It took a lot of shots to make the perfect baby photo happen for Patricia and Kimberly O'Neill.
One thousand, six hundred and sixteen IVF shots, to be exact, over the four and a half years that yielded three miscarriages before they gave birth to their rainbow baby daughter.
So after baby London's arrival on Aug. 3., the Arizona couple recruited photographer Samantha Packer to produce a memento paying homage to all the physical struggles Patricia, 30, endured along the way.
The result? A photo of the swaddled infant framed by a heart of empty syringes — an image that has since gone viral.
"We just wanted something to symbolize the end of our long journey," Kimberly O'Neill, 37, told TODAY Parents. "We were both tearing up in the studio watching (as the picture was taken)."
When the couple, each of whom have a child from a previous relationship, began trying to conceive, they certainly had no idea that the journey would be quite so long. They began in February 2013 with Intrauterine Insemination (IUI), a process in which donor sperm was placed inside Patricia's uterus, on their doctor's recommendation.
"We thought it was going to be pretty easy," said Kimberly. "We thought we would just go to a doctor and pick out some sperm and be parents in nine months."
That didn't happen.
Patricia and Kimberly switched doctors and switched strategies — opting for egg retrieval. On their second try, they successfully retrieved 20 eggs for fertilization, five of which were deemed potential embryos.
They seemed on track for a successful result on the first one when Patricia got pregnant, "but right around the six-week mark she miscarried," recalled Kimberly. "We were heartbroken, but we weren’t completely discouraged."
Trying again with a second embryo, the couple rejoiced when Patricia again became pregnant. But a second, emotionally devastating miscarriage followed after eight weeks.
After a barrage of tests, their doctor determined that Patricia had a blood clotting disorder called Factor V Leiden, which can lead to miscarriages. Put on medication to treat the condition, Patricia continued to try.
The third embryo failed to take, but the fourth yielded another pregnancy. This time, they were heartened to see their son's heartbeat at eight weeks. But three weeks later, there was only heartbreak as Patricia miscarried again.
"That was the point in our journey where we thought we were going to giving up," said Kimberly, who works in the baking industry. "Patricia was done with the poking and prodding and the pills."
Down to their final embryo, the couple decided to give it one more try. In December, they received news of another pregnancy. As Patricia's belly swelled over the successive weeks, their cautious hopes did, too.
"Up until the day of delivery we were on the edge of our seats," said Kimberly.
Through the past four and a half years, Kimberly kept every IVF syringe in their Sun City home, envisioning the portrait photo that has captivated so many.
But Kimberly was surprised to see just how many strangers are sharing their photographer's Facebook post. She's hoping it will inspire others.
"I think there are so many women that are in some form of situation like that who have a feeling of hopelessness," said Kimberly, "and they look at someone who has been through it and they realize that there is hope there."