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First Mother's Day for Northport couple is long-waited triumph

Amy Willie holds her 9-month-old daughter, Annie Jude,

Amy Willie holds her 9-month-old daughter, Annie Jude, at her Northport home on Saturday, May 9, 2015. Credit: Newsday/ J. Conrad Williams Jr.

In the baby's room, near the crib, the magical moment is captured in a pink-framed photograph.

The hospital snapshot shows Amy Willie cradling her newborn daughter -- beaming with happiness despite her exhaustion, eyes rimmed with tears of relief.

Ending a grueling six-year odyssey that included four miscarriages, several surgeries and dire prognoses, the Northport woman became a mom for the first time 9 months ago.

Willie and her husband, Brian, both 39, are now happily preparing for their first Mother's Day celebration.

Around their home is ample evidence that Annie Jude has arrived -- toys on the floor, baptism announcement on the fridge, newly hung photos on the walls.

Seated in their living room Saturday, the couple delighted in coaxing a gurgling belly laugh from the baby they feared they'd never have.

"Now that she's here, it's unbelievable. It's so unbelievable," Willie said. "It's just all those cliches, everything that everybody says -- it's true. It's the most amazing thing in the world."

But the path to motherhood was torturous.

The first miscarriage happened five weeks into Willie's pregnancy in 2008. There was another, followed by surgeries to remove growths from her uterus. Then came two more miscarriages.

By then Willie's uterus had become lined with scar tissue, triggered by the trauma to her reproductive system. She had to have an operation to remove the tissue.

In 2011, Willie had laparoscopic surgery to combat endometriosis -- a condition in which tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus starts growing outside it.

Her uterus, she would joke, was "like Mars -- totally inhospitable to human life."

But the couple kept trying, opting for artificial insemination. After several failed attempts, doctors told Willie in 2013 her uterine lining was no longer thick enough to support a pregnancy.

"Everything I did, I did with the hope of fixing my fertility problems, but every step I took was making it worse," said Willie, who works as a nurse.

A feeling of hopelessness washed over her. As close friends breezed through pregnancies with first and then second children, Willie found herself shopping online for baby shower gifts, unable to bear the sadness a stroll through Babies R Us would evoke.

Her husband felt the same way. "I almost wanted us to stop trying, because it was just too much," the corporate comptroller said.

"We started to talk about it, and we said, 'Well, maybe we'll be that couple that travels and we just won't have kids,' " Amy Willie said.

The breakthrough came when the couple's Syosset fertility doctor, Steven Palter, found a drug to boost the thickness of Willie's uterine wall.

She tried it immediately and soon discovered, through in vitro fertilization, she was pregnant -- this time with twins.

They had little time to celebrate. Five weeks into the pregnancy, she lost one of the twins and the old fears resurfaced.

But while the prior miscarriages had all come early, the couple's hopes swelled along with Willie's belly. At 20 weeks, with the pregnancy on course, they went to have a routine sonogram.

During the appointment, Willie started having contractions. Her weakened cervix was starting to open, unable to bear the baby's weight.

Doctors closed her cervix and halted the contractions with medication. They placed Willie on bed rest.

"That was the scariest night of my life," she recalled.

When it came time to have the baby, on July 23, 2014, Willie handed the nurses at Huntington Hospital a two-page typed list, chronicling every fertility and pregnancy heartbreak she'd experienced. She wanted the staff to know in case something went wrong.

Instead, the panic and fear vanished: Annie was born healthy at eight pounds, two ounces.

Today, she's big and strong, with chocolate-brown hair. She likes to practice standing, grabbing the coffee table and balancing with mom's help.

For Mother's Day, Willie's mother and grandmother will visit.

"It's so weird that it's the first year I'm celebrating myself as a mom, not someone else," Willie said. "Every day feels like Mother's Day for me."

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