Our speakers each have a finger on the pulse of infertility. We are so thankful to have them at our conference sharing their personal experience and perspective on infertility. They are wonderful examples of God using our pain for a purpose.
Chelsea is a Minnesota girl who loves connecting with others about living life authentically, and thrives on encouraging others experiencing infertility. She’s been married to Josh for almost 13 years and recently welcomed twins, Kirsten and Logan, to their family after nearly a decade of waiting and loss. Chelsea loves a good cup of coffee, a cozy bookshop and has more pens then one would ever deem necessary. She co-authored a 6 week woman's devotional called "In the Wait", which helps women lean into God while living intentionally in seasons of waiting. She values engaging her faith and embracing difficult seasons with joy and gratitude.
Kimberly Allen, LPC-S, LMFT
Kimberly Allen is a counselor who works with couples to enrich their marriages. After years of struggling with infertility, Kimberly knows first hand what a major life stressor can do to a relationship, and what it takes to keep a marriage strong. Kimberly is a Licensed Professional Counselor Supervisor and a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who holds a Masters degree in Marriage and Family Therapy from the University of Louisiana at Monroe.
Catherine Savage Brindley
Catherine Brindley works as a Public Information Director for the state of Louisiana. She is the editor of the Louisiana Register. Prior to state service she was a high school mathematics teacher. She enjoys writing, gardening, genealogy, community outreach, and making others smile. Her favorite bible verse is: Philippians 4:19 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” She is a true survivor who inspires others to overcome adversity.
You can find Catherine on Facebook.
Beth Forbus is the founder and president of Sarah’s Laughter – Christian Support for Infertility & Child Loss. A life of full time infertility ministry is a dream Beth cannot believe she gets to live. She’s also written a few books, hosts an amazing infertility support group in Baton Rouge as well as a faith-based infertility podcast heard around the world. Her favorite day of the whole year is the day Sarah’s Laughter hosts Baby Steps Fun Run and she is able to present free IVFs and Family Building Grants to couples struggling with baby hunger. She is probably at this moment helping someone launch an infertility support group in their own community. She loves spending time with her three fur babies, as well as her human daughter and husband. She enjoys bubble baths and fervently believes that there will be Coca-Cola in Heaven.
Madison & Augie Gonzales
Madison is an 8th grade teacher in Ascension Parish and is very passionate about her work and the students she teaches. August is a Senior Account Representative for a distribution company and enjoys networking with other people in the southern region. They have been married for four years and enjoy spending time with family and friends and cooking together. Shortly after they were married, they began their journey to become parents. After just 6 months of trying to conceive, August was diagnosed with Robertsonian Balanced Translocation, which is a chromosome abnormality. Then shortly after, through sperm analysis, he was found to have traits of a medical condition called Azoospermia, which means he has an absence of viable sperm. Madison also shared the heartbreak when she soon after was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome. With coupled diagnoses, Madison and August braved through rounds of unsuccessful fertility treatments. After their second failed IVF cycle, they felt it on their hearts to pursue adoption. They have been abundantly blessed through their pursuit of parenthood, and despite a long, rough start, they are finally expecting their first child through the miracle of adoption.
Rob & Michelle Gros
Once upon a time, 15 years ago, Rob and Michelle Gros fell in love and married. Together they enjoy serving Jesus, drinking coffee, laughing at their own jokes, and loving on their 3 little miracles, Novalee (10), Genevieve (6), and Isaiah (4). Rob and Michelle have faced many unexpected challenges to have children and walked through the loss of a child in pregnancy (their little miracle Esli), secondary infertility, fertility treatments, foster care, and adoption.
Rob has worked at Healing Place Church (HPC) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for 14 years and currently serves as the Assimilation and Small Groups Pastor. Having previously worked 11 years as an HPC graphic designer, he’s passionate about helping others love God and others in the simplest, clearest, and most practical ways. When he’s not loving life getting to help people walk in their God-given purpose, he enjoys bringing in some rhythm on the bass as well. And he’s always up for a good ping-pong challenge.
Michelle graduated from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary in 2005 with her Masters of Arts in Christian Education and worked at HPC for 11 years serving in various pastoral roles. However, through Rob and Michelle’s journey to grow their family, God began stirring a passion in Michelle to advocate for the well-being of children and families and to improve the foster care system and adoption process. She graduated with her Juris Doctorate of Law from Southern University Law Center in May of 2018. Recently, Michelle started working with the Pelican Center for Children and Families as the Special Projects Coordinator. Michelle is literally living her dream and watching God use everything she walked through to grow her family as she daily dedicates her time to improving outcomes for Louisiana’s children and families. She also hopes to use her law degree to advocate for rights and pursue law and policy changes related to pregnancy, infertility, and insurance coverage.
Rob and Michelle are being awarded with the 2018 Angels in Adoption Award for the state of Louisiana by Congressional Coalition of Adoption Institute in Washington, D.C. in the Fall. They will have the opportunity to meet with multiple senators and members of congress as well as other policy and law makers and present and propose law changes and additions. To learn more click here.
Rob and Michelle have found redemption, restoration, and purpose in sharing their story to hopefully help and uplift other couples faced with the life-altering journey of infertility and loss of a child. They consider it an honor to encourage couples that God is still a good God, that He cares deeply for them, and that He still has a beautiful plan for their marriage and their lives.
Dan & Elisha Kearns
Her birth certificate declares her as Elisha. Her husband of 11 years calls her Waladog. Her daddy knows her as Punkin-Head. Her friends have named her Wishwa, but for those who have read her blogs or listened to her speak at conferences, they know her as witty, down to earth, transparent, and always having the ability to make every person feel as though she is speaking directly to their hearts with such understanding and hope. It is through her own heartache and continued wait for a miracle that it has become her life’s mission to share the Truth she has found in Jesus. Not only to inspire other women to never give up on the dreams God has planted in the soft fertile soil of their hearts, but to also believe in Him for the impossible; especially in the area of healing. Because while it is the cry of her heart to see healing from PCOS within her own body, she is also equally as passionate about seeing an outbreak of healing in the lives of those within the infertility community. Aside from her encouraging others in full time ministry, and despite her womb remaining barren (for now), Elisha is also a stay-at-home Momma to a 7 year old, cutie-patootie named Mikayla. In July 2017, after 1,273 days of sharing their love and home to her through foster care, Elisha and her husband Daniel were privileged to also share with her their last name.
Margo has been a part of Sarah’s Laughter support group since 2015. She and her husband, John, are high school sweethearts who learned before they got married that they may experience infertility but they didn’t know to what extent. Margo was diagnosed with Stage IV Endometriosis, lost an ovary, and has a blocked tube. All of this led to the need for costly IVF to build their family biologically. This need led them to review their finances and get creative with finding ways to reduce the expenses associated with IVF. After 2 IVF retrievals and 3 embryo transfers they successfully got pregnant with their daughter, Camryn, born May 2018. Margo enjoys helping people find ways to reduce their infertility expenses and help women advocate for their medical needs.
Chipley McCollister's infertility story began when her husband, Brian, was diagnosed with Leukemia at the age of three and given two weeks to live. Following two and a half years of chemotherapy, he beat the cancer -- but lost his fertility. In March of 2015, Chipley began attending the Sarah's Laughter support group in Baton Rouge. After exhausting every possible avenue to be able to have biological children, Chipley and Brian decided to pursue embryo adoption in early 2016. As a result, they are now the proud parents of precious girl-boy twins, Bonnie and Reuben! Chipley is passionate about embryo adoption and is willing and happy to talk about it with anyone. Chipley graduated from Southeastern Louisiana University in Family Consumer Science, but later she went into the field of dentistry. She worked as a dental assistant until the birth of the twins in May of 2017 when she became a stay-at-home mom. Chipley leads the Sarah's Laughter Moms of Miracles support group and her husband, Brian co-leads the Sarah's Laughter Infertility Support Group for Men. Chipley is excited for the opportunity to share about embryo adoption at The Hope Narrative this year.
Patricia works at home as an instructional designer and has been a member of Sarah’s Laughter for the past few years. Patricia’s infertility story began in 2012 with a diagnosis of Stage 4 endometriosis. She quickly dove into the intense world of IVF with a year of back to back failed IVF cycles. Unfortunately, after a routine saline sonogram, she wound up in the hospital for 7 days battling a tubo-ovarian abscess (a nasty pelvic infection). Patricia and her husband knew immediately that their already grueling journey toward parenthood would take a sharp unexpected turn. Because the infection caused permanent damage, doctors confirmed her best bet for her frozen embryos would be to turn to a gestational carrier. Since she had never even heard that term before, it took several years of praying and raising the funds and courage to use a gestational carrier to fulfill the promise they heard God whisper in their darkest moments. They finally met the perfect person in Texas and they became parents to their twin girls in December of 2016. Her daughters are a daily reminder of God’s faithfulness through suffering and trials. Patricia is thrilled to be part of Hope Narrative this year is eager to share her story through infertility, endometriosis, and gestational surrogacy.
Jenn Rachal is from a small town on the Northshore. She lived in Hammond for nearly 10 years before moving to Baton Rouge 5 years ago when she and her now husband began dating. Jenn lives in South Baton Rouge with her husband, Mike, and 1&1/2 year old son, Bryant, along with her furbaby, Magnolia. Jenn and her husband, Mike, have been trying to conceive since April 2015 soon after they were married. After 6 months of failed fertility treatments, they decided to become foster parents while they continued to try to conceive. Jenn felt if she could love a child in their home while they were struggling with infertility, it might lessen the hurt. Their goal in foster care was not only to love the children in their home, but to encourage birth families in reunification. They have been foster parents since November 2016 and they have had four placements. They adopted their first placement, Bryant, in March 2018. Since adopting their son, Bryant, Jenn felt her desire to be pregnant has not wavered and they are continuing to pursue fertility treatments.
If she's not working in the Baton Rouge legal field, creating vinyl apparel for her small side business or sharing her heart with the blogosphere, Catherine can be found working with horses, cows, chickens, turkeys and dogs on her farm in Zachary, LA. After several years of male factor infertility and a disrupted adoption, it was God's beauty on the farm and the spiritual growth of the journey that gave her the strength to persevere. It is in the same struggle and heartache of infertility and the pursuit of parenthood that she found the biggest blessing of all...the love of Christ.
Melissa and her husband Brad are no strangers to the world of infertility. They were married in the fall of 2008 and planned to start trying for a baby in the spring of 2011. Fast forward 7 years, and they are still waiting, continuing to believe that their prayers will be answered. Together they have faced 3 diagnoses, 9 fertility treatments, and 2 miscarriages. Melissa is an infertility advocate and just a little bit enthusiastic about the importance of support groups. She enjoys photography, singing, and collecting cute coffee mugs. Melissa owns Melissa V. Photography, LLC. She and Brad live in Watson, Louisiana, with their furbaby, a Shih Tzu named Fievel.
Beth Anne Vivian
This introduction is always challenging because she goes by many different names: Beth/Beth Anne/Elizabeth Walters/Vivian so if you see any variation just know it's the same person! Beth Anne is a Licensed Professional Counselor in Baton Rouge, Louisiana where she specializes in infertility and loss. She and her husband Ryan began their infertility journey in 2014 after an unwelcome, although not surprising, diagnosis of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). Month after month of cancelled cycles due to poor medication response, they decided to attempt a more aggressive treatment approach but this only led to a more aggressive heartbreak. They finally found success through in-vitro fertilization and have a sixteen month old son.
When she's not discussing infertility and loss at work you can find her talking about it while leading local support group meetings at Sarah’s Laughter. Who is she kidding? She talks about it all the time! At brunch, Bible Study, Walgreens, family reunions and even at the grocery store. Infertility doesn’t define her but it plays a huge role in the person she has become-the person God needed her to be.