Jennifer and Robert Daniel, married six years, live a life of service. They rescue animals and have taken a number of mission trips to Nairobi through Be Free Revolution. They’ve gone so frequently, they have a close group of friend they call their “African family.” Despite their many friendships and a close-knit community at Highpoint Church, they still long for a family of their own.
Jennifer, 36, and Robert, 49, started on their journey with in vitro fertilization (IVF) three years ago with Dr. Paul Brezina of Fertility Associates of Memphis. “We had all but lost hope when we went to him,” Robert says. “Now, after three years and four attempts, he’s like family to us.”
“It’s been a complicated journey,” Jennifer says, “But it’s taught me a lot. I have always been a control freak, and in this situation, you learn pretty quickly you are not in control. I learned a lot about patience and a lot about faith.”
Jennifer, who works in pharmaceutical sales, says that she spent the past year getting into the best possible shape before attempting to get pregnant again. “When I first started dating Robert, I made a point to tell him that I’m not into weighing my food, counting calories, or working out.” At the time, Robert was competing on the US Team in the National Sumo Federation. His influence has led her to kickboxing, cardio barre, and eventually weightlifting.
Jennifer has been working with a trainer three times a week and never missed a day. She had to take a proactive approach because she knew that doctors would likely prohibit her from exercising during a pregnancy.
Being naturally slim, she admits that she was long careless about her diet. “Before we got married, I was literally eating icing out of a can,” Jennifer says. “My love for working and my dedication to my health out has definitely grown through being married to Robert. I feel a lot better.” Robert, a bond broker, is now focused on competitive bodybuilding and is working on setting a world record in a strength and endurance event.
The IVF journey is intensely demanding—physically, mentally, and emotionally. It requires a plethora of drugs and hormones and administering shots to yourself at exact times. “If you don’t do things precisely, you can ruin any chance of it working. You have to make it a priority and be willing to cancel plans.”
Despite following every protocol to the letter, the Daniels’ first three attempts failed. While some couples are quiet about IVF, Jennifer shared the details of her experiences with the public on Facebook. She sometimes hears from strangers who have sought her advice after reading her posts. “Sharing what I know means I’m able to help others who are also on this journey. It’s important to be open. I don’t believe anyone should feel they have to pretend that everything is fine if it isn’t.”
Robert has been with Jennifer every step of the way. “I’ve gone to every one of her medical appointments. Those miscarriages broke her heart, and they broke mine too.” The couple decided that their fourth round of IVF would be their last attempt. “It’s a long process and a waiting game. Sometimes there were tears. We had to make the decision to go in with hope every time.” The Daniels will welcome a baby girl in September.
Given the ups and downs of IVF, Jennifer encourages other women to join online communities for support. “The groups are worldwide,” she says, “They’re designed so women can join a group of women on the exact same timeline. Sharing is important. Life would be a lonely journey without support.”
Robert says, “I lean heavily on God… Anyone strong enough to do this without faith must be incredibly strong.”
By Caroline Sposto.
Photo by Tindall Stephens.