The Childless Aunt

my name in Spanish translates into Aunt. It was God’s will from the day I was named – I was meant to be an Auntie. My little brother (my only sibling) had told me that he never wanted children. A month before my hysterectomy, him and his girlfriend told us they were pregnant. 

I learned after the fact that they were terrified to tell me. They were worried about my emotions, about my reaction, and about my depression. The funny thing is – I felt nothing but complete happiness for them. I kind of had an idea they wanted to tell me they were expecting – my brother had never asked me to dinner so persistently in his whole life. Also, She was drinking sprite and eating a pack of crackers. 

How did I process the fact that my brother was going to have a baby and I wasn’t?

I was having my reproductive system removed from my body and he was preparing for fatherhood. I was grieving a great loss and they were preparing for a miracle. I tried so hard to have a baby and my nephew was a surprise. I didn’t feel jealousy, I didn’t feel anger, and I didn’t feel sadness. I believe I was more in shock that he was having a baby! A baby was coming into our family, and the timing was perfect.

The fact that they included me during the pregnancy was very supportive, loving and helpful. I got to see my nephew’s heartbeat on an ultrasound. I had tears in my eyes when I witnessed his little heart beat. I felt so special that I was included in that moment. I had witnessed a miracle in a time of my own devastation.

Did they pity me?

I don’t believe they felt pity for my loss. I believe that they were surrounded by so much love that they wanted to share that love. There is no greater gift in this life than love. 

My nephew was born perfect, healthy, and on a gorgeous spring Mother’s Day. Ironic, right? That day had been one of the hardest days for me for so many years – it was finally a day to be celebrated. It was the happiest day. 

Trygve Thomas will be two-years-old this coming May. He has brought an enormous amount of joy to our family. He has healed a lot of wounds. My parents officially became biological grandparents, my stepdaughter took one look at her new stepcousin and told him they were going to be best friends, my husband is now Uncle Chappy, and I am his Tìa.

I may be the childless aunt, but I have love for this child that fills up the whole world. I have rocked him to sleep, fed him his bottles, changed his diapers, held his hands as he learned to walk, and have made him laugh countless times. 

The best part is – I get to go home after being with him. This auntie doesn’t have to be up all night, up early, be with a cranky baby, or deal with dirty diapers!

Timing is everything. I have proof of this. 

Auntie loves you Tryg. 

All I Want For Christmas is Two Pink Lines

The Holiday season is here. The lights are twinkling, the wish lists are completed, the presents are wrapped, and the baking has begun. We are supposed to believe in the magic of Christmas. 


“All the stockings were hung by the chimney with care in the hope that St. Nicholas would soon be there.” Christmas comes with family traditions – If we don’t have any children to involve in these traditions, the holidays can be a very depressing time of the year. 

Are you facing another holiday season without a baby?

Santa Claus, Papa Noel, Father Christmas, and Kris Kringle is a legendary figure who is said to bring gifts to the homes of well-behaved children on Christmas Eve. Christmas is the season of hope and cheer. Tis the season to be jolly. It isn’t easy to be jolly when you have empty arms.

I have been fortunate enough to have a stepdaughter to celebrate Christmas with. We have her every Christmas eve and Christmas morning. I had spent years hoping for two pink lines on a pregnancy test. I always felt a sense of jealousy for those mothers who had a newborn baby to put in a Christmas stocking. Complete with peace, joy and love.

Take a break. Skip the holiday parties. You don’t have to view anything on social media, or open the holiday cards. You aren’t obligated to stare at all the children waiting for Santa in their best Christmas outfits. Don’t glance at “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments. Christmas can be very isolating – a very hard reminder for the infertile. This holiday can compare to Mother’s Day and Father’s Day in terms of heartbreak.

Tell your family and friends you appreciate their love and support, but you need to create your own traditions at this time and you may not be able to attend any regular family gatherings. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty about your choices. You cannot blame yourself for something you cannot control. 

My wish for you is that you still believe in magic. Write that letter to Father Christmas. Decorate your tree. Bake your cookies. Listen to Christmas music. Buy matching buffalo plaid pajamas – get your dog some too.

My hope for you is that you get those two pink lines. 

 

 

 

 

Adoption Stories: The Pfingsten Family

My name is Gina Pfingsten. My husband and I have five children ranging from 4 years old to 12 years old. Our oldest three are biological and our youngest two were adopted from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Tia asked if I would tell our story of adoption – I am happy to share because adoption can be for everyone and is life changing for an entire family!

Why would you adopt when you have kids of your own?

It’s a question we’ve been asked numerous times. For the most part, people aren’t being rude – They are just genuinely curious. Adoption is often thought of as second option if you can’t have children of your own. Most people don’t consider adoption unless they are placed in that situation.

Our family grew from five to seven in roughly two and a half years. In actuality the process had started long ago. In high school, I made the choice that when I was married I wanted to adopt a child. I can’t even tell you why I decided that. Maybe it was the horrifying birth video we watched in junior high health class. I’d like to think that my reasoning even back then was to provide a loving home to a child that needed one. I also didn’t really think that I might need to convince my future husband to get on board with the whole adoption idea!

When Matt and I got married we wrote down individual goals and goals for our marriage. Adoption made the list for both of us! No convincing needed! This time our reasoning for adoption was clear – we wanted to care for others that needed it. There are so many children in foster care and orphanages here in our country and all over the world. Jesus has called us to care for the orphans of the world. We knew we were called to do this. We took a lot of time discussing and praying about our future family and how that would look. In 2004 we took time to travel the world and were exposed to so many different people and cultures. We saw first hand the poverty many other countries and families faced. We knew we were being called to an international adoption.

We prayed, researched, discussed, researched, discussed and prayed about when and where we should adopt. We decided to have our biological children first. We wanted our adoptive children to know we chose them for no other reason than we simply wanted to be their parents. When our three biological children were seven, five and three years old, we sat them down and spoke to them about adoption and why we felt that God was calling us to adopt children needing a home. Our kids were so excited to give children a home that were in need and to gain siblings!

Our family is proof that adoption works!

Adoption is life changing for all involved. Our adoptive children have a loving stable home and a future full of opportunities. Our biological children have siblings that they love and care for – and younger siblings that look up to them. We all have gained a perspective and heart for the marginalized. Adoption is time consuming, expensive and the transition can be draining, but it is also the most rewarding journey. I love how our family fits together. We laugh, cry, annoy and fight together. Most of all we LOVE and support each other. Our adoptive kids are alive and well with a future ahead of them because of adoption. They gained a lot but our biological kids would tell you we gained even more!

We know the future will be challenging for all of our children, and certainly for our adopted kids. At the same time, we also believe that God created all humans to have parents and a family that love and care for them unconditionally .

Many people tell us what a blessing we are giving our children, but the truth is – Matt and I feel like we’re receiving the far greater blessing!

The Dog Mom

Unconditional love is known as affection without any limitations, or love without conditions.

I wish every human had a heart like a dog. They are loyal companions who love unconditionally. Dogs have a way of finding people who need them. I may not have any biological children – but I have five dogs. I have five fur babies.

Brees is our Siberian Husky. She is named after football hero, Drew Brees. She is a bi-eyed husky. Did you know that bi-eyed dogs can see earth with their brown eye, and heaven with their blue eye? Brees is from my first marriage. She has been my companion for almost a decade. She has been by my side through celebration and devastation. She is feisty, fierce, loving, and wild. She is beautiful. Her middle name is after my grandmother.

Copper is our Dachshund. He is a short-legged, long-bodied wiener dog. He is my stepdaughter’s dog. She was promised by my husband when she was ill as a child. My husband never thought he would have a dog, little did he know he would end up with five of them. Copper is a fighter. He was diagnosed with cancer last summer, and we prepared that it would be his last summer. He had surgery to remove the tumor, and with zero chemo or radiation – he survived it. He burrows, runs like a bunny and barks like there is no tomorrow.

Blaze is a rescue dog from a shelter in our town. He is a Bassett – Beagle Mix. He is a what you could call a “mutt.” He is black, brown, white and has spots. He is unique. Me and my husband had been dating only a few months when we found Blaze. He was the runt of the litter and the very last puppy in his cage. Me and my stepdaughter took one look at him, and we knew we had to take him home. We had to convince my husband, but in the end – we took that little puppy to his new home. Blaze has tremendous separation anxiety. He needed us and he was the dog that linked our family together. Blaze was dog number three, and what we thought was our last dog.

Dubnyk is our Great Dane. He is named after NHL Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk. Our family loves the Wild. It was the natural choice for a name. His middle name is Jake, after my dad. Dubnyk wasn’t planned, but either was our infertility. Our infertility treatments had failed, I was desperate and angry. I wanted the biggest puppy I could get. The biggest breed of dog I could find. The Christmas before my hysterectomy, we brought home our little blue-eyed Great Dane puppy. I let my stepdaughter pick him out from his brothers and sisters and I had picked out my dad’s middle name because I knew I wouldn’t have a baby to name after him. Dubnyk was our baby. He was almost twenty pounds when we brought him home. He would sleep on our chests. He will be three years old. He is the most sensitive dog we have – who is also the biggest. He is almost two-hundred pounds.

Aspen Storm is our last dog. She was unexpected and I believe she was sent to our family. We were compelled by her and her story. Aspen is deaf. She is a Dogo Argentino/Bulldog Mix. She is pure white. Aspen came to Minnesota from Texas. She is considered special needs – the shelters in Texas are over-flowing and they don’t keep dogs with special needs. We like to visit our local animal shelter. We walked past Aspen’s cage and read her story. I knew I had to have her. I had to save her. In the end, Aspen was saving me. She has been my greatest challenge. She isn’t easy. We have brought her to training, we have learned how to communicate with her, and we have tried to learn her background and her story. We don’t know exactly what Aspen has survived, we just know she was brought to us for a reason. I was grieving and I was suffering. Aspen has kept my mind busy. She has kept my life busy. I don’t have time to think about much else. We have had our struggles with her, but we have kept going. Aspen is a beautiful soul who just needed to be loved. She needed me as much as I needed her. We saved each other. Our family is complete.

I had considered opening a dog kennel – It’s a sideline dream. My home is full of dog hair, slobber, muddy paws, and love. Are we out of our mind? probably. I spend way too much money on dog food, I vacuum more than the average person, I have a dog-sitter come stay at my home, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything else. I view my dogs as my children. I love and cherish them as they were my own kids.

I am a Dog Mom.

Boosting Fertility

Becoming pregnant faster – I am very skeptical about this phrase. Did you know there is a “fertility diet?” Diet and lifestyle changes can boost fertility by 70%. If you are consuming foods rich in antioxidants; such as folate and zinc, you will become pregnant faster than the average woman. How do you feel about this?

You may agree with boosting your fertility – that’s wonderful, I am cheering you on! But I don’t believe “eating a bigger breakfast” is going to make anyone pregnant faster, especially if you preach that phrase to an infertile woman.

I do agree that we become obsessed with becoming mothers. I was once that woman. I was obsessed with becoming pregnant, and I would try anything to increase my chances every month (this is when I wasn’t a fertility conspiracy theorist.)

Sure, I believe we should avoid trans fats – even if we aren’t trying to start a family every cycle. It seems like common sense, right? Avoid trans fats and cut out the carbs. it’s suggested that cutting carbs can help improve hormone levels – which in turn can improve ovulation. I do believe women who suffer from PCOS can struggle with weight and ovulation. PCOS is polycystic ovarian syndrome. PCOS is a hormonal disorder causing enlarged ovaries with small cysts on the outer edges.

Eating more protein from vegetable sources, instead of animal sources, may improve fertility. If I eat beans for breakfast, lunch, and dinner – will I see two pink lines on a pregnancy test? If I would have become a vegan, maybe it would have changed my reproductive future? I applaud anyone who can commit to a vegan, vegetarian or gluten-free lifestyle – you are amazing. I just don’t know if it proves boosting fertility – any of my RD friends want to chime in on this? 

I believe that exercise and proper relaxation is important in your fertility journey. exercising too much may screw up your cycles and high stress doesn’t help anything in your life. It’s difficult to relax when you’re so stressed out about conceiving and everyone around you telling you “to just relax.” There isn’t a magic wand to make you relax and just get pregnant.

Excess alcohol intake: How many people get pregnant after drinking way too much? I am guessing the majority of the human race is conceived after two-five strong drinks. I cut out all alcohol when I was doing my fertility treatments, It didn’t work for me – but please drink responsibly! Cutting caffeine is a great lifestyle change – not only a fertility booster. I read that research has been done and found that excess caffeine products can affect female fertility.

I don’t want to make this a negative post – It may come off that way due to my reproductive system not functioning. I do believe it’s vital to have a healthy lifestyle. Exercise and diet choices are important. I would never tell someone who is TTC to just eat a Mediterranean diet and do acupuncture because it’s going to improve and increase their chances of having a baby. That is just not my experience, or my way of thinking.

If you’d like to juice, diet, limit your caffeine, cut sugar, increase superfoods, and get rid of most plastics – please be my guest. I hope you are successful and even lucky in your journey to having a baby.

I was diagnosed with issues that fertility boosters wouldn’t correct. I did try the majority  of this checklist. It was very difficult for me to read these suggestions when I was TTC. I would watch women light up a cigarette over their large baby bump, I would see women on “my 600-lb life” get pregnant, and drug users end up with positive pregnancy tests. I would watch women in their last trimester sitting in a hot tub, I would watch as other women would eat unhealthy, drink coffee and soda and still get pregnant in the first month of trying. As I watch all of this, it made me a non-believer for the fertility diets and conception boosters. I know I speak for a lot of the infertility community when I speak about how most couples have no troubles conceiving, and how unfair it feels.

I wish you lots of success and please stock your cart with an excess amount of superfoods. No matter how skeptical you are – it may just work.

 

Mental Health and Infertility

Has infertility hijacked your life? The emotional stresses women face with infertility are similar to cancer and cardiac patients. Here is the thing – we don’t talk about infertility. What do we typically do when someone we love is struggling with an illness? We bring them flowers, make them dinners, volunteer to help with household chores, cards are written, prayer chains begin, and we devote our time and love to those who are struggling.

Have you ever done this for someone who is infertile?

Typical reactions to infertility can lead to anxiety, depression, shame, failure and psychological problems. Sadness is a normal reaction to unfortunate events. Infertility places tremendous pressure on a couple. The financial stress, besides the emotional and physical stress can damage a relationship. Let’s face it – infertility can have negative affects on your daily life, especially when it’s the only topic on your mind all day.

You Are Not Alone.

My own personal experience with infertility-related depression and anxiety has been difficult. My hysterectomy was two years ago next month. I admit, I have always had an anxious personality. My depression was fueled by my environment and circumstance as a teenager and young adult. When I finally found myself in a good, happy place in life – the depression returned when I couldn’t have biological children. I reached out to all the correct outlets to help myself. I have been medicated, through counseling, and joined a support group with other women who have been traveling the same road of struggle. I fear I will have pain for the rest of my life – but I took a photo after my surgery to remind me of the reality I went through. I can look at the photo and remind myself where I was and how strong I have become. I was easily frustrated and angry for a solid year after my hysterectomy. Please seek counseling if you are feeling any of these emotions – my co-workers and loved ones became my punching bag.

Focus on Self-Care

I believed that I was suffering in silence. When you are depressed, it takes a great amount of energy to complete the smallest tasks. How was I suppose to exercise when I couldn’t even get out of bed? Infertility is a stigma. Besides my therapist and my husband – I felt like nobody knew what the hell I was talking about. We need to learn how to take care of ourselves. Time, therapy and medication have made life easier for me. Therapy isn’t only for “serious” mental health problems, anyone can benefit from talk therapy.

Can I Win My Life Back?

If you are feeling broken or defective, try and believe that infertility won’t define you as a person or a couple. I have shed many tears over my loss. Infertility can leave you feeling isolated and alone. How do we find acceptance? There is no right way to work through your grief. When you start to reclaim your life back – you can start researching other ways to have a family, (if that is an option for you.) Adoption, surrogacy, living without children, or just keeping hope alive, may be what’s best for you. Grieving and growing.

Do you think you will send that card to someone who is dealing with infertility or loss?

Stop the Stigma.

Halloween and Infertility: It’s Haunting

Fall is my favorite time of the year. The trees are full of stunning colors, the air is crisp, and the sun is warm. Saying good-bye to summer is always difficult, but one of my favorite holidays is just around the corner – Halloween! I love the costumes, the tombstones, the candy, the spooky parties and the haunted hay rides.

The hard part about Halloween is a don’t have a small child at home to participate in all the fun. I am fortunate to have spent some childhood years with my stepdaughter. I have a couple of godchildren who keep me involved, and now my nephew, who will be two this year, is a complete joy. I am grateful to all of their parents for allowing me to go trick-or-treating with them over the years.

How do we survive Halloween?

Children imagine what they want to be, the schools have parades to attend, the neighborhood holds gatherings for fall festivals, parents post photos of  their kids in costume on social media and the weekends are spent at corn mazes, farms, and zoos. We certainly have the option of picking and choosing what we want to do. Carving a jack-o-latern is an annual tradition. My husband and I still get a pumpkin every year to carve – even if we do not have any small children at home.

Every year, I would carve pumpkins with my goddaughter and then with my stepdaughter. They are too old now – or that is what they tell me. My best friend and her kids always involve me with their halloween traditions. We have had matching costumes the past few years, and we take the kids out to get their candy. I am very grateful for her. I wish that everyone who is struggling can share those same memories with the people they love, even when they are heartbroken. Believe me, I had always imagined what my little baby would be for Halloween. I would have painted their little baby butt as a pumpkin. I would have carved a pumpkin for their little body to sit in. I would have found the most obnoxious costume to show them off in – I would have been the ultimate Halloween mom.

You don’t have to put yourself in a position where it breaks your heart. You are allowed to keep your porch light off, turn off social media, watch scary movies, buy your own candy – and eat the whole bag. Halloween is also a great opportunity for pregnancy announcements. I have seen pumpkin families, skeleton families and beautiful fall photos celebrating the happy news. If these announcements make you upset, I would recommend staying off social media during halloween week. I remember gathering my own ideas for these special moments. I never got my opportunity, but for others that are holding out hope – keep those ideas in your back pocket. Let’s face it – they are adorable.

You can embrace the moment, or you can protect your heart. If we lived in town, I would love to decorate my yard, hand out candy, and see all the kids in their costumes. It has taken me a few years to get to the this point. One year, we carved a dog paw in our jack-o-latern to represent our fur babies. Whether you are still trying to get pregnant, deciding if you are going to be child free, or going through loss – you are not alone.

Go get the biggest pumpkin in the pumpkin patch and carve it.

Happy Halloween.