The Line Between Reality and Fiction: My Story

 

As women, we don’t often talk about the struggles we face. Maybe it’s just part of the role we’re taught to play in society: strong, in control, and totally okay…even when we aren’t. I’m starting to rethink that philosophy.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love my job. The ability to craft whatever romantic story that suits me at the time has always been an exciting prospect. As I write, I can’t help but put parts of myself into my work. I think that must be true of most writers, and let me tell you, it’s incredibly cathartic. Some of my characters have small traits that are mine just for fun. Some of the locations in my books are important to me for personal reasons, and I drop them in as reminders of those connections. But sometimes a storyline itself will intersect with a struggle I’m facing in the real world.

That very thing happened last year.

When I wrote Autumn Primm’s storyline in Hearts Like Hers, I was very much aware of my own personal parallel. The storyline didn’t happen by accident. If you haven’t read the book, I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that Autumn wants very much to have a baby. It’s something I’ve wanted for myself as well, and a journey I was smack in the middle of when I decided to include that arc in her story. When I concluded Autumn’s journey with fertility, and turned in the book to my publisher, I didn’t yet know how my own very long and difficult saga would end up, but was feeling quite discouraged.

A friend recently posted on Facebook, remarking on the solitary journey most women take on the road to fertility and creating a family. There are so many bumps and bruises (both figurative and quite literal) that come with procedures like IUI and IVF (which doesn’t even touch on the financial burden). Yet, it’s a topic we’re often encouraged not to speak about. So, we keep those things to ourselves for the most part, and continue down that lonely and scary road without the support of the wider world. I now think that’s a mistake, which is one of the reasons I’m writing this blog.

In 2015, I walked into a fertility clinic for the first time, seeking help. It was meant to be a consultation, but the timing worked out so that some of the very basic and early tests that were necessary for a diagnosis could be performed that day. I don’t mind telling you that I suffer from severe endometriosis. That condition and those simple tests created the perfect storm for a very aggressive infection to wreak havoc on my body for the next three months. I was hospitalized twice for a total of sixteen days. When I was home in between, I was on an IV of very aggressive antibiotics every few hours.  I was taken in for an emergency surgery one Sunday night and at the time didn’t know if I would wake up without a reproductive system, which would put an end to my ability to have children of my own. There were tears streaming down my face as I was wheeled into the operating room, as my entire family gathered outside in the waiting area for five hours.  Luckily, I woke up with a bit of a compromise situation. The surgeons had been able to leave me with the bare minimum I needed, removing all the rest.  Getting pregnant would be incredibly difficult now with what little I had left to work with. While not impossible, it would take a hail mary and my doctors were very frank with me about that. I wrote First Position during my time in and out of the hospital, and identified with Ana’s sense of loss each step of the way, knowing I very well may have to give up on something I wanted, much like she did.

When I regained my strength, I started IVF treatments and entered into what would be the hardest period of my life. The emotional rollercoaster, the crazy mood swings, the tears for no reason in the middle of a restaurant, the painful shots in the stomach (and elsewhere), the multiple doctors appointments each week, the painful procedures and recoveries, and the embryo transfers that just never seemed to take left me with one phone call after another from my doctors telling me that I was, in fact, still not pregnant. One of those calls came while I was in the airport on the way to a book event. I took a seat in the waiting area for a flight that was not mine and let the tears flow as strangers looked on, perplexed with sympathetic looks on their faces.

I had been through so much and simply wasn’t sure I had anything left in me to give. My body was riddled with pain and exhaustion and the emotional toll was enormous. Adoption was always a possibility for me, a bright spot to hold onto, but I did want to see this effort through first. I wanted to know what it would be like to be pregnant, to give birth, to experience all of it.

On my fifth round of IVF, on an impulse and against my doctor’s request, I took a home pregnancy test like so many I’d taken before. (I learned to do this so the phone call after the official blood test would be less of a blow, as I would already know my fate.) I was shocked that there seemed to be a very faint second line on the strip. A double take. How in the world could that be? I was surely seeing it wrong. It just didn’t seem possible after years of failure, the slim chances, the tears.  But it was. A blood test confirmed it.

We were pregnant.

I told the people close to me and as time went on, expanded that circle a bit. I didn’t make any grandiose announcements on my author Facebook page, or social media accounts, because once you’ve been through so much disappointment, it’s hard to imagine that there’s not another blow waiting for you as you turn the next corner. But that hasn’t happened. We’re weeks away from delivery, and things are becoming very real. I’m uncomfortable, and dealing with all the typical symptoms of a third trimester, and at the same time, I’m nothing but eternally grateful for days.

I look back on the entire journey now and wonder why I didn’t share more, ask for more help (emotionally and physically) when I needed it, or tell those around me that I was not doing okay when they asked. I didn’t have to go it alone, and wouldn’t want anyone else to either.  We should use each other more, lean on one another, and take advantage of the wonderful community of woman (and men) around us. As I now look forward to meeting my son, it’s looking like my ending might just be a happy one, but that’s not the case for everyone. That’s not something a person should have to hide or shoulder quietly. As humans, as women, we should prop each other up when we need it.

Share your story. Share this blog. Or just share your words of support with someone who needs them. The road doesn’t have to be lonely.  And if I can be that supportive person for you along your journey, I will be. You heard it here.

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46 Comments

Alex Woods

I know the pain of this awful illness by first hand and I nearly died of it. A emergecey surgery safed me but some days I wish I wouldn’t have survived. They cleared everything out from the reproductive system to cysts and growths. And still I suffer today 3 years later and on heavy medication for it . I never wanted children so that makes it a bit lighter for me . But I know that maybe when I meet her someday it maybe causes problems. Not only for that but for the fact that I have to live with a non functional bladder . As my new gynecologist says if I was a mans problem it would be solved a log time ago. I really hope everything will be going well for you now in the last weeks and you have a bright future. You deserve it!

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Linda Scibilia

So happy for your happiness! You’re right – women tend to suffer alone. While it evidences our strengths, it often takes a big toll… no matter the reason. I wish for you joy in this journey that you’ve taken on – and much much happiness!

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Judy Comella

So happy you are happy. Now take time for yourself and that wonderful boy. Smell the Roses as they say.

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TnDani

As I read your books, this stuff stuck with me. My wife and I went through this as well. We were together for about 8 years (No one will ever say we rush into things) when I was taken in for emergency surgery due to cysts on my ovaries. As I started to go in the doctor said to me and my wife, “I need to know now, if I get in there and it’s too far gone do you want me to wake you up and give you time to process, or do you want me to take everything?” I told him that if I was going to wake up and my chances of having children are gone, I need a minute with that if it wasn’t life threatening. Even if that meant more surgery. We had talked about kids, but in that moment everything came into prospective. One second it’s a thought, the next it’s a decision that not only is being made now, but one that you seem to have no control over. I woke up and my wife told me that everything went well and that I could still have kids. From that moment my outlook on it changed, and at 35, it needed to be now. I totally understand the shots and procedures. We did 6 IUIs. The last one took, but just for a moment. During that time my 17 year old niece got pregnant by a boy she barely knew. I was so angry at the world, at God, my wife – everyone. Not only are you not ready to deal with that, but your hormones have been jacked with, in my case, for 5 years. The clomid put me back on the OR table 3 times with cysts. 2 of our best couple friends tried during the time as us. Yeah, they both have children now. My mind kept screaming, “when do I stop?”. My doctor told me that I would know when enough was enough. After the last time, and the loss, I went into his office and I just started sobbing. I told him my desire to NEVER go through this again outweighed any desire that I ever had to have children. I am just the bum egg. LOL All kinds of pun intended. I am one of 4 girls and my sisters have 12 kids between them and 3 three grandkids. It’s not a bad deal some days. My wife and I are the cool aunts. We get to spoil them, and send them home. As a writer as well, I have noticed that in stories that comes up some weather I realize that is where it’s going or not. I agree that we just don’t talk about it. It’s happening more and more yet we still treat it like it’s something to be ashamed of. It’s a very hard thing to go through, and is even harder alone. My wife couldn’t even relate. It was my body and my emotions that were sent on a rocket to the moon, not hers. It wasn’t her fault, but she just couldn’t understand. We all have different roles, and that just wasn’t mine I guess. I have always loved your books, and this just makes me appreciate you even more. I am so happy for you, and can’t wait hear more as you feel comfortable telling us.

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allie

Parts of your story sound so similar to my own & I’m so excited for you! And yes, those shots were horrible. But someday I’ll be able to tell our kid that he’s better be nice to me because I got intramuscular shots in my backside so that he could be here. Congratulations!

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Cathie W.

Been there, done that, got the T-shirt. I’m so happy that it was successful for you! It only gets better from here, including the struggles because you make it to the other side you will look back and be astonished that you made it through. You will also be stronger for it, and it especially makes the successes sweeter as well. Best wishes, my dear, and enjoy every moment.

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Tiffany Shamaly

I’m so excited for you Melissa. After all that work you will get your miracle. And a little boy. Boys are fun and I have no doubt he’ll make your life complete and chaotic all at the same time. Thank you for sharing your story, it does seem to me that women suffer in silence when they really do not need to. It’s always nice to know that we are not the only ones to go through certain things in our life but to find someone that can relate and perhaps give us a little guidance. Again congrats to you and your family and I cannot wait to see pictures of the kiddo.

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Des

That was a very important story you told. You’re right, many women face what you went through believing that they have to shoulder that burden alone. I hope your story gives those who are going through what you went through the courage to ask for help when they need it, knowing it is okay and nothing to be ashamed of. Congratulations on your new journey. It’s a fun ride.

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Karin Kallmaker

So many congraulations to you, and many hopes for a safe, unremarkable delivery. We spent many months as well trekking to the fertility clinic with every deepening invasive treatments and finally e voila! That rollercoaster is hard to describe to people who haven’t been on it.

A few of my truths, even though you didn’t ask 🙂 : the journey to getting pregnant is good preparation for parenthood. Delivery itself is good preparation for parenthood. All that energy, angst, feeling, investment, highs and lows — you’ll use them all, sometimes in a few minutes. And, trust me, it will be glorious.

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BJ John

Thank you Melissa for being so honest and straightforward. I am a true fan of your work but also a fan of you personally and I applaud your willingness to be true to yourself no matter what.

Congratulations on your new bundle of joy. They truly are a joy and all you have gone through will be so worth it in the end. I am a mother and a grandmother and I know no greater love.

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Renee Roman

Congratulations, Melissa! And thank you for your courage in sharing an intimate part of your life with us.

I, too, think we need to understand how important the support and kindness of others can be in lightening our load. Many blessing to you and your family.

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Janet Valentin

It so funny how when asked, how are you doing, we smile, and lie, and say that things are fine. I think this is a coping mechanism we all use. Talking to someone you trust, is the best form of coping. Thank you for sharing your truth and all your wonderful books. Wishing you an early, Happiest of Mother’s Day.

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Andrea Bramhall

Congratulations, Melissa. I’m so happy for you. As a fellow endo sufferer, I can certainly understand your feelings and your pain. I wish you a lifetime of happiness with your little boy and fingers crossed for a safe and easy birth. Love to you xxx

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cheryl head

Wishing you a happy ever after in your romance with your baby boy, Melissa. Thank you also for this courageous post, that reminds us to ask for help, and be of help. Holding prayers and good thoughts.

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Jules Worth

Congratulations Melissa and thank you so much for sharing your story. In today’s environment, women are banding together to drive change and be there for each other. Your books have given me so much enjoyment. I’ll keep you and your newborn baby in my prayers.

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Erin Shurant

Oh, Melissa, I wish my hug could reach you from here! I’m so incredibly happy for you. Children, however they come to us, are a blessing. We adopted all three of ours from foster care, but the love is the same. May all the future joys be worth the pain it took to get there.

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Maria Ciletti

Thank you for sharing. Happy and excited for you. Wishing you the best.

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Heather Blackmore

How exciting…scary…overwhelming…heartbreaking…and joyful, all at once! I will remember you and this blog the next time I learn of a friend seeking fertility treatment. And congratulations on this fantastic outcome. Hugs to you and your spouse. You’re gonna be a terrific mom.

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Diana Perez-Soria

Congratulations and all the best wishes for an even brighter future! ❤

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Ann Etter

Congratulations! How exciting! I’m so glad you are realizing your dreams around this.

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Conchita

Congratulations! Wishing you all the best ahead. May it be a journey filled with joy, love and strength.

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Merry

Hi Melissa – just wanted you to know you’re not alone and I complete understand. My wife and I spent two years on fertility meds and eventually went to Greece three times in order to do IVF with both a sperm and egg donor. There was a pretty devastating miscarriage in there somewhere too. Now, next week my son will be turning two and I could not be more grateful for sticking with every shot, every failed pregnancy test, every blood stick and speculum and pull that it took.

Congratulations from the bottom of my heart on your new little one. You are going to love, love, love being a mom and your kiddo is so lucky to be so wanted and loved. Enjoy!!!

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K'Anne

Congratulations Melissa. May your life continued to be truly blessed with your son. Good luck (as a mother of two sons), you will NEED it!

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Ona Marae

Melissa, I am so glad you shared. What a decision that must have been and I’m so glad you made the one you did. You’ve made some pretty spectacular decisions it sounds like!
I am 53 years old and finally engaged to someone I would consider parenting with…but, did I mention I’m 53 years old? When I was younger, my genetics made having my own birth children impossible, even were I to decide to do it alone or with a male friend as some of my friends did then. Fostering to adopt would have been fine, but adoption was not the norm in the late 80’s and 90’s where I was living as an out lesbian. I decided to be one kick-ass auntie. (Please pardon the language, but that is the descriptor for my role in my family of choice.) I do it well, imaginatively, creatively well but I still know the wish and the longing for a child of my own, but birth or adoption. That is why your blog touched me so. I don’t know how much you will choose to share of your son and your life together (and those choices Must be honored fiercely by your community!) but it is so good to have some point of connection with others who have different family shapes than mine. For example, who doesn’t love watching tennis videos of one little boy we have all come to know and love? Your journey through parenting is a delightful and messy and sacred one and it is an honor to be given this gift of story. May your community give back the gift of support in any way we can as you go down unimaginable paths of discovery. Blessings to you!

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CJ Murphy

Melissa,
First CONGRATULATIONS! Our own personal struggles and triumphs are always the best first hand research we can do as an author. Sharing it, whether it be in blog form, or in the story we wrap around our characters has an affect on those that read it whether we know it or not. I’ve had more than one person say “I felt like I was the only one until I read your book”. It’s important for us to share our story because in doing so, someone out there might feel a bit less lonely and able to make it through one more day. Congrats again!

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Connie & Shelley

You will be a wonderful mom & we are so happy for you. Now, I don’t know how your other two “kids” are going to feel about the situation, but I know you have been such a good mom to them that I’m sure you will figure that out too. May the rest of the time be a smooth ride.

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Rob McGregor

I’m so very happy for you and yours. I will put you in my prayers. I’m very happy that your kid will be growing up with a very imaginative mother who is so full of life. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

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Isabella

Welcome to the “hood”, Motherhood that is and yes that’s a capital M because it deserves the respect. If you thought IVF was a roller coaster ride, just wait. As a mom to three sons, each different – but the same, the best is yet to come.

Congrats, Melissa. May you enjoy a wonderful lifetime with your son. BTW, Name?

Isabella

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Beth

This is a beautiful and moving story. I would never have known, interacting with you, seeing your beautiful smile, and with how much you give to new writers, of your time and your talent, how much pain you were dealing with. Sister, I know that pain so well. Congratulations. <3

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Kristie S.

Melissa,

Thank you for sharing your story with us and congratulations on your pregnancy! I too suffer from dealing with the inability to ever have a child of my own due to my advanced Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome-an incurable disease that has left me infertile and constantly being vigilant for cervical cancer. I am about to undergo a procedure myself due to the PCOS issues and every day I struggle with the knowledge I will never be able to bring a child of my own into this world. My wife is about 10 years older and does not want children, so I go along to get along and suppress my desire to have kids because of my health problems, busy life and partner, who is amazing in almost all aspects of our lives, having no desire to be a parent. I suspect she would be supportive of me if I wanted to adopt, but I do not think she would ever buy in like I need her to. I am at a loss on how to talk about this with her and resigned myself to living vicariously through my friends and family, spoiling my nieces and nephews rotten when I see them.

I do not believe I have ever admitted my sadness with others about not having the ability to have a child beyond my OB/GYN, so thank you for sharing your story and giving not only me, but all of your fans an outlet to share our own struggles and journey on this issue. I wish you and your family nothing but the best and look forward to Gia’s story in June 2018.

With your son’s imminent arrival, are your plans to publish Sparks Like Ours in June and Love Like This in October still going full speed ahead? I think I can say on behalf of all of your fans that while we are excited about the next Seven Shores installments, the health and happiness of you, your son and your family take precedent.

All the best to you and your family!

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Stephanie Lochran

Thank you for sharing your courage, honesty and vulnerability with your fans! All the best to you and yours…congratulations!!

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Karen D. Badger

Crying with joy for you right now, Melissa! We can’t wait to meet your son at future cons. Children are a mom’s greatest source of joy, worry, pride … and yes, sometime heartache, but each moment is a gift that you will cherish for the rest if your life. Congratulations!

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Taylor James

Congratulations!!! You will be a tremendous mother. Love and happiness.

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Alice McCracken

So happy for you that your story is ending happily. Enjoy every moment of this gift!

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Sandy Long

Thank you so much for sharing your story, which I’m sure was difficult for you. It looks like you have a happy ending just like the beautiful stories you craft in your books. Congratulations!

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Carrie

You’re incredibly brave Melissa. I had a miscarriage at 28 weeks. That was 3 years ago and I haven’t been brave enough to try again. So I applaud your courage and determination. And I also wanted to tell you that it was during that time that I picked up my first lesfic book which happened to be Kiss The Girl and that helped take me away from the realities of my life. So thank you for what you do. And I wish nothing but the best for you, your family and your new bundle of joy.

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