“My husband and I met at work when I was just 21. He was a manager and I worked in the deli and was still going to school. It wasn’t a pretty sight! I wore a hairnet, gloves, apron, and was covered in smelly food. I couldn’t understand how he could find me attractive enough to ask me out on a date, much less eventually fall in love with me. At the end of our first date, he reached under the seat of his truck and handed me a single white rose, which he told me was as sweet and pure as me. Tears flooded my eyes and I was hooked!
Fast forward six years. Things haven’t always been easy for us. Brian lost his mother and the stress of it started causing chest pains. We were dismissed by doctor after doctor, being told it was ‘broken heart syndrome’ brought on by the death of his mother. Finally, one wonderful cardiologist took him seriously and we found out he had a heart defect on one of his heart walls. His heart was damaged by an illness when he was younger and was beating WAY too fast. The stress of his mother’s passing brought out the symptoms. I will forever be grateful because if we hadn’t have found out, he could have died and we never would have known about the damage until it was too late.
On November 14, 2010, I married my soulmate. I only remember some of it, as I was in disbelief with joy most of the night! I am so grateful my best friend, Amy, had the forethought to videotape, so along with the photos I can have memories of the wonderful day. Two weeks after our wedding day, Brian had the first of four heart surgeries. He is doing great now and we are forever indebted to the talented staff and surgeons at UVA hospital! There were some rough times, but we came out stronger!
Immediately after getting married, we got to work on starting a family. Ever since I can remember, I’ve wanted to be a mom. When asked what I wanted to be when I grew up, I said, ‘A mommy.’ We expected it would be easy! People get pregnant all the time! Well, it didn’t go this way for us.
After about a year and a half of trying, we went to see my OBGYN. After testing, she called me and told me to ‘pursue other options’ for having a child. Over the phone! Needless to say, I don’t see this person anymore. She didn’t even discuss our other options. After a few weeks of feeling devastated, I started to research and found a fertility clinic just 40 minutes away. We had our initial appointment and testing, and I began to feel hope again. The testing and the fact that I have PCOS was making it hard to get pregnant. They told us not to worry, they could help with this. Cue medicines and shots for both of us, ovulation sticks, and IUI treatments. We had failed after failed treatment. We upped it to me having injections daily and having hormones like crazy! Brian actually hid in the closet from me one day! I even cried when we went to Christmastown and Mrs. Claus handed me a cookie. I was definitely feeling a little up and down those days. To add to this, I was allergic to one of the medications given to me during the IUI and suffered through a three hour-contraction complete with vomiting. No pain medication, no relief. We had decided this last treatment with all of the injections was the final, and if it didn’t work, we couldn’t afford to keep going, financially or emotionally. When I got my period, I accepted defeat and went on with my life.
We started exploring adoption as a route to start our family. We looked at numerous agencies and finally decided on a reputable one. We looked hard at our finances and decided we could swing the monthly payments needed for the adoption. It felt like a car payment! Adoption is so expensive. We were working on our profile and writing our letter to prospective birth mothers when we received the papers to sign the adoption agreement on a Monday morning. Also on Monday, I had a doctor appointment because I had been feeling under the weather for a while now. Just a bug which wouldn’t go away. Lethargic and slightly nauseous, but nothing too bad. The doctor wanted me to take a pregnancy test. I told her we had undergone numerous fertility treatments unsuccessfully and there was no way, but she was insistent. I humored her. She told me it was most likely a bug and sent me home to shore up on fluids. I went home to my husband to review the adoption documents. About an hour later, my doctor’s office called. ‘Katie,’ they said, ‘Your pregnancy test came out positive. You’re pregnant.’ I felt the blood drain from my face. I felt like I was silent for a full minute. ‘What?’ I asked. ‘You’re pregnant,’ she replied. Cue the sobbing.
She couldn’t understand a word of what I was saying and neither could my husband. He jumped off the couch and ran to me, thinking something horrible had happened. When I hung up the phone and had gained enough composure to become coherent, I told him those magic words we had been waiting years to hear: ‘Honey, I’m pregnant!’ He was ecstatic! Tears were flowing and we were overjoyed. We immediately tried to call the fertility clinic. They were on lunch and no one answered so we jumped in the car and just drove over. When we got there, I told them what happened, half sobbing, and they took me back for a blood test. My numbers showed I had actually been pregnant for a while! We couldn’t believe it. I called my OBGYN office, not the same lady, and got scheduled for an ultrasound the next morning. We called my parents and our close friends and told them. I know you aren’t supposed to, but we had waited SO long! The next morning, we both went to the ultrasound appointment and Brian excitedly snapped photos of the sonogram picture.
The ultrasound tech was quiet, but I barely noticed over my joy. Then she turned to us and said the words which destroyed my world. ‘I’m so sorry. There’s no heartbeat.’ I felt my world spinning. How could this happen? After everything we had been through? After all of our heartache? I was devastated. Brian was devastated. I felt like I was going to throw up. The doctor came in to talk to us about our options. I could barely understand. She said we could wait for the miscarriage to happen naturally or schedule a D&C. I couldn’t bear the thought of carrying our dead child and just waiting for them to pass and imagining the pain and heartbreak I would feel. I scheduled the D&C. We left the appointment heartbroken and waiting for them to call us in the afternoon to come in for the procedure. The first thing I did was call my husband’s cousin, Chris, to come and be with him for comfort. They grew up together and are best friends, and I knew he would need someone there with him when I was in the procedure. Then I called my best friend, Amy. She lived over two hours away and actually beat us to the hospital.
I woke up crying after it was done. I tried to stay strong for Brian. He had a hard time as well. Three months later, the company I worked for was sold and I was out of a job. All of the stress accumulated and I had my first panic attack. I went to therapy and child loss support groups and cried a LOT. I don’t think miscarriage is talked about often enough. It is a loss. For many people, a loss which doesn’t come with a solution. Brian and I have never been able to get pregnant and I know this pain for women everywhere. However, I am now able to see my blessings through the pain. If we had not gotten pregnant, we would have signed those adoption papers. When my company went under three months later, we would not have been able to keep up with those payments without major sacrifices. I wouldn’t have found my current job where I work daylight hours and enjoy my job much more. (My last job was in the cancellation department and I got yelled at a LOT!) Most importantly, Brian and I would have never started our journey as foster parents. And we wouldn’t have adopted our beautiful son, Andy.
Brian and I broached the subject of foster care gradually and carefully. Both he and my friends and family were concerned with my ability to care for and love a child, only to give them back and have my heart broken. I knew this would happen, but I don’t think I fully understood. We went in for an initial meeting to discuss our options and met a wonderful case worker, Lori, who we are still in contact with today. She made it very clear every aspect of foster care is hard. You have to love children from broken homes, broken families, with broken hearts. And the goal is always reunification. This really wasn’t the way to build a family, but to help reunite other families. We left the meeting with more questions and worries, but I felt a pull at my heart telling me this is what we were meant to do.
Brian and I joined the foster care classes and began going weekly to learn more and become certified. The things we learned ran from beautiful stories of love to horrors of abuse and drug addiction. I spent many hours during and after class crying. Would I really have the strength to do this? What would it feel like to give back a child I had loved so fully? We graduated our foster care class as the only couple who were there for someone who was not a family member. Everyone else was there for a niece or nephew, grandchild or sibling. There was another single lady who also came to become a foster parent to other children as well. We were to find out this is the norm. Many foster parents come to classes to be able to assist family members. Then began the waiting game. We knew we could be called anytime to pick up a child. We discussed in detail what we thought we would be able to handle in a child. There are numerous forms to fill out. ‘Would you be willing to take in a child that has suffered from sexual abuse? Would you be willing to take in a child with special needs? Would you be willing to take in a child who needed medical care?’ and so much more. We decided to start with a single child, not siblings, age two and under, to get our feet wet. Of course, this did not happen.
Our first placement was a beautiful sibling set of a boy and girl, aged two and three. I won’t go into the issues they came with, but let’s just say our eyes were opened immediately to the harsher side of what can happen to children. I slept on the floor of the nursery nightly between their beds for comfort. Ultimately, a family member came forward and they were placed with her and are happy and healthy. We received several other placements as well, and all went with family members or reunification until I received a call in December 2016. ‘Would you be willing to take in a little boy who was just born? We don’t know much about him yet. He seems healthy and needs a family.’ I called Brian and he and I discussed and called the social worker back to say yes. Two days later, I met the second love of my life. A tiny, beautiful boy with the most gorgeous blue eyes I have ever seen. The moment I laid eyes on him, I knew he was different. My heart felt his heart in a way I had never known. He was my son. Although in foster care, you never know if your situation will be permanent, I knew from the start Andy was meant to be mine.
I won’t bore with all the details of court and custody, but after two years, Andy officially became ours! Next to my wedding day, it was the happiest day of my life! We threw a huge celebration for him as he was the missing puzzle piece to complete us. I felt so blessed and lucky, and still do to this day.
I won’t lie, being a foster parent isn’t easy. You have to love every kid with every part of your being and then watch them leave with a piece of your heart each time. You welcome them into your arms and home and don’t know how long you will have them to love, so you make each day count and show them how much they matter and how much you care, and if you’re really lucky, you build a family. A family which sometimes lives in your home for a while, but forever lives in your heart.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Katie Gochenour. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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