On any given Saturday, Lake Park in Pineville mimics any typical park in Charlotte - kids hanging from monkey bars and slipping down slides as parents watch.
But on Nov. 5, Lake Park was filled with much more than the usual sounds of a playful afternoon.
Moms and dads celebrated the gift of life with doctors, nurses, ultrasound technicians and administrative staff at Carolinas Medical Center-Women's Institute's Assisted Reproduction Family Reunion.
One family that had a lot to celebrate that day was Melissa, 33, and Keith Harrison, 38, of Pineville. Melissa's infertility struggle began years ago and after a long and painful journey, they attended the picnic in celebration of their twin daughters, Kennedy and Peyton, 13-months-old.
"The purpose is to bring back the patients that they've helped. It's a way for the nurses and doctors, front desk personnel and ultrasound techs to see the families," said Melissa.
Melissa's battle with infertility began about two years after she and Keith were married.
"Really it became a journey for us when we realized that we couldn't get pregnant," said Melissa. "After three years we were trying, but it just wasn't happening."
Melissa's doctor put her on an oral medication for five months, but there was still no baby. It was at that time that Melissa realized there might be a more serious problem and her doctor referred her to a specialist at CMC-Women's Institute.
"Sometime between 2007 and 2008 I was told I needed to go to a specialist," said Melissa.
Melissa endured test after test only to receive more news that would hinder her chances of ever conceiving - she has Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, a hormonal disorder that can affect the chances of a woman becoming pregnant.
Both Melissa and her doctor decided it was time for the next step.
"It was kind of like we were peeling off an onion. We had to go to the next level, which was an IUI (intrauterine insemination). We tried about five rounds of that," said Melissa.
Months went by and Melissa was left broken hearted without success. She realized more drastic action might need to take place.
Melissa began to think about adoption but just couldn't bring herself to seriously consider it.
"At one time adoption was on the table, but I felt like it was every woman's right to carry a child," said Melissa
"Finally in July of 2009, we decided we were going to try IVF (in vitro fertilization). It's scary because it's a $12,000 procedure and you might not get anything out of it, but I was desperate at the time. Everyone around me was pregnant. I thought it was a fool-proof plan," Melissa said.
After three injections a day, oral medication and invasive procedures, Melissa completed her first round of IVF praying that it would be successful. But science is not certain, and the expensive procedure was a failure.
Melissa and Keith decided to take a break for six months to reevaluate their decision, and in December 2009, the couple decided to try the procedure one more time.
Two weeks after the procedure, Melissa learned that she was pregnant.
At the doctor's appointment to confirm the results of the pregnancy test, the Harrisons got news they never expected to hear: they were expecting twins.
The Harrisons are now the proud parents of two 13-month-old girls, Kennedy and Peyton.
The celebration at Lake Park was a bittersweet reminder of the journey it took Keith and Melissa to get to where they are now.
"When I look at my girls and see them smile and giggle, every shot, every test and every single office visit suddenly becomes part of the story of how our family was made," Melissa said.
The Harrisons' girls are all the proof they need to know that miracles do happen.
Ashley Icard is a freelance writer for South Charlotte News. Have a story idea for Ashley? Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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