An Interview: Jeany’s* Story

 

Co-founder Sharon Interviewed Jeany about Her Story.


Sharon: Tell me about your family and who is in it?

 

Jeany: My family includes me, my husband Donald, and our 1-year-old biological son named Donel. My husband has two children from a former relationship, a son aged 19 and a daughter aged 12, who do not live in our home.

 

Sharon:  At what age did you start trying to start a family?

Jeany: When I was 34 we started to try to conceive. I had married at age 31. My husband is 8 years older than me and he had a preference not to be changing diapers at age 50. He had been through that with his other children, my step-children. We had no idea how long it would take for me to get pregnant. I knew that my age might be a factor.

Sharon: What life choices or circumstances led you to that point?

Jeany:  I worked hard to get my Ph.D. in psychology when I was 28 and launched my career in my hometown of Washington, D.C, working with children enrolled in special education programs ranging from newborns through 21 years of age. I moved to Texas and found myself working at the Texas Youth Commission, counseling troubled kids, many of whom had records of violent criminal behavior. While working with these challenging cases, I had no desire to have children of my own. My work seemed to deter me from having children earlier, plus I wanted to be in a stable relationship.

Sharon: Why did you decide to have a child?

 

Jeany:  We were ready as a couple plus I had a new job, which I currently hold, training foster parents on issues around children’s mental health and supporting those with trauma. I cover a wide range of topics in my courses for foster parents. Someday I might seek to foster and adopt a child as well, though I would wait until my son is around 4 years of age. My father is a retired social worker who worked with foster children, many of whom I got to meet and play with in my childhood.


Sharon: Describe any of the challenges you may have encountered along the way.

 

Jeany: I was first pregnant in April 2009 and it was just a few weeks until I miscarried. Though an early loss, it was painful and caused some depression for me. I was determined to try again and had Donald’s support; however, his work then and now takes him to the Middle East regularly. We worked hard to time his vacations around my ovulation cycle, but that wasn’t always easy! On at least one occasion, he changed his schedule to be home for us to try to conceive.

Sharon: Please share your feelings from that process: getting AMA label, experiences with medical professionals, etc.

 

Jeany: When we conceived Donel in August 2010, I knew that there were additional risks around an advanced maternal age birth. I proactively took a number of measures while trying to conceive, including losing weight and exercising. I did yoga, took herbs and got some chiropractic care to improve my body’s alignment. I really took care of myself and was prepared. Our family of medical doctors were a bit skeptical, but I don’t regret taking these measures to be healthy.

The biggest challenge we faced was my preeclampsia diagnosis, which I sense may have been caused by my age. It was disappointing and made us change our birth plans from seeking natural childbirth in a birthing center to having Donel delivered in a hospital by an OB. Then, when in labor Donel’s heart rate slowed and I suddenly needed an emergency c-section. This was a big disappointment!

Sharon: Looking back on the process…do you see things differently? Is there anything you would do differently? Have your feelings changed? If so, how?


Jeany: 
I was able to deal with my early fears about having a child, removing the perceptions I had in my early career from working with troubled youth.

I had self doubt after the c-section and blamed my age. It had been my dream to have natural childbirth. I wonder if preeclampsia would have been my diagnosis at an earlier age?

Sharon:  Thinking back, do you feel good about your choice or are there things that you regret?

Jeany: I regret that I might not be able to have another child. It’s uncertain how much support I’ll receive from my husband to conceive again, or to foster and adopt. We’re talking about it now.I did it the best way for me, in terms of waiting to be married, being well into my career and certainly past my fears about the troubled children I counseled early on.


Sharon: Now that your child is 1-year old, what has been your experience as a parent? How might this be reflective of your maturity or other factors?

Jeany: My son is a delight and like all toddlers, can be quite challenging at the same time. Some days when my husband is traveling, it can be trying caring for a 1-year-old on my own. Once he’s in bed and I have time to rest and reflect and then realize that he is a true blessing. There are many women that cannot have children and I am truly happy with my choices.

Thank you for interviewing me and may I encourage other women of color to be a part of your project?

Sharon: Absolutely. We encourage this and thank you Jeany!

Jeany* was a first-time mother at age 36 and has a background in counseling psychology and works with foster families and children. She asked to be interviewed for The Advanced Maternal Age Project, which we did by phone on May 24, 2012.

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Michelle’s Story

Our daughter was born a month after my husband and I were married, hundreds of miles away from us, to people who sowed the seeds of abuse and neglect. During our daughter’s early years, my husband and I were traveling, hiking, biking, remodeling a house — and not planning to add anyone else to it.

We became a cliche, and changed plans as we neared 40. After learning about foreign and domestic adoption options, we decided to invest in the U.S. foster care system. I am compelled to tell this story because many friends told us that they contemplated adoption, but were afraid of “bonding problems” from social services kids.

Stories of foreign orphans being sent back to their home country or to a ranch in Montana should send a clear message that attachment disorder is not unique to U.S. orphans.

Our adoption search began with the Adoption Exchange website, which posts pictures and profiles of children in foster care, who are available for adoption.

It took a year of looking and a couple false-start inquiries before a 10-year-old girl sounded like a match for us. After interviewing us, the social workers agreed and chose us for Rachel (not her real name). Rachel had been a “system kid” for over half her life, and frankly, her history and file scared the heck out of me and my husband. However, Rachel had my husband before we got to hello.

He said solution-oriented, man things like, “Look, she’s 10, and we’re 40. Plus, there’s one of her and two of us.”

We did not romanticize adoption or anything about this process. Completing a home study and working through the social services requirements will try anyone’s patience. Gestation is faster.

We also did not expect Rachel to be grateful for her new life. These children have lost everything, and if they have bonded with their foster parents, then they may lose them during the adoption process.

We did our homework by going for pre-adoption counseling, reading and taking a required foster parent class. “Parenting the Hurt Child” is a must read for anyone contemplating adopting children with an abuse history. Hurt children have complex emotional ages, are often medicated for their behaviors, and may not be bonded to people. Our daughter came to us with a few psychological labels and her own pharmacy in the plastic pill sorting case that made us wonder if we were adopting a child, a war veteran, or an 80-year-old.

Our adoption was finalized a few months ago and Rachel turned out to be quite a bright and resilient character. We eliminated her medications and have been working with her on filling emotional gaps, which is rewarding for all of us and exhausting for me and my husband.

Here’s a peek at what this looks like. When she pitches a fit that looks like something a 3-year-old would do, she gets a toddler time out. I’ve seen “Super Nanny,” so I know to have her sit quietly for three minutes.

Rachel plays Legos with her dad like a 5-year-old. She asked me to hold and rock her like a baby. On a recent shopping trip, I bought her women’s size 9 shoes, a bra, and a baby blanket to wrap her in as I rock her.

This is our reality and it likely sounds odd. However, this is the kind of therapeutic parenting she needs to fill in the patchwork of emotional holes that her birth family handed her, and to be a good parent to her future children.

I still get the “waiting child” update from Adoption Exchange and see more young people who could have promising and productive lives if people invest in them. My only regret in adopting our daughter is the sadness that comes from knowing that I will not have the years or the energy left in me to devote to another child after Rachel is launched into society. Perhaps someone reading this will.

 

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