Charissa Maternity

Jun 11, 2018 | Blog, Family

Friends, I can’t tell you how excited I am to share this post with you. I recently had the privilege of doing a maternity session for my sister, Charissa, with her husband, Justin, and my adorable nephew, Jonah. Charissa’s journey to carrying this baby was one that they weren’t sure was possible. They have walked a long road and I felt no one could share their journey better than Charissa herself.


“My husband, Justin, and I started down the path of infertility in 2012.  We got a diagnosis very quickly, unlike many people who experience infertility. In speaking with our doctor we were assured that it would take an “easy” IVF cycle to help us get pregnant.  After much deliberation, we decided to pursue an international adoption before attempting fertility treatments. The adoption process was quite a rollercoaster, but after all of the heartache and waiting, we finally got to meet our beautiful son, Jonah, in November 2015.  (Read more about the adoption journey here.)


After Jonah turned one, we decided to start trying for a second child. Thus began our journey into the world of IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). For those who haven’t experienced an IVF cycle, you may not be familiar with the process. The woman gives herself a series of hormone shots that cause her body to produce a lot of eggs. (In a typical monthly cycle, women usually only produce one). Many ultrasounds are completed throughout the cycle to track the follicle growth (the sac where the egg grows). Once the follicles are big enough, the eggs are harvested. Our medical team then inject the eggs with sperm, and let them sit in Petri dishes hoping they fertilize to create embryos. The embryos then grow to day 3 or day 5 after fertilization, at which time one or two embryos are transferred back into the womb, and everyone prays for a successful implantation. Any remaining healthy embryos are frozen and used for a later IVF cycle.


Our first round of IVF was an unexpected disappointment.  We were so excited to get started and so hopeful it would be an “easy” cycle as we had been told from the start. The dose of hormones I started on weren’t high enough, so my body wasn’t producing enough eggs. Our doctors felt that it would be best to cancel our cycle before we got to the retrieval process.  Even though we didn’t get too far into the process, it was surprising how upsetting cancelling the cycle was. But we knew we could try again, and have a good chance of success with another full cycle of IVF.


In January 2017, we started what our second, and only, full round of IVF.  We had great numbers to begin with- they were able retrieve 22 eggs, 10 of them successfully fertilized, and 7 were still growing well on day 3! Because so many were growing well, we decided to continue to let them grow to day 5, and planned to transfer one embryo. When Justin and I arrived on transfer day, we received only bad news. All the embryos slowed down in growth on day 4, and were a day behind. We decided to proceed with transferring one embryo, but knew it likely wouldn’t result in a pregnancy. The remaining embryos arrested, and none survived to freeze. This was not the “easy” IVF cycle we were promised. We did not get pregnant. Our doctor called the cycle a ‘fluke’ and encouraged us to try again. After the excitement of successful retrieval and fertilization, to the devastating news of zero embryos surviving, I never wanted to go through that again. Especially with the possibility of the same outcome. We decided to start looking into what other options were available.  


In spring 2017, we started looking into embryo donation. When a couple has completed a cycle of IVF and has remaining frozen embryos they have decided not to use, they can choose to donate their embryos. With embryo donation, someone could experience pregnancy and carry a child, but the child would not be biologically related to them. We found a couple in our city who had three embryos that were created and stored at our clinic. Our donor couple felt their family was complete, and offered their remaining embryos to us. Thankfully this process was a much simpler one compared to the international adoption and IVF cycle of our own! Believe it or not, transferring embryos to another person is considered a transfer of legal property. So after a simple legal contract and some psych evaluations, the embryos were transferred into our names!


The first embryo was thawed and transferred on October 11, 2017. Nine days later a blood test confirmed it- I was pregnant!!! I think I took about 13 home pregnancy tests and was still in disbelief! I had gotten to a place where I thought I may never get to experience a pregnancy. But I am so thankful that I was wrong!


Pregnancy has not at all been what I expected. It has been much, much harder than I expected. However, no amount of morning sickness, heartburn, or high blood pressure could ever make me not want to experience this. I started feeling my baby move at 18 weeks. Now at 36 weeks, I not only feel the big movements, I see the big movements! There is a whole human being moving inside of me, which is the most amazing thing that I have ever experienced. How can I feel so close to someone that I have never met? I am so curious to know who this little one is, and who they will one day become. This bond is something that is so difficult to explain but is one of the most incredible things, and I have all of this because of our donors.


Justin and I feel so incredibly blessed.  When Jonah was born, we felt nothing but gratitude for our son’s birth mom, and that she would give us the huge privilege of being his parents. We feel the same immense gratitude to our donor couple. Not only will we be having a baby in a few weeks, but they have given me a gift that I have longed for. Something I’ve dreamed of for years that I thought I may never be able to experience- pregnancy. We are going to add a member to our family that we would not have without them. Justin and I have developed a special friendship with our donors, which is also really cool!


Although growing our family has not progressed as most people expect or plan it to, we wouldn’t have it any other way.  We cannot wait to see our son become a big brother. He adores babies and is going to be an excellent helper. Justin and I are so excited to find out who this little person inside of me is. From the moment I first saw that beautiful embryo, I felt an incredible love for all the potential that little person could become. It is hard to believe that the time has nearly arrived for us to see this beautiful face for the first time. I know that moment is going to be the best one yet!”


Justin, Charissa, and Jonah- we are so excited to meet our new little niece or nephew! It has been a journey that no one could have anticipated, but God has proven himself faithful once again! I cannot wait to see Jonah as a big brother. To see your family flourish. It is so humbling that we could document this joyful and incredibly beautiful phase in your life. We love you all so much!



Courtney & Cam


{ Charissa Maternity }


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  1. Avery Newborn | Regina Family Photographers - […] month ago, we shared my beautiful sister’s maternity session with you. As you may have guessed, baby has now…

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