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The Journey to Becoming a Mom: Real Stories from Real Moms


The journey to becoming a mom looks different for everyone. Every path is unique and filled with highs and lows, twists and turns, and a roller coaster of emotions along the way. In honor of Mother’s Day, we’re celebrating five moms and their journeys to motherhood. Through their stories, these strong and inspiring moms share the truths of infertility, pregnancy, adoption, foster care, gestational carriers, and raising children who are living with special needs.

TIFFANY BARROW
Children’s names: Elijah, 12; Brinkley, 9; and Lola and Levi, 3

Growing up, Tiffany Barrow dreamed of having a baby boy and girl. While her first pregnancy ended in miscarriage, little did she know that she would be blessed with four more little ones over the years. With a set of twins among her crew, one of which was diagnosed with Down syndrome postpartum, Tiffany uses her voice to tell her family’s story in an effort to be a resource to families who may receive similar diagnoses.  

How did you feel when you found out you were pregnant?
TIFFANY:
Oh, with every pregnancy, I was excited because the Lord was entrusting us with this responsibility of raising a human being. I was a little bit nervous because there’s no instruction manual. You rely on your training and how you were raised. With the second pregnancy, I wasn’t as nervous and I was feeling more confident, but I think with every pregnancy, there’s always in the back of your mind, “Lord, please help me do this.” 

How did you react when you found out you were having twins?
TIFFANY:
At first, we were like, “Relax, it’s a third baby,” and then we go to the doctor and the tech is like, “Ma’am, it’s two,” and it was quite the surprise. After the twins were born, the pediatrician suspected that Lola had Down syndrome. We weren’t as nervous with the pregnancy, but when we got that post-birth diagnosis, I was like, “Okay, God, I know I’m not supposed to worry, I know I’m not supposed to fear,” but you want to talk about uncharted waters and the unknown? That’s what this was.

And at that time, you had accepted a new role at work? 
TIFFANY:
I work for a pharmaceutical company based out of Indiana, and I had already accepted a new role, so here I am getting ready to move. I was nervous, and not only were we planning to relocate, but we had sold our house and were living with my mom and stepdad in a three bedroom house. Lola stayed in the NICU until we got the diagnosis back, which was three weeks later. I thought that was a little God wink because Down syndrome is three copies of the 21st chromosome, so the fact that she spent three weeks, which is 21 days, I knew God was in control of it all. 

What were your emotions like?
TIFFANY:
It was difficult because I had a typical baby boy at home and I had a child with Down syndrome in the NICU, and then here I am trying to breastfeed two babies. It was stressful, but together, we made it. I didn’t want to tell [my new boss] about my daughter’s diagnosis because I didn’t want them to think that I would use her diagnosis as a reason not to work hard or show up every day. I just wasn’t going to tell anybody, because what could they do? I didn’t know what type of help I would need. You can’t cure Down syndrome, can’t take the extra copy away. I didn’t know what I needed, but little did I know that by sharing my story, that would connect me with other people and guide me in this journey.

What’s the greatest thing about being a mom?
TIFFANY:
As stressful as it is, as tiring as it is, it has to be the best job ever. It’s the ultimate privilege to raise the next generation and pass on family lessons and values.

What advice would you give to other moms?
TIFFANY:
Prioritize you, let go of perfection, and pray.

How would you describe the journey to becoming a mom?
TIFFANY:
The journey depends on the mom. I’m a planner; I like to prepare. I was researching things, I was talking to other moms, but I had my vision of what I thought motherhood would be. For me, I feel like experience is the best teacher, so I learned from those who’ve been through this experience.

TIFFANY BATES-GEORGE
Children’s names:
Annah, 24, and Leiam, 7 

Fostering was always a part of the plan later on down the road for Tiffany Bates-George and her husband, David. However, after having eight miscarriages and receiving a diagnosis of an autoimmune disease, becoming foster parents came sooner than the couple originally planned. Together, Tiffany and her husband have raised David’s sister, Annah, and are now the happy parents of an adorable seven-year-old boy named Leiam.

Tell me about the fostering process for your family.
TIFFANY:
My cousin went through the process, so we asked her a lot of questions, but basically, we went to DCFS and just started the process. One thing about me is that when my mind is made up to do something, I just jump in and do it. There’s no second guessing, you just do it. 

What was the hardest part of the process for you?
TIFFANY:
The hardest part is the waiting because you have to go through eight weeks of classes, and then, the anticipation of waiting for your first child to come into your home, because you don’t know the child who’s coming into your home. You don’t know If you’re going to be good enough for the child. You don’t know if you’re going to be able to provide what that child needs in your home, and you never know what that child is going to need.

How did you overcome those feelings?
TIFFANY:
What I learned is that as long as you’re available, that’s all they need is somebody who is willing to be available in their lives, and then everything else is second nature. Everything else comes with time. 

How was your first meeting with Leiam? 
TIFFANY:
Leiam’s situation was foster to adopt. His DCFS worker called ours because they knew that we were looking to adopt, and they said, “We have this child; would your foster family be interested in meeting our child?” We said we would love to meet him, and the moment my eyes met him, I instantly knew that he was meant to be in our house. Before he left that day, he asked, “Can I just stay?” I looked at my husband and he looked at me and we were like, “Yes, yes you can.” 

What has been the most joyful part of the whole experience? 
TIFFANY:
The most joyful part of the experience was hearing him call me mom for the first time. I’ve always wanted to hear that, and the second day that he was with us, he asked if he could call me mom. We were in line in the store and he goes, “Hey, Mom, can I get this?” And I was like, “You can get everything! You can have the whole store!” It meant a lot. 

What advice would you give to other moms?
TIFFANY:
It’s hard and it hurts, and it’s meant to hurt. If it hurts, it means you’re doing it right because it means you love. Don’t let the hurt stop you; continue to love because your love may be the only love these babies ever receive from anybody. 

How would you describe the journey to becoming a mom? 
TIFFANY:
It’s been the hardest road I’ve ever been on. It’s super emotional. Infertility sucks. My husband and I can’t have kids on our own, but adoption and fostering is not second best. I want to get that out there. It’s not second rate. For us, we did try infertility treatments, but we were always going to foster. It wasn’t, “if this doesn’t work, then we’ll see if we can.” It was always going to be what we decided to do later down the road, infertility just sped it up for us. 

Would you consider fostering again?
TIFFANY:
Once Leiam gets older, we will probably start the process again just because there are so many children out there who need families, even teenagers. At age 18, they age out of the system and it’s so sad. They have nowhere to go. They just need families. They just want families. 

Is motherhood everything you imagined it to be?
TIFFANY:
And more...a lot more. There are days when I want to pull my hair out and I think I can’t do this, and then there are days when he just comes up and gets in my lap and says, “Mommy, I missed you today. Can I cuddle with you?” and I just want to bawl my eyes out and I think, how did I ever get so lucky? And then I have days when Annah calls me and she’s like, “I just need to talk to my mom.” Being a mother, even though it didn’t happen the way I wanted it to happen, it happened the way it was meant to happen, and I feel completely fulfilled.

MEAGAN HICKS
Child’s name:
Collins, 15 months old

Meagan Hicks was born with a condition called coarctation of aorta, causing her to not only have surgery at birth but also be monitored by a cardiologist all of her life. When she reached her 20s, she began experiencing issues–including pulmonary hypertension (when the arteries of the lungs have high blood pressure in them)–that she wasn’t prepared for, resulting in her cardiologist telling her, “Whatever you do, don’t get pregnant.” At the time, starting a family wasn’t on her radar. Meagan and her now husband were only dating at the time and she was focusing on her career (she’s coincidentally a cardiac nurse). However, the couple hoped to in the future. 

How did you feel when the cardiologist told you to not get pregnant?
MEAGAN:
I kind of blew it off like, “Oh, they just mean right now. We’re going to get whatever’s going on under control.” So a few years went by, and I started to realize that this is not something that is curable. It’s manageable, but not curable, and through a lot of research on my own and talking to cardiologists that I know and my gestational carrier, I realized that this was something that was going to prevent me from having my own pregnancy.

What led you to deciding to use a gestational carrier? 
MEAGAN:
I met with specialists after our wedding because we were ready to have kids and I needed to know if it was possible. I did a cardiac workup and was referred to two obstetricians. One of them said no. The other was like, “Look, I know you’re a nurse, and if I know you, you need something that’s going to scare you out of getting pregnant or you’re still going to try.” He was 100 percent right, so he called me later on and said, “If you were to get pregnant, you probably wouldn’t be able to carry the baby to term, you would have to be induced which puts a higher risk on the baby, and you have about a 70 percent chance of having some major cardiac event during your pregnancy or after that could put you on the transplant list or kill you.” Hearing that opened my eyes to this really not being an option for us. We needed to figure out something else.

During my workup process, I had already reached out to Alicia, my gestational carrier and friend who is also a nurse, and asked her to ask around and see what they thought, and she said she couldn’t find a doctor who would be okay with me having a baby. Alicia had called me one day before we were told completely no, and she said she would carry a baby for me. Her husband was totally okay with it, but I was still not ready to accept it. As soon as the doctors told us no, my husband said, we have to call Alicia and Matt (her husband) and invite them over so we can talk about this, and that’s what we did. You could tell they were so invested in it, and that really touched me. Then, we started the process with Fertility Answers to do our IVF and get our embryos made. 

What was the process like for you?
MEAGAN:
It was almost two-and-a-half years before we actually got pregnant. Our first IVF cycle, we only got one good embryo out of that and the transfer was unsuccessful. We had to do another round of IVF to make more embryos, and that time, we had three. We used one, and that was the embryo that created Collins. We have two more that are still frozen, that we may use in the future if we ever have the opportunity to do this again.

Throughout all of this, how did you feel?
MEAGAN:
I went through a pretty dark place for a few months where I couldn’t let go of the fact that I was never going to be able to be pregnant, and sometimes I still want that. Every woman who wants to be a mother wants to experience pregnancy also, at least I feel like most of them do. I wanted that experience so bad, and I would get emotional through Alicia’s pregnancy because I wasn’t the one feeling the changes and feeling her grow inside my body. That was really hard, but I have Collins now. I’m so thankful that I do, and those 40 weeks that she spent inside someone else’s body did not change the way I love her, or the fact that I’m her mom, or the connection between us.

What was the hardest part of the experience?
MEAGAN:
I think the scariest part for me was worrying about Alicia and her health and worrying that something was going to happen to her. I was irrationally afraid that something terrible was going to happen to her and it would be because she did something for me.

What advice would you give to someone else going through this process?
MEAGAN:
Trust God, and trust your instincts. If this is really what you want, if it’s the only way that you can become a mother, don’t ever give up on that dream because it is very attainable.

How would you describe the journey to becoming a mother?
MEAGAN:
The scariest and most exciting thing you’ll ever do in your life. It’s the most life changing experience. No matter how a mom goes about becoming a mother–whether they adopt, [use] a surrogate, a gestational carrier, or have their own organic, natural birth–everything is perfect in its own way.

Was motherhood everything you imagined it to be?
MEAGAN:
And 100 times more, every single day, even the hard days.

TIFFANY BOURGEOIS, MD
Children’s names:
Brian, 7; Micah, 5; and Peyton, 1 month

The journey to becoming a mom didn’t begin for Dr. Tiffany Bourgeois, an anesthesiologist in Baton Rouge, until after she completed her residency and her fellowship. Since then, Dr. Tiffany and her husband have been blessed with three little ones, one of which they adopted in order to grow their family even more after medical issues arose. Now, Dr. Tiffany shares her story in hopes to provide insight to more moms going through the adoption process.

Was adoption something you always wanted to do?
TIFFANY:
My husband and I always talked about adopting. I started having kids in my 30s, and so when we first tried, it took us almost two years to conceive. During that time, adoption really came up. I had my first one after two years and a little bit of help, and then I had my second one, and then there was a pause. I really wanted a girl, but I was aging and for medical reasons, I was like, we should just go ahead and extend our family through adoption, and that’s when we reached out to the St. Elizabeth Foundation. 

How was the process for you and your family?
TIFFANY:
We asked our boys and included them in the conversation about adopting, and my oldest was like, “We want a girl!” They were completely on board, and so, when we reached out to the adoption agency, they walked us through everything. For us, it was a short process because we first reached out to them in October of 2020 and by March, they presented us for our first presentation, and the birth mom picked us. That was a blessing to us.

How did you feel during the process?
TIFFANY:
You have the same emotions that you feel when you have a biological child. You want them to be healthy, you don’t want them to have complications, and you wonder what they’re going to look like. We got a phone call about three to four weeks before Peyton was due, letting us know there was a birth mom who they thought we would match well with. They presented our book, and probably about four days later, we got a call that she picked us, which was another round of emotions.

How was your first meeting with Peyton?
TIFFANY:
The birth mom requested that I be there for the delivery, so my husband and I went to the hospital for her induction. I was there to watch her enter the world, I cut the cord, and they passed her over to me and we did skin-to-skin in a separate room, just like what I did with my boys. It was just this outpouring of love. I made a promise to her that I would always love her and protect her and nurture her. It’s almost something that you can’t put into words, how excited you are when a child is born into the world.

What was the hardest part of the process?
TIFFANY:
The unknown. You don’t know if you’re going to be picked, you don’t know when you’re going to be picked, and then, for me, it was wondering if the birth mom would change her mind. They have 72 hours to change their mind in the hospital, so that leaves you a little bit on edge. 

What was the most joyful part of the whole experience?
TIFFANY:
I think the most joyful part for me was watching her enter the world and coming home. Everything just felt complete and everybody was able to share in it. 

What advice would you give to other moms who are choosing adoption?
TIFFANY:
Expect the unexpected, but don’t be afraid to ask questions. Talk to other adoptive parents and others who have gone down that road, who can give you advice.

How would you describe the journey to becoming a mom?
TIFFANY:
I am still on that journey of becoming a mom. You can read all the books, and you can listen to your mom, your grandmother and all these different folks who have their take on raising kids, but you’re just going to learn along the way. Becoming a mom was one of the greatest things in my life, but I am still figuring all this out. Eventually, I’m going to get it, but it’s a process.

Was motherhood everything you imagined it to be?
TIFFANY:
The happiness that I have from being a mom is actually more than I dreamed of when I was in my 20s. I am very blessed to be a mom and to be able to love and be loved back and share all these moments with them. I am just so thankful that God blessed me with my kids. Whether biological or adoptive, love is love.

JAMIE POWELL
Children’s names:
Tommy, 2, and Charlie, 1

Nine years after their wedding day, Jamie Powell and her husband, Larry, had dreams of starting their own family. Previously, Larry had been told that due to his history of cancer, there was a 99.9 percent chance that he would never father children. However, after new research of sperm regeneration informed them that there could be a chance, Jamie reached out to her gynecologist before being referred to a fertility doctor to weigh the options. It was determined that the best chance of the couple starting a family would be through IVF treatments, and despite her intense fear of needles, Jamie powered through, surprising her family and her friends, and even herself. Her delivery day was eventful to say the very least, causing Jamie and her husband to alter their birth plan in ways they weren’t expecting.

Tell me about the IVF process for you.
JAMIE:
In my mind, I’m thinking, this is all Larry, he has to do the treatments. As we start going over all of the treatments, I’m so nervous because I realized I was the one doing all the treatments, and I had this major needle phobia. However, I was like, people do this all the time. Surely I’m not the only one who is scared of needles and has gone through IVF. It was definitely an emotional roller coaster, though. I never really asked them how long it was going to be because everything is so fast now. You expect immediate results, but it wasn’t that way. 

After the whole process, how did you feel when you finally got that phone call that you were pregnant?
JAMIE:
I remember my husband met me at this restaurant and we were both sitting in the car just waiting, and it was almost like dead silence. We were just so anxious. It was the longest wait ever, but we finally got the phone call and our nurse, Jackie, said, “You’re pregnant!” I remember we both just started crying. We were just overwhelmed and so excited. We couldn’t believe it.

How was your pregnancy?
JAMIE:
It was a pretty good pregnancy. Of course, I had slight nausea and all that stuff. I always called it my evening sickness. There was no morning sickness, and then us girls in the family just swell during pregnancy at the end. I had no ankles, I was just swollen constantly. 

How was the delivery?
JAMIE:
I was due on June 30, and it was June 11. That morning, I woke up and I did not feel good. During pregnancy, I had popped a rib out of place, so I was in pain, too. I decided to take my blood pressure and it was crazy high. Throughout my entire pregnancy, I had no problems, and I was like, maybe it’s because I’m in pain. So, I sat down and I calmed myself down and I took it again and it was higher. I called my nurse and she said I needed to come in. I left work and headed straight there, but I never thought I was going to be admitted. The next day, the doctor told me he could send me home on bed rest and I would have to call in numbers every day or he could start inducing me. I just thought, I have had this wonderful pregnancy, and then all of a sudden, my birth plan was changing. I chose to start inducing, but then I’d have contractions, but no dilation, and my blood pressure stayed high and I made zero progress. We then decided to do a c-section. 

How did you feel?
JAMIE:
I just remember I was super nervous because my birth plan had been completely crushed, but it happened so quick. I remember as they were taking him out, the doctor said, “Jamie, he’s huge!” and here comes my little Tommy butterball with a head full of hair. He was 8 pounds, 15 ounces, which I then found out later, was the exact weight that I was when I was born. After delivery, they always do skin-to-skin time, but because of my preeclampsia, they sent me to another recovery room with Tommy. My family was waiting to see him, and I had no idea how much time had passed by, and then that’s when they told me that I wasn’t clotting right and my blood pressure had spiked more. It was nine o’clock that evening before I got into my room, but after everything, we decided to do it again. I did another c-section with my daughter, but I did lose my uterus that time.

What was the hardest part of the process?
JAMIE:
The hardest part is your emotions, especially the first go around. You’re constantly up and down. You’re on this high because you’re so excited to be able to afford IVF, but then you’re just so nervous about hearing that it didn’t work. I wanted to surprise my family, but not having your family support along the way is incredibly hard. I needed it to be private because I just couldn’t let anybody down, but not being able to call my mom and tell her when I was down was hard. I just never knew I would have that much of an emotional roller coaster. 

How would you describe the journey to becoming a mother?
JAMIE:
I would almost describe it like a long road trip, but I felt like when Tommy finally was born that I had completed a marathon, and I was like, “I did it.” I had setbacks, from delivery and stuff, but all of that, you just put all that pain behind you because you just have your baby; you’re just so happy. 

What advice would you give another mom who may be going through this process? 
JAMIE:
Just be patient. You’re going to feel bloated. Don’t worry about the injections. Love your body anyway. You’re about to carry your beautiful babies. And by the way, you don’t need just one set of maternity clothes. Nobody lets you know that you need first, second and third trimester clothes.

Was motherhood everything you imagined it would be?
JAMIE:
Yes and no. I thought I was going to be this super strict mom. I was always a very clean, tidy person, and I thought my kids were going to be like that, but then you look into their little puppy dog eyes and you’re like, “They just want to play. They’re just kids; let them bring the toys out.” Now I’m like, I don’t care as long as my kids are happy and having fun. They’re only little once, and I want to see them laugh and have fun. 

 

Thank you to our moms–Tiffany Barrow, Tiffany Bates-George, Meagan Hicks, Dr. Tiffany Bourgeois, and Jamie Powell–for being so open and willing to share their personal stories of how the journey to motherhood can look different for everyone.

Also, we’d like to send a major thank you to St. Elizabeth Foundation and Fertility Answers for helping us to connect with some of these amazing moms who are featured. To learn more about St. Elizabeth Foundation, visit stelizabethfoundation.org, or call (225) 769-8888. To learn more about Fertility Answers, visit fertilityanswers.com, or call (888) 467-2229.

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22 Apr 2021


By Amanda Miller

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