GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — From an infertility support group to friendship. Five West Michigan mothers share a bond not only between themselves but now, between their toddlers. An infertility journey is exhausting, emotional, and most of all isolating for Mom, for a couple, for a family.
Ahead of the Mother's Day weekend, these women want others who are struggling with infertility or loss to know, that they are not alone. There are seven babies now between the five mothers.
"If you would've told us two years ago that this is where we'd be, I don't think a single one of us would've believed you," said Lauren Van Ryn, mother to twins Lucy and Penny.
The mothers hadn't gotten together in a while, the last time, they were all pregnant, and since then things have really changed.
"Here we are with 7 babies, it just feels so surreal," said Van Ryn.
They met at the Fertility Center in Grand Rapids as in vitro fertilization patients. Their bond began at a weekly support group.
"Lauren was like, I just need people to talk to, can I have somebody's phone number? And that's how this happened. Super brave of her to speak up because we were all thinking it too," said Alyssa Cheadle, mom to Elsa.
IVF is a waiting game in normal times. But these women met just before the pandemic before their journeys got even more challenging.
"When the pandemic hit and everything was shut down, all of our cycles, or what might our next steps would be, just got shut down completely," said Autumn Goulet, mother to Delaney.
Phone calls, texts, zoom calls the mamas a listening ear for one another, a shoulder to cry on. Talking things through to keep each other calm, maybe even sane during the rollercoaster.
"Every appointment, every beta, every ultrasound, I know we were all kind of waiting for each other like how did it go for you? So when all of us got pregnant, oh my gosh it was so exciting," said Beth Willson, mom to Jude.
Cheadle was the first to get pregnant. She had her baby Elsa in January 2021. The months that followed you could call, a baby boom.
"To have all of us have had successful pregnancies within that span, makes this really unique and really special," said Cheadle.
Happy, busy baby chaos surround the friendship. Elsa, Jude, twins Lucy and Mille, Delaney and Twins Lucy and Penny make their mother's whole world. But, these women are all too acutely aware not every infertility journey ends this joyfully.
"Understanding on Mother's Day obviously, I'm super excited and I have my baby girl, but I am holding space for those people," said Goulet.
"I think there's still a twinge for me on Mother's Day thinking about losses and thinking about the Mother's days when I didn't have a child, and thinking about all the women we know, people we know, people who want to be parents who aren't," said Cheadle.
The five represent different paths: a single mother who used a donor, a mother who experienced secondary infertility, women who had been married for years trying to conceive with no luck. There's something these seven babies don't know yet. Now, they're friends for life.
"We have different stories, but we have these things in common that have brought us together. Our main goal was all to be Moms," said Heather Lewis, mom to twins Lucy and Millie.
"I think we look at this still and it's hard to put into words how much this really means to us," said Goulet.