Dear My Beauty

It’s not fair nor unfair. It’s not be pitied nor disregarded and it is the invisible grief that most will never talk about. The inner dialogue for infertility is that of subtle sadness, disguised aggression and palpable fear. Whether you ever desired to be a parent or not is quite irrelevant – but when you are questioning the evolutionary pot hole in the road that threatens empty Christmas’s or feeling ‘that kick’ for the first time, there is only one thing to do- and that’s talk about it. Here is an MRKH warrior talking about it.

Dear, My Unborn Beauty,

I am sorry I let you down.

I am sorry that we never got a chance to truly meet-I did everything I could to find your father in time. I tried to fall in love and be loved, in the hope that your home would be built. This simply has not happened and now, I feel as though I have to let you go. It feels impossible and I am desperate to meet you but I just don’t know how to make this happen.

I honestly didn’t try and think about you too much over the years- I wondered why I didn’t feel that achy pang to meet you, leading me to think that perhaps I was even more abnormal. I believe now, that this simple thought of not meeting you may have been too distressing to comprehend. Secretly of course, I always hoped that I would find the means and my true love to make you. Beauty, my darling daughter – please know I love you. I love your beautiful blue eyes and love for nature. I admire your strength to meet me too and the way our silent love story began. With such sheer determination, you never really left my side. I am trying to find a way to help others through this pain yet my empathy perhaps only feels warranted now. A mourning world exists with so many wanted children who never quite make it.

Where do you all go, when the hope does?

My promise to you -I will carry you through birthdays and Christmas’s. I will teach you to sing when I do and offer you gentle dreams when I fall asleep. I will proudly see you learn to walk as I take my first steps of the day and dedicate my morning practice to your cosmic soul, wherever you are. My muster for your existence will never go despite your actual presence being through my own sacred moments and not play-dates with others. Precious one, you will always be my ultimate destination. Through words and ocean swims, you are my warmth and the peace these simply pleasures bring to me. 

Your grandparents, they so love you too. Their dreams to dote on, as you unwrap gifts and take your first bike-ride through my childhood streets still sit on the mantelpiece at home. Gosh, they loved your mother so much. They seldom spoke of you, for even the most desperate manifestation techniques may not deliver you to us.

Be somewhere where I can find you when I finish a busy day and halt this busy life. And forgive me. Please forgive my not knowing soon enough that I wanted you. Forgive me for only waking up to your mumbles and crying now. I couldn’t hear the cries of any past dreams and only now, do I smile thinking of you when no-one else is looking.

In the middle of concrete towers and a restless city, my precious, unborn beauty –you bring me calm and escape.

You walk just one step to my left. You smile back at me in mirrored perfection – with such sheer grace and angelic lightness, you are there. When the branches move, its you. When the ocean breaks, it’s you who cracks the wave and when 5 o’clock comes, those shadows that we see, have you spinning in themThey say the footprints in the sand are those of the Lord’s when he carries us through our difficult times. I say, if the footprints are the Lords, then the shadows are his friends. 

Take my hand and walk with me. 

You are so beautiful and I will always place my hands in prayer for your safety and happiness.

From me.

Sincerely,

Anonymous

 

Posted in acceptance, family planning, infertility, MRKH, MRKH sisterhood, MRKH supporter, sisterhood, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

A Glimpse Into the Fostering Process

You know those rare situations when you meet a beautiful couple whose love for one another fills the room, they are tons of fun to be around and you can just tell they are good people? Well, Sara and Stuart, a special couple I met when visiting the Pacific Northwest is one of those couples. I friended Sara on social media after returning home from my trip because we talked briefly about my non-profit organization and adoption and she seemed like a cool chick I would want to stay in touch with. I was right. At the end of 2015, Sara joyfully posted on social media that she and Stuart, were officially licensed foster parents! Awesome! There aren’t nearly enough foster parents in this world to house all of the deserving children that need homes and these two would be perfect for the job! After their big announcement, I got in contact with Sara and asked her if she would share her journey to foster and she agreed. Below is Sara and Stuarts’ journey in her words.

Thank you, Sara and Stuart, for changing the lives of the children who are lucky enough to be placed in your home and for inspiring people like me, who hope to foster to adopt in the future!

❤ Christina

Shank Family

There’s a lot of misconceptions about foster care. So many people say “Oh, I would love to be a foster parent, but I can’t because of X,Y,Z.” Here are some of the ones I’ve heard recently.I can’t be a foster parent because…”

I have roommates. As long as your housemates agree to get finger printed, then you’re eligible. 
I work full time.Child care is paid for. They have programs that will find you emergency child care so you don’t need to miss work. 
– I can’t commit to being a full time parent. Most counties are in desperate need of respite care (short term care, 24-48 hours). You can take a kiddo for a weekend a month if you’d like too! 
There are only older children in Foster Care. Nope! There are lots of babies. We get emails on a weekly basis for kiddos who are infants. 
 The kids in foster care are damaged/troubled/aggressive. Foster kids have done NOTHING wrong to get themselves into foster care. Their parents are just unable to take care of them. Bad things have happened to these kids, that doesn’t make THEM bad kids. 
I’m too young, too old, a student, single, have pets, already have kids etc. If you have enough room in your home and your heart to care for a child, you should definitely consider applying. So many of these things don’t matter in the application process. 
Shanks bedroom
This was our process chronologically.
FosterCare Orientation– This was a simple 3 hour class that explains the need for foster parents and what you can generally expect with foster care. It also explains the rest of the application process as well as giving you the massive packet to start filling out.

Caregiver Core Training– These classes take place over the course of a month. They’re 24 hours total. I loved this part of the process. They had experienced foster moms come in and tell you their stories/ tips & tricks. They had bio moms come to talk about their children were in foster care and were successfully reunited. They also had young adults who either aged out of foster care or were adopted come in and talk about their time in foster care. These classes really gave you a taste of what foster care is like for everyone involved. I think it was also really beneficial to prospective foster parents to meet bio moms and hear their stories. I can’t speak for everyone but it definitely made Stuart and I a little more empathetic to some of the struggles that these women go through when they lose their child and how much work it really takes to achieve reunification.

The Packet of Hell– SO MUCH PAPER WORK! You need 3 people to write you detailed references, you need to go to the doctor for a check up and get a bunch of vaccinations (including flu shots for anyone living in your house), you need to get finger printed for background checks, you need to get pay stubs and provide proof of car insurance, you need to go to a CPR/blood borne pathogens training, get your pets vaccination records, and fill out the most extensive packet about the entirety of your life thus far.
Homestudies– The worst anxiety of my life was the hour before our first home study. Which turned out to be really silly considering we had the sweetest social worker ever. He didn’t do a white glove test and he maybe spent 5 minutes total walking through the house. The questions were definitely personal, but he made us feel super comfortable while he was asking them. It’s important to remember that these social workers want “real” people parenting these kids. If you’ve had a rough childhood, a past of drug use, etc. In a lot of ways it can make you a little more compassionate to what these kids lives are like, or maybe help you relate to the bio parents a little better. You don’t have to be perfect, you need to be real.

Shanks coloring

It’s always been the plan for Stuart and I to try and grow our family through foster care adoption. As far as we know, we’re perfectly capable of having a child biologically, but adoption is just something that’s always made sense to us. We started the process in May 2015 and got our license that December. We started getting calls/emails the day we were licensed. We just started taking placements in early January. We did respite care for a 17 month old boy who was awesome. We spent lots of time going to parks and made it to the aquarium. He was surprisingly easy and had us laughing the entire time he was with us.
Right now we have an adorable 3 1/2 year old boy staying with us. He’s so funny and has the most incredible imagination. He makes up stories that are so articulately thought out and are full of amazing detail. Bed time is a struggle and there have been a few temper tantrums which have been tricky to navigate, but all in all it’s been completely manageable and a lot of fun. He may be longer term, but we’re not sure. It sounds like we’ll get more answers mid- February.
Foster Care is a wild ride. It’s the craziest thing Stuart and I have ever done. There’s nothing like getting a call for an emergency placement on your way home from work and then 45 minutes later have a kid dropped off at your door. We’re so excited to eventually grow our family through foster care adoption, but right now we’re just trying to take it day by day. My job contract ends in June, and I’ll be staying home for awhile after that. Stuart and I l would love to be able to take in a sibling set eventually.
12575800_10153892683988126_13877135_n
Some things I would advise for prospective/new foster parents are:
– Try not to get frustrated with the application process. It’s going to be long, irritating and stressful. You WILL get licensed and it will totally be worth it.
– You will be forced to learn how to “go with the flow.” I’m a total type A. I like lists, plans and knowing what to expect.  If you’re a foster parent, you literally have zero control. At any point in time things can change. Foster care has made me realize that there is no point worrying about “what ifs?” because there is absolutely nothing you can do about the situation.
– If you have a kiddo of a different race then you, get ready for a lot of stares and questions. The little boy we have right now is black. We’re white. When we’re out in public and he addresses us as “Mommy and Daddy” you start to see heads turn. Random strangers will ask you a lot of questions, specifically “Soooooo what happened to their real mom?!”  There’s a funny parody that addresses this here https://vimeo.com/110548783  It’s been a little tricky to figure out how to shut those kind of questions down tactfully and quickly, especially when our little guy is within ear shot.

 

Posted in family planning, foster, foster parents, foster process, infertility, MRKH, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

You Changed the WORLD!

Something wo12277111_1906738929551954_297280116_n.jpgnderful happened today! I received a letter from an 8th grader in Ohio. She read an article about uterus transplants and wanted to write to someone affected by MRKH. It’s part of a class assignment on current events. Here are her questions:
  • I was wondering what it is like to have MRKH.
  • Are there many medical problems involved with this disease?
  • Would you be interested in getting a uterus transplant?
  • Are there many people living with the disease?
  • Do you think that uterus transplants will become popular among people with MRKH?
  • Is there any way to treat MRKH besides the uterus transplant?
I can’t begin to describe the feelings. It’s goosebumps and elation and knowing that an entire class of 8th graders will have heard about MRKH.
Thank you to all of the MRKH Community for taking 10 days to spread awareness, to create videos, send in pictures, stories and poems. You are changing the WORLD!
Posted in acceptance, awareness, hope, infertility, MRKH | 1 Comment

The Age of Infertility

                                infertility 2

As you get older, conditions get harder and everything changes. When you’re young, no one really tells you what adversities are ahead or how to handle them accordingly. Honestly, I can’t even handle taking out my own trash or changing the batteries in my smoke detectors. You may be supported financially, but mentally you feel isolated, as if you’re experiencing an existential crisis, as minor as it may be.

As I advance into my 21st year I begin to realize I’ve been stripped of my training wheels somewhere between trying to find my niche, while simultaneously establishing my individuality. It’s hard for me to admit, but growing older has made it harder to accept my infertility. As I scroll through my engagement photo-laden Facebook feed, I see more and more women announcing their pregnancies and the endless joy they share with their significant others. What makes it worse is my unnecessary desire to browse the Internet and read stories of women who have been dumped because of their inability to bear children. As dramatic as that sounds, infertility and aging do not go hand-in-hand. No one tells you how difficult it gets, as a young woman, to grow closer and closer to the gestational age knowing, personally, it’ll never be the natural process it was meant to be.

When I was sixteen I didn’t really understand my prospective future, especially after the multiple laparoscopies. I didn’t even know what a hysterectomy was until after I had actually gotten one. I was emotionally numb for a while, but the idea of being barren gradually began to weigh on my conscience. I don’t ever self-pity and I would never wish for anyone to feel sorry for me. Honestly, I barely talk about these things with my own best friends, not because I’m insecure, but because I’ve recognized that everyone is experiencing something arduous. When you listen to those around you and acknowledge their obstacles, yours begin to shrink.

Aids like therapy or medication only benefit to the point in which it is time to accept your hardships. As you mature, many of life’s circumstances get tenacious and conflicts not only multiply, but progress if you choose to neglect them. For years I’d been thinking that the solution to all my problems is to simply discount them, but I have come to realize that the only genuine resolution is to comprehend the fact that struggle is inevitable. Infertility is my struggle, and aging is the antagonist that provokes it. With this comes a feeling of inadequacy as a woman, feelings as though my own body has betrayed me. No one told me that mental strife would be included with these disabilities or that I would have to teach myself to accept what is out of my control. As troubling as these situations are, we mature by constructing our own solutions. Growing up happens through the very assembly of explications to our dilemmas. Infertility sucks and the solutions are expensive, but I recognize that everyone around me is undergoing a hardship. The worst thing I can do for me is overlook my pain. I’ve never been this honest with a public audience, let alone myself, but acknowledging this mental dissension and taking time to grieve has become unexpectedly liberating.

As a young woman it is hard to avoid blaming myself and feeling ashamed of my body. Society has set impractical standards for women to effortlessly achieve reproductive success, as if it is our primary purpose in life. Aside from these archetypes, I encourage all women experiencing the challenges of infertility and other struggles to acknowledge every pain and emotion these challenges have ever evoked. The sooner you accept your grievances, the easier it becomes to heal and avoid allowing this impotence to be a reason why you question your own femininity.

Medical discrepancies should never define you. As I have emphasized in my preceding blog posts, health related anomalies can be a beautiful thing. Learn to metamorphose them into something empowering like a platform or a foundation that resonates with a broad demographic. I have always encouraged females diagnosed with MRKH to transform their diagnosis into a purpose to inspire. I now realize I must do the same with infertility. It should not be my burden, but my reason to enlighten the lives of other women approaching the same trial. As challenging as all of this has been for me to accept, everything happens for a reason and that is true amongst every adversity.

If you or a loved one is suffering from Müllerian agenesis or infertility, please prioritize your reproductive health and visit https://www.beautifulyoumrkh.org or http://www.resolve.org . Please consider donating to the Beautiful You MRKH Foundation in celebration of Giving Tuesday so they can continue to do their important work and help 1 in 4500 born with MRKH.

-Carly

Posted in acceptance, awareness, hope, infertility, MRKH, self love, sisterhood, Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

The ‘Markings’ of a Good Life

My land legs are a bit wobbly as of late- and when I say land, I mean life and when I say wobbly, I mean vulnerable. I am essentially feeling vulnerable in life. When you have committed to exploring one’s self, you tend to uncover more than you bargained for but the commitment is involuntary and there is no going back. The journey to self-love is similar to soft-sand running – the views can be beautiful and you know that you are toning the jiggly bits but it can be an exhausting process- muscles ache, skin hardens and it’s nothing like the movies portray.

MRKH, a condition which has been explained to me as a ‘genetic pot hole in the road’ has been a mammoth and gruelling process of self-acceptance since being diagnosed in my late teens. Being told at such a vulnerable and innocent age that you were born without the certain ‘parts’, that instinctively and innately define us as a ‘complete’ woman, was nothing short of harrowing. Though this no longer burdens me, it’s the scars that do.

No-one ever really stares as such or asks the uncomfortable questions. It could be in my head? Though, for something which is apparently quite ‘common’ in a teenager’s life, I haven’t seen anyone with scars of self-harming. Friends say, ‘could be anything- you could of fallen into something’ – yes, a razor blade lovely ones! However dark humour aside, I do see their kindness and I love them even more for wrapping me up in this beautiful and unconditional way but frankly, I am really upset that I chose to brand myself in this way. The process of self-acceptance has rattled me in a way that I simply did not anticipate.

So, where to from here? I tackle this in the only ways I know how- I up my yoga practice, I swim alone and be okay with that, I wear shorter sleeves on purpose and try to say thank you at compliments rather than ‘hump’ in the opposite direction. When I go on a date, I try to have twinkly eyes as opposed to internally rehearsing scripts of apology when my past is uncovered – do I say I had a difficult teenage life? Do I say how I’ve come through the other side? Do I not say anything and wait for the question to be asked? Maybe the question need not be asked?

Only recently, I was walking to meet one particular boy for a Sunday afternoon of ocean frolicking and summer silliness. But as I approached the beach, I so very nearly turned back. Why? Because there was a chance we may go for a swim. A swim! I would have to deliver my script, unclothe my past, absorb the stares and risk a potential opportunity for love.

When did my fears become so profound that I would deny myself such precious moments where the ocean and summer were to be deliberately avoided? This is when I chose to change my script.

Self-harm is not attention seeking or abnormal (as one date uttered under his breath at the end of a meal). It is not a weakness or a reason to be ashamed. My shame is stale and expired. For me during that sad time, I was finding an expression when I didn’t have the tools to do so in any other way.

My expression was fear and a simple sadness at ‘not feeling good enough’. I did this practice alone; quietly. I didn’t understand it. I just know that when I do peer down at the scars that will never go, I have an opportunity to embrace and love all that I am. And all that I will become.

As for self-love- It’s a daily mantra and opportunity to be kind to me. I will no longer apologise or fear moments in my life for I am here, sitting in a precious coffee shop surrounded by laughter, sticky-treats and books. Last night I called my parents and today I will head back onto the yoga mat with my mermaids and special one’s.

As for falling in love – never has there been such a perfect moment for my own little love affair.

-Ally

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Kristen X2 Shares Their First Experience Attending a BYMRKH Meeting in Seattle!

Kristen X2 - 1  Kristen X 2 - 2

Hi my name is Kristen. I’m 33 years old and at 16 I was “undiagnosed” with MRKH because they didn’t have the information on it that they do today. I was told I was one in a million, and I suffered alone.

A year and a half ago I decided to try and research it again, then I found Beautiful You MRKH Foundation and was able to diagnose myself. For the first time in 16 years I knew there was someone else in the world like me. After a few months some of the women in the Facebook group had a meet up thanks to Kristen Peterson and the Beautiful You MRKH Foundation. It was a wonderful experience. Then Beautiful You MRKH Foundation had a conference in Seattle. I was so excited to be able to go, I had wanted to go to the conference on the east coast but was unable to make it work.

I am so thankful that they made it to my side of the states because this experience was one of the best experiences of my life. To be in a room full of women who know exactly what you’re going through and what you’ve been through is indescribable. To be able to hear from a doctor who actually knows what they’re talking about and can give you information you never had is amazing. But my favorite part by far is the bonds you make with fellow warriors and you have an instant bond with someone you’ve never met before. You aren’t uncomfortable, or worried about trying to explain “what’s wrong with you”, you don’t get the look of sorrow or pity or confusion. You just have a sister.

This was a beautiful day for me and I’m so thankful I was able to go. I would encourage all other MRKH warriors to go to a conference if they can, it is a day that will change your life in such amazingly wonderful ways. I can’t wait until the next conference.

-Kristen Gilliam proud MRKH Warrior
Keep calm and warrior on!

~*~*~*~*~*

I had the pleasure of attending the Beautiful You MRKH conference in Seattle, Washington this past weekend. It is not the first MRKH conference I have ever been to, however it is the first MRKH conference I’ve been to with my mother and that BYMRKH hosted. Her and I were chatting afterwards about the experience, and she commented at how amazed she was by all the love she saw between the women there.

It got me thinking about what an incredible thing the MRKH sisterhood is.
Who else can comprehend what we go through, but someone who has gone through the same things themselves? There is emotional healing in something as simple as a hug shared between MRKH sisters. There is healing in sitting in a circle with a group of women who all walked into the room as strangers but make an instant connection… an instant friendship… solely on the experiences they share.

Whenever I walk into a conference, I never feel as if I am walking into a place filled with people I don’t know. I walk in knowing I am entering a place full of people who know me, in ways that other people can’t. They may not know the details of my life… where I work, who my friends are, my love of Netflix… but they do know the struggles I have faced and am facing, the trials I have had to overcome and may need to overcome in the future. They know my tears, because they have shared them. They know my pain, because they have felt it too.

They understand the parts of me that I may not even fully understand for myself yet.

I can’t say enough how incredible of an experience it is to meet other MRKH women. It is something I never realized I really needed until it happened for the first time. And a conference is such an added benefit, because it is a place and time where everyone meets with the same purpose: to find support, to gain knowledge, and to be in a place where they are truly understood.

I am thankful for the BYMRKH conference this weekend. Every hug shared, tear shared, and laugh shared is a special memory that has brought a smile to my face in the days after. It is a place of healing, and the peace that comes over me during a conference stays with me in the days after, as I am again reminded that wherever I am, I am never alone, and never far from the sisters I hold so near to my heart.

-Kristen Peterson

Posted in acceptance, hope, infertility, MRKH, MRKH sisterhood, MRKH Warrior, Seattle, sisterhood | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Keeping Secrets

Keeping Secrets

I was 16 when I was diagnosed with MRKH, already struggling to dig out my niche in the world. The doctor explained to me I was born without a uterus and vagina, would require either dilation or reconstructive surgery to create a vagina, and would never have children the “normal” way. I remember crying in the car on the way home. I was stunned and scared. Then I was filled with anger, resentment towards God. For a long time I felt I was being punished. Then came the shame. I wore it like an invisible cloak on my shoulders. I can tell people I’m unable to have kids, but the words, “I was born without a vagina,” will not pass my lips. I went to a Beautiful You MRKH Foundation conference this past April in Michigan. For the first time in my life I met other women diagnosed with MRKH. I sat and listened to their stories, shared tears and laughs with them. These were my sisters, fellow women struggling with the same emotions I had. I still couldn’t tell my own story.

Keeping my diagnosis a secret was my own doing. The doctor never said not to tell and I do not remember my mom saying not to as well. But I was scared of people’s reactions. This proved true for me rather quickly. Several months after my diagnosis, I got a call from a boy down the street. He was a year or two younger than me; my brother and I had often played together with him. He said my ex-step-dad had told his dad some things about me. The boy asked if I had a “hole down there.” Luckily I didn’t drop the phone, but I quickly muttered something along the lines of “yeah, I had a hole” and hung up the phone. I then left the house and walked the 5 blocks to my ex-step-dad’s house to confront him, crying the entire way. He admitted to telling just a few people in town about my MRKH. Now, at this time I lived in a small town of about 500 people. Gossip travels fast. I was pretty sure at that point almost everyone in town knew my secret. Even if no one knew, I still felt he betrayed me by telling others about my secret. I told my ex-step-dad he had hurt me and that I would never forgive him. I cut off contact with him.

As stated earlier, the main reason why I don’t tell others the complete truth about my MRKH diagnosis is that I’m scared of people’s reactions. I’m afraid they will look at me with confusion or disgust. Or like the boy many years ago, ask me questions they have no business asking. Or, they will simply leave me. My biological father left my mother while she was pregnant with me. I grew up wondering what it was about me that he couldn’t love. If I told others about my MRKH, I believed it would give them one more reason not to love me.

Not talking about my diagnosis contributed to my depression. I felt broken, alone, abnormal, unworthy. I engaged in self-harming behaviors. At 24 I attempted suicide. I survived. It took me a few more years to realize that in order to love myself, I had to love everything. I’m 36 years old now and I’m still learning to love all of my flaws. I’ve accepted my MRKH but I’ve never fully embraced it. A year ago, I found several MRKH support groups on the web and on Facebook. Reading the stories of other women has given me the courage to speak my own words. This is me finally shedding my cloak of shame. By sharing my story I hope that young women newly diagnosed with MRKH do not have to struggle with the secrecy and shame as I did. We are all beautiful and we are all worthy of love.

-Lindsay

Posted in acceptance, infertility, MRKH, MRKH supporter | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments