“My husband and I have been on a unique adventure from the very beginning of our relationship. Nothing we have ever done has been ‘normal.’ When I was in college, I took a break while writing a paper. This was a time when Yahoo chat rooms were bigger than Facebook. I went into Yahoo chat, and just as I was just clicking out of a room, Sean plastered this very large question on the board. ‘What’s going on in here?’ I jokingly responded, ‘Nothing much, get out while you still can!’ A few seconds later, he sent a private message. We chatted online for a few hours, but then he called me on the phone. This phone call lasted a total of 15 hours, and at the end of it, Sean told me that he intended to marry me. To be honest, I was quite smitten with him too!
We had one major obstacle in our relationship, however. I lived in Georgia, and he lived in Abbostsford, BC, Canada. Over 3,000 miles stood between us, but we both knew we had to find a way around it. Within 9 months, I went to visit him several times, and he proposed to me on White Rock Beach. Originally, I was going to finish college and move to Canada. During my last visit there, he said there was no way that he could be separated from me again. So, I threw away my plane ticket. We rented a Grand Prix, threw our few belongings in the trunk, loaded up the dog and the cat, and drove to Georgia. We were married at the local courthouse just a few weeks later.
After being unable to get pregnant for almost a year, we decided to seek out a fertility doctor. I had test after test ran on my body, only to discover that I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). After researching this dreadful diagnosis, so many things started to make sense. I now understood why I was struggling with weight, why my hair was falling out in clumps, and why my body was refusing to ovulate each month.
We tried several homeopathic and over-the-counter treatments. I can’t even begin to list all of the supplements and vitamins that I put into my body. None of these things worked, and I was beginning to feel overwhelmingly depressed. Finally, Sean and I decided to take a break so I could focus on finishing school.
While working in the library one day, I came across a video called ‘Wednesday’s Child,’ and I was moved to tears. There was the sweetest little 9-year-old boy, named Joshua, who was being featured on the show. He was in foster care, and he was in search of his forever family. I immediately called my husband and told him that I found a little boy I wanted to become our son. I watched that video dozens of times, each time falling more and more in love with Joshua. We started the process of getting approved for adoption, but by the time we were finished with the process, Joshua was gone. I still wonder about whatever happened to him, and I truly hope he found an amazing family.
My husband and I had been so certain that we were going to bring home Joshua, we had already set up his sports-themed bedroom (because that is what he would have liked according to his video). I spent weeks hanging out in that bedroom, depressed and in tears. I would stare out of his window, which looked into our front yard, and imagine him outside playing yard hockey (I did marry a Canadian, after all). My eyes would pour tears, and I became a sobbing mess. I grew angry with myself and with God. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t have the one thing I had wanted since I was just a little girl carrying around baby dolls, pretending I was their mommy. Why was my body broken? Why couldn’t I have a child? Why couldn’t I bring home Joshua?
After months of watching me battle this depression, my husband told me things needed to change. He and I talked for hours, and we decided to foster for a while. We met some pretty amazing kids. We also endured loss after loss, as these children were reunited with their families. Throughout all of these bittersweet transitions, we were blessed to develop relationships with many of the biological parents, and we remain in contact with several of our previous foster babies. For that, I am both blessed and thankful.
About a year later, we were matched with a 4-year-old boy (Hunter) and a 5-year-old girl (Alexia). We went to meet them at a little pizza joint, and we instantly fell in love. Six months later, we officially made them a part of our family.
We continued fostering, and were later matched with a sibling group of four. Jacob was 7, Cassadie was 4, Michael was 3, and my sweet little Anna was only 2 years old. Again, our hearts fell hard for them, and Sean and I went on to adopt them as well. So, our family grew from 2 to 8 in a two-year time span.
Our hearts were bursting with love, and our schedules were overflowing. There should have been no time in my life to be depressed about being a ‘broken’ woman. However, my heart continued to feel incomplete. I approached Sean and shared with him that I wanted to try fertility treatments. He was ecstatic and expressed the same feeling I had.
First, I started with my local OBGYN doctor. We tried Clomid for several cycles, and I was not responsive to it, and the mood swings were brutal. We added Metformin to the mix, and that was an awful experience. Still, we had no luck with getting pregnant. After almost a year, my doctor referred us to Dr. Winslow, from the Florida Institute of Reproductive Medicine. After our initial consult, he started me on new medicines. We tried all sorts of combinations and doses, IUI’s, trigger shots, etc. We were exhausted, and I was emotionally wrecked from all of the two-week waits and negative pregnancy tests. I didn’t have the money to pay for IVF, and I knew our options were running out, so we decided to take a break. My research on homeopathic treatments continued, and I continued taking all kinds of combinations of vitamins.
Fast forward to our ninth year of marriage. Our children were growing up, and we still had no success with getting pregnant. So, once again, we decided to go visit Dr. Winslow. He put me on a fertility medicine called Femara. After a few months of failed cycles, Dr. Winslow suggested we move on to stronger treatments. Sadly, our fertility budget was getting thin again, and I expressed to him that it just wasn’t possible. I wanted to have a child more than I could ever explain, but I wasn’t willing to make my family suffer financially. Dr. Winslow looked at me with compassion in his eyes, and said, ‘Alright Christina, I will tell you what. Go home, and take your Femara. Then, take this trigger shot and just have fun. Let’s see what happens.’ I smiled as I left the office that day, and we followed every bit of his instructions. I don’t know what we would have done without Dr. Winslow, and we are very grateful that he was patient and never gave up on us.
I was terrified. The two-week wait felt like an eternity. Day 15 came, and I was so scared that I refused to test. After seeing hundreds of negative tests, I think I developed a kind of phobia. After several more days, a friend and colleague convinced me to try. I went to the store, bought the tests, went home, started the process, and stopped. I just couldn’t! I couldn’t face another negative. My mind raced as I went to bed that night, and I finally drifted off around 2 a.m. My alarm went off just three hours later, so I snuck into the bathroom to finally take the test. I didn’t want my husband to feel the disappointment that I was already gearing up for, so I let him sleep. After taking the test, I held it in my hand, covering the answer. I was desperately trying to keep it together. Slowly, I slid my hand off of the display, and there it was. For the first time, in almost ten years of trying, I was pregnant. I cried. I sat in the bathroom for almost half an hour, trying to prevent myself from hyperventilating. Then, I literally ran out of the bathroom, jumped into the air and flew onto the bed. Sean jumped up from a dead sleep, ready to fight whatever threat was causing him to bounce off the mattress. All he could see as he opened his eyes was the blurry outline of a white stick that I had shoved in his face. I am pretty sure he thought I had lost my mind, but then it clicked. He realized what I was holding, he registered my excitement, and he cried. We both cried, and we held each other until we couldn’t cry anymore.
My pregnancy was full of ups and downs. I was terrified of miscarriage. I held my breath as Dr. Winslow performed our first ultrasound. When I saw that tiny heart fluttering on the screen, I lost my breath. How could something so tiny feel so powerful? Everything was going great, but then it got scary. I was released from Dr. Winslow’s care, and I was sent to see a regular OBGYN. After prenatal testing, my doctors said she tested 1 in 10 for Down syndrome. We had to see a specialist, and we had to do test after test. Finally, those tests came back negative.
My anxiety was so bad I visited Baby Bloom, a local 4D ultrasound studio, about once a week just to make sure her heart was still beating. I went to the studio so often that I became very good friends with the ultrasound tech and owner, Priscilla. I could call her anytime and she would get me in to see my little miracle. Then, my blood pressure went crazy, and I developed preeclampsia.
I spent a good part of three months of my pregnancy on bed rest, and much of that consisted of being stuck in the hospital (including Thanksgiving and Christmas). My doctors feared that I would start having seizures. I swelled so much, that my face resembled a bulldog.
I lost feeling in hands and fingers, and doctors were concerned that Kinsley was going to have a bumpy entry into the world unless they took her immediately. So, at 35 weeks, on New Year’s Eve, Kinsley was brought into the world via C-section. When I heard her cry, my heart melted.
Then, the room fell silent. Everyone in the room had that awkward ‘something’s up, but let’s not tell mom’ look on their faces. Time stood still, and I squeezed the words out of my mouth. ‘What’s wrong with my baby?’ I waited for them to tell me that she had Down syndrome. I had already prepared for that. That wasn’t it. Her doctor informed me that she had a problem with her foot. Her toes on her left foot were literally touching her knee.
After being discharged from the hospital, we saw a specialist who diagnosed her with Posteromedial Bowing of the Tibia. He suggested that we amputate her foot at only five days old. No! After everything we had been through, I was not going to just let my daughter’s foot be amputated without even trying to save it first. I cried the entire four-hour drive home. I called who I always call during times of distress, my hero, my daddy (Kinsley’s Paw Paw). He said, ‘I’m on it.’ A little while later, he called me back and told me he had found the best place for her to be.
Not long after, we were at the Shriner’s hospital in Tampa, Florida. Somehow, Kinsley had apparently been stuck in a very awkward position while in the womb, and her foot grew the only way it could. Her bone was curved, and the muscles were super tight, but the doctor assured us that most of it would self-correct. The doctor laughed when I shared our experience with the other specialist, and she assured me that there would be no need to remove my sweet baby’s foot. Instead, she prescribed her a brace for support and a shoe lift to keep her hips level. Eventually, Kinsley will need surgery to finish the process, but that is years away.
Kinsley turned four this past year and nothing slows her down. She climbs, jumps, runs, does gymnastics, and has no problems keeping up with her six brothers and sisters. She is the smartest little girl, and to us, she is perfect.
When our infertility journey began, I didn’t know where we were headed. I knew that there would be a long,hard road ahead. Little did I know that Kinsley, my sweet little miracle, would end up being a 10 year adventure. All I can say is that she was worth the wait. She was worth the wait, the pain and the fear.
Our journey to build our family has been a long and amazing experience. Every emotion you can imagine has coursed through my body. We have laughed, cried, and everything else in between. Sean and I are now in our 15th year of marriage, and we are stronger and happier than ever. Some of our children are nearing graduation, and Kinsley will start Pre-K this year.
Just a short time ago, during a conversation about our journey, I looked at Sean and said, ‘Let’s do it one more time.’ He just smiled the biggest smile, and said, ‘OK!’ I don’t know what our future will look like. Maybe we will foster again, or maybe we will visit Dr. Winslow again and have another successful story to share about getting pregnant. Either way, our story isn’t over yet, because that would just be too ordinary.”
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