The moment has FINALLY arrived! We have the link to the radio interview done back in August on the Middays With Michelle Show! So excited to share this all with you, even though some of the story has changed since the time of this recording. Take a listen as I recap the last 5 years of my life, including infertility, fostering, adopting, raising children with RAD, loss, and a beautiful little miracle!
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There is nothing more amazing, beautiful, or life-affirming than giving birth to a child. If you’re like the average woman in our society, you spent your childhood playing house and imagining your frilly wedding day while making a list of what you’ll name your future children when you finally manage to land Prince Charming (or Hugh Jackman). As a teenager, you babysat all the children in your neighborhood and then some, surrounding yourself with little beauties, all the while practicing your own parenting skills. You were certainly going to have all the kinks worked out by the time you had children of your own.
And then you started dating – seriously dating. And one of the top questions for each prospective suitor was to ask if he wanted children. How many, how soon, what gender? Naturally, you used all the power you could muster and you held back for a few dates. I mean, you didn’t want to scare the poor fellow away and let him know that you were baby crazy and all, right? But wait, were you baby crazy? Maybe. But probably not. More than likely you were an intelligent, witty, successful woman that was simply searching for that missing part to make you whole. A family.
And once the “I Do’s” were said and the champagne bubbles finally settled, you looked to your new husband with a gleam in your eye and he knew – you both knew – it was time to make a baby. You couldn’t be more elated. And naturally, neither could he. Because while you’ve been dreaming for a little one with your eyes and his nose, he’s been dreaming of frequent and female-initiated sex for the next several months! Well, that and he really hopes the little one has your eyes as well. After all, you did marry a romantic, right?
But then something happened. Your urgent love-making didn’t produce a little one but a heap of disappointment. Month after month you sat by your bathroom sink, willing yourself to pass a test that you can’t even study for, hoping and praying for the double lines that will forever change your life. But as the months accumulated, you couldn’t help but feel like a failure. Why am I broken? Why would I have such a strong desire to be a Mother if it were never going to come true? Am I doing something wrong? Is he doing something wrong? Should we get tested? And after a certain amount of time, you do the scariest thing and see a doctor. And this doctor gives you the scariest news you’ll ever hear – Infertility. The word rocks you to the core, challenges your beliefs, leaves you feeling hollow and angry and bitter and grief-stricken. The future looks empty and much different than it did before.
Suddenly, you realize that you’re going to have an awful lot of free time on your hands, what with the decrease in sex and no children to care for and all. You wonder if you should take up hobbies like knitting and rock polishing while changing your magazine subscription from Parenting to European Travel. The numbness sets in and you begin your life as a couple. You make friends with other couples, only to dump them when they break the “happy news” to you that they’re expecting. You’ve now knitted 32 blankets and 45 scarves, but for some reason, you just keep coming back to that cute pattern of the little baby booties in your Knitting For Dumbies book. This book finally makes its way to the garbage and the needles are chucked into the street during a fit over tangled yarn. But we both know it really wasn’t about the yarn at all, was it? Because everywhere you go, you see happy women with fat bellies talking about due dates, onesies, and organic babyfoods. For a while, you consider moving to the nearest forest to live in one of those cute tree homes you saw in your new travel magazine.
The desire to be free from the media, families, mothers, and other people’s children so strong you actually called a guy who knows a guy who could get you a good deal on the tree home. But it turns out it was more expensive than the price for adoption so you accidentally on purpose lost the guy’s number and went back to avoiding all things that reminded you of the child-sized hole in your heart. And then one day you start to feel a little bit strong inside. You realize that you hadn’t cried yet that day and you actually couldn’t recall crying the day before either. You saw a mother pushing a stroller on the sidewalk and you said hello instead of breaking out in a cold sweat and crossing the street. Eventually, the ability to attend baby showers, christenings, and dedications seems less terrifying and a new thought begins to swirl around in your heart. It couldn’t be ignored anymore than the pain of infertility could, despite your family and friends telling you that it was time to “move on”. It's foster care.
You and your husband begin to weigh the options, talk to the people, fill out some papers, take some classes. There are caseworkers, permanency specialists, visitation schedules, court hearings. It all starts to feel so overwhelming. It starts to feel like Infertility all over again. Maybe this was a bad decision? What if we can’t handle this? What if we still never get a child? What if, what if, what if? Until one day, the phone rings. You’re not given much information, but they ask you if you want to take a child. Two children, actually. A brother and a sister. Will you do it? Can you do it? Your bravery and courage battle it out as you hold the phone and your breath at the same time. “Yes,” you finally whisper. “We’ll do it.” And you do. You do it with all that you have in you – on the days that are hard, on the days that are beyond hard, and on the days that are the hardest of all. You made your dream of Motherhood come true. It’s not how you planned or dreamed or fantasized all those years ago when you were making your list of baby names. But you became a mother - the best mother that your kids will ever know. There is nothing more amazing, beautiful, or life-affirming than giving birth to a child. Expect for being able to choose a child. To your little one, that is the most beautiful gift of all.
For some, pregnancy and motherhood are sorrowful topics – topics that bring gut-wrenching sobs, weak knees, breaking hearts, and bitter tears. Grief. It’s not a happy subject by any means, but I think it’s one that we need to talk about. All too often a mama plans for the birth of her baby. She picks out the names, she decides on the nursery colors, she reads all the books. And, after 9 months and for varying reasons, she still finds herself with empty arms.
Infertility. Miscarriage. Still-birth. SIDS. Adoption that fell through. Foster child that was taken back. Custody battle that went wrong. There are too many times when tragedy strikes and leaves shattered pieces of a life that once was. Whether you’ve lost your child or you’ve had to say goodbye to a child you never had the privilege to meet, you are familiar with the pangs of grief settling in your gut. You can’t run from it, you can’t ignore it, and you can’t imagine getting through it.
I have been one of these mothers. I have actually been several of these mothers. I found myself in the stages of grief when they told me that I couldn’t have a baby. For years I hurt and fumbled and wept in silence. I found grief again when my husband and I were passed over for a set of siblings through the foster system. Children I had not even met and was only aware of for a brief hour had left me sick with loss. Again, grief knocked when we had adopted two children and were in the process of adopting our third, a little boy that we’d had for 9 months and had brought home from the hospital – a little boy whose father decided that he wanted him after all. And again I felt grief start to rear it’s ugly head after miracle of all miracles, I became pregnant and made it to the delivery room, only to have my baby’s heart beat become faint and fail to register on all the machines, despite the numerous efforts of doctors and nurses, leaving me in emergency surgery in order to safely deliver my son.
Heartbreak is heartbreak, no matter your situation. And those that love you, those that are trying to help, will say things like “Time heals all wounds” (no, it doesn’t) and “If you stop trying, you’ll get pregnant” (not necessarily) and “It’s time to let go” (umm... how?!). Chances are you’ll get angry at your friends and family for their misguided attempts to help you through your grief. And that’s OK. You’ll still love them, because you know deep down that they can’t help but try to “fix” something that’s just too broken. It’s not their fault. It’s not your fault. It’s just there and it hurts like the dickens.
I am a firm believer that everyone grieves differently and that you have to find your own way through – but for some, knowing where to start is the greatest challenge. So here is a list of things that helped me and may help you start your own process.
- Be angry. People who say that anger will only hurt you have never really experienced grief before. Not only is it uncontrollable, it’s necessary. To pretend it isn’t there is to ignore the fact that you loved and lost so very deeply. Be angry... but don’t live there forever. Let it eventually motivate you into doing, becoming, or creating something different.
- Memorialize your child. Whether it was the idea of a child or one that you lost, don’t be the one to throw every reminder out with the trash. You will regret this in time and will have no way to retrieve all that was lost. Keep special trinkets, but please don’t keep the shrine. Love what was lost but don’t lose yourself in the memories.
- Find an outlet. There are things inside that need to come out and any form of expression will do. If you have a pencil, write. If you have a voice, sing. If you can rhyme, make poetry. If you have lungs, scream. For the sake of yourself, and for the sake of letting your story guide others, let it out.
- Love again. Mama, this one will be the hardest. This one will require trusting again, despite the fact that grief could, once again, come in and sweep away your new love. But remember, living without loving isn’t living at all. And there are friends, therapists, pastors, and family that will be there to help you when you’re ready.
I don’t even know you, but I feel your heart. You are not alone. You are not too far gone. You are not too broken. I love you and stand with you.
My husband and I have been married for three years. Three years seems like such a short period of time, and yet, as we've reflected on ALL that has taken place during this time span, it feels as though we've lived a lifetime and a half! My biggest dream growing up was always to be a mother. As I got a bit older, I realized that I wanted other things as well... to help others, to have a job that required me to show compassion to the underdogs of society, to pursue music, to write, to love God and my family with my whole heart. After year 1 of marriage, it looked as if I was going to have to abandon one of my most precious goals in life: Motherhood. Crushed and exhausted from fertility pills that made me super-sick, we moved to Plan B: Foster Care.
With so many children in need of placement, surely, we thought, we would get a child immediately! Ahh, but let us not forget the months of paperwork followed by the months of waiting.
Was it possible that even needy children weren't meant for us? Good grief!! If I can't have my own and I can't help someone elses', what was left? But lo and behold, after almost a year into the fostering process, we got the call. TWO children instead of one.... what a deal!! Two weeks after their arrival, CYS asked us to consider adopting them.
Um.... they obviously haven't seen me mother... I'm really not very good! I always thought I would be this awesome Mom, but I've realized that I basically stink at it!
But our hearts did what our brains couldn't.... and we said "Yes".
Several months later, Baby Isaac came along. I'm pretty sure most of our family thought we were crazy by this point! Afterall, we were dealing with some "fun" and "interesting" behaviors (both from the kids AND from us!), but we figured that adding their baby brother to the mix would be worth it in the end. P.S.
Fast forward 9 months.... Both Cameron and Taylor have been adopted, Isaac is set for adoption, and then the bomb hits. Words like "biological father" and "reunification" started haunting my dreams and turning my stomach sour. After a month and a half, Isaac left us for good. Grateful for weekend visits, Pat and I tried to compose ourselves for the sake of each other and for Cameron and Taylor.... we left our weeping for late at night, in the privacy of our cars, our pillows, and the great outdoors.
What I didn't tell you in last night's post is that Sunday night, just after returning Isaac to his father for what we thought to be the final time, we had one more change of events. My husband was at the video store, walking the isles in tears, desperate to find something to distract him from the great loss Isaac left in him. I was at home, getting sick with grief....literally. I texted him repeatedly, as he was taking an unusually long time. He assured me he would be home soon. I waited on the couch for him anxiously, knowing that the day had been more than we could handle, but that I was going to do what I could to cheer him. So, when my hubby walked through the door, the first thing I did was put my arms around him and we both cried. And the second thing I did was present him with a present:
I realized that God loves poetry more than even I, because no one could have written this more poetically if they had tried. On the very night we lose one baby, God grants us another. Pat and I stared at the tests with their beautiful, pink, double lines, and we did the only thing we could in the moment. We laughed. It was much needed laughter in a moment that we were feeling so much sadness. We we overjoyed, nervous, and broken, all in the same moment, and laughter was the best release we found! After further thought, our giggles continued, because, not only had I not ovulated in 3 years, but we had only had a week of "sexy time" in a two month span due to feeling so distraught over Isaac. We made time for the obligatory "stress relief" that is supposed to occur for one's anniversary, and that was it! So, one egg in three years just happened to occur during a particularly long dry spell we were in? I don't think so. This has miracle written all over it! And that's exactly how I will always see it.
Our little bean-shaped baby is 7-weeks along and due May 8th. Baby Bean's heart beat was small but strong. Watching the tiny flashes of light signifying Bean's heartrate filled me with such a peace that I haven't felt in years. I no longer have to imagine what this "would have been like". It's here. It's my moment.
A baby that no one can ever take away. There has always been Hope... but Hope Realized is soooo much cooler! Ladies and Gentelmen, meet Baby Bean.