I “met” Kaylene when she messaged me about starting a blog and asked for a little advice about what that would look like. She wanted to share her story but was nervous about backlash and being vulnerable. Kaylene shared that she was gay and married to her spouse who was transitioning from female to male. Curious, I looked back at her feed and fell in love with her little family–gorgeous pictures of babies and pumpkin patches and big birthday celebrations like we have in our home. Her words and photos oozed so much love and happiness. I followed her back immediately, not only because of her inspiring feed and gorgeous photos but because I didn’t know any families with transgender parents, and I knew Kaylene would be such a great place for me to learn more. Kris (Kaylene’s partner) and Kaylene’s life looks a lot like mine except they have the gorgeous scenery of Utah. In the About section of her blog, Kaylene does a beautiful job at sharing answers to all the questions anyone might ask, including her family’s background in the LDS church. This part made me cry (after counseling, praying and asking God to help her change who she was): “I learned what I was made of and what was important to me. My happiness was just as important as anyone else’s. I found that prayer did help me strengthen my relationship with God more than ever. I got my answer from him – I was going to be okay. He loved me! He understood me! He knew my heart and everything about me, and that was all that mattered! And to this day, that is what I believe and what keeps me going. Regardless of what anyone else believes or says, I know that God loves me and I have a great relationship with Him. I live my life in a way that I believe is pleasing to him. I try every day to be my best self.” I am SO PROUD to have this beautiful mom here today talking a little bit about motherhood. If you want to follow Kaylene and read more about her family, check out her blog and her Instagram.
“I want to help you to be happy being YOU.”
“I love you just the way you are.”
“Being different is good!”
These are common statements I try to use with my 2 wild kids, Boston (4) and Brooklyn (2). Being a blend of a Lesbian/Transgender family, I think it is so important for my kids to grow up knowing that no matter what happens, no matter what they do, and no matter what people think of them, I will love them for who they are and do my best to help them love themselves. In a world that can be cruel and can teach us to be mean to ourselves (especially if we are different), I am trying to teach my kids to accept, love, and honor themselves. I hope it will serve as their armor as they get older. What mom doesn’t want those things for her kids, am I right?
Here’s my perspective on motherhood: Even though, as moms, we are all different and have various outlooks on life, we are more alike and connected to each other than we can even imagine. We all just want our kids to be healthy and happy. So, why not appreciate the differences and celebrate each other? After all, we’re here to help each other to learn and grow. Every day is going to be hard and bring a new challenge along with it. Life is going to get messy and will be far from perfect, but remember that you are not alone! We’ve all been there.
I am grateful to know that I am not alone in this motherhood journey. That knowledge is what helps get me through the hard stuff. I don’t give up, I show up and remind myself that the trials are how I learn to become a better mom warrior. I make sure my kids know every day that I love them and they are my top priority. I think that as moms, we need to realize that if we want to see a positive change in the world (or just in our homes), we need to start with ourselves. We need to be the example of putting on the armor! We need to love ourselves, give ourselves grace, and realize that our best is enough.
Dr. Karin Luise
While I knew of Karin’s work (she co-wrote The Fatherless Daughter Project,), I hadn’t actually met her until last weekend at a wedding in Joshua Tree. Karin is A: the only other person besides my sister I’ve met who pronounces her name Car-in, and B: the most remarkably engaged listener. A few seconds into my first conversation with her, I couldn’t help but think, “Can this woman see into my soul?” because she talks like she can–the eyes, the body language, the heart. She makes you feel important simply by being in her presence. At any event with new friends, I like to dive into people’s full stories–tell me everything–so it wasn’t long before I discovered that struggling through infertility was a part of her motherhood journey. I’m honored to have her sharing a bit about that part of her journey here today. The part that got me: Each month the stick read “not pregnant,” and all I could see was “not worthy.” You can read more about Dr. Karin’s story on her website, read her book, or follow her on Instagram.
I married for the first time at 22, four months after graduating college. I had decided I would have three kids by the time I was 30 and spend my life as a mother in suburban bliss. This was coming from a girl who had no idea she would one day be divorced twice, earn a PhD and spend almost two decades childless. My rainbow-laden naivete assumed babies would conceive with great and beautiful ease, inside my great and beautiful life.
At that age, I did not know anyone who had trouble getting pregnant. I believed God was on my side. Since I was the first to get married among my friends, I assumed I would be the first to have cupcake-filled baby showers and birthday parties. None of that came true. There were no cupcakes at all.
In fact, not only did I not get pregnant, but (get ready for the bombshell) my husband got several other women pregnant because of his many affairs. I had married a minor league baseball player who quickly rose to the big leagues, fame and a fast lifestyle.
The pain of learning other women were carrying my husband’s babies, while my womb remained empty, opened a pain inside of me so deep, I did not know how I was going to make it through the secret abyss that became my life.
I wanted a baby more than words could describe. I was desperate, lonely and afraid. I believed becoming parents would save us. Through my tears, I kept trying to get pregnant, and he kept drifting farther and farther away. He refused to understand the well of pain that was drowning me – my emotions annoyed him and disconnected us even more.
The double blow of infertility and infidelity sent me into a tailspin of devastation. No one knew what I was battling behind closed doors.
Each month the stick read “not pregnant,” and all I could see was “not worthy.” I sunk deeper into depression. I was broken. I never dreamed this could happen to me. I thought God had betrayed me. How could He allow me to want children so badly without bringing them in? I questioned everything about my faith and my value as a woman.
But I did not want to burden anyone with my pain. I kept silent. I sat in the crowds cheering, pretending, and silencing my real truth. The public saw the illusion of happiness I was projecting on the outside, while inside I was overwhelmed with loneliness and despair
Night after night, I would go to the ballpark with other wives’ children on my knees. I would put on a mask for the countless baby showers. I would deflect the persistent question, “When are you going to have children?” with a pretend smile and “Hopefully soon!” No one knew that in those moments, a waterfall of tears would gush unseen inside my throat as I rushed to secret spaces to cry.
Then my world completely fell apart. The media found out about the infidelity, and even though we tried therapy, he refused to change. After a huge fight, he moved in with his pregnant girlfriend. 7 years of marriage, 2 years of litigation, and we finally divorced.
I was devastated and alone. Fighting my way out of depression, I tried to find a new life and new hope. I started graduate school with this void haunting my heart. I just wanted to be a mother. I finally met someone that also wanted children and seemed to be the opposite of my first husband. That seemed to be exactly what I needed.
Six years later I was remarried after giving him an ultimatum (bad idea, ladies – we separated a few years later). I was 36 at the time and my biological clock was screaming. To my surprise, I got pregnant within months and told the world the news. My first pregnancy! I was over-the-moon ecstatic and thought all my dreams were finally falling into place.
At twelve weeks, during an ultrasound, the tech looked up at me matter-of-factly as I beamed with excitement. “Hm. There’s no heartbeat here. Looks like you aborted the baby.” What?! I started wailing and my husband started yelling. She looked at us like we were emotional freaks, and the doctor arrived to find us coming undone. I had a D&C, followed by months of intense grieving and questioning God.
I was shocked at how disconnected my friends were from the magnitude of my loss (except the two who had also miscarried and my own grieving Mom). Many dismissed it like I had a tooth pulled and others questioned if I was really pregnant. I sunk again into a black hole. We did not even find out the gender. The doctor forgot to check. I hung a silver angel from a window in the kitchen and hid the baby clothes in a back drawer.
Months later, I crawled out of my hole and invested in fertility treatments. I prayed over my belly daily and was obsessed with everything I ate, breathed and put on my body. I thought if I could create an immaculate space, a baby would surely want to live there.
After trying unsuccessfully, we attempted an IUI. Within months of injections, I had six viable eggs coming down the chutes. We went in for insemination. Making a baby artificially is about as weird as it gets – you have to let go of any attachment to ‘natural methods,’ and believe that science showed up just for you as you stare petrified at the tube on the table, worried they mixed something up in the back.
On top of the discomfort, the doctor doing my procedure (not my regular physician) started awkwardly talking about my famous ex-husband in the middle of injecting my second husband’s sperm into my vagina. Seriously. Shut. Up.
The good news – despite all the weirdness, my miracle finally happened. After years of disappointment, I was shocked beyond words that I was pregnant. I secretly felt that I was trying to trick God out of His decision by using science to trump nature. Turns out, God just had another journey for me. Lo and behold, the tech found two heartbeats. TWO!! Holy mother of God. TWINS!!
The pregnancy birthed something else in me that words cannot fully explain. I was amazed that my body worked. For a decade, I believed my body was broken. When I was experienced that miracle, I felt a well of gratitude, amazement and complete bliss overwhelm me.
I often laid staring in awe at all those feet and butts moving around inside of me. I wanted them to be a part of me forever. I loved being pregnant – the wait had been so long, and the journey completely consumed me.
On Aug. 9, 2008 – my 38th birthday – I gave birth to boy-girl twins, with only minor complications. I was finally a mother. A birthday mother. A mother so overwhelmed with gratitude and shock, she kept waiting for the doctors to tell her they had made a mistake. But there was no mistake. Those beautiful babies came home to the two most grateful, petrified parents in history.
The first year of having twins was equally the most amazing and demanding experience of my life. Months later, maternal amnesia set in, and I started feeling the urge to have one more. I was so deeply connected to my twins, the thought of both leaving at the same time for college sent me into a tailspin. I needed one more, but I was too tired to go back to the clinic. Here is the shocker: I got pregnant with #3 on the first try.
I cried on the phone when I found out he, too, was due on my birthday. I could not believe what was happening . . . another miracle journey had begun. While he arrived two months early, medically fragile and undergoing 29 admissions to the NICU, I can proudly report that today I have healthy 9 year old twins and a robust 7 year old son. We even pretend like Aug. 9th is his birthday too.
After all of those years of disappointment, waiting and ricocheting between fear, confusion and hope, hope won. I started trusting in God again. I started believing in myself again. And I started seeing that the Universe not only was on my side . . . it believed wholeheartedly in science, miracles and crazybeautiful birthday presents.
Come back tomorrow for Part 3 of motherhood stories.