‘Maybe you’re pregnant,’ she said. At 11:19 p.m. in a Target bathroom, I took a test. Two faint little lines. I kept the secret from my husband.’

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“In my 25 years of life, I have made it through many traumatic events I have had no control over. But here I am, still living, still believing this life of mine is so, so beautiful.

Currently, I have a small hair patch on the back of my head, less than half of one eyebrow that will grow in, and eyelashes that come and go. I have alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes my hair to fall in and out.. and in and out. There is no cure and really no reasoning behind why it happens. My alopecia is one trauma that any person, whether I want them to or not, can see. I was diagnosed when I was 9 years old. Shortly after my dad fell off the wagon for the final time. (He is 17 years clean and one of the strongest humans I know. But that’s his story to share, not mine.) I had small bald spots that would grow, then fall back out over the years.

Courtesy of Marisa Kimmel

Throughout elementary and middle school I tried many treatments to get my hair to grow back. I wanted to be normal and look normal. I just wanted to be like all the other girls with their pretty hair. But that wasn’t in the cards for me. I tried shampoos, creams, even hundreds of steroid shots in my head. Nothing stuck, and my alopecia continued to not only control my hair, but slowly control my life. High school was so hard for me. I would spend hours getting ready for school. I would get out of the shower and blow dry my hair with my back to the mirror because I couldn’t even look at myself. If I couldn’t get my hair to cover my bald spots, then I wouldn’t even go to school.

You would never catch me in any water or outside if it was windy. I couldn’t even stand up in front of my classmates to present anything, I’d take a lesser grade without even thinking. Alopecia was controlling my life and I was letting it. I asked my parents to spend the little money they had on a wig for me. They did in a heartbeat. That first day I wore my wig to school, a boy made a comment. ‘What’s wrong with your hair?’ He didn’t know it was a wig or that I was losing all my hair. And I didn’t speak up and tell him. Instead, I cried and left school to be alone in my dark bedroom to feel sorry for myself. I spent so many years not only feeling sorry for myself, but being mad at the world I was given.

Courtesy of Marisa Kimmel

My freshman year of college, I started dating my now husband. One of the first days we spent together, I told him about my hair. He didn’t blink an eye. He didn’t care and that meant everything to me. A few months later, we were sitting in his mom’s kitchen with his shears and clippers (he was in barber school and is now a barber… crazy right?) getting ready to cut all my hair off. I took the scissors into the bathroom, put my hair in a ponytail, and cut off my hair. My husband shaved my head, and that was that.

Courtesy of Briana Autran, Instagram: @brianaautran

We moved to Chicago a few months later and started our lives together. I met so many amazing human beings who accepted me regardless of what was on my head. I started modeling and eventually bought my own camera and started taking self-portraits and taking photos of others. My husband and I built our beautiful life together in the city of Chicago for five years. 

We knew we wanted to have a little baby before we turned 26. So in 2017, we started trying for that little baby. August 25th, 2017, we had three positive pregnancy tests. We were so excited, we couldn’t wait for that doctor’s appointment to confirm everything and to tell our family. Our families were so happy for us. The thought of anything being wrong never crossed our minds. September 28th confirmed there wasn’t a baby growing. I had a blighted ovum. They gave me the option of letting my body pass the tissue naturally or be given a pill to speed up the process. I was told it could take some time for my body to eject that sac my baby was supposed to be growing in. I wanted to let it happen naturally. My husband and I left the doctors. He blew up the air mattress in our living room and held me while I cried that entire day.

That weekend I was to be at a camp for kids with Alopecia. I was to stand on a stage to tell my own personal story of confidence to these children and their parents. I decided to go knowing my miscarriage could start at any moment. I drove myself and a teenage girl from Chicago to Bellefontaine, Ohio, approximately a 5-hour drive. 4 1/2 hours into that drive, I felt myself start to bleed and I began to cry. That 17-year-old girl was there for me when she did not have to be. Another amazing human being that is such a big part of my life. I spent that weekend trying my best to allow myself to be distracted. I got up on that stage and told my story, all while slowly going through my miscarriage. I made it through that weekend but my miscarriage wasn’t happening as quickly as my doctor was wanting. I was given those little pills to take home and was told within a few hours intense cramping would start to happen. It did, and I was not prepared for that immeasurable pain. I was bleeding and puking on my bathroom floor unable to move. My husband drove me to the nearest emergency room to be given morphine to get me through the pain. On October 3rd, I woke up to blood-filled sheets and that empty sac tissue laying in between my legs. I really can’t remember those following days. What I did. Who I talked to. What I said. I think it’s better that way.

Courtesy of Briana Autran, Instagram: @brianaautran

Those following months I filled my days with all the photo shoots I could, I kept so busy. I started a self-love project to allow myself a reason to let emotions out. I photographed almost 100 people, asking them what they loved about themselves. It was beautiful. Life was still beautiful, even after that heartbreak my husband and I just went through. I needed that reminder.

A few months went by and life still went on. We were given the okay to start trying again. We decided, if I got pregnant right away or not, it was best to move closer to family in Michigan when our lease was up in March. We also planned to take one last big vacation to Australia for the last two weeks of February.

One night, a week before our vacation, I had a dream I was pregnant. That next day I was driving home from work, I called my mom and was telling her about my dream. ‘Maybe you are pregnant,’ she offhandedly said. I couldn’t get that out of my mind and had to know as soon as possible. So on February 16th at 11:19 p.m. in a Target bathroom, I took a pregnancy test. I just knew I had to be pregnant and couldn’t wait to take that freshly bought test. Two faint little lines. I cried by myself in that stall, holding my belly, hoping everything would all be okay this time. I decided to keep the secret for three days from my husband and surprise him once we got to Australia. We had two amazing weeks in Australia filled with so much love.

On April 16th we had that first ultrasound and everything went perfectly. If I’m being honest, I dreaded going to those appointments for the fear of something not being right. I really had a beautiful, easy pregnancy with our son. His due date, October 29th, came and went. He stayed cozy and warm in my belly until November 4th. I had made it through 39-hours labor that, I think, was the most terrible pain I’ll ever feel in my life. But here came our beautiful, healthy, baby boy Abraham.

Courtesy of Marisa Kimmel
Courtesy of Marisa Kimmel
Courtesy of Marisa Kimmel

My life hadn’t been the easiest these past 25 years. But I would go through it a million times over if that meant living the life I have today. I am so incredibly strong and brave. Life is beautiful and those hard times are going to happen, but we need to surround ourselves with those people that love us for us, and get through it the best way we possibly can.

There’s so much light at the end of the tunnel.”

Courtesy of Marisa Kimmel
Courtesy of Marisa Kimmel

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Marisa Kimmel of Michigan. You can follow her journey on Instagram here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear about your important journey. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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