Squints: The Scott Family Quintuplets

How did I learn about the Scott Family? I was scrolling through Facebook one night and I came across a fundraising page for a family expecting multiples. When I read about the family of four becoming a family of nine, I immediately noticed these words used to describe the family: giving, volunteer, goodness, foster, community, and infertility. I knew right away this was a unique situation with a very special family. I felt compelled to look more into their story. I reached out to the Scott family while I was doing research for my blog, and because of their inspiration, I asked if I could share their story. They are very busy taking care of five little babies, so they told me they would love for me to do a write-up and share their miraculous journey on my blog. I feel very honored to do so. If you want to read about miracles, great faith, amazing love, a brave family and FIVE babies – take a look at this journey:

The first words I saw while reading about the Scott’s story was “Five Two Love.” Skyler and Jamie Scott were pregnant with quintuplets. Quints are five children born to the same mother at one birth. The Scotts were married in 2004 and welcomed their first son, Shayden in 2005. After a few more years, they welcomed another son, Landon. They tried to expand their family for another five years, and with no luck, they went to get help from a fertility specialist. The Scott Family had hopes of adding another baby to their family. After two rounds of intra-uterine insemination and fertility medications, Jamie found out she was expecting. Jamie stated to PEOPLE Magazine, “It was just incredible to see those two pink lines.” Jamie’s HCG hormone levels were extremely high, which can be an indicator for multiples. At their first ultrasound, they found out they were pregnant with FIVE babies! Quintuplets! How do you even take in that kind of miracle? I would imagine it would be great excitement and also great fear. This would be a high-risk pregnancy. In January the couple revealed they were expecting 3 baby girls and 2 baby boys. Besides the five new babies on the way, they have two sons at home.

How do you prepare for Quints? How do you prepare for a high-risk pregnancy? How do you handle this financially, emotionally, and physically? The Scott’s moved from their home in Utah and traveled to Arizona to be close to their specialist, Dr. Elliot. They had a gofundme set up, because as you can imagine, even with good health insurance the cost of having multiples is extremely high. The Scott Family raised about $37,500. Talk about community!! Their motto was “Scquints Strong.” Their page had over 3,000 shares on Facebook alone. Besides the donations, the Scotts were asking for prayers. I would have never seen this amazing story if it wasn’t for everyone spreading the word on social media.

I remember watching vlogs of the couple and their journey. Jamie’s water broke on January 30th for Baby A. She was almost 22 weeks pregnant. This is very early in the pregnancy, and of course she was carrying multiples. She had to remain in the hospital until the babies were born, which came out to be seven weeks. There are many concerns in a multiple pregnancy, such as: Preterm Labor/Delivery, Low birth weight, IUGR, Preeclampsia, Placental Abruption or even Fetal Demise. I would follow their page as the weeks would progress, and this couple is amazing. I could see strong faith, courage, grace, and even smiling. That positivity must have been so helpful in a time of extreme patience and anxiety. Jamie had a paper chain to count down the weeks she needed to keep those babies growing and thriving inside of her. She made it to 29 weeks. All five babies were born by C-Section. Their weights ranged from 2 pounds to 2 pounds 9 ounces.  I watched Skyler share his testimony on Facebook Live, showing all of his hospital bracelets on his wrists for all his babies. You could see the relief on his face that his family was doing well. He shed tears of joy and expressed his praise and gratefulness. He gave thanks to god, to his wife, to mothers, his parents, his kids, and everyone who has followed their journey. Their faith is real and can move mountains. I cannot even imagine what they witnessed on their delivery day. The next stage was five babies in the NICU.

Logan, Lily, Violet, Daisy and Lincoln spent over ten weeks in the NICU. I have no idea what NICU life entails, but I have read that it’s an intense, beautiful, complicated world. These babies needed extra medical care since they were born premature. I saw photos of the quints with all their tubes and wires. They are so small and separated from their parents. I cannot imagine not being able to hold your baby. Big equipment and tiny patients. There are machines running 24/7, beeping, nurses, doctors, and alarms. The Scott Quintuplets were born on March 21st – their original due date was June 6th.

As summer came to Arizona, The babies would start going home. The Scott’s bought a new big van to hold this new big family. Try to imagine five car seats in one vehicle? I sure can’t! Jamie wrote in one of her posts: “When I was pregnant with the quints, I used to marvel that I had 50 fingers and 50 toes inside of me.” This statement left me in awe. I never got the opportunity to carry one baby – I could never dream of carrying multiples. The Squints are growing, thriving, and look simply adorable. The Scotts have 150,000 followers on Facebook to date. Jamie wrote on her page that struggling with infertility was one of the hardest challenges of her life. She continues to say on her vlog that everyday of her pregnancy was a gift, no matter how hard it was. This family beat all of the odds against them – The doctors gave the couple a 1% chance survival rate for all five babies. Skyler stated in one of their vlogs that the minute they heard five hearts beating, the goal was set for five two love. You can continue to follow the family on their YouTube page.

A BIG thank you to the Scott’s for allowing me share their story and family photos. This family lived and witnessed a miracle. They had people praying for them from all over the world. These babies represent a journey of hope and faith. If you need inspiration on your journey, whatever phase you’re going through – follow this story and family.

“Everyday is a gift.” – Jamie Scott.

http:/www.facebook.com/five.two.love/

Faith and Fertility: The Ryan Family

When I read Anna and Mitch’s story, it was a testament to my faith. I felt great hope and love in this journey. Even though our journey is over, I know this story will bring a lot of encouragement to those of you still trying, still praying, and still fighting. Rosie is a miracle. Please believe in miracles. This is Anna’s story in her own words:

1 Samuel 1:27 “ For this child I prayed, and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of Him.” (Baby Rosie is featured in the photo below.)

This scripture has such deep meaning to me and has defined my infertility journey. What exactly does it mean to petition? Webster’s dictionary says that to petition is to make a solemn or humble appeal to a figure of authority. That is exactly what we did. We petitioned. And our families petitioned, for six years, until we finally got our miracle.

Let me start at the beginning.

My husband and I were high school sweethearts. We always knew that we wanted to have children. We married young and wanted a big family. I had several nieces and nephews that were such a huge part of my life. I could hardly stand being away from them for a second, and couldn’t wait to give them another little cousin. I rushed through college because I wanted to start our family right away and stay at home with my kids. I even got my degree in a field that would help me to be a better mother. It seemed as though all of our plans revolved around our future children and family.

I think the old saying is, “ We make plans and God laughs”.

After many years of surgeries, appointments, and countless tests we were told our chance of ever conceiving children naturally was “basically zero”. (Yes, those were the exact words used). As you can imagine, our hearts were in pieces. We felt helpless and hopeless.

So we began to petition The Lord. We petitioned hard. Our families petitioned for us. Our friends petitioned for us. We felt the power of the prayers being said on our behalf often. Our little nieces and nephews prayed for us, even though they may not have quite understood exactly what they were praying for. In fact, we had a niece ask her parents, “Why are we praying for Mitch, when Anna is the one who would have the baby?” (Much of our infertility is male factor, which required quite a few surgeries for my husband. The kids may or may not have needed a few anatomy lessons along the way…. Hehe.)

There is something to be said about having a tribe of people on your side. Cheering for you. Doing everything they can for you. Praying for you. Petitioning for you. There were times when I felt discouraged praying for a baby. I knew that God had a plan for us, and if that plan didn’t involve a child, then what was praying going to do about it? But I also knew that prayer was powerful. And prayer can change things. I knew it. I felt it.

There were so many little miracles that took place along our infertility journey. We were told so many times that “ things didn’t look good” or “ your chances are very low”. But somehow, miracles always found a way. We were told we likely would not even qualify for IVF, but a miracle found a way. I developed a potentially life threatening condition during our egg retrieval that jeopardized everything, but a miracle found a way. My body was so sick that the embryo transfer wasn’t looking promising, but a miracle found a way. After finding out we were in fact pregnant, the condition got worse, and our little baby was in danger. But a BIG miracle found a way.

We now have a healthy, beautiful 5-year-old girl who is the light of our lives. She loves to hear the stories of how many people were praying for her for so long to come down to our family. Her sweet little self asks about families who don’t get their miracles. Our hearts ache for them, and we hope that someday we will understand why so many are still waiting.

I am reminded of the amazing miracle that she is every single day. The Lord gave us the petition that we asked of Him, and for that we will be forever grateful.

Anna is a volunteer for Resolve: The National Infertility Association.

5-year-old Rosie just got a new baby of her own, a puppy named Tucker. A big thank you to the Ryan’s for sharing their story.

Thankful, grateful, blessed, and worth the wait. Miss Rosie is a symbol of that. You are never alone in your fight, or your journey!

Fragile Fertility: The Journey to Baby Eve

Lyn and her husband, Frank had a very long road and journey to create their family. Lyn was diagnosed with Fragile X- associated primary ovarian insufficiency. Besides Lyn’s fight to have a baby – her sister, Trish was also diagnosed with the same condition. Two sisters, with the same diagnosis, trying to complete their dreams of motherhood. Here is their story in Lyn’s words:

I look back on it, and I think I cried more for my sister because I thought about how I would feel if the same thing happened to me. Finding out about her first, somehow made it a bit easier when I got my test results. I still went to pieces, but at least I had an answer. I was lucky and grateful for not only having her support but a loving partner when I found out.

I received my Fragile X carrier positive test results when I was at dinner with co-workers. I am not good at hiding my emotions so after calling my sister, I called Frank to come pick me up. My sister told me about her results a few years before I had the courage to find out for myself. I wasn’t ready to know, I was still healing from my divorce, the birth of his kids with his new girlfriend, trying to find myself, and date. I found out because it was time. I had found myself, and Frank, fell in love, and knew it was time to face it.

Fragile X is a genetic condition that causes intellectual disability. 20-25% of women who are carriers of the premutation are diagnosed with premature ovarian failure (FXPOI), also known as premature menopause. (Source: https://fragilex.org)

Once I found out I was a carrier, my next step was to find out if I had any eggs. The test to find this out is the AMH (Anti-Mullerian Hormone) test. I had to push my doctor to get this test, per my sister and my research, so I want others to know about it. Be your own advocate. Don’t go through a year of testing, wasted tries/drugs, and money (which is what the doctor wanted) when you can find out with one test. Men are tested to find out their sperm count and mobility, this should be a standard initial test for women, but it isn’t. My results were less than .03, in other words, none.

I know I fell apart in Frank’s arms, but at this point I had found a support group of other women dealing with some sort of infertility. All of us had our own stories, each of them heartbreaking in their own right. Because of this group, I was grateful that I (we) had a definitive answer. I (We) had a path. Many women can’t get a diagnosis and go through so much more, still don’t conceive, and don’t know why.

Next came research and planning when and how. Frank had not even proposed yet when we got the test results. There was no question in my mind that we would be getting married. I never saw him falter, we were already partners in this and in life. I can’t even begin to explain how grateful I am for him, his support, and his love. Once he proposed, we set a date for the next year. We decided to setup a gofundme account for the wedding, instead of a registry, to help with treatment expenses. It would cost about $25,000 for the first try and about $10,000 for any try after with remaining embryos from the initial donation. I set a goal of $40,000 because that was the cost of a specific refund program at the time if you didn’t have insurance. Most insurance plans do not cover infertility treatment. We received about $3,000. We appreciate every single donation and support that was given.

Then I received amazing news, I really needed it at this point. My company, which was going through its first merger, may possibly have coverage soon. I couldn’t believe it, $15,000 coverage, we used every penny for the first try. We still paid some out of pocket with the gofundme donations, etc. Again, grateful! We went through another merger shortly after that and coverage changed, but in a good way. It went up.

I could write another article about going through the actual treatments. The pain of the shots is not as bad as the waiting, both hurt significantly. The first try was not successful. The second try ended with a beautiful baby girl and a very rare birth story. Eve Eunice was born 10/15/17. My body doesn’t do anything ‘normal’. That is one of the many things I have accepted through all of this.

The photo below is Baby Eve – all the science, love, support, and courage it took to bring her into this world. (Photo credit: Bri Marie Photography)

My sister’s beautiful baby girl was born 3 months and 3 days before mine. (See photo below: photo taken by Lyn’s sister, Trish.)

One of the Embryos in the photo below is Baby Eve.

Cry Pretty: My Infertility Story

I appreciate everyone reading and sharing my blog posts. I am going to be writing and sharing a series of different stories in the near future! Thank you for all your support. Here is my own personal story:

The day a baby is born is considered a miracle. You prepare for nine months to bring this child into the world. It’s a whole process of joy. The nursery gets painted, the crib gets assembled, the baby showers happen, the late night pregnancy cravings are fulfilled and then the labor and delivery starts. After hours of labor, your beautiful bundle of joy arrives into the world and you are now a new family. What happens when infertility happens? The stork forgets your address.

My infertility journey began when I was 12. I woke up in the middle of the night and noticed my period came. (Thank the lord it was the middle of the night.) I went to get my mom to tell her what happened – she gave me some feminine supplies, put me back to bed, and she congratulates me on becoming a woman. A few hours later – I woke up again. This time the bleeding was worse; It was heavier and I had blood clots happening. I figured this was normal. As I went to get my mom to tell her I needed her help, I got out of bed, and I had clots falling out of my body. These clots were large in size – about the size of my fist. I remember trying to clean this mess up off the carpet and trying to get my mom’s attention. She came into the bedroom and she had a concerned look on her face. She helped me get cleaned up and we went down to the hospital. I remember thinking that most girls probably don’t go to the hospital on the first day of their periods.

I was a healthy teenage girl, a competitive swimmer. One of the nurses in the emergency room was one of the mothers from the swim team. She has told me to this day, she still remembers my story and that visit. When we got there, I had a male doctor. The doctor and nurses did everything they needed to do that day, we just didn’t get any good answers. I had my first pelvic exam that day, which can be very traumatic for a young girl who just got her period a couple of hours earlier. By the end of that morning, I was half a day older, a woman and I had a gynecologist. The bleeding didn’t stop for forty days. It took two different types of birth control to get the bleeding to end. One of the birth controls given to me was Depo-Provera. It’s an injectable that contains the hormone progestin. It’s designed to stop your cycle.

Every year I was instructed by my pediatrician to see my gynecologist. I was the tween sitting in the OB-GYN lobby with her mother. I’m sure everyone was thinking I was a knocked up teenager. I got my yearly check-ups, took my birth control, ate well, exercised, and controlled all my symptoms and pain the best way I could. I remember asking every year at my appointments if I would ever have problems having a baby in the future, the answer was always no. At 31 years old, I was told I had endometriosis, adenomyosis, uterine fibroids and lower progesterone levels. I lost my uterus, my cervix and my fallopian tubes that same year. I would never have a baby, and I never had one positive pregnancy test.

I believe most women wish to have a baby of their own. It was my dream. Infertility happens to 1 in 8 couples. I believe I was born with a bad uterus. I was never meant to have a baby of my own. I spent years doing fertility treatments that failed. It took almost twenty years to diagnose my reproductive issues. We did so many interventions to get pregnant. We decided not to pursue IVF or adoption because we did not believe in IVF, and with adenomyosis, you have a high risk of miscarriage. (our opinion on IVF is just personal, I support anyone who attempts IVF.) The embryo can have a difficult time implanting, and I did not want to spend $40,000 on a miscarriage. I do have a stepdaughter – she is such a joy. I felt adoption would feel the same as having a stepchild. I made the choice to love and care for a child that isn’t biologically mine.

Infertility crushes the soul. the grief takes over your life. We need to support one another, we need to speak up and re-define infertility. We need to be our own advocate. There is a stigma about infertility that needs to be lifted – You are not alone. There are many different resources that I have used as my support system: Doctors, therapy, support groups, family, friends, blogging, and my dogs. I have never experienced pain like infertility. I have gone through many trials – death and divorce have been a close second to my infertility. I lost everything in my divorce. Infertility was the cherry on the cake.

I am still standing, I am still living, and I am still thriving. I had been suffering since the age of 12 with an illness I didn’t even know I had. I thought, and was told I was normal. I know many others can relate to my story in some way, shape or form. My husband is my greatest support system. I couldn’t have survived a day without his constant support and love. I am a stepmom, godmom, dogmom, and an auntie.

You can pretty lie and say it’s okay
You can pretty smile and just walk away
Pretty much fake your way through anything
But you can’t cry pretty

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Adoption Stories: La Familia Gellona Lyons

Adoption stories can help you get an idea of what you’re in for if you are interested in adoption. No two adoption stories are alike. Whether you are struggling creating a family, or if your family just appears on your doorstep, I hope my best friend’s story brings love and joy to your journey. Sarah, Piero, and Leidy live in Santiago, Chile. This is Sarah’s story about their daughter Leidy:

Adopting was never in my plans. I suppose that having kids was, but even that wasn’t a high priority. So when a 5-year-old Haitian girl was abandoned at my door 3 years ago, I had a lot to think about and even more to learn.

First I had to decide what to do with her; I could turn her over to the Chilean version of CPS, or I could file paperwork to try to keep her. I wasn’t thinking about having a child at this point, and I certainly hadn’t considered adopting, much less a child that could already walk, and talk and had a head full of memories. Nonetheless, after spending a few days with her, there was no doubt that I couldn’t leave her to a life of orphanages and foster care, knowing that 5-year-olds aren’t usually adopted very easily. That is when I decided to fight to keep her.

Then I had to learn how to raise her. What can 5-year-olds do? What do they know? Where should she go to school? What do I do with her afro-braided hair? How do I communicate with her if her Spanish is minimal and my creole is nothing?  I started little by little, with a lot of support from friends and family, and a whole lot of Google for help. She’s still alive today, and even more than that she is happy, healthy, energetic, loving and witty, so I must be doing something right (although I think her personality has a lot to do with it!). She gets good grades in school (we could improve on her chatting in class though!), speaks better Spanish now than I do, is rocking awesome purple hair extensions currently, and has so many friends in her school and our neighborhood.

Through the days, weeks, months and now years, we have gotten to know each other, love each other and form what most would consider a totally normal family. It isn’t usually until someone else points out that she is black and I am white (which is often.. racism is alive and kicking in Chile) that I remember that there are some physical differences between us. It is amazing how often people make comments like this or ask us questions that I don’t know how to answer, but at the same time know that adoption is sometimes a hard thing to understand, especially in a country where it isn’t very common.  “But where are her parents?” We are right here, raising her and loving her every day. She doesn’t think of anyone else as her parents, and neither do we, so we are right here. “Do you think you’ll love your own kids more than you love her?” I think it takes a lot of courage to love a child that you haven’t loved since before their birth, so no, I don’t think that I will love my other children (not “my own”, because she is my own) more than I love her.

It is also awesome to see how naturally she reacts to everything. She often says that we are so alike, that we walk and talk alike, that we have the same mannerisms, so “maybe people will get us confused when I am a little bit older. ” Or when people comment on how tall she is, she always says it is because her mom is tall, as if she had my genes. She has even learned how to avoid all of the typical questioning that we get. A few months ago we went to a water park. As we walked in she could barely contain her excitement, so she walked up to the counter and told the man “Hi. We are a different type of family. I am from Haiti, my dad is from Chile and my mom is from the US. I am adopted. Now we would like 3 tickets please to the water park.” No time for questions, sir.

As a family are currently living a totally new experience as we await another baby at the beginning of next year. She can’t wait to be a big sister– only if it is a girl though. She has taken it so naturally, is very excited and not an ounce of doubt or fear exists in her that this baby will replace her or be loved any more being my biological child.

I know that adoption is a big decision, and can be long and costly. In our case it has all been worth it. It has been so natural, so fun and so rewarding to have Leidy join our family.

“Adopting one child wont change the world. But for that one child the world will change.”

“However motherhood comes to you – it’s a miracle.” Much love to my best friend and her growing family. ♥️

Broken Body: Endometriosis & Adenomyosis

What the hell is Endometriosis and Adenomyosis?

Let’s start off with Endometriosis. Endometriosis occurs when the cells from the uterine lining plants in areas outside of the uterus. They thicken, break down and bleed each month. Here is the problem – the implants have no way to leave the body. Laparoscopy typically allows the doctor to make the most thorough evaluation of the condition, and how extensive it is. Endometriosis can occur at any stage in a women’s reproductive years. I fully believe I had Endometriosis starting in my teenage years. I wasn’t diagnosed until the age of 31.

Adenomyosis occurs when endometrial cells exist and grow into the walls of the uterus. The cells are affected each month with a woman’s period. The result of these periods can be an enlarged uterus, pelvic pain and heavy bleeding. A doctor may suspect Adenomyosis based on an evaluation which could include a pelvic exam, ultrasound, or an MRI. It is said that Adenomyosis can only be truly diagnosed after a hysterectomy. When I went in for my 100th evaluation, I was suspecting Endometriosis. The doctor told me he believed I had Adenomyosis. The Endometriosis was found with a Laparoscopic procedure, and my Adenomyosis was discovered after my total hysterectomy was completed. Adenomyosis commonly affects women in their forties and fifties. It can also occur among teenagers. I believe I was affected as a teenager, and I believe this is the main reason I could not have a baby.

What does Endometriosis and Adenomyosis feel like?

While these two conditions are similar; Endometriosis is on the outside of the uterus, and Adenomyosis grows into the uterine wall. One is on the outside, the other is inside. Both can cause pain, but endometriosis doesn’t always cause the heavy bleeding like Adenomyosis does. The best way to describe my symptoms was severe cramping, heavy and prolonged bleeding and sharp, knifelike pain. While the conditions are not life-threatening, they can diminish quality of life.

What does this have to do with fertility?

If I am questioned about my journey or my infertility, I will usually respond with “I had a broken uterus.” I was diagnosed with Endometriosis, Adenomyosis and Uterine Fibroids. My wonderful uterus had all 3 conditions. How was a baby suppose to implant, grow and thrive in that environment? I have heard of success stories, but I never had a positive pregnancy test in my reproductive life. When I was diagnosed with Endometriosis, and after years of trying to get to that diagnosis, we decided not to pursue IVF. My doctor felt that I had Adenomyosis too, and with that I wouldn’t even attempt IVF. Even if the embryo implanted – there is double the chance of miscarriage. This was a personal choice. There is always hope that a miracle will happen, I am not trying to discourage anyone from giving up just because of a diagnosis.

On average, it takes 10 years for a woman to be diagnosed with Endometriosis. 1 in 10 women are affected by Endometriosis. 30% to 50% of women with Endometriosis may experience infertility. 27 years old is the average age women are diagnosed. 176 million women in the world have Endometriosis.

Adenomyosis – My uterus is trying to kill me. The only surgery that cures Adenomyosis is a hysterectomy. Adenomyosis is poorly understood and is often under-diagnosed. This condition can lead to anemia. Anemia can cause fatigue, dizziness and irritability. More research and knowledge needs to be obtained because There is no known cause for this condition.

Be your own advocate! That is always my number one rule of advice. It took me almost 20 years to get the correct diagnosis. I suffered for years and years, and in the end I couldn’t do the one task my reproductive system was suppose to do – create life!

Ask questions, make the appointment, find the solutions. There is no current cure for these conditions, but there is hope that one day they will find one!

The Childless Stepmom

As you may have read in my previous post, I am a childless stepmom. I have a stepdaughter with no biological children. My husband is about 12 years older than I am, and his daughter was born from his previous marriage. When we met, we had planned on having a child together, not knowing that I was infertile. I saw a fertility doctor about 3 years into trying. We weren’t married yet, so I wasn’t in a rush. I saw a doctor the summer before we got married, and I wanted to have a baby before or by the time my husband turned 40 years old. We also wanted a sibling for my stepdaughter before she became a teenager. We didn’t want too much of a gap between the two kids. As everyone has read, our plans didn’t become a reality, and I am a bonus mom without children.

When I had started to date my husband, I had just gone through a divorce. I obviously didn’t have children from my previous marriage. I hesitated when my husband told me he had a daughter. I was very traditional, and didn’t know if I wanted a blended family. I went into the relationship thinking it would work out because I knew even if my family was blended, I would have biological children of my own. As fate would have it, we have my stepdaughter and 5 dogs.

The role of a stepmother is a difficult one. I never even had an idea of how difficult it would be. My husband and I dated for about four years before we got married, giving us plenty of time to work through our journey before we made the big commitment. I love my stepdaughter very much, she has become a huge part of my life. In a way, she has saved me. After we got married, we did about 2 years of fertility treatments. I honestly can say I was terrified. I was scared that we wouldn’t have children together and I would resent my husband. I was worried I would be jealous of what him and his daughter have and that it would never happen for me. I was having a hard time accepting that he had a child with someone else, and I would never be able to have that with him. We had spent about 6 years trying to have a baby. We waived the white flag in 2016 when I had a hysterectomy. My new normal was my blended family and my dogs.

We had 3 dogs when we came together as a couple. 3 dogs and one kid. Our agreement was if my last medicated round of fertility treatments failed, I could get a puppy. of course they failed and I got the biggest puppy I could find–a Great Dane. If my husband had his daughter, I was going to pick this puppy out and he would be all mine! I found a breeder, I picked the gender, the name, and when he/she was born, I would pick out “the one.” This brought excitement back into my life again. When our puppy was born, I let my stepdaughter pick him out from the litter. When I was trying to create my own moment, it became a family moment instead – just as it always should have been. Dubnyk Jake is almost 3 years old now. Jake is my Dad’s nickname.

When the time came that I knew I was never going to be a mother or a grandmother, I didn’t really know what my purpose was. How and what is my role with my stepdaughter? I didn’t give birth to her, but she is in my life, and I am helping raise her. I don’t know what it feels like to have a child of any kind. I am a stepmother and not a mother? I don’t know how to raise a child – especially one that hasn’t started out in my life as a baby. I met my stepdaughter when she was 8 years old going on 9 years old. I never got to experience the baby/toddler years with her, but I have been able to watch her grow from a child to a tween, a teen and a young woman. She just turned 17 years old this month. We have one more year, and she will be an adult.

I feel fortunate to have been able to watch her grow, learn and thrive. I wasn’t there the day she was born, but I was there for a lot of other moments. I won’t be able to see my own child grow, but I did get to start with my stepdaughter from about the 4th grade. You crave to be a mother, but you have to step back and just be a role model for your stepchildren. you are not their parent, but you are there to help guide and raise them. It can be a very hard position to be in. I love you as I believe I would love my own child, but you are not my child. Watching my husband when she was little gave me a lot of hope, but when I knew my baby journey was over, it wasn’t as easy. I wanted someone to call me Mommy. I wanted that bond and love. I have a very close friendship with my stepdaughter, I want to be the best role model I can for her. I know I am not her mother. She doesn’t call me Mom, I never would want her to call me anything else but my first name. When she was little, I would correct others for thinking I was her mom. Deep down I was wishing I was a mom, but I wasn’t. I have always known my place. When I was in therapy before my hysterectomy, I told my therapist I was worried about being known as the “childless stepmom.” I didn’t want that title, I didn’t want my stepdaughter to feel bad, I didn’t want her to think I didn’t love her. I didn’t want my husband to feel badly or to have a feeling of guilt. It’s been almost 2 years since my hysterectomy and I am not “childless.” I have a 17 year old stepdaughter and we have 5 dogs. I am known as “mama” to my pups, but to my stepdaughter I will always just be Tia.

Please know there are a lot of resources for blended families and especially stepmoms. StepMomMagazine.com was my very first guide. Eventually I needed an infertility support group too, but support and love are the best tools you can find.

This is my life, and I am living it the best way I know how. A big thank you to my stepdaughter for allowing me to have a glimpse of what motherhood is all about.