During her own 8 year journey to parenthood, Jenn Nixon saw a need for education, support, and grant assistance within the Richmond infertility community. With the help of her Mom, Lee Ann Pond, The Race to Parenthood 5k and The Road to Parenthood were born.
Here is her story…
Infertility has been the unexpected catalyst for so many positive moments in our lives. In 2007, when Brad and I first began our journey to parenthood, we never imagined that our reproductive short-comings would evolve into the much suggested “blessing in disguise”.
On June 6, 2012, after one 8 week miscarriage and 5 years of “trying”, we decided to seek medical intervention with a visit to our reproductive endocrinologist. That same month, we started our first cycle of IUI with injectables. Third time was a charm, and we became pregnant in September 2012.
Each day of my pregnancy had me holding my breath a little less and smiling a little more. We found out we were having a little girl who we would name, Molly Grace. Unfortunately, during a 16 ½ week ultrasound, they discovered that Molly’s heart had stopped beating. Little did we know that this loss would be my saving.
Shortly after my D&E surgery, it was discovered that I have a myriad of previously unknown heart issues which had caused my cardiac function to suffer. Had that particular pregnancy progressed, my condition would have worsened. I will never meet the little girl whose heart stopped beating to save my own, but that miscarriage and my experience with infertility may have kept me alive.
The 12 months following our loss were filled with cardiac ablations, echocardiograms, and doctor’s appointments galore. At that point, I thought that we’d be in the throes of fertility treatments, but instead we were in the midst of surgeries and procedures to help my heart function improve. After three failed ablations, my doctors recommended that we consider alternative options to parenthood. There was concern that my heart couldn’t handle a pregnancy without complications, and so we decided to pursue gestational surrogacy.
Right after our second miscarriage, I had begun to become involved in the Richmond infertility community and from there had met the incredible Michele Whiteside. 5 minutes into our first meeting, Michele looked at me and said, “I’m thinking about putting together a fertility workshop in Richmond, what do you think?” I knew I had found my event planning, make-it-happen soulmate.
While Michele started to plan the first workshop, I was applying for grants to help Brad and I finance our surrogacy journey. There weren’t many available, specifically in Richmond. We had no idea how we would be able to afford this path to parenthood and so my creative juices started to flow. There had to be a way.
A few months later, during a summer afternoon, I was visiting my Mom’s house and as we were stacking firewood – yes, firewood in the heat of August! I started listing off possible fundraising ideas: a garage sale, Etsy shop, 5k race…she stopped me right there. At that time, there was no way we could have foreseen the far reach that small idea would have. While the race started with me, in just a short time it grew to include friends I had made in the local RESOLVE support group who also were struggling with financing their journey. Now, 4 years later, that firewood stacking idea has expanded to 22 couples, strangers who later became family.
In 2014, right after the first Race to Parenthood 5k, we received an offer we couldn’t refuse; a friend reached out to say she’d carry our baby. We were so grateful and said, “yes” without hesitation.
In September 2014, we started our first IVF cycle. Our retrieval was a success and while Brad and I weren’t great at making babies on our own, with a little help from science, we ended up with 11 perfect embryos. We transferred one and got lucky – our first IVF cycle worked. Zoë Grace Nixon was born on July 4, 2015. While it wasn’t my heart Zoë heard for her first 9 months, mine is the one that’s loved her everyday since.
I could never say infertility was a bad thing, not even close. In fact infertility has been the greatest blessing of all. Without it, I wouldn’t be under the care of the incredible cardiologists I have at VCU. My heart issues wouldn’t have been discovered until possibly too late. There would be no Race to Parenthood, no Road to Parenthood. I would have missed out on the incredible friendships and experiences that have been made from the race and the infertility community here in RVA.
Our journey has ended happily, but my path to parenthood isn’t over. There are still so many out there still trying, fighting, and hoping for their own success. There is still education to share, grants to give, support to provide, and awareness & advocacy to inspire.
In addition to co-founding and organizing The Race to Parenthood 5k, Jenn is the Chairman of The Road to Parenthood Board, she co-leads the RESOLVE RVA Third Party Reproduction Support group, has been a RESOLVE Advocacy Day Team Leader for the Mid-Atlantic region, and participates in the annual Richmond Fertility Workshop. She works full time as the School Activities & Volunteer Coordinator at The Faison School and she is currently working on completing her bachelors degree at the University of Richmond’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies.
Learn more about surrogacy as a path to parenthood – click here.