“I didn’t carry my babies for 9 months. I carried them for 6 years. A lot of mothers get 9 months of wondering what their babies will look like, dreaming of that newborn baby smell. They get to think of names and decorate the perfect nursery, all in those 9 blissful months. In a sense, I too carried our babies. I carried with me what they would look like, how sweet their laughs would be, the light that would shine from their smiles. I would cry thinking about the first time someone would call me ‘mom’ and I dreamed of their newborn baby smell for 2,280 days. That’s over 6 years of prayers, fertility treatment, and procedures, tears and dreams. Above all, we had 6 years of holding onto hope and each other. I planned for our babies all those years, thinking of the day I would finally get to celebrate with a baby shower and how I would decorate. I collected outfits and stuffed animals every so often and held onto them for what felt like an eternity.
If people don’t think I carried our babies, they have no idea just how long I actually did.
As high school sweethearts, I thought our beginning was the most perfect set up for what was sure to be the ideal life we would build together. I was also 20 years old when we said ‘I do’ and had very few disappointments in life. I was clearly clueless. Everything had been so easy. We both came from supportive and loving families. I married my soulmate and about a year in, we were already talking babies. It seemed like the next step to take. After a year of trying to conceive, we started seeing a reproductive endocrinologist. I cannot tell you how many times our issues were brushed off by the nurses and doctors when they would ask my age. If I had a penny for every time I heard, ‘You are young, it will happen,’ we could have paid our fertility bills in full at the time of service. Don’t get me started on all of the comments and ‘helpful’ tips on conceiving from pretty much everyone we came across. Trust me when I say in the most sincere way, I know every piece of advice, kind word, and supportive comment was meant to be helpful but when you have been doing everything possible for years, hearing someone tell you to ‘just relax’ has the exact opposite effect on you. As much as I really did appreciate where they were coming from, it quickly became nails on a chalkboard.
Social media was such a bitter-sweet tool during our journey. When I decided I wanted to be as transparent as possible, I couldn’t anticipate the lows that decision would carry with it. I also couldn’t have imagined all of the highs it would eventually bring either. I didn’t have anyone my age I personally knew to confide in or ask questions to. If my friends hadn’t accidentally gotten pregnant, they certainly weren’t at the age where starting a family was high on their to-do list, much less struggling with infertility. It’s just assumed because you are young, you are fertile. I was willing to share our struggle because I wanted others our age to know if they were going through something similar or would ever go through something similar, they weren’t alone. They would know someone who went through it and have someone they could confide in. I also (wishfully) thought our happy ending would come much sooner and much easier than it actually did. I couldn’t wait for the day we finally got to announce our big news, like I had seen so many (so so many) do before me.
The hardest part was keeping up the transparency, one failure after another as the years went on. We still had no good news to share. I never wanted to be the one anyone pitied or felt sorry for, but that quickly became the case. Maybe people felt this way or maybe it was a mix of the Clomid and my growing insecurity. Our closest family and friends knew the dates of our IUI’s and would sweetly send texts to count down days until I was able to take a pregnancy test, post-procedure. They would send supportive messages a few days before up until the day of and without fail, every month, I had to make the rounds informing everyone it still wasn’t ‘our’ month. It was gruesome, to say the least.
My husband, Leo, and I had always talked about adoption and how we knew we would eventually adopt. As newlyweds who also had a hard time conceiving, my parents were involved in foster care. At the age of 10, our family finalized the adoption of my brother. The fact our parents had opened our hearts to adoption at such a young age changed my view of family. My sister and I prayed and prayed for a brother. So for an 8 and 10-year-old to finally have the baby brother we begged for, we couldn’t have loved him more. Biology didn’t matter to us. He was ours. That forever changed my definition of family. Leo and my brother became very close over the years, so he understood the importance and shared in my desire to one day grow our family in that same way.
After so many years of one disappointment after another, around the age of 25, I started sprinkling ideas of adoption around Leo. When I say ‘sprinkling,’ I should mention I have a very heavy hand. Some may use the word ‘relentless.’ Once I have something in my head, I’m not quick to let it go. Leo has a much more logical and calculated way of thinking than I do. I have always been quick to lead with my heart. He needed more time and I had to respect that, as hard as it was. I knew we both needed to be on the same page. I couldn’t push him into something he wasn’t ready for. I had my own way of coping and created a secret Pinterest board to fill my time with adoption announcements and themed baby shower ideas. It kept me hopeful even though Leo wasn’t there yet, I was still going to become a mom and he was going to be a dad.
I read a quote that has since stuck with me and I use it all the time when sharing our story with others who are also struggling. ‘My goal in life wasn’t to become pregnant, my goal in life was to become a mom and the method was not important.’ It resonated with me during a very difficult time of soul searching and truly made me reconsider what it was I was even chasing after. Was it the pregnancy experience? Was it biology? Or was it simply having a family? Being a mom regardless of how that came to me was everything I had ever wanted. I knew I couldn’t miss out on a lifetime of family because I wasn’t able to experience the first 9 months of pregnancy. I wasn’t going to miss being called mom and kissing ouchies, cuddles, watching our kids play sports, and sending them off on their first day of school. I didn’t want to miss birthday parties and graduations and every single good, bad and ugly moment between. I wanted a lifetime of love, tears, and worry because this little being you love so much is growing and thriving and that’s the most terrifying and beautiful experience I think life can give you. I wanted to be a mom. The method was truly not important. Now, this is not the case for everyone. Some women do want the pregnancy experience. That is their goal in life or the biological factor is important to them but I think the question really makes you consider which of these pieces truly matter in your journey to build a family.
The world shifted one day towards the end of August 2016 a (few weeks shy of my 26th birthday). I received a text that morning from my husband with a link to the article about a young girl whose life was cut short at the hands of those who should have, above all else, protected her. The people she trusted most in this world betrayed her. It was the most unimaginable and graphic article I had ever read. He was changed by the news. We both were. Along with the link was the text, ‘I’m ready, I think we should be foster parents.’ It suddenly wasn’t about us becoming parents anymore. It was about giving these children a safe place to land in the midst of tragedy and a home full of love. We just knew we needed to do something. That afternoon, we began the paperwork. We wasted no time. After 4 months of classes, a rigorous home study, and way too much paperwork, we were licensed to parent… literally! Then we waited and waited and waited.
Looking online at our local Heart Gallery one day, we saw them. A brother and sister sibling group. They were the absolute sweetest duo! We had to meet them. Our CYFD held Adoption Matching Events around the state where we were able to spend time with these darling kids and get to know them. Needless to say, we were in love. We spent a couple of months learning about them from their workers and traveling to see them at a few more adoption events, just praying we would be their ‘match’ for a forever home. It was narrowed down to three families being considered for their placement, ours being one of them. It was a Tuesday when we received the short and direct email stating we were not chosen as placement. We were crushed. We had gotten to know these kids. We were excitedly making house plans and thinking about their rooms.
The real kicker was the reason we were given as to why our family wasn’t the right fit: we didn’t have prior experience with children. Exactly what we were working so hard to do and it came back to slap us in the face one more time. We were frustrated and felt stuck. This was by far our hardest blow. We took the night to sit with every emotion that came up but ultimately, had to remember we wanted what was best for these siblings. As hurt as we were for us, we were also happy to hear a family was chosen for them and they would be staying together. They were getting the security they waited too long for and that is what truly mattered. Even with that solace, our hearts were still broken.
Wednesday, the very next day, our lives were forever changed. Almost 24 hours to the minute after we received the most difficult ‘no’ of our journey, we finally, after 6 long years, received our ‘yes’! A baby girl born just two weeks prior was being released from the hospital in 2 short days. They asked if we would be interested in fostering her. I didn’t even have to think about it, I answered yes! They politely suggested I talk it over with my husband first. The second we hung up, I called Leo, phone shaking and voice cracking, and told him there was a baby girl they wanted us to foster. I will never forget his response as long as I live, ‘Why are you even asking me? Call them back and tell them yes!’ he told me excitedly. I let him know I tried but they made me call him as we laughed probably for the first time in those 24 hours.
To say we were on a roller coaster of emotions was an understatement. We lost these two kids at the same time we were preparing to welcome a newborn. Our mix of emotions was both exciting and overwhelming. We were mourning a loss while preparing for something we had waited so long for.
Those two days both flew by as we prepared for this new baby love and simultaneously moved at a snail’s pace. Friday could not come soon enough. We arrived at the hospital, signed paperwork, and waited what felt like hours to finally be taken back to her room. In reality, it was probably half an hour. The moment we saw her, we couldn’t believe it was real. We looked at her and then looked at each other scared out of our minds. She was only 3 pounds, and within those first few minutes of meeting her, we had already made our first mistake as parents. The clothes we brought for her coming home outfit were newborn sized and about ten times too big. Then they placed her in my arms and I melted. I didn’t cry. The millions of times I fantasized about meeting our baby I cried in every single one of them but at that moment, I just felt whole. I was beaming and the pain of the last 6 years suddenly didn’t seem like an eternity. We finally had our reason why we went through everything we did and in a strange way I was thankful for all of our ‘no’s’ because they led me to this very moment.
I remember the first time Leo held her. He sat down and I handed him his daughter. He was silent, he didn’t say a word. He just stared. After a few minutes, he looked at me still not having said a word with tears welling up in his eyes and muttered with a broken voice, ‘We’re parents’ and we both just lost it. 6 years of emotions came flooding out of both of us as we looked at each other still in complete disbelief. So many prayers, so many no’s and we finally had our yes.
Then reality set in. Without telling a story that isn’t mine to tell, I can say there really wasn’t other involvement outside of my husband and I. Needless to say, I quickly fell into the role of mom. I shudder to admit I went into our baby girl’s foster plan blind to the idea of reunification, no matter how many times it was told to me. I couldn’t hear it. Someone taking her would have been the end of my world. She was mine. I say that embarrassingly now because we have learned so much over our almost 4 years as foster parents.
We have a different understanding of reunification and the families we have gotten to know and feel for because they are the extensions of the kids we love. I understand what it means to be a foster parent now. We love these kids above all else but we realize, now, our situations are considered borrowed time. We hope for the best outcome for our kids, whether that be reunification or if it does come down to adoption. We appreciate the time we have and know we are giving these kids stability and a safe space however long that is. We have a newfound empathy for biological families and the struggles they face, regardless of their past or situation. We feel for them and we feel for the kids who never had a say in any of this. We consider the biological families an extension of ours because we both love the same child. We share a bond no one else does and we have learned over the years how special that is, not only for us but for our kids.
These realizations came from a lot of time and experience in the foster care system. I regret some of my thoughts and actions during our daughter’s time in foster care but they were my feelings and my naivety. To not yet having opened my eyes to how much more there was outside of myself which, I mean, is motherhood in a nutshell. I can’t change our experience but can share it to maybe help someone else in a similar situation. I can say I have learned a lot and am still growing in our journey through foster care.
Since then, we have adopted that sweet 3-pound baby girl, and my husband and I both agree it was one of the happiest days of our lives. We are also in the process of finalizing the adoption of our son, who came to us straight from the hospital just 12 short months after our daughter. We have loved two additional kids in our time as foster parents who have moved on from our family but definitely took a piece of our hearts with them. We currently have one newborn placement bringing our crazy household total to three kids 3 years and under. It’s the most beautiful chaos I always prayed for.
I can’t say this was meant to be or they were meant to be ours because it’s unfair to our kids to suggest they were meant to be put in the unthinkable situation of being taken from their biological families. No one should go through that and in a perfect world, none of our journeys to have a family would have stemmed from hurt and loss. I can say I am eternally grateful that, from the ashes of all of our difficult beginnings, we were all able to find one another and build the beautiful, loving, and happy family we have today.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Alysha D’Amour from Santa Fe, New Mexico. You can follow their journey on Instagram. 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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