National Infertility Week: Hello from the other side

The Gift of Life Welcomes guest blogger Jen Labriola  sharing her story in with us during Infertility Awareness Week.

I’m one of the lucky ones to not only survive a troublesome pregnancy that resulted in premature twins born at 28 weeks but also enduring eight years of infertility. At face value, it seems I was dealt a bad hand along the lines of fertility. Coming from a family of accidental pregnancies, my Fertile Myrtle mother who with contraceptive onboard still got pregnant with me, you’d think I’d inherit that trait.

Nope! Infertility isn’t inherited, it just happens. Just like a premature baby, sometimes, things just happen. It’s how you deal with these little setbacks that define your success and outlook. As I dealt with my twins in the NICU, with positivity, I dealt with my infertility the same way.

I’m a veteran in infertility and have been through nearly every procedure. I’ve shoved needles into myself for IVF, I’ve curled my fingers around the edge of a table as the searing pain of yet another test to see what was going on in my uterus, and I’ve prayed hard after procedures. I would hold a straight face with bad news, and then bravely ask, “Okay, what’s next?” I’ve researched what 0% APR credit cards I could use to pay for the procedures because my insurance didn’t cover infertility.  I’d spent enough money to buy two cars.

While many of my friends, who also are infertile, would quit, I decided I would do everything in my power to get pregnant and if after three IVF tries, I didn’t get pregnant, I would quit. So after my first real IVF, I couldn’t wait the two weeks and took a pregnancy test four days before my scheduled blood test at the IVF clinic. I took the pregnancy test that morning, it showed one lowly line (negative) and I tossed it in the trash. That same day, after work, I was complaining to my husband about how I’d never get pregnant and how much money we are wasting, in a fit, I dug the test from the garbage to show my husband. In that, I noticed a second line, a faint second positive line. I was pregnant.

So, to those who are going through infertility, my only advice is to be positive. I tried not to wallow in the negative, bad news. My first words after bad news were always, “what’s next?” I also researched everything, I read message boards, and I became my own expert in the field. Doctors, nurses and the like are not the end-all in what they say. In exchange, you must own your own journey. You must make the decisions, the ideas and not depend on the medical field wholly. This goes with anything medical; I did the same research for my troublesome pregnancy and NICU babies.

Positivity is what has always been and is my goal; I spoke in terms of when I’d get pregnant and not if I’d get pregnant. In terms of my troublesome pregnancy, I had to get to 28 weeks for my babies to be viable, so I told the doctor I’d get to 28 weeks, it was my goal, and it was everything. I was positive, even in the negative news, I followed my intuition. I just knew things would work out regardless of my doctor’s ideas on what could happen. Could is the key word here because no one knows what the outcome will be. So go by your gut feeling, you know deep inside the answers if you listen to your intuition.

So in this week of awareness, this epidemic of infertility that finally is coming out from behind the curtain, I am in the hopes that those putting up the good fight for infertility insurance coverage, for men’s infertility issues and a better understanding of this hugely growing need, continue to make traction. Those dealing with, succeeding or moving on from, infertility issues, it undoubtedly leaves a mark on your life. It’s up to you to make such an emotional experience as something that was part of your life or as something that has defined your life.

For me, this is my past; it’s not part of my definition of me anymore. My twins, my own determination, my own success is defined in the positivity of my future. Still, always optimistic, I am cheering for you, you the infertile, you the premature mother, and essentially you.

Thank you, Jen, for sharing your story with The Gift of Life.  Jen is a graphics artist and dedicates her time to the Gift of Life doing graphics and being a preemie mentor to other preemie moms!

Visit Jen’s profile

The Gift of Life

Photographing What You Don’t Have

The Gift of Life supports premature babies and their parents through the NICU journey, but what happens when you can’t conceive?

The Gift of Life Welcomes guest blogger Rinat Halon sharing her story in with us during Infertility Awareness Week.

“I recently interviewed a client to create a Photo Marketing Strategy for her business. I asked her, “What is the most incredible experience you’ve ever had?” After a long pause, she said, “I have a hard time answering that because the most incredible experience I’ve ever had was giving birth to my children, but I know you cannot have children, so it’s very hard to share with you.” I thanked her for caring and showing empathy, but I asked her to go ahead and share this truly incredible experience with me anyway.

My life has been divided into 2 parts; before I knew I could not have children and after. As a teenager and young woman, my life plan was to get married and have two children; specifically, a boy named Jonathan and a girl named Natalie. Not too many people know this, but I quit my Walt Disney Imagineer in-house photographer job not just because of shifts in our department, but really because I was ready to make my dream a reality and become a mother. I wanted to raise my children and be a stay-at-home mom. I had decided that the best way to do that was to work from home as a photographer.

This dream came to a complete stop the day I was diagnosed with early menopause at age 34 years young as my ex-husband and I were trying to conceive. My life changed forever.  As you can imagine, this diagnosis took a toll not just on my health, but on my life and emotional being.   At 35, I was divorced, dealing with a complex and rare medical condition, which I had to figure out how to treat, and I still needed to make a living as a photographer. Photographing weddings. And maternity. And newborns. As my grandfather used to say: Oy yoy yoy, roughly translated as “oh dear God.”

Soon after being diagnosed with early menopause, it took all I had to get through these portrait sessions of pregnant moms and newborns. After the beautifully glowing pregnant women left my studio, I would cry as I was editing their photographs. Photographing newborns ironically sent me into the fetal position on the floor crying my eyes out, it was too much.

Ten years later, I am, first of all, healthy. In the 10 years that passed since that moment I got the call that changed my life, I have been lucky enough (and stubborn enough) to change my life for the better and make the best of it–-as it is. On this journey, I was fortunate to be so loved that I was able to heal from the pain and do what I do best: Turn the pain into an opportunity.  The opportunity to capture the cycle of life through my portrait clients. After 18 years of photographing professionally, I know now photography is more than my profession and passion. It is my calling.

Today, one-third of my photography business revenue comes from maternity and newborn clients. The thing is I realized that there is a gift in this pain of not being able to have children and facing a beautiful newborn from behind my camera. It is the gift of living what you don’t have through capturing the beauty of it for others. Being part of the experience of welcoming a new life into this world–literally, over and over and over again–creates peace in my heart. And seeing my clients’ eyes well up with joyful tears as they look through the proofs from their maternity or newborn session, I know in my heart that it is not just that I am receiving the gift of this experience from my clients, but also that I am able to give them a gift: the gift of the energy of all my unfulfilled hopes and dreams to become a mother. I can’t explain it in words, but I know that this energy brings so much love into the portraits I am creating for my clients that it shows in the photographs.

A friend who just gave birth to her second child called me this morning to share the birth experience with me. We cried together, tears of pain and joy combined. “If I could give you anything from motherhood,” she said to me “it is the joy of that moment of seeing your baby for the first time.”

After we said goodbye, I walked into my studio’s sales room, where I have photographs of my clients hanging as samples for other clients to see. Michael, Cathy and David’s newborn’s sample photo was sitting on the chair waiting for me to hang it. I looked up and saw all of my other clients’ maternity and baby pictures I have hanging on the walls and felt the love surrounding me. Sometimes, things don’t work out the way we plan it, yet life, in all of its miraculous glory, always finds a way.”

To see some of Rinat’s maternity, newborn, family, and wedding portraits go to

If you want more information about early menopause, I have created a facebook page with resources I found that helped me through my healing journey. CLICK HERE for more info.

Guest Blogger: Rinat Halon

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