My name is Lauren Gaynor and I am a senior at Michigan State University studying English and Professional Writing. I am the new undergraduate research assistant for The ART of Infertility project and I am overwhelmed and excited by the fact that I have the opportunity to share some of these stories with you.
The first story that I am about to share is reflective of Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Although Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month is in October, we still felt it important to share this story of Celeste who is all too familiar with this kind of loss. Celeste shows us how she copes with these experiences of loss through art and singing.
The ART of Infertility first met Celeste at the Tri-State Walk of Hope this past September. As we packed up our tent, Celeste shared with us her recent experience of infertility and loss – the passing away of Robin and Rosa.
After trying to conceive unofficially since September 2011, Celeste officially began trying in June 2012 and has been working with a reproductive endocrinologist since 2013. Six intrauterine inseminations, four in vitro fertilizations and 3 transfers all resulted in negative pregnancy tests, with the exception of her pregnancy with Robin and Rosa.
She conceived a set of twins on November 11, 2014. Unfortunately, she suffered an early pregnancy loss with son, Robin, on December 22, 2014. After being diagnosed with congenital heart disease, her daughter Rosa joined Robin on May 29, 2015.
Celeste channeled her loss and grief through art and music and we asked if she would like to share some of her pieces for a special blog post. Inspired by the work at the Carly Marie project, Celeste captures her loss, grief and journey through her reflections and artwork. The artistic pieces featured are meant to foster Celeste’s connection with Robin and Rosa, express her grief and emotion and continue on the hope of her journey with infertility.
Celeste shares, “I made this piece as a part of the Carly Marie “Capture Your Grief” photo healing project. The project is meant to help bereaved parents move through their grief during Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. The top for Day Three was ‘In Honour.’”
“I started with pencil and paper, and thought about my twins. How would l like to honor them this day? The pencil sort of took over, and out poured my heart on paper. I then finalized the piece in ink.”
According to Celeste, the heart surrounding their names represents infinite love while the Gemini zodiac is for Rosa’s name and the Capricorn zodiac is for Robin’s name. The heart below their names represents their conception date. The infinite love that Celeste has for her babies is shown through the border of hearts surrounding the piece.
“When I look at it again, it makes me think of the Petri dish in which fertilization occurred. There is so much love and beauty in that moment, even if the environment was clinical and scientific.”
Not only is Celeste an artist but she is also an avid singer. Therefore, she inserted text inside of the heart that displayed the lyrics to songs that she sang to her babies while they were in the womb. Celeste would sit in their nursery and sing “You Are My Sunshine” (Traditional), “I Will Wait” (Mumford & Sons), “Human” (Christina Perri) and a plethora of others. Their memory is engrained in the song, art and spirit of Celeste’s intentions through this piece.
Glow in the Woods captures the grief and pain of losing her children. Although their memory lives on in some of her pieces, grief will still sometimes overtake the joy of their memory. It seems that this grief is related to being lost in the woods. “At first, I feel terrified and abandoned. But then, I look around and catch glimpses of light to find my way back home. My family is my life. John especially. With each passing day, he helps me see the light. He is my glow in the woods.”
Celeste compares IVF and ART to the thorny brush of the forest encapsulating and trapping her. These seem to be suffocating rather than setting her free. Celeste states that this is the infertility forest but, “the glow in the infertility forest is the thought that I have the power to decide when enough is enough.”
No matter what Celeste has her husband by her side. If all of the work and intrauterine inseminations and in-vitro fertilization doesn’t result in a child, it will be okay in the end because as Celeste says, “My husband is by my side and love is all I need.”
Despite all of the love and support throughout the process of conceiving, Celeste shares that it was difficult to remain hopeful throughout all of the broken hopes and dreams.
“Infertility and loss have changed my whole world. I used to be a reckless daydreamer and thought that the sky was the limit. Now after experiencing 6 failed intrauterine insemination cycles, 5 failed in-vitro fertilization cycles and the loss of twins, I am afraid to dream.”
This piece truly captures the dark cloud that seems to overwhelm all of the love, support and persistence that Celeste dealt with during her infertility. Despite the hopes and dreams of Celeste, reality seemed to take over and create fear and depression in place of her dreams.
Dark + Light
Despite broken hopes and dreams, Celeste reminds herself, that there is always sunshine on the horizon. Celeste proves that hope doesn’t always fade and love is all that she needs to persevere through the pain.
This intention captures giving birth and the pain, grief and joy that accompanied Rosa’s life. “Giving birth to Rosa made me realize that without pain, there would be no joy. The physical pains of labor and delivery were intense. But the moment the nurse placed her in my arms, the pain lifted from my memory and all I could see what sunshine.”
The contrast of the dark clouds and bright sunshine bring to life the beauty and struggle of Celeste’s infertility. “The dark storm cloud represents the pain and negativity that infertility brings to my life. The fear and doubt of my childhood dream which is in question.”
The unknown darkness of not being able to fulfill a dream is frightening and beautifully captured by Celeste’s artistry. Celeste’s art shows that for her despite the darkness, there is always hope behind the clouds. “The sunburst behind it, again, is the joyous and beautiful things to come from my infertility struggle. The hope that, at times is mostly concealed, continually tries to break free. The sunshine, while we cannot see it every day, is always there.”