On October 15, 2010, after more than a decade of struggling with infertility, we experienced the heartbreaking loss of our very first baby, Carleigh Grace, in my 16th week of pregnancy.
After being told we would never be able to conceive on our own, we had been blessed with the gift of her life through the technology of fertility assistance and after hearing her heartbeat loud and clear for the first time at 12 weeks, had just settled in to the joy that after more than ten sorrow filled years, we were finally going to be parents. All it took was a heartbeat however, and everything changed. With those words, "your baby has died," I struggled to breathe as all hope left me with the realization that my body had failed me once again and my sweet miracle had left us. I fell into the complete darkness of overwhelming sorrow and feared I would never see the light again. I hid from my friends, my family, and even my own husband. I cried until I physically had no tears left and would collapse in exhaustion into the only relief I could find - sleep. I retreated to the darkest parts of myself and decided sorrow was the only story I would ever be able to write.
And then, everything changed. The words of one of my dearest friends led me back to the light of hope again.
One afternoon in early 2011, after barely surviving Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year "festivities," a call came from over 4,000 miles away, from my very loving, very honest and very concerned friend who waited patiently to speak between my sobs on the other end of the phone. And when I took a breath, she spoke the words that would change my life...
"Amy, I know I have two wonderful girls that you would give anything to have, but you have a husband I would give anything to have. So even if it's just the two of you for the rest of your life, you are truly one of the luckiest people I know."
Those words hit my heart with so much power that they sent a wave of love over every part of me and woke me up from the foggy dreamlike walking-sleep that grief sedates you with. She was so right. All of this time, all of these years, I had been lost in sorrow over what I didn't have that I had been completely blinded from seeing and receiving all of the blessings I DID have in my life. I had been so focused on a life of lack, an "infertile" life of loss, without growth, hope, joy or promise of anything that I almost missed everything; I almost missed my life.
Slowly, hope returned to my heart, and as it did, my heart started to open; and for the first time, perhaps ever in my life, I saw my life and my body, as rich and fertile and full of so much hope and so much promise. And I learned that when seeds fall on prepared and ready fertile soil, amazing things can grow.
Many seeds began to fall into my life.
During this same time, another dear friend of mine, who had also been struggling with infertility had lost her baby during her pregnancy. We gravitated towards each other in a shared sorrow that bound our hearts together tightly. I was her reminder everyday that "infertility" and "loss" were completely survivable and could yield a beautiful "fertile" life if those experiences were embraced and integrated into our stories, our hearts and then shared with each other. I learned that in helping her heart, I helped heal my own. My sorrow, my journey, my heartbreak, and my path all had meaning and purpose, as did hers and as does each of ours.
I realized the immense power of connection, companionship and compassion ~ that all it takes sometimes is someone to simply take your hand and guide you back to the light again when you have lost your way. She urged me to share what I had learned with other women, women who were not in my immediate friend circle, women just like us, who needed someone to take their hand and lead them back to the light too.
She told me I had something valuable to say, to share and to offer, so I opened my story, my life, my experience, my heart and my hand to any woman who needed it. I started getting calls from friends and friends of friends who were struggling with infertility or losses themselves and/or were loving someone through it and wanted to know how to help, what to say, and what they could do to give any comfort to those they loved.
And then more and more seeds began to fall.
A powerful email came from a young woman just a few weeks after she had experienced the traumatic stillbirth of her baby late in her pregnancy. She was lost in sorrow over the death of her baby compounded with her regrets about some of the decisions she had made during her delivery that she wished she could have changed. Reading her words, my heart broke for her. I wondered...had I reached her before her delivery, had she been supported, encouraged, had a companion to take her hand ~ one that understood and could help gently guide her ~ maybe her story could have been a bit different, a bit easier on her heart in some way? I vowed in that moment that I would do everything in my power to make sure no woman ever felt alone again at any point in her journey of infertility or loss.
By taking my hand from miles away, my friend had walked me back to the light again and then as I continued walking with my hands outstretched, more women joined me, who then joined them, and the mission and vision for The Fertile Soil Foundation was planted.
On December 18, 2013, The Fertile Soil Foundation received a certificate of incorporation from the Commonwealth of Virginia State Corporation Commission. We set off with big dreams, big goals and big plans for the Foundation to grow within the upcoming months and then LOTS of life happened and we were unable to move forward at the pace we had hoped. All of those seeds, however, did not die; they merely grew wider and deeper roots into my heart, anchoring me and preparing me for when the time would come for the Foundation to finally break through the surface of the soil and bloom.
Everything has a meaning and a purpose AND a season. Since 2013, we have been planting many seeds and with lots of patience, love and care, they are growing.
The Fertile Soil Foundation officially bloomed on Monday, October 15, 2018 - National Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day - and also on the eight year anniversary of the loss of our sweet Carleigh Grace, and we couldn't be more grateful that you are here to share it with us.
We invite you to become a part of our story and would be honored to become part of yours. May this be a new chapter of hope for us all.
To provide help, hope and healing through information, education and support for individuals experiencing infertility and perinatal loss as and for those who are supporting them.
The Fertile Soil Foundation received its certificate of incorporation from The State Corporation Commission of the Commonwealth of Virginia on December 18, 2013.
The Fertile Soil Foundation, as stated in its "Articles of Incorporation," is established as a non-profit, non-stock corporation, that at all times shall be organized and operated in a manner consistent with the status of a corporation exempt from federal income tax under 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code.
The Fertile Soil Foundation applied for designation as a Non-Profit 501 (c) (3) on September 27, 2018 and is pending approval. All donations made to The Fertile Soil Foundation may be tax-deductible to the full extent allowed by law.
We have been approached by a local health system that handles the majority of perinatal losses in our surrounding area with their need(s) for customizable keepsake items which their nursing staff and perinatal bereavement team can personalize and then give to the women and families they serve under their care. We are currently working with them to conceptualize, create, develop and provide this line of items specifically to their organization on a continuing basis.
We are actively working to expand our website to include independently detailed pages specifically for Infertility and Perinatal Loss. Each dedicated page will include concrete suggestions to help the woman on her individual journey, as well as her support system. Each page will include specific information on each topic, educational resources and links to our partners in each field and a variety of different activities to help bring comfort and inspire hope.
We are in the process of building our Board of Directors. Photographs and detailed biographies for each Board Member will be available on our website as soon as all selections have been completed.
With the help of your generous donations and as The Fertile Soil Foundation continues to grow, our long-term plans and goals include:
* A variety of comprehensive workshops designed specifically to bring help, hope and healing to the hearts of:
- women and couples who are experiencing infertility
- women, couples and families who have experienced perinatal loss
* A variety of comprehensive training programs created specifically for existing organizations, healthcare entities, physicians, nursing staffs and other direct and indirect professionals providing care in the fields of infertility and perinatal loss to ensure optimal, cohesive and consistent care to all women regardless of their geographic location
* Fundraising activities and events designed to expand the community's understanding and awareness of infertility and perinatal loss in a respectful and meaningful way
* A customized online store specifically tailored to provide meaningful items and sentiments for those individuals experiencing infertility and/or perinatal loss
* The creation of a tangible resource "companion packet/booklet" that can be given to any woman at the moment a perinatal loss is realized whether in a doctor's office, emergency room, medical imaging or urgent care facility
* The development of a companion program that pairs women who have experienced infertility and perinatal loss with women who are currently experiencing them
* Resources and support for grieving siblings in meaningful ways that children can understand
* Resources and support for grieving grandparents
* Resources and helpful guidance for individuals and/or families considering adoption and/or fostering
* Resources and support for those individuals grieving abortion(s)
Our long-term dreams and goals include:
* An expansive physical home for The Fertile Soil Foundation in Rappahannock County, Virginia that will allow all workshops, activities and programs to operate in one location, creating a community and positive atmosphere for women experiencing infertility and/or perinatal loss
* A completely re-designed interactive website to include a virtual online memorial garden and detailed map identifying all local infertility and perinatal loss resources categorized by county all over the world
* A retreat center located on the grounds of the Foundation's physical home to serve as a bed and breakfast for couples experiencing infertility and/or perinatal loss
* A research center for infertility located on the grounds of the Foundation's physical home with a holistic approach to increasing and improving fertility for men and women, to aid and support both natural conception as well as a compliment to fertility treatments
* A 24-hour call center, staffed with trained individuals, to aid women at anytime they are needed with counseling by phone and a directory of on-call doulas to be available to women for "labor support" during miscarriages and stillbirths
* The creation of independent centers in every state where women can go to receive services associated with perinatal loss, including miscarriages and stillbirths, where they are supported throughout the entire process by trained staff dedicated to their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing both during and after the time in their care to ensure optimal outcomes for every woman