so much about your reproductive system and how to use your body’s cues. The OFC in particular gave a very well rounded package explaining different fertility treatments. I can honestly say my doctor in particular was absolutely wonderful – I could call anytime or book an appointment to discuss anything and everything. There was never a push to do anything I wasn’t comfortable with, only a helping hand to get us on the right path to grow our family.

Finding comfort and hope

The necklace we used in our photos is from a Canadian company called Seeded Hope. They make jewellery in honour of loss and infertility and the pieces are designed to help promote hope and healing. The company arose from the creator’s own journey through loss and infertility. My necklace specifically is for a rainbow baby. It’s called a rainbow rose seed and it honours the storm we weathered to welcome our little quarantini to our family. It represents the strength, heartbreak and joy of your rainbow.  It comes from one of the three friends I let in on our struggles to grow our family who also herself struggles with infertility.  

The other memento I hold onto is a frame I have from maybe my 1st communion – one of those Precious Moments ceramics. I’ve never been overly religious but this piece has always stuck with me and helped me through the toughest of times. I’ve had it since I can remember. It has a poem about faith: “Believing all your dreams come true…take steps down paths anew. Faith is a journey of hope and love, a blessing sent from up above.”  This was my mantra on the toughest of days and somehow it helped to recenter me.