Dale and I met on December 2, 2011. We were both single and a mutual friend set us up. I can still remember having hot curlers in my hair as I was getting ready for our first date when someone knocked on the door. It was Dale! He came by earlier than planned to surprise me, but I was mortified! That’s just his personality — he thinks he’s funny (ok, so he is) and it has kept me on my toes ever since.
We totally hit it off on day one. Between all of our common interests, mutual experiences, and natural chemistry, it was clear on that December day that I had met my soulmate. We’ve been together ever since, and just recently celebrated our 9th anniversary together.
Dale and I totally enjoy the homebody lifestyle with a good dinner and the occasional Grey’s Anatomy binge. And on the other hand, we equally love spending time with our family and friends. Dale plays on a softball team, and I’m right there cheering for him from the stands as his number one fan.
We wanted a family someday, someway, somehow. And we hoped that even at the age of 45, we would get lucky by conceiving our dream child naturally.
Pfft! We couldn’t begin to fathom the road ahead of us.
Soulmates in search of a child
Dale and I knew we were in the last years of trying to have a baby and didn’t want to waste any more time. We began trying in the summer of 2015, and about 7 months later, we still weren’t having any success.
We had actually gotten pregnant right before we sought help, but had no idea. Due to my age and egg quality, we miscarried at 9 weeks. We knew we needed to initiate testing and get help if we wanted to make this baby happen.
To be candid, we had spent thousands of dollars over a 5-year period trying to get pregnant. We first sought help from a clinic near our home. They performed an egg quality test and deemed it possible to get pregnant with intrauterine insemination (IUI) treatment. Well, five IUIs later, and we still weren’t getting anywhere. It was at that time that they referred us to Shady Grove Fertility to seek more advanced fertility treatment.
When I was 46 years of age, we met with Dr. Stephanie Beall who felt our best option would be donor egg treatment. We felt pretty helpless and hopeless after each failed IUI, so to know there were still options gave us light at the end of the tunnel again. We had no reservations about using an egg donor — we just wanted to fulfill our dream of having a child.
Unfortunately, our donor egg treatment ended with a failed cycle. Our dreams of having a baby had finally come to an end financially.
Or so we thought.
The granted gift of another chance
One day, I found myself on the SGF website and stumbled across their grants listed on the Affording Care page. I asked Dr. Beall, about them, and she had such great faith in my health and our future that she encouraged Dale and me to keep trying and apply for a Cade Foundation Family Building grant!
We applied twice: once in 2018, and then again in 2019. By the grace of God, the Cade Foundation and SGF saw something special in us and we were selected to receive the Dr. Stephen Greenhouse Grant in the amount of $10,000 in the fall of 2019.
I still remember receiving the call from Dr. Camille Hammond with the Cade Foundation. I answered the phone, and she asked to speak with Dale and me together. In that moment, I had an overwhelming feeling that our luck was about to change. I quickly went to hunt down Dale! We both got on the phone, but could hardly bear the anxiety that filled the room. On the other end of the line, Dr. Hammond’s sweet voice handed us the greatest gift we’ll ever receive (aside from our now living and breathing son)…the ability to try one more time! God had answered our prayers and used the Cade Foundation and SGF as a conduit. .
The lows along our fertility journey were low, and when we finally had a high, it was hard to believe and we didn’t want to allow ourselves to feel “it.”
With every attempt to have a child — be it natural conception or with treatment — we felt utterly defeated. Our age, specifically mine, was causing additional stress because our fertility window was closing. The whole process on every level was totally out of our control, and that was really difficult for me to manage.
For some reason, infertility is a very lonely experience because I believe most couples, specifically women, feel like we can’t talk about it publicly. I was very private about my experiences because I didn’t want to have to keep sharing losses or having to explain our treatment path or decisions. And above anything else, I didn’t want to hear myself say out loud that another attempt didn’t work with diminishing hope.
I was beyond the age of using my own eggs, and our best chance for having a healthy baby was to move ahead once more with donor egg treatment. While our first cycle was unsuccessful, Dale and I leaned heavily on the expertise of Dr. Beall to assist with finding the right donor for us. After a bit of research and adjustments to treatment — BINGO! — we found our perfect match.
After a successful transfer, I remember sitting on the couch on Good Friday 2020, thinking about the soft twinges I was feeling in my uterus. Was this wishful thinking, or was there something actually growing inside of me? I prayed that this was my way of knowing the embryo was implanting.
In the midst of my mind wandering, my phone rang. It was our nurse, Denita Morrison, calling.
“Stephanie…I have good news.”
That’s all I had to hear! The tears started streaming down my face as Denita and I had a celebratory cry. After we hung up, I sat for a few more minutes in utter disbelief. I called Dale to share the news with him. Now, Dale always has a way of making me laugh, but when told him that we were pregnant, he was completely speechless! Good Friday will always be a special day for many reasons now.
When we were in the safe zone of pregnancy, I finally announced the wonderful news on social media. Even at 8-months pregnant, I was nervous that if I publicly shared the news any sooner, I would somehow jinx the pregnancy.
I now regret not allowing myself to feel all the ebbs and flows of pregnancy because I spent much of it in fear. But when I shared the news and our journey on Facebook, the overwhelming support from our friend base near and wide was beyond my wildest dreams. It was incredible to learn that our story was a relatable one for others, too.
Hope comes in many forms
Dr. Beall, our friends, family, our faith, the Cade Foundation, and the Dr. Stephen Greenhouse Grant all gave us hope.
Dr. Beall gave us hope that a baby was possible. Friends and family gave us the love and encouragement we needed when we had bad or good news. Our faith gave us hope that it was all in God’s hands and we would accept our fate. The Cade Foundation gave us an extended family that knew EXACTLY what we were enduring and a safe haven. We didn’t have to explain or expand upon our pain or experiences — they understood it all. The Dr. Stephen Greenhouse Grant gave us the hope to try one more time! Without that grant, our son wouldn’t be here today.
We are now proud parents of a healthy little boy. It still brings tears to my eyes when I look at him. I dreamed of hearing the first cry from the life I nurtured inside of me.
For as long as I live, I’ll never forget December 4, 2020 — laying on the table after an emergency C-section, watching Dale’s face for signs our son was okay, then hearing DJ cry. There were no greater tears shed than in that moment.
All the years trying, all the money spent, all the failed attempts and losses, the subchorionic bleed in my first trimester, the gestational diabetes I developed, the dozen or so extra ultrasounds I needed for being high risk, were all worth it in that moment.
We are forever indebted and grateful for SGF, the Cade Foundation, the Greenhouse family, and now Capital Women’s Care for getting us through the last hurdle of delivery. I am still hopeful that one day we can meet the Greenhouse family, to introduce them to D.J. who is living and breathing solely due to their generosity and the generosity of many Cade Foundation donors — a true honor to Dr. Greenhouse’s memory. We were the first recipient of this particular grant, and that is very special to us.
Dale and I were just another couple where many can empathize with similar stories: met, fell in love, and wanted to have a baby, but quickly learned that it’s not so easy. We are not yet married but decided financially that our need/desire for a baby was vital and far greater due to our age. Marriage could come later. We just really had no idea how long the road ahead would be. How trying it would be. And fortunately for us, we weathered the storms together, bringing us closer together than ever before.
D.J. is truly a gift from God, and our little Miracle. We call him the Million Dollar Miracle Baby. I tell him all the time how many people dreamed him into fruition/life and love him.
Dale and I still look at him and can’t believe he’s real — that we now have this family. It feels so natural, so meant to be. We are an older couple and are doing things backwards according to the “norm,” but that gives us more appreciation and gratitude for what we have.
Words of encouragement and support to people along similar paths
Don’t give up, even when it feels completely hopeless.
There will be other options waiting for you behind any closed door. Now I know that a baby can come in many forms: IUI, IVF, donation (egg, embryo, and sperm), surrogacy, adoption, or fostering.
It is important to establish a support system and lean on them in the good or bad moments. If you haven’t had to experience assistance with fertility, it can be hard to comprehend. It’s your journey, and don’t let anyone deter you. If you have someone in your life (or an extended connection) who has been through a similar experience, talk with them! I met so many people not just through the Cade Foundation, but through extensions of friends or family, and even while waiting in doctor’s offices.
And the most important takeaway, if you are financially unable to continue your fertility journey, I strongly encourage you to apply for a grant. We are proof that it can happen for you, too.