I never thought I would be writing something like this. I never in a million years would have thought this would be us. I never would have thought I would hold my baby girl as she cried, in pain over the fact that she can’t have a sibling. Or from watching the pain she has seen Jojo and I face. As much as Jojo and I want a biological child together, we want nothing more than to give Malia a little brother or sister.
This will forever be the most vulnerable time in our lives. Our pride has been set aside, so we can ask for help. Anything helps, and will forever be greatly appreciated as we continue our journey through IVF.
Our love story will always be my favorite. Jojo and I met as just children. We were roughly 7 years old and had no idea what our future had in store for us. If we had to say who loved who first, it would have been me (Jojo was interested in older girls at that time, my SISTER! Haha). Once he gave up on older women, our love story began. We officially were “boyfriend and girlfriend.” There are so many stories we could share from over the years. I’ll share some of my favorites.
When we were 9, we were both racing. During my race, I wound up flipping. After I flipped, I opened my eyes to see Jojo right there. My dad still over behind the barrier, but Jojo right there to make sure I was ok. I felt an instant sense of relief seeing him there, never did I think that he would forever be what made me feel safe.
Another one of my favorites would be when we were in 4th grade and I was allowed to invite him to the Halloween harvest festival. I dressed as Avril Lavigne and him hopping around on crutches (his costume was faking an injury. Haha!), we spent the night playing festival games and eating candy. I can still remember how I felt as his Mom’s car pulled up and he got out, butterflies beyond belief. The same butterflies I get as he pulls into our driveway coming home.
Fast forward to Junior year of high school. We had both started driving at this time. In October of each year we would always hang out at Hawes Farm. Running around the corn maze, being annoying teenagers. One night after we left Hawes Farm, we had decided to go to Walmart to kill some time before having to go home. NOTE: If any of our parents are reading this right now, skip to the next paragraph. Haha! Anyways, as we were driving to Walmart, Jojo decided it would be funny to bump the back of my car while we were going 50 mph! Slowed me down just enough to pass me (he’s clearly a race car driver and always has been!) It absolutely scared the crap out of me but I couldn’t even be mad at him! I of course did the whole flirting, hitting, I’m mad at you scene though. At that moment I had no idea that he would frustrate me for the rest of our lives.
On another episode of Jojo frustrating Kristie, we fast forward to Senior year. Lol Jojo and I were hanging out with some friends, flirting, being teenagers. When I left, I texted him and told him that I enjoyed hanging out that night. His response was not what I expected. He responded with “Is Haley single, I’m interested.” It took me a second to respond, I didn’t know what to say. So when I finally responded with a “Wow, yup she is, have at it” he responded with a “I’m just kidding.” So when I say he’s always frustrated me, this is proof! I ended up going to his house and meeting him out front. I can remember standing in front of his car door in his arms, kissing him. I will never forget how bad my cheeks hurt from cheesy smiling the entire time I was with him. Little did I know that I would get to kiss him anytime I wanted for the rest of my life and that my cheeks would hurt often from his goofy ass!
There was about a 2 year gap at about this time, when Jojo and I did not talk often, if at all. In those 2 years, I met someone who would then give me Malia. She was the biggest blessing to me, and always will be. While I was pregnant I lived near where Jojo was working for a little bit. I remember sitting out front and seeing him in the yard at work and just remembering all the memories we shared. I remember telling my friends about him and explaining he was my childhood love. And I had no idea that Malia would one day call the boy that I had always loved, Daddy.
2011, Malia’s father and I began to drift apart. We were trying to make it work, but I think we both knew that it was to far gone at that point. I believe him and I were meant to meet to give us Malia, but our true love, our soul mates, were still out there. One night I was sitting on the couch when I got a message on Facebook. It was Jojo. I’m pretty sure my heart jumped out of my chest. Lol He started with just a simple “Hey how have you been? Hope everything is going good with you. Your baby is really cute BTW.” They conversation ended up going on till about 2am when I finally had to go to sleep (considering I had to wake up with a baby in just a few short hours. But let me tell you, I dreaded ending that conversation in fear it would be the only one I got). The next day while I was at work, a client walked in. I greeted them and walked from the back room, and it was him. When we had talked the night before, we had talked about where I was working and about me cutting his hair. Little did I know, I would be the only one cutting his hair for the rest of our lives.
We continued to talk after that day, and we ended up planning our “first date.” If you know us well, you are going to be SHOCKED when you hear where we went for our first date.... CYCLELAND SPEEDWAY! A race track! You’re shocked aren’t you? (Complete and utter sarcasm implied) We had a great time, lots of timid flirting and lots of laughing and giggling. While we were there, we went to the snack bar to get something to drink. He asked me what I wanted and I ordered a Rockstar. I tried to give him money for it, but he insisted on paying. Throughout the rest of the night, I fought to sneak a $1 bill in his pocket. He would then in return, sneak it back into mine. At the end of the night as he got out of my truck, he slipped the $1 bill behind my seat, where I couldn’t get it fast enough to slip it back into his pocket. And at that moment, I had no idea that I would hold on to that $1 bill to this day, as it sits laminated in my wallet now.
Our relationship continued after that day. We saw each other when we could, since I was not ready to let him meet Malia yet. After we hung out some more, he started to show a large interest in Malia. He wanted to meet her, he wanted to play with her, he wanted to be someone in her life. One night he had asked me to come stay with him at a hotel, due to his house having repairs done. I had Malia so I had to decline the invitation. However, he insisted that I come and that I bring Malia. I wasn’t to sure about it, I was terrified to be honest. I feared introducing him to her, and him not sticking around. After he said to me “I’m not going anywhere, I just want to be someone to her, I want to get to know her, and I want her to get to know me” I decided I would bring her and let them meet. That night was the first night my baby didn’t cuddle with me all night since she was born, because she was cuddling with JoJo. And again, I had no idea that one day she would be saying “ I love you daddy” to him before bed every night.
Jojo and I were 19 years old when we got together. It was scary, for both of us. I never expected that 19 year old boy to accept my daughter and I as a packaged deal. It came with a lot of fear, especially after introducing the two of them and her forming a relationship with him. A day came where my fears stood correct. That 19 year old boy got scared. He broke up with me. He chose to not be part of Malia and I’s life. I was so angry. I was angry with him, and I was even more angry with myself. I was so upset that I had allowed him to meet her and that I had introduced her to a man that didn’t stick around, but I never stopped loving him. I was so angry, but all I could do was cry. I missed him, I wanted him, I loved him... After a little under a month, we hung out a couple times. I watched my P’s and Q’s and made sure not to say anything that could potentially mess this up. He was back again, and I prayed and prayed that he would stay. I prayed that he would want to come back to us. On Malia’s 1st birthday, I got a fortune that said “Star light, star bright, your wish will come true tonight.” I put the fortune in my wallet and knew that all I had wished for at that time was for him to come back. That night he was there. The following morning, he left and told me he would not be able to make it to Malia’s birthday party that day. I was sad, but I said ok and let him leave. I was still so worried about saying the wrong thing. I went to set up Malia’s party later in the day, the entire time bummed that he would not be attending. A few minutes before her party was set to begin, I received a text from JoJo that said “I hope she had a great 1st birthday party, I’m going to go to bed, I have to work early in the morning.” While I was upset, I didn’t want him to know I was. So I said “thank you” and went about preparing for the party. A few minutes after the party began, the pizza parlor front door opened and in he walked, with the biggest shit eating grin on his face. He wanted to surprise us and show up. That moment changed the rest of our lives. Little did I know that Malia and I’s lives were about to be forever changed.
Jojo and I started to date again. I dreamed of being an Owens and being his wife. However, this was a now 20 year old boy that I knew had no plans for marriage by any means. I was shocked when only a couple weeks later during a conversation about a “title” of being boyfriend and girlfriend, that I would hear “Why don’t we just skip dating and get married.” To many it sounded crazy, but to us it felt like we had been together our entire life. 2 weeks later he got down on one knee in front of my entire family and asked me to marry him. Of course I said YES! It felt like I was living my own personal fairy tale. The boy I had loved my entire life was now the man that I got marry and spent the rest of my life with.
JoJo and I got married 10 months later on June 9,2012. Our marriage was everything I could have dreamed of, and more. We talked about having children together many times and most of the time it resulted in a no. JoJo didn’t look at Malia any differently than being his own. JoJo and Malia bonded quicker and on a deeper level than I ever expected, or could have dreamed of. That 19 year old boy who cuddled with her the first night they met, now became her “Daddy” who hung the stars and the moon. There were a couple times we would all the sudden change our minds and decide we did want a baby, which would result in us trying for a baby. We would try for about 6 months and after not conceiving, we would have already changed our minds again. We are learning now that it may have been because we weren’t seeing any success. However, back then, we just saw it as fate. We saw it as “maybe we weren’t meant to have a baby.”
Our marriage had it ups and downs, but we fought like hell for it always. After 5 years something began to pull us apart. I still couldn’t tell you to this day exactly what it was, but despite how hard we fought, we couldn’t overcome it. Jojo and I decided to separate. Our separation is hard to explain. I believe we both feared our marriage being over, but we also feared how much our marriage had changed. Ultimately, we both realized that it wasn’t the end of us, it wasn’t the end of our family. As much as I wish I could have all that time back with my husband, I truly believe we are as strong as we are today because of that separation. I believe that we both grew, in ways we weren’t capable of growing together. We had been together since we were 19 years old, and we both had a lot of growing to do.
Jojo and I came to the conclusion that while we had some growing to do, there was some growth that just couldn’t be done without one another. We fought like hell and saved our marriage. I could never speak for him, but what I can say for myself is that I couldn’t imagine loving anyone else the way I love him. The thought of the time we spent apart, makes me sick to my stomach. I can’t imagine another day not being his wife. I am very proud and blessed to be Mrs. Owens.
After Jojo and I got back together, we discussed foster care with one of our good friends. My grandma was a foster parent and I watched her change children’s lives often. Jojo and I decided that we wanted to have the opportunity to change a child’s life. As we talked about it, we started to feel like something about it didn’t feel right. We felt like we were missing something that we couldn’t explain. During a conversation about foster children, we got on the topic of having a baby. It was at that moment when we decided that what we were missing, was a baby. Our eyes were opened to a piece of us that was missing, and a piece of Malia that had been missing. A daughter or a son, and a sister or a brother. In June of last year, after a talk with Malia and a mutual family agreement, we decided we wanted to grow our family.
JoJo and I began to talk about the timing. We contemplated when would be a good time to start trying. We planned a Disney vacation for April 2020 as a Christmas present for Malia. We had decided we would wait till April to try to conceive just so that Malia didn’t miss out on anything (or I didn’t miss out on anything) during our 9 day visit to Disneyland. In August we began to get anxious. It was then that we decided we would start trying immediately. I quickly came off birth control, and we began to “try.” We had expected it to take a couple months for the birth control to get out of my system, but were prepared for conception at any time. After a couple months went by, it was advised by my doctor that I start tracking ovulation. I began tracking my ovulation every month, and JoJo began traveling home at night during my fertile window (downfall of having an out of town husband). We leaned a ton about what is required for conception. Other around us kept telling us to “stop trying”, however when you have an out of town working husband, it is kind of impossible to conceive if you aren’t aware of your ovulation schedule. We never once felt the stress of “trying” it honestly was probably the best bonding him and I have had in a while. After tracking ovulation for 8 months and multiple negative pregnancy tests, infertility was brought to our attention. We joked about it and decided we would have a semen analysis done to rule it out/prove there wasn’t an infertility issue. JoJo had an analysis done on a Thursday. The clinic let me know we would have results that day. However, we did not. It ended up being the longest weekend of my life. Come Monday morning, when I was just about to call the clinic, the mail came. I went and checked the mail and in the mail was an envelope from the clinic the analysis was done at. Considering he had just had the analysis done 3 days prior, I expected to open a bill or an explanation of insurance denial. That was not the case. I opened up a copy of the analysis that confirmed JoJo and I’s biggest fear. Diagnosis: Severe Male Infertility.
Jojo and I have visited multiple doctors since then. We saw the top male urologist in UC Davis who confirmed male infertility. We saw one of the top Reproductive Specialist in Sacramento who confirmed male infertility. We were then faced with our biggest fear, our only chance at biologically sharing a child was to undergo an IVF procedure, which would cost $25,000-$30,000 for a single round. We were devastated. We didn’t know where to go from there. We knew we didn’t have $30,000 and knew we wouldn’t be able to come up with that kind of money without saving for years. Jojo and I will be 30 years old in a couple months and as we get older our chances of success to conceive only get slimmer. I reached out to an infertility community about how to come up with the money for IVF. It was suggested to us to apply for a clinical trial. After applying and discovering we don’t meet the criteria, we got what felt like the biggest blessing. A doctor in Reno, NV who runs the clinical trial offered us a 10% discount on an IVF cycle. After our appointment with Dr. Russell Foulke, we decided we were going to schedule our cycle. We knew we didn’t have the money, but we decided that when there is a will, there is a way. Within 2 days we qualified for $15,000 in loans. Our dreams were literally coming true. However, after receiving our explanation of services, we are still short roughly $10,000. We aren’t giving up though, we are jumping into this heads high and hearts open.
- Brad Juanarena
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- Greg and Erin Anderson
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