Dawn’s Journey to Motherhood

Dawn an Ava

Dawn and Ava

Growing up in California, I had a really strong love and connections with my mother and grandmothers. My mother was also a stay at home mom and was able to guide me through the milestones in my life. Our family dynamic always resonated with me and was confirmed when I worked as a nanny while attending UC-Berkeley. I observed the routine and requirements of proper care for children while providing respite to a professional couple who had three kids.  This daily hands-on interaction provided clarity for me as I realized that I didn’t want that model, but preferred the traditional arrangement of a stay home parent, as I was raised. When I met my future husband at 26, he agreed with this idea. Even though Dave and I had a short courtship, this was one of the serious topics we explored and confirmed before we got engaged.  We eventually moved to Dallas from California so that we could live on one income and purchase a home.

I believed that we were headed for parenting in our early thirties, based on getting married at age 26 and compromising with him that we would give ourselves 3 to 5 years to strengthen our relationship, travel and indulge in many activities that are more difficult to manage once children are in the picture.

When contemplating how many children we wanted when that time arrived we were aiming for one biological child and likely adopting as well.  I had always considered adoption as a possibility since my best friend is adopted and I felt that I had a heart for this way of family building so long as I could experience pregnancy, and share that with my grandmothers and my mother as I had been dreaming of since I was a small child. When our 5-year anniversary approached my husband started having ambivalence. It stemmed from his fears of being an inferior father after he had a poor upbringing. I eventually pacified his fears and we tried conceiving for about 2 years without success.Audio File

At age 35 we relocated to Austin and I visited a doctor who found out immediately that I had a blockage in my fallopian tubes and my husband found out previously, as well, that he had infertility issues. The only route we could take to conceive at this point was through IVF. When our first IVF did not result in pregnancy nor yield any viable frozen embryos I was pretty devastated, but remained optimistic that the second time would be the charm.  Literally, I believed that failure was NOT an option.  Like so many other couples, we had a difficult time with the clinical and dehumanizing aspects of in-vitro fertilization (IVF), but I trusted the experts and we tried again.  When our second round was not successful, we knew that, for financial reasons, we needed a guaranteed positive outcome, so we ended treatment and began to explore the path to parenting through adoption.

At every turn, I was the driving force and motivation behind the effort to overcome our hurdles and create a family.

I grieved the loss of having my own genetic child and began to focus exclusively on the path to parenting that adoption provides. This was at times rather overwhelming after having educated myself on the intricacies of assisted reproductive technology, but now I was the family expert on these alternatives and was researching and learning and became actively involved in the adoption community to better understand our options.

Adoption wasn’t our first choice but it turned out to be our best choice, though it was not without its own opportunities for resilience, which is how I have come to view the tougher moments.  

Expressing to an unknown birth mother what you hope to give her child if you are chosen to parent is a dream and a nightmare all at once.  Everything seems to rest upon each word one utters, or writes, each photo selected, every nuance being the potentially defining moment when one is either chosen or rejected.  After the seemingly relentless pressure of IVF, this was yet another gauntlet of emotion, but with the support I found at Adoption Knowledge Affiliates, as well as the education around the lifelong issues of this journey, I felt that I had found my calling as a mother.  I was and still am so moved by the gifts of adoption, and the unique ways in which all members of the triad are connected by both loss and love.  When we were matched with a young expectant mother in Corpus Christi. I thought we had found our miracle.  As it turned out, months of relationship building and my assistance as her birth coach during her C-section was a gift to her, as it strengthened her for the decision to parent her baby rather than placing him with us.

With that devastating surprise came a huge blow, as I doubted myself and my husband became somewhat embittered toward the prospect and I now had to manage his disillusionment along with my own depression. This helped after a few potential matches went awry. Thankfully, I learned that I could dig deeper than I ever had imagined I could, and I eventually accepted reality with a peaceful heart convinced that we were, with each twist and turn, one step closer to our baby.

That turned out to be true once we found the next birth parents who were considering placing their unborn daughter for adoption in the same year as they had a daughter graduating high school with a son expected to follow her to college in the following year. They were preparing to become grandparents, not preparing for the joys of diapering and sleeplessness of parenting an infant, as they also were providing care to a disabled parent and dealing with physical and financial limitations of their own.Audio File

We met two months prior to the baby’s due date and built a wonderful relationship centered on trust, but also with the awareness that due to their ages being parallel to ours, we had to resolve some of the typical concerns with “geriatric pregnancy” that would have been likely for us had we conceived a biological child.  We were all rewarded with the birth of a beautiful, healthy and perfect baby girl on June 13, 2006, who arrived ten days early so that her adoptive father could experience his first Father’s Day with a newborn.  I was invited to be in the delivery room when my daughter was born and was a witness to this transcendent moment as I held hands with her maternal aunt and her sister, each of us expressing our elation through tears, though for all there was also the heightened calibration of anxiety over the impending moment of transfer from one family to another.

 This is the explicit loss and transformation that cannot be erased for an adopted person.  They are beloved by two families, connecting hearts which adoption unites while all experience a separateness that remains, a yearning for wholeness, which is at a primal level.

My awareness of this fact and acknowledgement of it has shaped my sensitivity to my daughter’s most basic vulnerability as well as requiring of me to reach beyond my own expectations and my childhood dreams of motherhood to embrace the love I have been blessed with in the form of my adopted daughter.  I never doubted I could love her, but I never realized that I would also love her birth mother and her biological family so deeply and wish for their healing with every bone in my body.  Honoring them through our open adoption has been another path to growth for me, not only personally, but professionally, as have devoted more and more time to Adoption Knowledge Affiliates (AKA).Audio File

Ava and her family of origin continue to inspire my desire to give back to other adoptive parents, to birth families, and to adopted people whose journeys toward wholeness and authenticity are fraught with myth and misinformation and secrets.  Beyond the typical victories and moments of jubilation that I am so honored to participate in with my beautiful Ava Marie Margot Scott, whom we named on the third day of her life when she came home with us from the hospital, my all-time favorite moment, closely followed by the day the court recognized our family as legally permanent, though I still wish that her birth record reflected her truth, which is that it include her birth parents name rather than being amended.  The lies imposed upon adopted individuals bother me, and I hope that through my work with AKA and that of others we will have more openness in records, more freedom to heal and to cherish and value authenticity.

I began telling Ava our story and acknowledged her experience that very night as I rocked her, trying to soothe her soul as she missed her other mother’s smell, heartbeat and voice.  I shared welcoming her with simultaneously grieving with her our complex past.  As I put words and tears to the beauty of our finding one another just as we were meant to do, not a moment too soon nor too late, I began real steps toward practical parenting.  Ava now, at age 7, retells her own birth tale and relishes as well as embellishes events in the timeline as she has been empowered to do with honesty and whimsy as we talk about what we wished for and what we received, comparing and appreciating how special and lucky we feel to be a part of each other’s lives.  She is my guide and I am hers.  My little bird has powerful wings…one from each of her mothers.

Mother and Daughter

Mother and Daughter


Erin’s Story of Motherhood at Age 46

Erin, Jorge and Kiera

Erin, Jorge and Kiera

During my twenties, my focus was more introspective. I finished college in my early twenties and spent time on gaining work success. At 26, I became very unhappy at my work and decided I wanted to travel abroad. I sold nearly everything I owned, paid off my credit cards, and saved money. It took a couple of months to prepare and that allowed me to plan my itinerary. My destination was Seville, Spain where I spent two consecutive summers. I found work through a Peace-Corps type organization where I worked on an archeological dig, an excavation of a Roman ruin called Italica. Being able to live in that beautiful city and be immersed in the culture had a long-lasting impact on me. Everyone was really kind and valued the quality of life over work or money. I fell in love with the culture so much and have traveled to Europe quite a few times that those experiences inspired me to become a travel agent.

In my early thirties is when I began my first serious relationship. We ended up getting married when I was 35. Unfortunately, we drifted apart and having children was not on his agenda. . I had married my ex because I felt the clock ticking and thought he wanted a family too. He didn’t want to have kids with me, because he wasn’t sure I was “the one”. Obviously, I was not and he has since had 2 kids. After my divorce I thought I wasn’t going to have a chance to have children so I looked into adoption on my own.

During this process I began a new relationship with a wonderful man and we “accidentally” got pregnant. We were both thrilled. I went to the doctor in order to get the recommended CVS (genetic) test and before the doctor even did the test, he could tell something was wrong with the fetus from the ultrasound. He sat me down and told me that the fetus had a brain deformity and would not survive weeks, let alone come to term. The news was devastating and I decided to terminate the pregnancy instead of waiting to miscarry. Our relationship eventually ended a year later, unrelated to the loss of the baby.

Not long after my relationship ended I went out with a man I knew from work and knew after the first date that he was the one. That is my husband Jorge. When I was 45 and 7.5 months pregnant and we got married. During the early stages of my pregnancy I had fears about the health of my child. Fortunately though, the CVS testing came out well and my baby girl was healthy.

The pregnancy itself was relatively easy. Since I didn’t have any complications I was able to work until the birth. Every time I went to visit my obstetrician she would be amazed that at my age I was having a “textbook” easy pregnancy and walking around in high heels. She was non-judgmental and encouraging. My family and friends were also My family and friends were also really supportive and happy for me.

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My family and friends were also really supportive and happy for me. They were responsible for creating a positive environment.

A lot of my friends are 5-10 years younger than me and also having children so I had a network of women friends to connect with and share information with

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I had my daughter, Kiera, 10 days early and with no complications. At the age of 46 I finally had the family I always wanted and for a long time didn’t know if I would get. I was lucky to find the one.

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When I was 48 my husband considered having another child and I still contemplate adoption. I felt at that point trying to conceive another child would be playing with fire. I know that whether or not we will have another child in our lives, I look forward to the future and I feel so lucky to have Kiera and Jorge in my life.

Erin and Her Family

Erin and Her Family


Penny’s Story

Here is the narrative, which we call “Okay. Here’s a bottle. I’m going to sleep.”

Penny and Her Family

Penny and Her Family

Once I left for college I started my life anew. My grades improved drastically and I found value in building a career for myself. During this time having children never even crossed my mind. Looking back now I realize it was because I never had a maternal figure to look up to or learn from. Also, I surrounded myself with friends who were in relationships were the end goal was not marriage. 

Within my group of peers I was considered normal, throughout all my twenties, to not be married nor have children.

In my late twenties I began a serious relationship with an American who was getting his Ph.D at Melbourne University where I was in school. I moved to Chicago with him once he finished his degree and eventually the relationship dissolved. I stayed in America and in my early thirties met my future husband, Brian. The relationship I had with him was different from all the others. He came from a stable family and was well grounded. It wasn’t till I met him that I even thought of having children.  Before we got married I told him that I wanted to have children as soon as we were married due to my age and being a Type 1 diabetic. I needed to have this conversation because he was 6 years younger than me and I needed to know he was committed. He was more than happy to and after we got married we started growing our beautiful family. I gave birth to our first child, Chloe, at age 35. We were still living in Chicago and that was where I received my care.

My experience with my doctor could be best defined as clinical and non-attentive.

I noticed my AMA label and was just required to have weekly routine checkup appointments. My doctor did a poor job of communicating to me the developments of my pregnancy and my concerns with Type 1 diabetes. He didn’t feel the need to inform me because he felt I should just trust his decisions.

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 Penny Describes Her First Pre-Natal Experiences

As a result of this poor relationship, I experienced noticeable symptoms that were overlooked. During the third trimester, I was experiencing painful edema in my legs and while leaving my appointment a nurse pulled me aside and said I needed further testing. It turned out she saw that I had characteristic signs of preeclampsia and was the one to bring it to light. My experience after was mostly a blur.   I had gone from just going through the swing of things without explanation to being in a serious predicament. I received steroids to help develop my baby’s lungs so that I could give birth as soon as possible as to prevent me from having a stroke. I finally had the cesarean when Chloe was at 36 weeks gestation. She was kept in the NICU in order to monitor her lungs and her blood glucose level since I was a diabetic. I wasn’t able to see her until three days after giving birth and only saw instant photos (polaroids) from what Brian took.

Afterwards complications still arose. I ended up getting an infection from my cesarean and Chloe had an infection in her hand from the I.V. The damage to her hand was so severe that she almost needed plastic surgery. Thankfully both infections cleared without any permanent damage. This time was particularly tough for me though. I was only able to stay with her for 16 weeks and it was hard parting since we had both been through such an emotional ordeal. I really wasn’t ready to drop her off at daycare and start working again but I didn’t have a choice.

Later on at age 40 I gave birth to my son Elliot. This pregnancy was definitely a different experience than my first pregnancy. Before I became pregnant with my son I attended a yoga class where there were other moms that described their pregnancies in passing. They reflected on their pregnancies with positive memories and support. It was then I realized what I had been missing. Since I was new to Austin, a friend from the class recommended a doctor that she had a great experience with. After meeting with him I knew he was just what I needed. He communicated well and helped me create a medical team to support me throughout my pregnancy. He recommended me to a specialist who helped plan my diet and keep my A1C in check.  Once the time for delivery came I had a planned cesarean and everything went smoothly. The only hiccup after was my son wasn’t able to breastfeed. When he was in the NICU to monitor his blood glucose he got used to the taste of formula. I tried everything to get him to feed and had to resort to using formula. The upside was that I could say to Brian “Okay. Here’s a bottle. I’m going to sleep.” 

I learned to roll with the punches though and let go of my ideal expectations of motherhood.


Audio FilePenny Talks about the Challenge of Breastfeeding

I have definitely been through my share of ordeals. I still have to manage my diabetes and get chronic fatigue from time to time. Anytime I need a break to rest Brian is always there to step in with bath time or mowing the yard. It is also hard to work full time as a social worker in a medical setting and not see my kids as often as I would want. We are working on are savings so that I can work just four days a week to stay home with the kids more. With all of life’s challenges, though, I have been very resilient and retained a positive spirit. What ultimately gets me through is the love for my family and the love the have for me.

Chloe and Elliott

Chloe and Elliott

A Happiness Box for Kylie

In September, the Project began to capture longer, more in-depth stories of Advanced Maternal Age Mothers.

We asked each woman to share her life-line, a chronological depiction of her life to date, noting major milestones and how she felt at each in writing. Then we heard their stories in person. Our researchers asked a few questions, but really listened. Some of the most important comments are captured in the audio clips of these session. Where additional resources were shared, we include them at the bottom of the story. Our compilation of their story is this narrative.

Kylie and Family

Kylie with Her Own Family

Here is the narrative, which we call A Happiness Box for Kylie.

During my childhood in Australia, my mother was the main emotional support for both my sister and me. She worked nights as a nurse and cared for us during the daytime. She had to work to help pay for hidden debt that came along with her marriage to my father and that was not a secret she kept from us. As a result, my mother absorbed a lot of stress and became the structural support for our family.

Watching this family dynamic shaped my views of being a parent to represent unhappiness, struggle, and settling for second best.

Throughout my childhood I was a high achiever in all academic areas. I received a lot of praise for my success and also pressure to become a doctor or a lawyer. My mother would always tell that there was plenty of time to have kids and that I needed to fulfill my potential.

A recurrent theme from my teachers and mom was to not settle for second best.

Watching my mother’s struggle and being pushed to having a career first ultimately led me to wait until I was 35 to get pregnant with my first child.

I began my university studies with the goal of becoming a lawyer. During my first year practicing law, I realized that being a lawyer wouldn’t lead me to a personally fulfilling career and I decided to leave. I instead became a teacher and found this path very rewarding. When I was 24 I ended up meeting my now-husband John in Japan where I was teaching overseas. He was from the U.S. and we had a long-distance relationship for a few years. During this time I wanted him to move to Australia and he wanted me to move to the U.S. In my late twenties I ended our relationship as I was tired of having a long-distance relationship and spent time teaching overseas in England and Canada.

The peak of my career occurred in my early thirties when I became an assistant principal at a primary school in Australia overseeing 2,500 children, 1200 in my own school and another 1,000+ were my cohort from feeder schools that I oversaw with my ESL/refugee team. During this time, as well, John and I got back together and he moved to Australia. When I was 35 we married. 

Having fulfilled my needs within my career and having a loving and stable partner by my side led me for the next step in my life and seeking to become a mother.

At the age of 36 I had my daughter Mia in Australia. The only complications I had during my first pregnancy were blood clots. I had to take blood thinners and I also took extra care of myself. I ate well, practiced yoga, aqua aerobics, aromatherapy, and acupuncture. (I still take blood-thinning medication.)

My experience with doctors and nurses was very positive. I was encouraged to write out my birth plan, a common exercise for Australian women, and felt that they were engaged in my pregnancy. I had a midwife during labor and delivery as well who was good for emotional support and acted as a voice for me when I was in pain. I also had support from my friends and family during pregnancy and beyond. For my baby shower my friends gave me a special gift, a happiness box. It contained pieces of paper that said what they liked about me and what I was good at. Also included were dried flowers, photos, and delicious candy. It was a source of comfort after Mia was born when I was up in the middle of the night and couldn’t call my friends or mom for a needed a pick me up. I had a friend that prepared a lot frozen meals too, which was especially helpful!

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