September 18, 2013 - As a new author, Crystal Sirignano knows that writing a book is difficult.
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It took her two years to pen her memoir, aptly titled "Labor of Love." But while fitting, the title refers not to the work of producing the book, but to the effort she put forth more than five years ago in helping her daughter become a mother and herself become a grandmother. Sirignano's book journals how, at 52, she gave birth to her daughter Kendra's twins.
"What I hope (readers) see is the bond between a mother and a daughter," said Sirignano. "I also want to bring awareness of infertility. The struggles and the pain and heartbreak they go through is just horrible."
Kendra, no one in your life will love you the way I do. There is a special bond between a mother and her children, an unconditional love. (You will know what I'm talking about when you have children of your own).
This excerpt from a letter Sirignano wrote to her daughter in 1996, shortly after Kendra's graduation from Goodrich High School and just before she left for college in Arizona, is one of several letters included in the book. Pictures are also abundant in the 169-page memoir, in which Sirignano begins by sharing a life-altering tragic event from her own childhood. The story continues with how she fell in love with DJ Sirignano, whom she met at Goodrich High School. The two married when Crystal was 19. DJ is the owner of John's Steakhouse and Pizzeria in Goodrich.
While she notes in the book she had always loved children and dreamed of having many, she would have two— Ken and Kendra.
I truly believe that my brother and I are the most important things to our mother and wanting to make her happy is an important goal of ours. She seems to have a certain love and attachment to all children. Raising children is definitely what she has been best at in her life. I hope to continue her ability to raise children when I have my own. Although I am not yet a mother, the older I get, the more motherly instincts I get, helps me realize her reasons for doing certain things. I often find myself saying, "she's amazing."
When Kendra wrote the above in her first college English paper, she could not have imagined the amazing gift her mother would give her a dozen years later. Kendra would go on to earn her bachelor's degree as well as her master's degree in social work, and marry Aaron Simpson, the man she had met and fell in love with at Arizona State University. Her life was going according to plan and she even won her battle to adopt 12-year-old Claire, whom she had mentored since Claire was 9-years-old and then fostered. But the fairy tale went awry when Aaron and Kendra began trying to conceive and severe endometriosis altered plans.
Kendra tried fertility drugs, artificial insemination, and three rounds of in vitro fertilization, all to no avail. Crystal details the heartbreak, perhaps most poignantly told in a passage sharing the immediate aftermath of the third failed IVF attempt:
I was so frightened to see my daughter. I didn't know how she was going to get over this news. I ran in the house and found Aaron sitting in the dark, on a big bean-bag chair, crying. I sat next to him and hugged him. Kendra was locked in her room and wouldn't let anyone in. She was inconsolable. I was grieving for Kendra, my baby. I felt such unbelievable pain and helplessness for my daughter. I finally got into her room. She sobbed, screamed and blamed herself. She said, "That was my last chance. I will never know what my baby will look like. I will never be able to hold my baby!"
But she would have another chance and she would know and get to hold two babies in her arms, thanks to the immense, unselfish love of her mother.
Crystal Sirignano's memoir tells the story of that love, how she stepped forward to carry Aaron and Kendra's twins, her own grandchildren, the most precious, priceless gifts she could ever give or receive.
Mia and Nico Simpson were born June 18, 2008. A little more than five years later, their grandmother finished the story of how they arrived in the world, from her perspective.
Her first book signing is planned for 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Sept. 28, at John's Steak House, 8038 S. State Road, Goodrich. The books are available to purchase for $19.95 at www.CrystalSirignano.com, by e-mail at email@example.com or at amazon.com.
"I worked on the book almost every day for two years, it was a lot of work," she said. "I'll never write another book. One good one is all I had."
Writing the book was emotional, but therapeutic, Crystal adds. She was concerned about how Kendra might feel with so much of her extraordinarily personal story being shared. When she asked Kendra if there was anything she wanted left out, her daughter's response was, "Go for it, Mom."
"The book is her story, something she wanted to do," said Kendra by phone from Arizona, where she is finally living her dream of being a mother with healthy 5-year-old twins Mia and Nico. "I am really proud of her and I hope someday my kids will be proud of me for doing something courageous. My mother is a nurturing, caring person. I just knew that was something she would do. This book is a different side of her, an intellectual, professional side. I cried, I'm so proud of her."
Since giving birth to the twins, Crystal Sirignano hasn't gone more than three months without seeing them, even though they live across the country.
Not long ago, Crystal was cuddling on the couch with Mia and told the little girl, "You are my sweet little angel from heaven." Mia responded, "I'm not from Heaven."
When Crystal said, "You're not? Where are you from?" Mia answered, "I'm from the freezer. The doctors took us from the freezer and put us in your belly to grow and when we grew, they took Nico from your belly first and then me."
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville