Kerrie Cooper’s story from June 2018’s theme “Parents.”
We were 32, my husband and I, when we decided to start our family. In doing the math, that gave me 72 chances to get pregnant before I turned 38. It was a seemingly endless amount of possibilities.
We wanted a girl most of all. We had already named her Isabella, and hoped with all our might that she would have his curly hair and my brown eyes.
Because I was certain it wouldn’t be long before I was pregnant, I turned my focus to how I would surprise Michael with the news. I decided to sing him Danny’s Song by Kenny Loggins. It held special meaning to us both. We would drive around in his jeep with the top down on some winding country road on a summer day with no particular place to be and no particular time to return; singing it out loud, unabashedly attempting some harmony around “even though we ain’t got money, I’m so in love with you honey…” and I would have to stop singing for the tears that closed my throat. It was the perfect choice.
During an annual exam I mentioned to my ob-gyn that I had stopped taking birth control and we were trying to get pregnant. She congratulated me and asked how long it had been. “Over a year,” I said. She paused, looking over her clipboard and said, “Well if that’s the case we need to run some tests to make sure you aren’t infertile.”
I didn’t hear anything after the word “infertile.” My ears started ringing – high pitched and thunderous at the same time. I blurted out “Ok” but I was farthest thing from ok. First comes the denial. Then fear. It’s the fear that will get you.
Although the tests were inconclusive, I was given the label “unexplained infertility,” and advised that the best way to get pregnant was through medical intervention. And this began what would be eight years of infertility treatments and drugs; and thousands upon thousands of dollars to have a baby.
The journey shattered everything I had hoped to believe in: Like a body that works; insurance that wouldn’t fail me; a medical system that cares; and doctors who have all the answers.
I had no option but to trust the course in front of me, because why pursue it if I am not going to believe with every fiber of my being, with every wish on a candle, with every silent prayer, with every tearful plea, in its success? It was a game that offered no preparation but I agreed to play anyway to achieve one of the most desired outcomes that two people who love each other often want: a baby. To create another human life. To do with our bodies what they were intended to do.
I began to go through a vicious cycle. Daily injections and scheduled sex and blood draws and the grand finale of semen into a jar, hyper-spun and cleaned and then injected inside of my uterus with hopes that these super swimmers would find my plethora of jacked-up eggs, collide and stick around to grow as one.
Then I waited for the phone call with the results of my blood test. Even though I had, of course, snuck in two home pregnancy tests, my eyes bored onto the strip of paper willing a line to appear, and when one does not, I convince myself that it was too early anyway. The phone call from the nurse is all business, “Sorry. It’s negative.”
I didn’t recover easily. As it went on, I actually didn’t recover at all, only I didn’t realize it. We averaged six cycles a year for eight years. I had eleven surgeries. Insurance stopped covering anything below my boobs. Not that they were paying any of these expenses anyway. It was all out of pocket.
I could no longer be in the presence of babies. Most times I would merely tear up, but others I would sob uncontrollably, and I had zero control over it. People either got the woman with tears dropping quietly or a crazy lady crying the ugly cry with snot dripping down her nose. I couldn’t walk by a Baby Gap in the mall and I sent “regrets only” to every baby shower I was invited to. Everywhere I looked I saw babies and babies saw me, staring right at me, their beautiful innocent eyes looking right through me. Not one of my friends with children understood – how could they? It was the single most isolating experience of my life.
Slowly, my husband and I drifted apart as if on separate rafts in the ocean riding two different currents. Undetectable at all until we looked up and saw how far apart we actually were.
Questioning everything, we began to explore anything. Fertility goddesses, healers, diets, vitamins – anything that held promise. I went to a Maori Indian healer from New Zealand, asking for Papa as I had been instructed to, only to be informed, “Papa only goes where he is needed.” At the end of my session I would find myself surrounded by every healer in the room, Papa at my feet. My body was vibrating so strongly from their energy I could have sworn I was levitating.
I called a priest, an acupuncturist and a psychic in the course of an hour one day and I met with each one. From the priest I asked forgiveness for divorcing my first husband. Still under the sway of my catholic upbringing, I had convinced myself that I was being punished by God for the divorce.
The acupuncturist, who I went to weekly for a year, gave me the type of period she said women are supposed to have: pain and symptom free.
The psychic gave me hope: telling me I would not be denied a child; there was a little girl coming to me and she is beautiful and lively. She would be an answered prayer, but comes to me in an unexpected way. I hung onto her every word. I so wanted to believe her.
Depression hit me hard, but when I came out of it, I wanted to pursue adoption. Michael was still grappling with his emotions. Once we worked through the collateral damage of the years preceding we arrived at this one irrefutable fact: we wanted to be parents. We attended adoption conferences and met with agencies, one of which took our deposit but rejected us, and lined up an attorney to help with the search. Five months later, I got a phone call from our lawyer: “There’s a woman in Pennsylvania and she has chosen you to be the parents of her unborn baby.” And then, “Kerrie? Kerrie? Are you there?” On the other end of the line all I could do was nod my head silently, I was crying too hard to answer.
We flew out to meet her. I wanted to know the woman who was making this ultimate sacrifice for us. She lived in a poor area of town. It was sobering to take in her reality—heartbreaking really. After a few awkward exchanges, we suggested lunch and headed out to Ruby Tuesday, one of the only “sit-down” (her words) restaurants in the area.
Michael and I made nervous chatter in the car. I kept stealing glances at her. She was tiny, really tiny, and her belly was huge. I had to fight the urge to touch it. We stopped outside the restaurant so she could smoke. It crushed me to watch her.
As we entered the restaurant, Michael approached the hostess stand. I took two steps towards him and stopped dead in my tracks. Michael turned back to look at me and saw my distress. My face had contorted in way that was all too familiar to him and tears started falling. “Honey, what’s wrong?” I could only say his name, “Michael.” I grabbed his hand, squeezing it hard. I felt like everyone around us froze like a still frame in a movie as Michael and I stood there, facing each other and holding hands. I didn’t need to say anything else. It took him just a moment to cock his head upward and hear the music: “People smile and tell me I’m the lucky one. Life’s just begun. Think I’m gonna have a son. He will be like you and me, as free as a dove…”
Here in Lebanon Pennsylvania, 10 years later, we are with the woman who would give us a child. And Danny’s Song, the song I had wanted to sing to my husband to tell him the news about our baby, was playing in the restaurant.
We moved her in with us for the last months of the pregnancy. I couldn’t imagine not caring for her; she was giving us everything we dreamed of. After three months, Michael and I watched our daughter, Isabella Maria DeMay, being born here in Nashville. Her middle name to honor the woman who brought her to us. She has my husband’s curly hair and my brown eyes.
Finally, exactly the way it was always supposed to be, we were parents.
Kerrie L. Cooper is the founder and author of Kindred; building an online library of true stories to heal, inspire and encourage. Kindred is also an online shop full of merchandise that collects profits for one-to-one giving to those who find themselves in an unexpected time of need.