Disclaimer: This story includes mentions of pregnancy loss that may be triggering for some.
“I can remember being preschool-aged and stuffing our blue, round couch pillows under my shirt, and standing in the mirror staring at my profile while stroking my ‘pregnant’ stomach dreaming of the day when I would actually be pregnant.
I am the middle of five kids, so the idea that I would one day be diagnosed as infertile never entered my mind. I remember thinking, ‘When I am 19, I will get married, and by 25, I will have my 3 boys and 1 girl.’
Our Infertility Journey
You can imagine my disappointment when the years passed and I was one of the last of my friends to get married when I was 26. I felt SO old. In January 2009, at 28 years old, I went off birth control pills, so excited that I would finally be a mom before I turned 30. I was a few years behind, but MY plan was coming to fruition and I couldn’t be more excited. I immediately began calculating my cycle, taking prenatal vitamins, and much to Jason’s enjoyment, would passionately ‘pursue’ him about a week a month.
The week after Thanksgiving, I had a doctor’s appointment with my OBGYN to get blood work done and look into why we weren’t getting pregnant, and on December 2, 2009, the nurse called to tell me that we were pregnant. I remember Jason was sitting by me on the couch when I got the call, and I squeezed his leg so hard he thought something was wrong. I hung up the phone and started jumping up and down. I couldn’t believe it! Our time had come!
The following week, I started spotting. I called the nurse, and she said it was common early on, but that they would like to do some bloodwork. This began a series of bloodwork and ultrasounds every couple of days until, on Christmas Eve, a P.A. friend of mine ran my bloodwork and confirmed I was indeed miscarrying. The depth of disappointment was so deep I curled into a ball and just sobbed. After almost a year, I got pregnant, just to lose the baby. It just seemed so unfair and mean to me.
Once the holidays passed, I called to talk to my doctor, and he informed me the bloodwork they ran confirmed I had PCOS. Polycystic ovary syndrome is a hormonal disorder common among women of reproductive age. Women with PCOS may have infrequent or prolonged menstrual periods or excess male hormone (androgen) levels. The ovaries may develop numerous small collections of fluid follicles and fail to regularly release eggs. He then said words that stopped me in my tracks, ‘PCOS is the leading cause of infertility.’
I vividly remember it like it was yesterday, I was sitting in the car, parked in our garage during this phone call, and when I hung up my entire being filled with anger. I said out loud to God, ‘I wasn’t supposed to get pregnant, I did, and then lost the baby?! Where are you?’
I did not want to have a D&C (Dilation and curettage) so I waited for the baby to pass naturally. Little did I know, it would take over 2 months for this to happen. So, right before I turned 30, I officially passed the baby. Not the way I planned or envisioned my 30th year would begin.
Over the course of the next 3 years, I went through a lot of phases emotionally, physically, spiritually, and mentally. I believe with my entire being that we have the power to choose our responses to situations and what we choose can radically change our lives from the inside out.
Soon after my miscarriage, I found myself with the motivation to get healthy. I decided to sign up for my first half marathon, thinking if I got healthy, then I’d get pregnant. So, 5 months after I registered, I was in Orange County for my first half marathon. Which began a series of 3 years with a half marathon every June. My empty womb and I crossed that finish line every time. Even though I did what the doctor said, which was to get active because that is the best way to reverse PCOS, I did not reverse my PCOS.
In August of 2010, Jason and I decided to try Clomid (oral medication that can be used to stimulate ovulation). I knew from the minute I was diagnosed that fertility treatments were not the way for us to expand our family. Although science is amazing and it works regularly for other couples, I had personal convictions because of the way I am wired. For me, fertility treatments are just another avenue for me to try to control what is out of my hands completely.
Six rounds are the maximum that a woman should be on Clomid before giving her body a break from all of the hormones. The success rate is great, so even though I knew in my heart of hearts I was not supposed to be taking Clomid, I felt optimistic. The hormones wreaked havoc on my body, my marriage, and my heart. Month after month for 6 months, it was blood work and then negative pregnancy tests. Sex was mechanical, my heart and mind were mush, and the side effects of the Clomid left me with the symptoms of pregnancy for the greater part of the months.
A New Path to Motherhood
In the final month of Clomid, my heart was broken. I couldn’t make myself pregnant and that crushed me. I was away on a work trip and I got a message on Facebook asking me if Jason and I would be willing to meet a woman who was interesting in giving her baby up for adoption. My heart leaped. The response felt so strange to me because in the same weekend of mourning Clomid not working, my heart leaped at the thought of adopting. I realized that weekend I just wanted to be a mom, and it didn’t matter how it happened. It ended up that the prospective birth mom changed her mind, but that seed was planted. I got home from that trip, and within a few weeks, we were signed up for an orientation with the county to foster to adopt.
Our orientation was in March 2011, and on October 26, 2011, we picked up our first son, Weiland, when he was 1 week old. It was record fast, and we were not prepared for how parenting was going to rock our world. Even though we finally had a baby in our home, none of my deep-rooted insecurities were dealt with. I felt insecure on Mother’s Day, I felt like a fake. I felt like I was playing pretend because I didn’t go through carrying him, delivering him, and breastfeeding him. I believed that I was a ‘Plan B’ mom, and I forced it to happen. The lie that I believed I was still broken and less than because my body didn’t work the way it was ‘supposed’ to was a constant battle.
I continued to carry my insecurities into my parenting and marriage and both suffered extensively. My poor husband had to love me enough for the both of us which was never enough. I was a ‘mom’ now but still felt so alone and isolated because I didn’t have labor and delivery stories, and my son didn’t even share my same skin color.
Still not dealing with my deep-rooted insecurities, I chose to continue to ignore what I felt in my spirit, and pursue more fertility treatments. This time much more invasive including injections in my stomach. In my 5th month on them, I dropped 6 healthy eggs. The specialist called me in to ask if I wanted her to remove any of my eggs because we needed to plan on multiples. We confidently told her to leave what’s there, there. So she had me bend down, gave me an injection to force ovulation, told me to go home and find Jason, and then sent me on my way.
Much to the doctor’s surprise, not one of Jason’s millions made eye contact. I WAS CRUSHED! I didn’t get out of bed for 2 days, and I only got out of bed after that because I had pre-paid for a real estate license exam I couldn’t miss. I was so broken. Healing takes time. The only way through it is through it. We have to feel it, process it, and work through it to get through the other side in a healthy way. Once I finished mourning that I would not have biological children, I was ready to pursue a sibling for Weiland.
Adding a Sibling
We went back on the list to be matched when Weiland was 2 years old. After a few days, we got a call about a beautiful brown-eyed 18-month-old girl. Jason and I knew before getting calls that we wanted to keep birth order, and we had specifically agreed that there would be at least a year apart difference. But nothing agreed-upon matters when you’re sent the picture of those brown eyes that need a permanent mom and dad. We said, ‘yes.’ We were told that it was a ‘slam dunk adoption’ and that ‘there would be no way that she would be returning to her birth mom.’ Because Weiland was adopted without any fight on his birth parents’ side, we blindly trusted what was told to us about our next placement, who we named, Bella.
Our journey with Bella was much different than our journey with Weiland. We had visits twice a week with her birth mom that were 45 minutes each way. Birth mom saw bruises on her shins (she was learning to walk) and opened a case against Jason and me. It was traumatizing for all of us. We all got lice from the visitation center. Bella broke her arm from jumping on the bed. Once again they investigated us and did an unnecessary full body exam of our sweet girl to search for all kinds of abuse.
About halfway through our 8 months with her, I went on antidepressants as the case was taking its toll on my mental health. A week prior to the upcoming court hearing, bio mom had another baby girl. We picked her up from the hospital. Little did we know that at the next hearing the judge would rule to return Bella back to her birth mom. No one saw it coming, as they hadn’t even started doing overnight visits yet.
Jason went to the hearing because I was home with the baby and Weiland. He called me and I dropped to my knees. I have never known pain like that. Within 24 hours, on October 3rd, 2014, there was a white car at our house to pick up the girls and their things. Thankfully my sister was there with me and went through and gathered all of the things throughout the house that were Bella’s. I remember combing her hair after her bath that morning telling her how much I loved her. When I put her in the car seat, she wiped my tears and said, ‘Don’t cry, mommy, I will have fun.’ She thought she was going to a visit. That was the last time we saw Bella and her sister.
I went into the bathroom, threw up, and was crippled with grief and anxiety. It felt like a death. Jason and I knew we needed significant time to heal before we could have any ‘what’s next’ conversations. On December 31st at around 8 p.m., Jason and I sat on the couch and had our first family planning conversation since saying goodbye to the girls. We knew we wanted Weiland to have a sibling. So, with fear and trepidation, we called our social worker.
On June 30th, we got a call for a biracial boy who had been safely surrendered at the hospital. In Weiland’s nightly prayers, he had been praying for a baby brother, so we were all ecstatic! Because Marty was safely surrendered, it was only 7 months from the day we brought him home until we were able to adopt him.
Rounding Out Our Family
When Marty was 3 months old, we were asked to bring home a newborn baby girl that was once again, ‘a slam dunk adoption.’ Because of all that we went through with Bella, we were mentally and emotionally better prepared to not take their word for it. We agreed to bring her home and instantly we had ‘twins’ and a 4-year-old. For me, I figured I already was losing sleep and in babyville. If we did adopt her, we would be done and I would finally get my girl. So, enter Molly.
When Molly was a year old, we were told by her social worker that she will be reunifying with her birth mom. I wanted to do right by Molly and her mom to make it as smooth as possible when she transitioned into her birth mom’s care. So, Jason and I met her mom. I took her under my wing as well. We started doing the visits at our house and just doing whatever we could to make this as easy for Molly as possible. I remember we went to her 2nd birthday party at the park knowing that it was best-case scenario for that little girl, and I was thankful. Because it was a gradual goodbye, it wasn’t until months later that I would mourn the loss of our girl.
For 3 years it was just Jason, the boys, and I. (With a few college girls that would come and go that became family.)
In February 2020, we were asked if we would be willing to get recertified and take in a baby girl that needed a forever home. We met her, we said yes. That was over 2 years ago, and she is still in our care. After she had been with us for 6 months her birth mom had another daughter. We picked her up from the hospital and had her for 9 days. The judge then ruled to return her back to her birth mom. The girls have 2 different cases which no one understands why, but I am just focusing on who is in my home. So, with our sweet Ray, it is looking like it’s going in the direction of adoption, but in foster care, you don’t actually know until the adoption hearing is set.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Elizabeth Shafer. You can follow her journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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