When I first started out in the photography business, I e-mailed a few photographers to see if any of them would help me learn. Jen Fauset was one of the incredibly generous photographers who helped me in any way she could. And Cherise is her sister. You’ll quickly see Cherise is incredible. She’s been through a lot, but she’s incredibly positive and has such a great outlook on life. I asked her some pretty personal questions and she graciously answered them all.
I’m amazed by all the women (and their spouse’s and partners) who have to face infertility in one form or another. If I could give every single one of them a baby, oh how I would. And though I trust in God completely, this is one thing that would be incredibly hard to face.
1. Give me a quick peek at your story.
I’m a wife, painter, pencil-artist, self-made quilter, receptionist and collector of Blue Willow china. ‘Mom’ is the title I have not yet been able to claim. My husband, Bryce, and I have been married for almost 7 beautiful years, 6 ½ of which we’ve been praying for a baby to come into our home. We’ve undergone fertility treatments, including IVF (with three rounds of Frozen Embryo transfers), one failed attempt and two heart-wrenching miscarriages before and after. Because of complications during the stimulation process (Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome), we decided together to forego more treatment and move forward with Adoption—which we are extremely excited about! We just got our Home Study approval and our Adoption Profile on www.adoption.com just went public!
2. Tell me about an “every day moment” you are grateful for.
I’m grateful for a husband who fills my car with gas every time it’s low. I think I’ve only had to fill my tank ten times in the last five years. It’s not something I asked him to do. Just something he makes sure he does because he can and I love him all the more for it. So every time I see that full tank my heart jumps that I somehow landed such a thoughtful man.
3. What is one ambition you have right now?
I’m working on being able to grow my art/quilting business to be able to stay at home with our one-day little ones.
4. If you could speak on anything to a large group of women, what would you talk about?
The beauty of trials and how they actually make our lives so worth living. I wouldn’t have the relationship I have with my Savior, Jesus Christ, if not for infertility and even my miscarriages. We may not always be able to see the beauty in the midst of the fire but I know, so well, that we were each given our trials for a reason. Our lives are made so rich by the struggles we each face every day.
5. What does the phrase “create a good life story” mean to you?
It actually reminds me of the movie, Up. It’s one of the favorites at my house (we love Disney movies). The first four minutes of the movie is Carl and Ellie’s life story. Although they face obstacles—infertility, financial struggles and never even reaching their biggest dream—they created a life together that they loved. They enjoyed what they did have and did it together.
What makes a ‘good life story’ isn’t about the niceness of your house or if you have a million followers on Pinterest or if you have the perfect family. Instead it’s the happiness and joy you find in those things you do have and especially in the relationships with those around you.
6. Tell me something someone taught you that made an impact on your life.
This is actually a recent one for me, I’m a little ashamed to admit. I’ve always felt I was a spiritual person and had a good relationship with God. I’ve read my scriptures and prayed regularly since I was in middle school.
But recently, in my research online about adoption, I came across a blog of a woman who has adopted four of her children from Africa. But it wasn’t the adoptions that changed me. It was her daily, hourly relationship with God and Jesus Christ that impacted me. Her deep, constant study of the scriptures and the amount of herself that she puts into her relationship with Christ was so touching and moving to me that I’ve made some big changes with my own study and prayers. I’m feeling closer to Him than I have in years. And it wasn’t anything ground breaking that she did or said; it was just her example of dedication and feasting on the Word of God that touched my heart and gave me a hunger for more of Him in my life.
7. Name one event in your life that has made a significant impact on the course of your life story.
The day Bryce started flying helicopters. We had looked into it for so long and wondered for a long time if it would even happen. But the day he started we both knew it was what he was meant to do. It makes him so happy. And if he’s happy, I’m happy. We’ll have a different life-style than I grew up with (it’s definitely not an 8-5 m-f kind of career) and one that will probably move us around the country a lot. But I’m really excited about that. We love new places and meeting new people!
8. What is something you want to accomplish you haven’t yet?
Getting my Bachelor’s Degree. I’m only a year away from getting my Bachelor of Art Degree in Drawing and Painting…I don’t know when I’ll do it but I want to!
9. What is the biggest lesson you have learned from your battle with infertility?
To enjoy what you have now. If I allowed myself to, I could cry every single day about what I lack and what I desire that has been denied me over and over again. I’ve heard infertility described like rain—always coming down. Sometimes just in the background of your every day life and other times pouring so hard it changes everthing in your day.
It would be easy to cry over it every day. And while crying can be a productive, healthy way to express and release emotions, it’s not something you can wallow in. There is so much that I have now that I am so so grateful for. I have an amazing marriage with a husband that I truly don’t deserve. We love to travel and play and discover new things. We’ve been able to get him through school and pay off a lot of debt. We have so much freedom right now.
Yes, I would trade it in a second for crumbs on the kitchen floor and lack of sleep and food fingerprints on my new dress. But I need to enjoy the clean, quiet, full-of-love house we already have! I don’t want to get to the other side of infertility and look back wishing I had enjoyed my hubby more or wishing I had just recognized all the blessings and beauty of my life then.
10. What are you most proud of?
I’ve always hating going to the doctor…I guess, who doesn’t? But when we got to the point where there was obviously something wrong when we weren’t getting pregnant, I avoided going for so long. I.did.not.want.to.go.
More time passed and it got to the point that there was no avoiding it. I couldn’t complain about my situation if I wasn’t willing to do the work. So I went. Fast forward a couple of years…..I finally ended up at the right clinic with a doctor who listened and who actually had me get the tests I needed.
Prior to my diagnosis we had decided that because of our private personalities and also being tight on money, that we wouldn’t do any huge treatments. I was actually pretty opposed to doing them myself. They were fine for other people but not for me!
After hearing the diagnosis and the odds and the options….I cried. And we talked and prayed. A.Lot. I talked to my sisters too. (Especially my sister who had already gone through years of infertility herself. She stayed up talking with me til past 3AM one night, talking me through all the emotions raging through my heart).
I had found out that I had been born with a Unicornuate Uterus. You’re saying Uni-whaaat? Don’t worry, so did we! Pretty much, I have only half a uterus, with only one fallopian tube. While developing as a fetus, the two sides of the uterus form separately and then join together to form one wide cavity. But mine only ever developed one half. While this is not common, it still has lots of different kids—just depends on at what stage the development was disrupted. In many ways, I got lucky and many others….not so much. We celebrated when we found out I did still have both ovaries and both kidneys!
But essentially it meant several things:
-No surgical cure.
-Most likely never get pregnant without medical help.
-Barely enough room for one baby….no multiples allowed
-Once pregnant, it would be
-would not go full term (36 week delivery is the longest usually)
-the baby would be breach
As overwhelming as the diagnosis and its ramifications were, we were ready to take it on. Soon our prayers were answered and we knew IVF was what we were supposed to do. Despite all our previously deep reservations and oppositions, we made the decision and moved forward.
That’s what I’m most proud of. We did something we did.not.want.to.do.at.all because we knew it was right.
We haven’t looked back since.
11. What is the best parenting advice/tip someone gave you?
Children are people too! They come with their own personalities and their own experiences and lives. Your treatment of them, your tutoring of them, your love for them affects their life story. You are raising a person. Sometimes when they’re little and can’t do a lot for themselves or can’t understand everything it’s easy to forget that they are being molded and shaped every day by you. They need as much understanding and forgiveness as we ask others to give us.
12. Tell me something you are sure of
Everyone is going through something hard. Or if they aren’t right now, they just climbed their mountain or are just about to start climbing. Don’t ever feel alone in your struggles because, more than likely, if you open up about your struggles, you’ll find five other people struggling with the same thing.
13. What is your favorite quote or your life motto?
“Life is a beautiful struggle.”
14. What types of photographs do you wish you had more of?
I guess just printed photos! I’m a slacker and don’t get my photos printed often enough! I will say though, I AM really proud that I documented so so well our fertility treatments with photos! Despite what our outcome would be I wanted to have proof that I did all those shots and took all that medication and had all that blood drawn. So now I do! It helps me remember I can do hard things.
15. What is something you do to help drive away fear or anxiety?
Making a conscious decision to fight it. Specifically and intentionally choosing certain things to do to make myself happy or more at peace.
The ones that make the biggest difference for me: Prayer. Scripture study. Being honest about my feelings. And being productive.
16. Tell me something about yourself that may surprise people
I clean when I’m mad/frustrated. The more mad (or the more I’m trying to push away a difficult emotion) I am the harder and deeper I clean. It’s actually a really productive way to vent my frustration without taking it out on anyone else. Plus, Bryce likes it because it’s a sure-fire way to know something’s up.
17. Are there any unexpected positive outcomes from your infertility journey?
I have Two:
1. I’ve met So. Many. Amazing. Women. that I never would have met otherwise…..or at least, I wouldn’t have gotten to know them in such deep ways. I’ve met women through my blog, www.cheriselarue.blogspot.com. Several women found it by Google searching my diagnosis or the other infertility struggles. And because of that, I’ve had the privilege of talking regularly with them through their journeys to become mothers. I’ve met amazing women through friends of friends….many of them were very clearly the hand of God working to bring hearts together during such difficult times.
2. The beautiful experiences in my marriage.
-The first time I was admitted to the hospital for complications: We had just done the egg retrieval in our first IVF cycle (where, after weeks of medications and shots, they remove all the eggs from the ovaries). I had had more bleeding than is normal during the procedure and then I began showing signs of severe Ovarian Hyper Stimulation Syndrome (where your abdomen fills with fluid and presses on your organs and lungs). As I was being admitted and hooked up to an IV and strong pain medication, I overheard Bryce explaining to a friend over the phone what had happened…my big strong take-care-of-everything husband was scared for me. I think my heart grew and broke all at once for the love I felt for him when his voice cracked over the words to explain my pain.
-On top of being hospitalized twice, instead of going back to the clinic five days later to have one of our embryos transferred safely back into my womb, we had cancel and freeze all of our dozen embryo-babes and we weren’t able to go back for five months because the stimulation had wreaked such havoc on by body. (I remember saying in my head over and over “no no no no no. This is not how this is supposed to be! Please….no….”
So as we returned home from the hospital, I was prescribed a medication that would have to be administered in my stomach every day to decrease the size of my ovaries and to bring all my hormone levels back down. I felt like it was just un-doing what we had worked so long and hard for. I was so angry and devastated to have had to leave my babies at the clinic 45 minutes away and not knowing how long it would be before I could go back for them. So Bryce gave me the shot every day for a week because he knew how it broke my heart. I couldn’t even look at the needles and medication. Without me ever asking, he took over all of it—to save my heart. Because of all the horrible moments we’ve experienced, our hearts can communicate better than words ever could.
-Then, finally, five months later, we got to return for our embryos! After an embryo is returned safely to the womb, you do Progesterone shots every day to increase the lining of the uterus to give the baby a nice cushion to settle into. Bryce (who, I will remind you, hates the sight of blood and needles) took over administering the shots—again—when I had to use a two-inch needle in my hip (pretty much the booty!) every morning and he had steadier hands than I ever did.
And each time, he would pull that sucked out of my skin and pull me into a hug and tell me how much he hated stabbing me. It made me laugh through it all.
I would never ever give us those unexpected blessings for an easier, simpler life.
18. What is something that motivates you?
I couldn’t think of the answer to this one and I asked my husband. He says it would be Chocolate.
And for fun:
Favorite book: Non-Fiction: Every Bitter Thing is Sweet (Sara Hagerty).
Fiction: Edenbrook (Julianne Donaldson)
Favorite family tradition: Celebrating every Friday the 13th. We got married on a Friday the thirteenth and consider it a lucky and blessed day for us!
Talent you wish you had: Singing. I enjoy music so so much but can only carry a tune marginally. I would love to be able to just belt it out and actually have it sound nice!
Favorite meal: Mom’s roast and mashed potatoes. Reminds me of Sundays growing up.
Favorite thing to do: Travel to new places with hubby
If you never had to do one specific thing again, what would it be: Clean bathtubs/showers
Favorite show on TV: Parenthood (I’m completely heartbroken that the show got canceled…I’m in denial)
Something that scares you: Heights. (but only specific heights. I love flying in the helicopter with Bryce with the doors off, I love flying with my father in law doing his crazy stunts. But get me on a roof or the edge of a cliff and I’ll cry)
Something you can’t live without: Pretzel M&Ms for sure. Bryce and I are both addicted. Seriously.
What’s something you think about often: The babes we want to adopt here in the states and from Madagascar. I wonder if they’ve been born yet and if they’re safe and how long it will be before we can bring them home.
Thank you SO much for doing this Cherise.
Cherise is an incredible artist and creates hand-drawn portraits from photographs. You can find more info here.
Cherise and her husband Bryce are also looking to adopt. You can check out their adoption profile here!
If you want to read more “Real Life Stories–Women of Inspiration” interviews, head to the “Real Stories” tab in the menu bar and scroll down to read more interviews. Lots of incredible women with inspiring answers.