By Alice Crisci
My dear Dante, I first published this open letter to you exactly three years ago. Since then, we have travelled the world together building a company to help others have healthy babies, moved into our first real home (finally), added so many pets to our creature kingdom and are now making plans to bring Baby Sean into the world. We’ve endured loss, viruses, homesickness, monumental breakthroughs in courage and so many more firsts. My life is in technicolor thanks to you. October is breast cancer awareness month and it’s always a good opportunity to reflect on how our journey really started: in crisis. That way we can remind others to hold on to their vision of a family and one day they can hold their child and know he or she is their victory, as you are mine.
I wanted you more than you ever will know.
I wanted you when I was only nine years old, a Catholic school girl with vacillating dreams between becoming a nun and professional baseball player.
I wanted you when I was a teenage girl, thinking my first love was forever love.
I wanted you when the condom broke that time, but it wasn’t meant to be… yet. Thankfully, because well, today, I can’t even remember his name.
I wanted you when I started my company in my 20s and thought I would become a huge success.
I especially wanted you that moment they told me I may not get to have you—when cancer treatment and my future fertility collided to create the worst time of my life.
You see, my love, I wanted you so much, especially at that moment the doctor told me to freeze my eggs.
A few days after that conversation, I started to inject myself with special medications to trick my body into producing more eggs than normal in one month. The doctor said the more eggs we retrieved, the better—but not too many or it could damage me in the process. It’s a delicate balance, you see, pushing the body to do something it doesn’t normally do while preventing risks to my already fragile health. Thankfully, they know what they are doing!
I would do whatever it took to make sure we had a chance to be together. So for two weeks, I gave myself those shots morning and night. I went to the fertility clinic almost every other day to check on my progress. They measured how my body was reacting to the medications by checking my hormone levels and doing ultrasounds of my ovaries.
It was a much happier time visiting the fertility clinic to talk about the progress I was making to preserve my future fertility than it was visiting my oncologist!
The day they were going to take out the eggs, they gave me a special “cocktail” just before the procedure and I actually drunk dialed your Gram! It was pretty funny, but such a hopeful time—we laughed about that call years later. I’ll never forget waking up from that short procedure and hearing the good news: my fertility doctor retrieved 31 eggs! I was so relieved and grateful that I cried and thanked her. You see, that meant I had far more than one chance for one of those 31 eggs to become you one day.
I know that sounds so much like science fiction or make believe. It’s pretty amazing that the doctors and scientists can help make babies like this, when there may be no other way, or when this way may be the best way. I put all my hope in them, Dante… for many years.
And that’s what I focused on for the three years I endured cancer treatment: you. Or rather, the idea of you. I pictured our laughter together, us dancing in the living room, our snuggles and all the firsts we were going to have together. I let this dream about us motivate my recovery, my return to work, my advocacy efforts to help other cancer survivors protect their fertility, and especially my decision to have you as my five year cancer-versary present, rather than take that trip to Italy.
As you grew from a seed to a baby in my tummy, I talked to you, sang to you, and read to you. One morning, I woke up with the name Dante on my mind. I looked up the meaning and found the word “enduring.”
It’s as though you told me what your name was, rather than the other way around.
We endured so much to be mother and son, my love. But more importantly, my love for you is the most enduring feeling I can imagine. You completed my life October 11, 2013 when we locked eyes for the first time, just moments after you took your first breath.
The journey to get to you may have seemed long at times (and maybe even a little cold for you, darling!), but it makes each moment together all the sweeter.
May you dream big dreams, ever changing, and always know that no matter what life throws our way, we got this.
I love you infinity times infinity,
The first publishing of this letter was October 1, 2016 on the Extend Fertility website.