“Every year around this time, my soul can be overwhelmed. Not in a bad way, or sad way, or even good. But simply overwhelmed as Mother’s Day approaches. And it is not the specific day, but weeks leading up to it. It is as if my body, heart, and mind force me to stop and remember, the good, the bad, the trauma, and the uniqueness of grief and joy colliding.
My name is Ashlynn and I am now 42 years old, a mom of 4+ living in Southern California. So many of my friends don’t realize I was actually born with Spina Bifida and had a decent number of surgeries when I was born. However, by God’s grace I grew up with very little complications. In fact, other than the annoying scars that are hidden under my clothes, no one would have known. The only thing that made me remember, growing up, was when my mom would randomly bring up I may not ever be able to have biological children. But seriously, as a kid and teen, it wasn’t anything that took up rent in my mind. It wasn’t until an unexpected surgery in my teens that really brought up the issue of me possibly not being capable of conceiving or carrying a baby to term. And again… it wasn’t a concern or worry of mine. I was more worried if I was going to be able to try out for the cheer squad later that year.
I’ll fast-forward you through all my young and dumb years of high school and college up to the point I met my best friend and husband on my first day of work at Coca-Cola. As I was stocking shelves, he walked the corner of the soda aisle… I fell in love with him that day and we have been together ever since. 19 years to be exact. We were married the next year and decided to ‘pull the goalie’ and just see about starting a family.
Yes, I remembered all the warnings of previous doctors but I didn’t give it much weight. I’m one of those people who pray and pray BIG, and I believe God can do all things. With that hope, became quick devastation as month after month resulted in negative pregnancy tests. Let’s just say I wasted $100’s of dollars convinced the next test would come back positive. No joke, sometimes I even checked them in the trash can envisioning they turned positive when I wasn’t looking. I think the hardest part was having to tell Dave it was negative.
The worst part of infertility for me was more the havoc it was wrecking on my body. Within a week of going off birth control, my body freaked and I was in constant pain. Literally, it became a joke we spent our weekend date nights in the ER. Eventually, I began having to have surgeries to remove cysts, endless scar tissue that had encased all my insides and it began to become my new normal. I felt like the doctor’s office was my home away from home. I became well acquainted with being in pain.
During this time, I always knew adoption was our best option. It was never second best to me because I had grown up with so many family members who had been adopted. So for me, biology didn’t hold much weight. Finally, after years of pain and surgeries, I made an appointment with my doctor and asked her for a hysterectomy. She fought me because she was a specialist who wanted me to do invitro or surrogacy. She almost felt as if she had failed as a doctor because I was asking her to move forward with me to stop all the medical madness. I literally begged her to allow me to move on. My body was tired and beat up from the constant surgeries. I wanted to be done. I needed her to be done. I needed that line in the sand so I could move on.
A few months later, I had what you would call a ‘blind hysterectomy.’ I was in my 20s, all my organs were incased with scaring so she couldn’t even see what was being removed. The surgery was a doozy and it kept me in the hospital for a week. However, it wasn’t the physical pain I remember that week, it was the kind of twisted joke I ended up spending the week healing on the maternity ward waking up to babies crying thinking I was going crazy. I had no idea patients who were admitted with hysterectomies often stay in the maternity ward. It just seemed wrong to me. It almost became a sick comedy that anyone who entered the room congratulated me and asked if it were a boy or girl. So that week, I made jokes because that’s what I do. I walked the halls while mothers were healing from childbirth and tried not to pay attention to the distinct cries of a newborn. The recovery was a reminder of what I would never have.
It was on my last day and being discharged, I broke. I was in pain; I was tired and I felt like I was leaving behind the life of the little girl I dreamed I would have. In my mind, she had light blonde curly hair, with a giggle that made me never stop smiling. It was that distinct day I wept for the life that could and would never be. But with death comes new life.
It was in the coming year we started the process of Independent Adoption. I had no clue how we were going to financially be able to proceed but we knew it was where God had called us. We were matched around 7 or 8 months only to have it fall apart on Mother’s Day. It was oddly ironic. I remember thinking that day I wasn’t sure if we would ever be matched again. I didn’t leave the house that day because I refused to have someone else wish me a Happy Mother’s Day.
2 weeks later, as Dave and I were getting ready for church, we got the call that forever changed us. ‘Surprise, you were picked and another surprise he was born last night! All of 4 pounds.’ That one phone call forever changed me. Deep down, I had prayed for a woman to get pregnant and not really want contact… maybe just some pictures. Secretly between you and I, I said I would be okay with an open adoption but prayed for closed. But in the famous words of Garth Brooks… ‘Sometimes I thank God for unanswered prayers.’
When a mother hands you her 4-pound miracle she desperately wants to keep and lays him in your arms for you to raise, you can’t be the same. Nor would you want to be. It was at that very moment; I was radically changed forever! I was given a glimpse of how God loves us. That He gave us His only son that we may have eternal life. It was the gospel being demonstrated in technicolor. She was giving me her greatest gift, how dare I not want more for her than some pictures. She was letting go of her most precious son, I could let go of my comfort. I wanted my son to know how deeply he was loved by his first mother. He deserved that. She deserved that. I now had a completely different heart and mind towards adoption.
From that day forward, I have never celebrated Mother’s Day without grieving first. Grieving for what was lost, offered, sacrificed from another woman I may celebrate. It was her choice that made me a mother, she deserved to be honored. To me, my children’s first mothers are the picture of ‘women empowerment.’ Honestly, I could share hundreds of stories but that will be for another time. We since have adopted three more children. We completed five additional home studies, we fostered, closed the door on adoption to later reopen and adopt again.
Although each of my children is adopted, all have very different stories, backgrounds, and families. But all are perfect, precious, and sacred. I’m careful to not share all the details because they are my children’s birth stories to tell, not mine. And someday I pray I have raised them up to share them or remember with pride.
When we started our adoption process, I prayed for a closed one. We now have open adoptions with all my children’s families. Each looks different according to their best interest. I even had the tremendous honor to be the Matron of Honor in my daughter’s birth mother’s wedding! I mean, it still takes my breath away! We have 4 + grandparents, aunts, uncles, moms, dads, and approximately 14 birth siblings. If you ever walk the halls of my home, you will see their faces.
We don’t have a family tree, we have an orchard. Adoption is not my kids’ full story, just the part of how we became a family. My goal as their mother is for them to know they can ask anything and know I’ll never be upset. I want to be a safe place to process and grieve if needed. Their questions and desires to know their birth families are not my report card as a mother.
As I’ve shared from my heart a glimpse of surgeries, from loss to grief to redemption. My heart is you will know that so much beauty exists even in the depths of despair. That joy can be chosen. And if we open ourselves to choosing love, we can be given ‘immeasurably more.’ Adoption may not have been my first option, but it certainly wasn’t second best. In fact, if given the chance to do it over… I wouldn’t change a single detail.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Ashlynn Herren from Eastvale, CA. You can follow her journey on Instagram and Facebook. You can check out their books here and here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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