I am a 28-year-old Episcopalian military wife who proudly practices the lost art of homemaking (at least, for now). I have a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry, a Bachelor of Science in Microbiology, and a Master of Microbiology degree. I'm taking time off between graduate school and nursing school to devote myself to my family. I plan to begin my Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) in 2011, and to go to study for a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) as an Adult Acute Care Nurse Practitioner. My personal nursing philosophy is to provide care that his holistic, family-centered, and evidence-based. Every life is precious and in order to respect the dignity of our patients, we must treat them as human beings and not statistics. My Rule of Life is to love God, to love others, and to love myself.
I'm the proud Mama of five fur-babies, one chocolate lab, one border collie, one mystery mutt mix, and two moody cats. Piper, our five-year-old chocolate lab, goes everywhere that we do. I take her with me on my daily runs and we always take her with us when we go camping or hiking. Surprisingly enough, she's a traveling champ. She sleeps in the back seat during long car trips and behaves very well in hotels as long as she has a window to look through. Our two cats, Miranda and Ariel, mostly prefer to be left at home where they can sun themselves on the window seat. Miranda has an odd obsession with plastic bags and will chew on any that she can find. Ariel, on the other hand, is always looking for an opportunity to get outside. But as soon as she does, she immediately freaks out and starts mewing and crying until someone lets her back inside. Molly Mae is our newest little fur baby. A rescue, Molly is a three-year-old border collie mix. Although she hasn't been living with us for very long, she is definitely already a member of our little family and we love her to bits! Hamish is our oopsie baby. Actually, my mom found him and a litter-mate the night before a big snow storm came through their area. Someone had dumped the two 10-week-old puppies and left them to die. We managed to find a home for one puppy, but no one wanted poor Hammy. So we brought him back home with the intention of passing him off to a friend. But before we could introduce him to his new potential family, I fell in love. He's been my sweet little man doggie ever since.
James and I have been high school sweethearts since 2000. We went to college together and got married in a beautiful military chapel in 2006. After I was diagnosed with premature ovarian failure in 2008, we decided that the best way to start our family would be through domestic infant adoption. So far it's been a very rough road, one that might have broken other marriages. But I can honestly say that the challenges we've faced have made our faith and our marriage so much stronger. When times get tough, we turn to God and to one another for strength and support. Although I've always known it deep in my heart, the past two years have reminded me over and over again how blessed I am that God has given me such an amazingly wonderful husband. He brings out all that is good in me, he can always make me laugh, and he is my very best friend in all the world
I try not to take myself too seriously, although I will be the first to admit that I can be a little dramatic when things don't go my way. It's something that I'm working on because I know how annoyed I get when other people are drama queens, so I try not to be one myself. For the most part, I just try to live my life to the fullest with as many different experiences as possible. I would love to travel overseas more. My dream vacation would be to spend a few weeks in Spain or Italy. I just really love Spanish and Italian food, wine, art, culture, architecture, and music. I hope one day we'll have a chance to travel the Mediterranean.
I love cooking and having friends over for dinner. I love when we sit on the porch with a glass of wine in the evenings playing Catch Phrase. We just bought a fire pit so we can sit outside and make s'mores now that it's cooler weather outside. I enjoy running, even though I'm so super slow, and I love how relaxed and at peace practicing yoga makes me feel. I love creating scrapbooks for each year and filling it with pictures of the adventures we've had. I love tradition and being with my family and friends to celebrate the holidays. I'm hoping to start an organic garden next spring so I can grow our own fruits and vegetables to go with the homemade bread I already love to bake. I love to go hiking and camping, to be out in the fresh air. I love how happy it makes Piper and Molly to be off-leash exploring the mountain trails. I love America's Next Top Model and have been practicing how to "smile with my eyes" in the mirror. I'm super excited to check out the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando next spring. James rolls his eyes when I bring it up, but I know that he's secretly as excited about it as I am.
There's nothing special about me. I'm an ordinary person living a very ordinary life, just like you. But I hope you can gain something from sharing in my experiences, the good and the bad. This is who I am and I love my life.
Our Adoption Story
Our story begins in 2008 when we decided we were ready to become parents. After thinking it over and talking about it for many months, we decided that the summer would be a good time to start trying. I was scheduled to finish graduate school that December. We figured it would take us two or three months to conceive so I would have plenty of time to finish school before the baby was born. I wasn't planning to get a job immediately after graduating so that I could spend some time as a stay-at-home mom with our baby.
I did everything I was supposed to. I had a pre-conception check up with my doctor. I began taking pre-natal vitamins. I was never a smoker, so that wasn't an issue. I began eating healthier, exercising only lightly, and of course charting my cycles. I'd been on a hormonal contraceptive for six years, so I expected that it would take a few cycles before my body found its natural rhythm again. Ever the detail-oriented scientist, I created an Excel spreadsheet for tracking all potential symptoms of fertility and ovulation: basal body temperature, cycle day, cervical fluid, etc etc. I bought ovulation predictor kits and a special thermometer. Surely, I thought, this will be a breeze.
I was wrong. It took nearly three months after stopping birth control before I resumed cycling again. It had shaken my confidence, but only a little. I had one "normal" cycle after that, a solid 28 days. The next was closer to 40. I got very excited and took test after test to confirm that I might be pregnant, but they all came back negative. My fourth cycle seemed fairly normal, but I made an appointment to see my doctor anyway. James was scheduled to deploy for four months at the end of the year and we both really wanted to conceive before he left. My doctor prescribed a round of Clomid to help induce ovulation, but drew blood samples just to make sure that everything was alright. He wished me good luck and scheduled a follow up for a few weeks later.
Certain that the Clomid would do the trick, I set my fears and anxieties aside and hoped for the best. James left for his deployment three days before my graduation. It was disappointing, but I was alright. My follow up appointment was scheduled for the morning of Christmas Eve. Although I was only a day or two "late," I had a strong feeling that the Clomid had worked and that I would soon be able to call James with the good news. I fantasized about how I would tell him. Over the phone? Perhaps a carefully selected care package filled with baby things and books on pregnancy and parenting. I walked into the doctor's office hoping to hear that everything came back normal and we could use this appointment to confirm my pregnancy. I was not prepared for what I found out.
My doctor took me back into his office, not an examination room. He offered me a seat and sat behind his desk with a solemn expression on his face. Without opening my file or my lab results, he began to explain what he'd discovered. My levels of FSH were off the charts at 52 when a normal level for a woman my age are less than 10. Although everything else came back as expected, the diagnosis from my labs and my cycle charting was obvious. "Jennifer, I'm afraid that you have premature ovarian failure. You're not going to get pregnant."
I was numb, unable to feel any emotion over the blow he'd just delivered. The scientist in me asked lots of questions about endocrine signaling pathways, neurotransmitter to receptor binding, autoimmune disorders, and of course possible interventions. Ultimately, he conceded that this is not his area of expertise and that he would refer me to a specialist, a reproductive endocrinologist who might be able to help. I thanked him, took the referral, and stood to go. He asked me if I was okay and I nodded that I was. Ever the stoic WASP (I don't cry in public... don't ask me why, it's just a weird thing for me), I held it together for the entire ride back home. Once I was safely tucked behind closed doors, I broke down and sobbed... endlessly... heartbroken.
The worst part was going to church that night for the Christmas Eve service. I was alone on Christmas, coping with the most devastating news I've ever gotten in my life, and I was responsible for all the children participating in the Christmas pageant. I wanted to crawl into a hole and just die. But I managed to get through the evening without breaking into tears until our Associate Rector came to give me a hug, knowing that I was probably lonely without James to share Christmas with me. She innocently asked if I was doing okay and I just couldn't hold back the flood of tears. She held me as I cried, but I couldn't tell her what was wrong. I didn't have the strength.
James called not long after the service was over. I sat in the grocery store parking lot in my car and told him what the doctor had said. That was the hardest thing I've ever done. Hearing the heartbreak in his voice and being unable to comfort him was like a knife to my heart. I hadn't realized how badly he wanted to be a father until I heard and felt the devastation in his voice. Again, I wanted to crawl into a hole a die.
The next four months while James was overseas were a living hell. I spent a lot of time talking to our priest because I felt like I had no where else to go. I didn't have my partner and my ally, James, to help me through but I needed someone to talk to and to cry with. I met with the reproductive endocrinologist, but she was a callous and very insensitive woman. She told me that my getting pregnant would be impossible, even with aggressive fertility treatments. My only option would be to use a donor egg or a donor embryo, but even then the pregnancy would be risky because of my hormonal imbalance. As long as I was still having a cycle, the risk would be lower because it would indicate that my case isn't as bad as it could be. A month after we met, I stopped cycling at all. I was officially experiencing menopause... at 24 years old. Fantastic.
When James came home that spring, we went on several trips to take our minds off everything we'd been through. I was severely depressed, though I did not recognize it at the time. Nothing brought me any joy because it seemed like there was no purpose to any of it. There was no reason behind living a life that lacks the most important element: family. That idea frightened me, so we began to look at what our other options for starting a family might be. That's when we came to adoption because for me the goal was never to be pregnant, but just to be a mother. It didn't matter to me whether we adopted, pursued extensive fertility treatments, or were blessed with a surprise miracle pregnancy. What mattered to me was family, and that includes the biological parents of any children we adopt.
That July we were matched with an expectant mother due the following October with a little girl, but the match fell through when the mother decided to parent instead of place her baby with us for adoption. It was an extremely difficult time for us, but it was just as painful for our friends and family. Watching them grieve for us was probably the hardest part of the whole experience.
In 2011 we were finally matched with another expectant mother, K. To protect her privacy, I won't share a lot of details about her life and her family. But I will say this much, she is an amazing girl who we absolutely adore. We love her and we love her family. When our son was born in March, K gave us the most amazing blessing. And for that, she will always have a very special place in our hearts. Ours is a semi-open adoption. We send K pictures and updates frequently. We're not opposed to the adoption becoming more open in the future, but we'll just have to see how things develop over time. For now, we're letting K have her space and move forward with her life.
In the meantime, we are loving life as new parents. It's a crazy ride, but I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world.