How I Went From Heartbreak To Building My Dream Family In My Mid-40s

“Sometimes I like to pretend that my life is a movie, and that anything unexpected is just a plot twist to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.” I was 44 years old when I found myself in a darkened room with an ultrasound technician who became suddenly quiet. The image on the television was of a gorgeous tiny infant wriggling around. ‘Is everything all right?’ I inquired.

She drew my attention away from the TV by pointing out my baby’s head, hands, and feet. Then, with a nice smile, she added quickly, ‘We are done here, so now you will meet with the Doctor in his office,’ and handed me a few ultrasound photographs. A flood of tense energy hit me as I waited in the waiting area, so I looked at the photographs to calm down. I saw the thickness behind my baby’s neck right away, which is a sign of Down syndrome.

Pregnant woman in red floral shirt

I was aware of it before the doctor confirmed it. Fear, sadness, rage, and embarrassment accompanied this diagnosis. I couldn’t believe this happened to me after years of striving to prevent health concerns. This experience began when I was 29 and married after only 9 months of dating my partner. My biological clock was ticking, and we were ecstatic at the prospect of becoming young parents. As it turned out, my spouse had no intention of becoming a young parent.

Over the years, the topic of having children has caused a great deal of anxiety and tension. After 7 years of attempting to make it work, the marriage ended when I was 36 years old. I froze my eggs to relieve the stress of finding a suitable partner immediately and to boost my chances of producing a healthy baby at a later age.

I was overjoyed to find myself again at the altar after only one and a half years. I was 37 at the time, so it was a desperate hurry to get started on raising a family because we had determined that utilizing my frozen eggs was a last resort. A pregnancy test revealed two black lines five months later.These sentences were like the beginning brush strokes for a picture I’d been wanting to do for years.

This masterpiece would be filled with many meaningful moments, first words, first steps, a first taste of birthday cake, and many warm goodnight snuggles that filled my heart with joy I had never known. Waiting 9 months felt interminable since I couldn’t wait to meet this soul that I already adored. Thoughts of the future formed a gleaming smile that nothing could destroy, until I heard, ‘No heartbeat. Sorry, these are your alternatives…’

I have to say, I was unprepared for this, and it was not comforting to hear people say, ‘This happens to a lot of women.’ My light-hearted, innocent energy was vanished, and my life had become a little darker. I was pregnant again a few months later, but there was no heartbeat. Another D&C was planned. We decided to give it one more shot before using my frozen eggs.

Couple standing in front of Paris Eiffel Tower

They weren’t joking when they stated the third time’s the charm because the ultrasound revealed two strong heartbeats (twins) this time!!!I didn’t tell anyone (not even my spouse) that I got a positive pregnancy test since I was afraid because I was bleeding. My water broke early in my twin pregnancy, and I delivered my twin boys about 20 weeks. My eyes still burn and well up with tears just thinking about the sorrow of the last kiss on their little faces when I said farewell.

We stood in the pouring rain, surrounded by relatives, and laid them to rest on October 1st. The sound of rain pelting everyone’s umbrella drowned out my uncontrollable sobs. I didn’t want to leave them, so I stood there watching as they dumped dirt over my babies’ caskets—and all hope for the future. I morphed into a shadow of the person I once was.

Seeing other people’s children hurt like salt on an open sore. I was living in a world of daily painful reminders, and it was unclear how I would manage in this new world. It was difficult for me to connect with people because I was carrying the weight of so much loss, sadness, and pain while dealing with the bizarre emotions of postpartum.

I no longer cared what others thought of me, and I lacked the energy to be ‘normal’ in order to safeguard others’ perceptions of me.After a while, people’s anger with how I handled my grief added insult to injury. I realized that I couldn’t expect anyone to grasp the magnitude of such a loss when they had never met the twins.

They had never heard them cry or laugh. They never saw their grin, nor did they see them grow and evolve (unfortunately, neither did I). My babies, in essence, never lived in anyone else’s universe except mine. Strangers on social media who had gone through similar experiences gave me more support and understanding than individuals around me who couldn’t connect.

My marriage was beyond repair, and my husband stated that he did not want to attempt to have children again, so we divorced a year later. I was absolutely disoriented and unsure of my future. I recall yearning for a drug that would help me forget everything, but I was conflicted because I didn’t want to forget my boys.

Bride and groom standing outside chapel

I looked for and saved stories of people who exploited their difficult circumstances to assist others. In this storm, I was seeking for a rainbow. I decided to construct a vision board for fun one day, but it turned out to be something more and inspired me with renewed optimism for the future. This changed my outlook on life. I found myself laughing a lot with my brother’s best friend, Andy, shortly after this transition.

I’ve known him since high school, and he’s recently been divorced. We definitely had sparks between us. He accepted the challenge of helping me achieve my vision board, which gave me the confidence to revisit my dream, which I’d only known to be full of sad ‘plot twists.’ The time I spent with Andy elevated my spirits, and before I realized it, major life events were occurring at a rapid pace.

A year later, I was standing in front of the Eiffel Tower, and he was down on one knee. Seeing the Eiffel Tower in Paris and starting a family were on my vision board, so I was even more pleased about our marriage because it came with two lovely, smart extra children. Even though I was pleased and looking forward to everything, fear lingered, and my torn heart still held a place for my babies.

I discovered that the short length of time I had with my twins was not a measure of my love for them, nor did it predict the impact losing them would have on me. Andy understood that this was part of the package and respects my feelings about everything I’ve been through. This is one of the many reasons I consider myself fortunate to have him in my life.

We couldn’t undo the past, so we reversed the script to help me internalize the experience in a more positive perspective. We concluded that the twins had brought us together. Andy made arrangements to ensure their memory lives on. He embellished my wedding band with two sapphires (the twins’ birthstones). We also held our wedding celebration on the third anniversary of their heavenly birthday in order to make good memories on that date.

At the age of 42, I became pregnant with a healthy baby girl, my rainbow baby, much sooner than I planned. It was a textbook pregnancy, but the birth was a different tale, complete with a 3rd degree tear (pain!). Caring for my daughter softened the sharp edges of my history, and she tenderly patched some of the broken parts of my heart and soul back together. We hoped that when she turned one, we would be able to find her a playmate. We opted to open ‘the vault’ and use my frozen eggs when I was 44, which required a meeting with a reproductive doctor.

Rainbow newborn baby wearing rainbow flower cron

While we waited to be scheduled for IVF, the doctor suggested that we try to conceive naturally that month. Because the chances of spontaneously conceiving at my age were fewer than 3%-4%, the doctor’s concern about us having a child with Down syndrome was secondary when we brought it up. We had no idea that as we were talking to the doctor, a perfect little soul with Down syndrome was already snug as a bug in my belly.

Long before I realized it, the universe knew my heart wanted her.I’m not going to lie: I despised the uncertainty, worry, weight, and embarrassment that accompanied the diagnosis. It hurts to remember those dark days of pointless pain because life has been an amazing journey since Grace Joy arrived on the scene.She has subtly stolen the spotlight and the hearts of those around her.

Family sitting on park bench in sun

There have been some difficult times filled with tears, anxiety, sleepless nights, worry, and lengthy hospital stays, yet Grace is the face of a miracle because she only has half a heart. She has survived two open heart surgery and will require another around the age of three. Unfortunately, these procedures do not repair her heart, but they do provide her more time with us. Life with her has taught us to never take anything for granted.

There is a risk that Gracie will require a heart transplant during her lifetime, but we hope not anytime soon. It’s difficult to put into words how precious and amazing Grace’s soul is. Having a baby with Down syndrome and half a heart isn’t all rainbows and unicorns, but it’s nowhere like as bad as I anticipated.Gracie serves as a reminder that the most gratifying and joyful aspects of life necessitate hard work and dedication. I’m now sharing Grace Joy’s story on social media to help increase awareness so that others who are diagnosed with Down Syndrome feel hope and happiness rather than worry.

If we ever decide to make Gracie a big sister and open ‘the vault’ with my frozen eggs, we’ll have a difficult time not implanting an embryo with Down syndrome. Grace Joy makes life valuable and beautiful. I aim to change society’s perception of the Down syndrome diagnosis. Gracie may never be a CEO, model, author, or Oscar-winning actor (or perhaps she will! ), but she is a teacher right now: a teacher of hope, patience, and love.”

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