Steph and I have made no secret about wanting a large family. After our third miscarriage last month, we decided to change course and get started immediately on something we’ve thought about for a long time.
What’s our path to our Brangelina-esque family? Steph and I have always known we wanted to adopt. We actually started down the adoption path after our second miscarriage, before we got pregnant with the twins. At the time, we went through Children’s Home Society, and were looking at adopting a baby. I desperately wanted a baby.
Now that we have two babies, I don’t feel that desperation, which is a relief. We want to adopt, but it’s ok if it’s an older child. In fact, we would welcome that! I’m ready for full-length Disney movies, running at the park, and soccer games. I’m not sure our 1-year-olds would take kindly to any of those.
So, after the miscarriage, I made the call to enroll in the “Foster to Adopt” program. We know a couple who adopted 4 boys through foster care, and that was the road Steph and I decided to go down next. In that program, you are fostering children who’s parents are in the process of getting their parental rights terminated.
Turns out that program no longer exists. You can’t just go into fostering saying that you want to adopt the children that stay with you. It doesn’t work that way. The goal of foster care is always re-unification with the parents. Most of the time, the children do go back home. It’s only when the parent can’t complete their case plan that parental rights are terminated and adoption becomes an option. If you have been fostering children for a long period, and their parental rights are terminated, the judge typically looks to you first to see if you want to adopt.
So, after some thought and talking with Steph, we decided to go down the foster parent route, knowing that we will have to give back most of the children we help.
I would be lying if I didn’t say that I’m scared of what it’s going to feel like to give children back that I’ve loved as my own. I’m not sure I’m cut out for that. Especially when it comes to abuse and neglect, and knowing that a child that you love may be going back into a hostile or dangerous situation. But, you have to be strong enough to try to do what you can and then let these children go.
Really, in a way, a foster child, who may be with you for a day, a week, a month, or a year, is no different than your own children. Nothing is a given and you have to pack in all the love you can muster in a short period of time.
We’re 3 weeks into the 7-week classes to become certified. Every Wednesday and Thursday, from 6:00 – 9:00 pm, you’ll find us in class, learning about grief, trauma, hope, and raw humanity. The first class was a doozy. I came home with a splitting tension headache from the stories I heard. And that was just the first class.
After we finish, we have a home study completed to make sure that our home is safe and sound. Then, everything is submitted to the state to get certified.We are hoping for children by the holidays.
Who will our children be? How many will we foster? The state allows each family to be certified for up to 5 children, including your own. You also aren’t allowed to have more than 2 children under the age of 24 months. We already have those 2 children, so we are hoping to foster a sibling set of three children between the ages of 2 and 6 years old.
That means that our bustling family is about to get even crazier! I’m not sure where this road will lead for Steph and I – whether we’ll end up fostering for years, or whether we’ll adopt children quickly. I just hope that we can do the best job we possibly can in truly making a difference to children who need our love. It’s a privilege to be able to give that love.
This week, I had my third miscarriage. According to the numbers, 1-2% of women will experience 3 or more miscarriages. Not really something I would have chosen to be an overachiever on, if I’d been the one making the decision.
It’s a truly humbling experience, and the grieving is exhausting. I go back and forth between being numb, then jealous of others who seem to get pregnant at the drop of a hat, then angry, then feeling more than a little sorry for myself, then numbness again. Not pretty emotions to contend with. It’s embarrassing. Steph is my rock through it.
I’ve always said that fertility treatments are not for the faint of heart. Fertility treatments when you’re 40 bring that up another notch. It takes a resolve of steel, a willingness to be on a roller coaster of emotions, a willingness to not be in control, flexibility, and great big buckets of hope.
But, our story is not a sad one. After our 3 year journey to get pregnant, we won the baby jackpot last year with our twins, Liam and August. Their birth story is here. Honestly, given my repeated miscarriages, they are my little miracles. I am beyond grateful for them, and get an immense amount of joy being their momma!
But, as my friend Lindsay said, “Grieving what you’ve lost does not make you less grateful for what you have. They are two separate things.” She is a wise woman. And so I go about the messy business of being grateful one moment and being devastated the next.
You’d think I would stop the roller coaster, but here’s the thing. I have this vision for my family of a house filled with children. Whether it’s right or wrong, it’s the vision I have. Messy, bustling, loud, filled with cute little beings working hard to grow up into big, kind, beautiful beings. I know the path is not always a rosy one- I’m not oblivious to the trials that come along with teenagers. Please. I’ve raised two children already. They excelled at being rebellious teenagers. We did not slide by on that one in any stretch of the imagination.
And yet, it’s still my dream. I just have to be open to how and when that will happen. That’s continued to be my mantra from day one, and it still is.
My blogger friend Ashley, of Baddest Mother Ever, told me that things changed for her the day that she realized she was meant to be someone’s mother, not necessarily have a baby. A gentle but profound shift in thinking. That’s a good reminder to me. If these rounds with my last little frosties (what we in the fertility world call our frozen little embryos) don’t work, then I will gratefully accept the embryos from some very young chick who was so fertile she only needed a small portion of the eggs she produced and is selflessly donating them to chicks like me.
We also are starting the path to becoming foster parents, and plan on pursuing adoption through that path. I am cracked wide open with fear and excitement going down this path, but it feels right. We have so much love to give.
The thing is, I will get my brood of children, but I must be open to how. That’s always been my mantra, through the first two miscarriages. This will happen for me, I just have to be open to when and how.
I’m a fairly private person, especially when it comes to sharing things that are still painful, but I wanted to share this with others who may be struggling to make their dream a reality – whether that’s having a baby, or getting a degree, or making a move.
My best advice to myself and others is to get crystal clear about what you want, and then go for it 110%. In the times when it seems impossible, or you have no control, lug out your heavy, sloshing buckets of hope. They’ll get you through. They’re getting me through right now.
Onward to the next step. Healing, standing up, dusting off, and trying again.
Throughout my years of trying to conceive, I received lots of cheering, wisdom and support from others who had been on the journey before me. That support made all the difference in the world to me, kept me motivated, and got me through to the other side – where I am joyously busy with my 7-month old twin boys.
It’s really important to me to try to pay that forward. So, if you’re struggling with infertility, I hope my story and my words help in some small way.
My particular journey has all the makings of a juicy novel. It’s full of heartbreak, the patience of Job, lots of money, a will of steel, all the medical science our doctors could conjure up, and a well-crafted plot written by me. Except, the plot kept going off course. And this wasn’t a novel. This was my life.
A little back-history. I had my first two children when I was but a mere babe. Eighteen when I had my daughter Ophelia. Twenty when I had my son Dakota. They’re the bomb diggety. Fast forward 17 years, and I wanted to do it all over again. Yes, my kids were almost grown, I worried about overpopulation, AND I was on the cusp of that dreaded acronym AMA – advanced maternal age. But, I didn’t care about any of that. I felt driven to be a mom again. I knew it was meant to be a part of my story with my beautiful partner Steph.
Steph and I are ill-equipped to have children the natural way. No matter. This is the 21st century, and we quickly found our resources to find out how to go about this business of making a baby, the 21st-century way. I remember that initial meeting with our Reproductive Endocrinologist, Dr. Winslow. I felt confidant in him, the fact that I was 35, and that we had time and resources. I was confidant, centered, focused, and resolved. Good thing I was.
It took us 2 years, 36 eggs harvested, 13 embryos transferred, 2 IUI’s, 3 IVF’s, 3 surgeries, and 2 miscarriages before we would find joy in our twin boys, August and Liam. I would be honored if you would read our full story here. But, in this post, I want to focus on you.
No matter what the particulars are of your story, my wish for you is that you grab hold of hope, and hold it tight. Because as long as you have hope, you can help write your own story. When you let go of it, your thoughts and actions change, and your story is written without your stamp of approval.
If you are struggling with trying to conceive, or have suffered a miscarriage, here’s my best advice.
1. Fertility treatment is a huge undertaking, and you’ll stay focused if you have a long-term plan of what types of treatments you’re willing to do, how long you’re willing to invest, and what you’ll do if a particular type of treatment is unsuccessful. Our plan was simple – we would invest time and money into 3 IVF’s. If those didn’t work, we would move on to donor embryo. If that didn’t work, we would adopt. Come up with a plan with your partner/spouse. Your plan and your limits will be different from mine. Do what in your heart of hearts you think would work for you. And know that your plan can change if it needs to.
2. Plan for the long-haul. Journeys take time – they’re not a one-shot event. Do some people seem to get pregnant as easily as they sneeze? Yes. Do some people have triplets on their first fertility round? Yes. Could it happen to you? Yes. But, chances are, it won’t.
3. Don’t take setbacks as a sign that it’s not meant to be for you. When a setback happens, go back to your master plan, adjust and move on. Even if your success ends in miscarriage – and I truly hope it doesn’t – allow yourself to grieve for as long as you need, and then get back to your plan.
4. Don’t be a victim. It sucks to have to go to so much effort to have a child, when it comes so easily to others. It can be horrible and heartbreaking. But it’s not because you’re not meant to be a parent. It’s not because you’re bad. It’s not because the universe conspired against you. It’s the luck of the draw. You’ve got to find the “good egg”, as I used to call it. That perfect little being that’s meant to be your child.
5. Come up with your own mantra that you go back to again and again. I didn’t set out to have a mantra, but I found myself repeating the same words to myself. My words? “Don’t give up. It will happen. My job is to be unattached about how and when that happens.”
6. Be stubborn. Allow yourself to grieve and feel that it’s “not fair”. Practice patience. If you mess up and break down, gather your shit together, and practice patience again.
7. Allow yourself to have bad days. I may sound all chipper now, but I had many days where I sat outside, just staring out into the yard, wondering how all this would end. I cried lots, and became numb. But, eventually, I would move out of it, and find my resolve again.
8. Give and receive support. I found mine online at BabyCenter.com. Sharing your journey with others is validating. It makes your story real and makes you feel not alone. It also helps with feelings of jealousy, which is a messy, embarrassing thing to feel when you have friends and family who are pregnant, and you can’t feel happy for them.
9. Take a break when you need to. Fertility treatment is grueling. It’s all exhausting on your mind, body, and soul. If you push pause, it doesn’t mean you’re giving up. It means you’re gathering your strength. You’ll know when the time is right again. Steph and I pushed the pause button after our second miscarriage for 9 months. We healed, had fun, and rested during that time. Come January, we were geared up, and ready to go. Remember, you’re in it for the long-haul.
Your road might be full of disappointment and grief, but if you try your hardest to stay unattached to how you will become a parent, and stay resolved, you will.
It might not be your own egg, it might not be your own uterus, it might be through adoption. You might have to fund-raise, beg, network, or otherwise turn over every rock. But have faith that things will unfold exactly as they’re meant to. Your child(ren) are out there waiting for you on the other side. It might be 9 months from now, or it might be 3 years from now. Your child is out there, routing you on, sweetly and softly. Patiently waiting.
If you’re trying for your first child, this is your first big journey as a parent. Being a parent means being in it for the long-haul. That journey doesn’t being when your child is born – it begins now. I wish you so much love, and wish you lots of grace as you walk your journey. Try to do it with a joyful, but stubborn step.
It will happen for you. Your job is to not be attached to how, or when.
Much love and baby dust. I would love to hear your stories, if you are willing to share. I’m so passionate about this.
This blog actually starts seven months ago….when Steph and I fulfilled a dream that was long in the making. On September 12, 2012, our beautiful boys, Liam and August, came into the world. BAM. Overnight, we were parents to four children – 2 adults, and two infant boys. Our life was suddenly so full I barely had time to think. I knew I wanted to start a blog about our family, but I didn’t have enough brain power to figure out a blog name. So, I jotted down what I knew would become my first post one day – the story of August and Liam, and how they came to complete our messy, joyous family.
Before I share their story, I wanted to explain my whimsical little blog name, Mommy Loves Martinis.
Mommy does love martinis. A great lot of them. Even more than the tasty little beverage itself, I love what martinis symbolize!
*** Fun. Light-heartedness. Adventure. Subversion. Daring. A grand ole time. ***
Because even though this world is complicated and there is much to fathom, in the end it’s all about embracing those you love, being passionate about your life, and having fun along the way.
I just read a story about a little boy, Mitchell, who had muscular dystrophy. After struggling for many years, he came home from the hospital to die at home, surrounded by his family. He had been sick for years, but was so at peace at home in hospice. His dad asked Mitchell what advice he would give people about life. Mitchell’s response? “Be nice to each other and be glad you’re alive. Nothing else matters.”
I don’t take advice from a dying child lightly. They know what is important, and what is not. My hope for this blog, then, is to celebrate life, and have a little bit of fun doing it.
So, here’s the story of August and Liam, written 7 months ago, when the boys were 8 days old. It’s a little painful, but to me it’s full of joy and passion, and ends just perfectly.
9/20/12 Thursday – 8 days old
Stephanie and I tried to conceive for almost two years, which honestly was a bit of a shocker to me, because I had gotten pregnant at the blink of an eye with my first two, who are 20 and 19 years old. I was 36 at the time we first visited the fertility clinic – “on the cusp” for advanced maternal age, so we moved quickly from less-invasive procedures to IVF – in vitro fertilization.
After two weeks of stomach and butt-shots (for real!), our first IVF in October of 2010 resulted in a positive! At 8 weeks, we were released from the fertility doctor, and had our first appointment with our obstetrician. We met with the nurse and got a large congratulatory bag of pregnancy goodies. The doctor decided at the last minute to do an ultrasound. He showed us the heartbeat, and then paused. “I’m so sorry. What I thought was the heartbeat was something else. There is no heartbeat.” I was confused and in disbelief.
We asked for a second opinion and went up to the top floor of Baptist Medical Center to the high-risk practice ROC – where they had super-duper machines that showed blood flow. The doctor was very gentle, and showed me where the blood flow should have been. We had miscarried at 8 1/2 weeks. I distinctly remember throwing the congratulatory bag of goodies in the trash as we walked out the door. I had several martinis that night!
We were devastated, but regrouped and did our second IVF in March of 2011. Again, it was positive. Hallelujah! Only a handful of people knew, because of what we had gone through before. I made my fertility doctor keep us on until 10 weeks, at which point he released me to the obstetrician. By then, my pants were starting to get pretty tight and knew I had to share the news at work before people figured it out! Stephanie left for a work trip right before my 12 week appointment. The morning of my appointment, I couldn’t feel anything. My morning sickness had stopped. I called Steph and told her to prepare for bad news.
At the doctors office, I saw the ultrasound tech and asked her “If you don’t see a heartbeat, will you please tell me right away and not wait to make me see the doctor?” It was very important that I know right away if something was wrong. Something was wrong. There was no heartbeat. We had miscarried at 11 weeks. When we went in the hospital for the D&C, I asked the doctor to bring in the ultrasound machine and show me our baby one last time, just to make sure. I just couldn’t believe I had had two miscarriages in a row. I’ll never forget the last image of my little girl- her little hands clasped gently in front of her, her head bowed down towards her body.
Next, we did two cycles of the frozen embryos that were left from the first two IVFs while we recuperated financially and emotionally. More shots and estrogen patches and waiting. The cycles were negative. We finally did one last IVF with my own eggs in January of 2012. Our plan was to move on to donor embryos if that didn’t work, or if I miscarried again. When we met with Dr. Winslow after my egg retrieval, and right before the transfer, I talked to him about how many to transfer. I had a plan. “Dr. Winslow”, I started. “I know we normally transfer two embryos. But, I’ve had two miscarriages. I’m 38. I don’t think we have to worry about high-order multiples here. Would it be reasonable to transfer three?” He agreed. So, I went home with three little embryos vying for a chance….
For those who do fertility treatment, you know you’re not supposed to test at home. It’s a carousel of emotion, and it’s best to stay away! I cheated, and used pregnancy tests immediately. 4 days past my transfer, I got a faint positive on the little stick. (I may or may not have sheepishly purchased multiple 3-packs of pregnancy tests at Target in the following weeks) Our first ultrasound 2 weeks later confirmed IT WAS TWINS!!! It had taken us a total of 2 years, 8 fertility procedures and 13 embryos transferred to get there, but we did it! I’m not sure who was more excited – our fertility specialist Dr. Winslow or Steph and I!!
For the record, Ophelia and Dakota in the picture above are actually uber-excited!
Because of my age at the time (38), we went through all of the non-invasive testing – Nuchal Fold, the quad screen, and the new test – MaterniT21 – that has a 99% accuracy rate in detecting Down syndrome, and other chromosomal disorders. Both boys passed all tests with flying colors. I breathed with ease and focused for the rest of my pregnancy on having the experience I was never able to have with my first two, since I was a teenage mom when I had them. My twin pregnancy was hard to enjoy because I was so uncomfortable, and I was full of anxiety that I would miscarry again, but we finally made it to my scheduled C-section date of September 12, 2012. Eviction notice for the boys, since they were 37 weeks and considered full-term!
Here I am the night before the C-section. I had already been in the hospital for a week with pre-eclampsia. I was ready!
Steph is ready for business.
Once on the table and prepped, they brought Stephanie in and turned on a Bob Marley CD – “One Love” was the song that was playing. I remember joking with the nurses about the music, and took some deep breaths. I was ready to meet my boys.
Baby A came out crying and I remember crying that I had made it to birth and hadn’t miscarried. He was here! Out came Baby B, and baby B was crying, too! I was so relieved! I hadn’t realized out traumatized I was from the miscarriages, and how convinced I had been that something would go horribly wrong. I had spent 9 months living in a state of if.. “If I get to see these babies.” “If I carry them full term.” “If I get to be a mom again.”
As they sewed me up, I got to meet Baby B – Liam Bruce. He was perfect! Small to me at 6 pounds 9 ounces (my first children had each been over 9 pounds!) but perfect. He looked at me with his dark eyes and I laughed at how intense the little bug was.
Suddenly, the neonatologist was holding Baby A – August John – up for me to look at. She told us his weight – 5 pounds 14 ounces, and then paused. I’ll never forget her words, though I’ve forgotten most of what she said after she got her initial thoughts out. “This is Baby A. He has soft markers that lead us to believe he has Down syndrome.” She went on to talk some more about his belly being distended and that they would need to send him to NICU for immediate testing, but I cut her off. “No”, I told her, “We had all the tests and he was negative.” I’ll never forget the dead silence in the room and how they all looked around at each other. I swear the silence lasted 5 minutes, although I know it was only a few moments. “Amnio?”, she asked, and I told her no – but that we had done MaterniT21, which had the same accuracy rates for detection as amnio. She tried to steer me back towards the issue at hand and told me “OK. I’m actually more concerned about his belly. Kiss him, and you’ll see him soon.” They sent him immediately to the NICU.
I honestly don’t remember much of anything after that, except for looking at my partner Stephanie and asking her “Is everything going to be ok?” She assured me it would and that we would love him no matter what. I was terrified. I don’t think I said anything else the entire time I was in the operating room, but I can’t be sure because it was a blur. I do know that I was devastated.
The night was very long and quiet. I sobbed that night and the next morning in the hospital, having moment after moment where I couldn’t believe it was true. After all that we had been through – the IVF’s, the miscarriages, the tens of thousands of dollars we had spent – the emotions that would peak and valley with each failed try. But it was true. Even before they drew his blood and sent it off to genetics, I knew it was true. And I knew we would be ok. None of this could have been a mistake. It had unfolded exactly as planned. By the next afternoon my tears had stopped for the time being, and I knew I needed to jump full force into loving and caring for these babies. That I couldn’t sit there in shock another moment.
There’s a simple blood test that confirms Down syndrome – the presence of a third copy of the 21st chromosome in each cell. We got the call on Wednesday from our pediatrician, Dr. Sanchez, with the results from the genetics testing. He called us personally to tell us the news. I already knew in the bottom of my heart, but I didn’t know how relieved and peaceful I would feel when I got off the phone. I looked at Stephanie, told her “It’s positive” and gave her a kiss. Then I took a new breath that would start our new future. I picked up August, smothered him in kisses and thanked him for choosing us to be his parents. I couldn’t imagine having a different baby. I honestly couldn’t. Liam and August are ours, and we will do everything we can to be the best mommies we can be.
August is perfect to me. I’m scared to death about the medical issues that come along with Down syndrome, but right now he just seems like the sweetest, most gentle baby I have ever met. And, so far, he’s healthy. We are so blessed.
He seems wise beyond his years. His twin brother Liam will be next to him crying, and August will just gaze at him as if to say “Listen little dude, it’s not worth the fuss. Don’t get yourself worked up. It’s ok.”
His expressions are priceless. His blinks are long and slow, which melts your heart and brings tears to your eyes. Who would have thought that little blinks could be so quietly and perfectly sweet? Liam’s personality is super-intense, and we enjoy so much spending hours looking back and forth at them, watching how different they are.
The boys are 9 days old now – and our life is already a flurry of doctors appointments that are lined up over the next few weeks. Every time I pick up the phone it’s someone from the pediatrician’s office, apologetically calling to give us more info on yet another appointment – for the geneticist, for the opthamologist, for a repeat echo, for the pediatric cardiologist. We have more questions than we do answers, but that will come in time. For now, I’ve done little things, like ordering some books about Down syndrome, liking some Facebook pages. But I am driven to get involved. Steph and I both are. That’s what August wants. I know it.
The outpouring of support has been amazing. Everyone has celebrated the birth of our boys with us – not once have we been told “I’m sorry”, which makes me smile 🙂 Right now, I’m in the phase where it helps for me to say the words “My son has Down syndrome” out loud – whether into the air, or typed on the computer. I know that he is much, much more than his diagnosis, but it helps us now to accept fully and move on. After all, it’s only been 9 days since these boys were born and our whole world changed in the blink of an eye. Our journey was not what we expected, but it was a perfect journey, and we have two perfect little boys.
April 13, 2-13
So, that’s our story. As I sit here today, the boys are 7 months old. Ophelia is their “Sistah-Nanny”, watching them during the day while Steph and I work. By night, she’s a nursing school student, studying her way towards being a kick-ass nurse. Older brother Dakota is out spreading his wings in Vietnam – literally climbing mountains and experiencing new cultures. I think often of the miscarriages – my two little bubbas who didn’t make it this earth. Or, maybe they did, and wanted to wait until they could be born together, as twins! I don’t know, but I have a sense of deep peace about it all. This is our family, and we invite you to share in our love and adventures. We worked so hard to complete our little family, and here we are, making our way through life. Thank you for reading! XOXOXOXOXO