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Carrie Weiss received a text from her daughter Hailey recently that made them both cry.
Hailey, 19, who just returned to the College of New Jersey for her sophomore year, had been in a typical last-minute rush to pack the car before heading back. "Since my daughter is now a sophomore, I didn't feel the need to oversee every item that she packed for school," Carrie told TODAY Parents. "I really wanted her to take charge of the process herself and decide what she needed to bring.
"Of course, that meant that all packing was done the day before and it was a whirlwind!" said Carrie. "She had piles of stuff in the hallway, and I reminded her to grab supplies from the basement, which she did."
Among the supplies Hailey grabbed was a non-descript notebook with pockets in it. It was only later, when she was preparing to use it for class, that Hailey realized the notebook had been used before and for a much bigger purpose.
"Although the notebook was empty, she saw labels on the pockets in my handwriting," said Carrie. "'Test Results,' 'Referrals'... Then she saw the calendars that came pre-printed in the notebook with the years 1995 to 1997 and found the due date calculator."
That's when Hailey sent her mom the text. "The notebook I'm using for college helped you guys keep track of how to create me! (Pretty sure)," Hailey wrote to her mother. "I, like, almost cried, lol."
"I am crying!" Carrie replied. "You are my miracle."
Carrie, 48, and her husband Jeff, 52, tried for a few years to have a baby early in their marriage. "We knew we would do whatever it took to make a family," said Carrie. Eventually, they sought help from a specialist, who diagnosed Carrie with a thyroid disorder they were able to treat.
In the meantime, Carrie started a notebook to organize all the paperwork that goes with infertility — "tests results, referrals, prescriptions, temperature charts, calendars, notes on visits and questions to ask," said Carrie. "I guess that I felt that being organized gave me some control over the situation," she said. "It was a hard time, not knowing if it would work."
With the help of the drugs Clomid and human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) and intrauterine insemination (IUI), Carrie and Jeff were able to conceive Hailey. Years later, they tried to have a second child, but an anxiety disorder made infertility treatments impossible for Carrie. The couple was completing an application to adopt a second child when they found out they had spontaneously conceived their son Ethan, now 14. "I truly have two miracles!" said Carrie.
After Ethan was born, Carrie decided to empty the notebook, keeping anything special for the children's baby books and filing or recycling the rest. ("I must have missed the due date calculator wheel in the pocket!" she said.) But the memories of their infertility journey stayed with her.
"I always knew that we would be a family somehow. I was just frustrated about how to find our path when it came so easily for others," she said. "It felt very unfair and we felt alone. There wasn't any internet or Facebook to connect with others or share ideas.
"Suffering from infertility and anxiety made it even worse," she said. "Both were things that people didn't talk about. I was very lucky to have a supportive family and close friends. My husband was great and did everything he could to make this family happen."
Hailey's text was a "full-circle moment," Carrie said. "It gave me a moment of pause. We miss her when she is at school, but we are all so connected. There's a lot of pride about how we came to be a family and we all cherish it."
Carrie shared Hailey's text with the Grown and Flown Parents Facebook group, where other parents of older children quickly chimed in with their own stories of infertility. "All of a sudden, there was a wave of camaraderie that we all had missed out on back when we went through infertility!" said Carrie. "It really felt like closure to me. It brought back all of those old feelings of loneliness and insecurity, but this time, I had all of these other parents with me. It was so amazing!"
Hailey knows the story of her parent's struggle to have her, Carrie said. "We were the goofy family that always celebrated 'Hailey Creation Day' and loved to share with the kids how much they were wished for," said Carrie. "My husband tells the kids that they are a product of their mother's determination."
Now, the child Carrie and Jeff Weiss wished so much for is in a five-year Master's program studying special education and English, and she plans to teach special education in an urban community after graduation. "I am truly in awe of my daughter and could not be prouder," said Carrie.