“Once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life, love gives us a fairytale.”
Our fairytale started in October 2014, when we least expected it. We were introduced through a mutual friend over a year before, and had quickly become close. We connected over our love of Disney, Yorkies, and our eating disorder recovery. But, it wasn’t long into our relationship when we both realized that what we had was more than just ”friends.” We were both afraid that following our feelings would ruin our friendship if things didn’t work out, but decided to go with our gut and see what happened.
We had both struggled with our eating disorders for many years. Jaci grew up dancing, and had never felt like she was good enough. Kelly lost her dad at the age of 12 and quickly learned to control her feelings with food. We were both perfectionists to the point of a fault – making ourselves into the perfect daughter, the perfect friend, the perfect student, the perfect dancer, teacher, nurse, etc. But somewhere along the line, while trying to perfect ourselves, we lost ourselves. It took years of inpatient and outpatient treatment, and seeing therapists, dietitians, and psychiatrists to let go of the perfectionism and learn to be okay with being us. And in the process, we found each other.
We were engaged ten months later, and we got married on October 28, 2016. Listening to our hearts and trusting our feelings was a huge risk, but so worth it. We are both happier than we have ever been. However, it hasn’t been an easy road.
When we had only been together for a few months, and our relationship was still a secret from all but a couple of mutual friends, we were fired by our mutual employer, a church preschool, for our sexual orientation. On top of feeling betrayed and confused by the church’s accusation that we were “living a life of sin,” we were suddenly all over the media, both locally and nationally, and were forced to come out publically before we had even told our families.
We had both spent our whole lives trying to shrink, hide, and conform to what we thought we should be. For the first time ever, even though neither of us had previously identified as gay, we felt like we had figured out who we were, and we were truly happy. And for the first time in a long time, we had something we were afraid of losing, which provided solid motivation to stay in recovery. We had found our soul mate, our happily ever after. Suddenly, the church that had always told us we were made in God’s image was telling us that who God made us to be was wrong. People we knew and loved were turning their backs on us and judging us, all because of who we loved. And we had to constantly remind ourselves (and each other) what it would cost us to turn back to our eating disorders.
There were days we had to go back to the basics: breathing, eating on a schedule, and being honest about what the voices in our heads were saying. We knew the old script too well, and it would have been easy to run back to the familiar comfort that came with believing the lies. But we had to focus on what we gained through this experience, rather than what we lost. There were people we met because of our situation who have since become good friends, and walked beside us through the whole thing. Our lawyer even officiated our wedding! There have been opportunities to use our voices to tell our story and speak out against discrimination and to promote inclusion, and we would not have had those opportunities otherwise. What could have been a horrible ending, instead turned into an amazing beginning. We received so much support from friends, strangers, and people all over the world…and most importantly, from our families.
Not long after we were fired, we were asked to participate in a news story about the fight to allow both same-sex parents to be listed on their baby’s birth certificate. The segment started a discussion that made us realize how much we wanted to start a family together. We started trying in January of 2015, but a year later, we had spent thousands of dollars and still weren’t pregnant. Month after month, we got our hopes up and then our hearts crushed when test after test came back negative. It was easy to believe the lies that we were broken, that we were being punished, that we deserved the pain that came with each negative test. We had to rely on each other, and the hope that one day our family would feel complete. But with each negative test, we lost a little more hope that we would ever have a baby. After a full year of trying, multiple procedures and a surgery, we saw a fertility specialist and found out our best option was to move on to In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). We were devastated because of the cost, but also excited that moving on to IVF would open the door for us to do Reciprocal-IVF, which is something we hadn’t thought would be possible for us until this point. Reciprocal IVF would allow us to have two babies together — for each of us to carry the other’s embryo — involving both of us in the process.
We are both in a solid place in our recovery from our eating disorders, but there have been a few times that the stress and disappointment could easily have thrown us back into our illnesses. Through everything—being fired from the church, being forced to come out in the media, and seeing way too many negative pregnancy tests—we have learned that it’s not possible to be connected in a relationship and disconnected in an eating disorder at the same time. Either you’re connected or you’re not, and we have to choose each day to connect with one other, to let the bad in with the good, and to rely on the support of each other and those around us to get us through the difficult days.
Our wedding song, “Better Place” by Rachel Platten, says it best: “Cause it feels like I’ve opened my eyes again / And the colors are golden and bright again / There’s a song in my heart, I feel like I belong / It’s a better place since you came along.”
Jaclyn and Kelly Pfeiffer are passionate about recovery, equality, raising awareness, ending discrimination, and being moms. You can follow their journey on their website: rainbowsandbabies.com.
This story is part of the Marginalized Voices Project. Learn more.