A mother who experienced two miscarriages before having her second child used the materials from her in vitro fertilization journey to create a stunning photo of the baby she fought so hard to have.
Lesleigh Cetinguc and her husband knew they wanted to have children as soon as they were married—but they soon discovered they were having problems getting pregnant. After seeking the help of a reproductive endocrinologist, the couple tried IVF treatment when IUI (intrauterine insemination) didn’t work. A short time after starting their IVF program, the couple’s wish came true: Lesleigh became pregnant with the couple’s first child, their boy, Lochlan.
Lesleigh says the two frozen embryos left over from their treatment represented two more chances to bring another child into the world—and they wanted to give it a shot. Lesleigh eventually became pregnant, and they were overjoyed they would be able to give Lochlan a sibling. But their excitement soon turned to grief.
“I will never forget the moment the sonographer started searching for a baby. She was especially quiet and we were confused by the lack of action on the screen,” Lesleigh, 38, of Overland Park, Kansas, tells PEOPLE of the day she found out she lost the baby.
“During our first pregnancy, we saw baby Lochlan at the first sonogram with no issues,” she continues. “His little heartbeat flickered strongly for us to see. This time, however, we stared at an empty black circle.”
After her miscarriage, Lesleigh says she was overwhelmed by the emotional and physical toll it left on her.
“It was a peculiar state to be in,” she says. “My body was saying I’m done, but my mind and heart both carried on in a state of grief. I was in a fog. It was as if I was on my back, staring at the sky while the world passed me by.”
Just a few months later, Lesleigh became unexpectantly pregnant once again—this time, naturally—but once more, she suffered a miscarriage.
“We tried not to get too excited, but I’ll be honest, I was bursting with joy,” Lesleigh recalls of the day she saw two lines on the pregnancy test. “It was short-lived, though, and a few short weeks later it was over as well.”
Still hopeful, the couple turned to their last frozen embryo to give it a last attempt—and it worked. Lesleigh and her husband, Tolga, welcomed their baby boy, Lennon, into the family on December 14.
Lesleigh says she’ll never forget the moment she held her rainbow baby (a baby born following a miscarriage, stillbirth, neonatal death or infant loss) for the first time.
“I pulled Lennon close, soaking in the moment knowing it was his first moments in this world and likely my last time to experience firsthand the miracle of birth,” she says. “He was warm, slippery and making full use of his tiny lungs. I kept repeating, ‘We did it, we did it.’ ”
To pay tribute to their rainbow baby and their long IVF journey, Lesleigh collected all of the IVF materials she used over the years to create a rainbow with Lennon at the end laying on a white cloud. The picture, taken by Kelley Chance of Kelley Photo, shows the rainbow made up with every syringe, pill bottle, vial and patch that Lesleigh used to bring Lennon into the world. Tolga painstakingly painted each item in the couple’s backyard.
“It wasn’t until after our first miscarriage, that I started to really sit back and soak in what those pictures actually meant,” Lesleigh says. “To me it signifies resiliency. That one shot embodies all of the love, hope and pain that comes with IVF. It’s the making of a miracle.”
In honor of all that led up to the picture, Lesleigh penned a letter to Lennon and shared it online in the hopes that she could offer a peek behind the curtain of infertility for those who have not experienced it.
Lesleigh would like other couple’s struggling with infertility to know that, while there are many avenues of treatment to go down, they should only do what they are comfortable with and seek support when they need it. It’s an intimate journey, and a difficult one.
“Infertility is a very personal journey and you get to make the call on what you feel comfortable doing going forward,” she says. “Listen to your heart and know that you are stronger than you could ever imagine. What is someone else’s path might not be yours… Above all, always remember that you are strong, you are loved and you are not alone.”