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It took eight years, 14 medical procedures and three miscarriages for Jennifer Pesce to become a mother.
Cassidy Dawn Pesce was born June 18, 2014, at 4:34 p.m. at St. Charles Hospital in Port Jefferson.
"I basically tell people she is my miracle. She is my miracle baby," said Pesce, 39, of Medford.
She and her husband, Tom, 46, never imagined that conceiving would be so difficult.
Fertility drugs. In vitro fertilization procedures. Daily hormone shots. The miscarriages, always in the first trimester.
"I want her to know that she is everything I ever wanted," said Pesce, who was raised in Queens Village and moved to Long Island when she and her husband married. She hopes her ordeal might inspire others who are trying to conceive.
"Sometimes when you're going through it, it helps to know that there are other people that are out there with the same struggle," she said.
The family took a picture of plump-cheeked Cassidy, wearing a pink bathing suit and floral print hat, when they visited Cedar Beach in the Town of Brookhaven this summer. Her first beach visit. They posted it on Instagram on Saturday.
"I want her to do what she wants in life," said Pesce, who said she already has started a college fund for her daughter.
Her ordeal began in 2006, after she couldn't get pregnant and visited a fertility doctor. She was diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome, a condition in which a woman has an imbalance of female sex hormones that can lead to changes in the menstrual cycle and difficulty becoming pregnant.
She had six intrauterine insemination procedures, fertility treatments that involve placing sperm into a woman's uterus. All unsuccessful.
Pesce finally became pregnant in 2007, after her first in vitro procedure. But she miscarried six weeks later. Two more miscarriages followed over the next five years.
Her husband tried to reassure her often. "If we don't have a family of our own, it's OK," she said he told her. "You're enough for me."
Jennifer Pesce, who works as a physical education teacher at Robert H. Goddard Middle School 202 in Ozone Park, Queens, said she loved the support, but blamed herself.
"How could you not, when you're the reason you're not getting pregnant? It's your body," she said.
She learned of the third miscarriage while at work. She shrunk in a corner of the empty gymnasium, crying.
In 2013, she became pregnant after a more aggressive intrauterine insemination procedure.
Around November 2013, during a visit to her fertility doctor at Long Island IVF's office in East Patchogue, she clutched her husband's hand, bracing for bad news.
The heartbeat fluttered on the sonogram. Then her doctor let her hear it. She couldn't stop crying. It was the best sound she'd ever heard.
These days, Pesce sings Cassidy to sleep with a favorite song: "A Thousand Years" from "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn." The first line of the chorus is "I have died every day waiting for you."