Miracle Of Science

Lydia Ann and Timothy Ronald Ridgeway were born on October 31 2022

What makes this a miracle is that these twins were gestated from embryos frozen more than 30 years ago. This achieves a new record for the longest-frozen embryos ever to result in a successful live birth. The LINK>National Embryo Donation Center (NEDC) is a private faith-based organization that has helped birth more than 1,200 infants from donated embryos. Their previous record-holder, Molly Gibson, was born in 2020 from an embryo that had been frozen for nearly 27 years. An estimated 1,000,000 unused human embryos are currently stored in the US.

The twin embryos had been created for an anonymous married couple using IVF. The man was in his 50s and reportedly relied on a 34-year-old egg donor. They were kept in storage at a fertility lab on the US west coast until 2007 when the couple donated them to the NEDC in Knoxville, Tennessee for another couple to use.

Issues related to being donor conceived persons continue to evolve. An egg donor writes – Just a few years ago, I would have been like every other uninformed person praising this story as a scientific miracle and thinking how wonderful this outcome was for the recipient family.

She continues – Knowing what I do now, this story is heartbreaking. Add the age of the genetic parents at embryo creation to 30 years of freezing. Then add 18 years until the donor conceived twins reach the age of majority when information about their origins could become available to them – and given the anonymous aspect of their embryo’s creation that is a big IF.

Even so, any possibility of these donor conceived persons ever having contact their genetic parents has been rendered impossible. There may be one or more genetic siblings living who could be open to contact. The reality is that there will be a 30-year age difference between these twins and any genetic siblings. Given the anonymous part, any genetic siblings may not know anything more about their own origins that they could pass on the knowledge of.

With advances in technology, it really is necessary to see the complications with more clarity than simple amazement. Although the ability to know their genetic mother and half-siblings remains open to my two donor conceived sons, it was a bit of a shock to my own sensibilities when I turned 60 and realized that my youngest son will only be 20 years old when I turn 70. However, our sons have had us in their lives 24/7 and we’ve shared many traveling and experiential adventures. I will never regret having them and I hope they never regret we did. They are creative and highly intelligent. Although we are unlikely to be in their lives as long as our own parents were in ours, I have every confidence that they have brilliant and interesting lives ahead of them.

Legal Conflicts

Straight off, I will say that I am NOT in favor of gestational surrogacy. My primary objection is separating babies from the mother who’s womb they developed in. There is definitely an in-utero bond. I probably do know more families with donor conceived children than most ordinary citizens do. I know of situations where a surrogate was used. One in which the intended mother was actively undergoing chemotherapy at the time her twins were born and who did die when the twins were about 2 years old. They are being raised by their genetic father who donated the sperm in that assisted reproduction effort. I also know of a couple of women who simply didn’t want to wait any longer to have children with no husband in sight. They used both egg and sperm donations. BOTH carried their own children and I know them as awesome moms. These children are all 18 years old now including my youngest son.

The situation that inspired today’s blog regards couples from other countries entering into surrogacy contracts with women here in the United States. In this particular case, the intended parents have refused to come and get their twins for over a year now (they were born in February 2021). The surrogate and her husband are on the birth certificates as the parents but lack any legal custody because the surrogacy contract supersedes any hospital created birth certificate. The woman has both TikTok and Instagram accounts but both are private (possibly due to the legal complications) but I really don’t need to see them myself. The Instagram has a cute profile photo of the twins.

The United States is a destination country for couples who find they have to undergo surrogacy abroad due to the laws in their own country. Surrogacy is allowed in the United States for international patients by law. Not all of the states here are equally “friendly.” The website on LINK> International Surrogacy notes “surrogacy arrangements are legal in the following territories: Nevada, California, Texas, Arkansas, Illinois, Virginia, Florida, New Hampshire, Delaware, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Utah.” The states that ban surrogacy arrangements include Arizona, Michigan, New York, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, and Nebraska cautioning that surrogacy is even considered a criminal offence in some of them.

In the USA, a birth order is the legal document used to assign parentage to a child. These can be either a post- or pre-birth order that establishes the parental rights for the intended parents. This is key when undergoing surrogacy in the USA. Pre-birth orders can be started in the fourth month of pregnancy, whereas post-birth orders are granted on day 3 or 5 following the birth. This choice is very pricey for the intended parents – $95,000 to $290,000 – due in part to the fact that the US healthcare system is run by private businesses.

So back to our “trapped” surrogate and her husband. In order to have legal custody, they will have to go to court. They would have to sue for custody because simply being on the birth certificate doesn’t circumvent the surrogate contract in place. A complication of course is that they are not genetically related to these children and had no intention of parenting them to begin with. This even though they have been effectively raising these two babies for about a year. The intended parents have “broken” their contract but that doesn’t simply negate it legally.

Being a legal parent on a birth certificate does not always mean you have legal custody of your children – if there is another entity involved (like surrogacy, Div of Human Services/Child Protective Services with foster care, adoption until it is finalized, guardianship). It really depends on the country and this is the reason so many contracts, legal fees and lawyers are involved with situations such as surrogacy. Every situation is extremely unique.

Giving Up The Ghost

Ghost Child photograph by Shirley Sirois

When I thought the book I’d write would be a memoir, I read Giving Up The Ghost by Hilary Mantel. I am reminded of that with her recent passing. It is the only book by her, and maybe not the best known, that I have read by that author. She was only a couple of years older than I am now.

The relevancy of acknowledging her passing now is that Mantel suffered from endometriosis, which went long undiagnosed and instead, her infertility was assumed to be caused by her suffering a bad case of female overambition. Infertility often leads to adoption. Mantel did not adopt but she did remain childless and channeled her creativity into 17 books including the one I read as well as Every Day Is Mother’s Day, Vacant Possession and Beyond Black. Her ghost was from an encounter in her youth as described in that book which I read.

In a 2003 New York Times review of the Mantel book I read – LINK> Unsuited to Everything By Inga Clendinnen – it is noted – One ordinary morning when she was seven, she encountered a terrifying something ”as high as a child of 2” manifesting in the rough grass beyond the new house. ”Within the space of a thought” it was inside her, ”a body inside my body,” and ”grace . . . runs out of my body like liquid from a corpse.” Mantel acknowledges that after this event, she was always more or less ”ashamed and afraid.”

The ghosts of the never born, those babies lost in miscarriage, or those that die in infancy often haunt women who have those experiences. It can even become an inherited trauma as in the story LINK> Mothering Ghost Babies by Kao Kalia Yang. Her grandmother lost a daughter at 7 months of age to a sudden unexplained death. Her own mother was silent in the wake of all the ghost babies she delivered into the world. Her mother had six miscarriages, all little boys, all formed enough so the adults could see that they were baby boys, but born far too small, and sometimes too blue, and other times too wet with blood to survive.

Similarly, Yang’s baby died inside of her at nineteen weeks. My own daughter lost her first conceived baby that way. Like my daughter, she had to deliver a dead baby into the world. She notes that she thought back to her grandmother’s story, and that she was her mother’s love of the babies whose share of love she had taken fully and gratefully. She says, My baby was more light than substance. He was silent, but he sang a song full of sorrow.

Sometimes, a woman must give up the “ghost” of the child she will never have. I do not believe adoption is the way to attempt to replace the child a woman would have had. It often fails the “replacement” child because they are not the child the woman really wanted. And the adoptee fails the adoptive mother’s expectations of what her child should be. Women like Hilary Mantel who simply accept remaining childless (even if it is not what they wanted) should be appreciated compassionately.

Passing On One’s Genes

I distinctly remember when my husband first told me he wanted children. I came by today’s blog in a round-about way looking at infertility and narcissism (and see one of my own blogs showing up in a google search, oh my). Yet then I found this – I believe there is no good reason – other than vanity and narcissism – that an infertile couple should opt for IVF over adoption. Please CMV. (Change my view) by LINK> Javier Mosquera at Penn State.

This got my attention as both the choice to pursue IVF and issues of adoption matter to me. We briefly considered adoption and quickly ruled it out. Over 20 years ago, I didn’t know everything about adoption that I know today. I am very glad we didn’t go that route. But for the grace . . .

So Javier writes, “Today’s topic for my Passion Blog post comes from the subreddit LINK>‘changemyview.’ The complete prompt can be found there” at the link. Javier notes that “I will be following the subreddit’s Submission Rules for comments, to keep order and structure to my posts.”

[1] We live in a world where there are orphans in need of adoption to loving homes, and where loving couples cannot naturally conceive.

While this is true, it makes the assumption that the couples unable to conceive would provide the same love and support that parents of a functional home (whose first choice was adoption) could provide. Why risk letting a couple who obviously wanted their own offspring in the first place (and pursued adoption only after being unable to conceive) adopt a child who already may feel unwanted, only to continue the cycle? Such a child may grow up to harbor serious emotional problems, and live an unhappy life. Adoption should be left for those who genuinely want it, rather than for those who feel discouraged due to infertility.

[2] IVF is insanely expensive. And why force nature’s hand when there are simpler alternatives? And from what I understand, it’s not a 100% guarantee it would even work on top of that.

[3] Studies have shown that couples love their adopted child the same as their own “flesh-and-blood” child. Adoption even exists in the animal kingdom among some species. So I don’t buy the “but some people want to have ‘their own flesh and blood child’” argument, because all I hear from that is that you’re incredibly vain.

Here I will challenge two of your points, and while l concede with you, you must remember that it is our biological desire to put our DNA back into the gene pool. This is a product of evolution, with the purpose of keeping the human population alive. People want their own offspring, and furthermore, by doing so it is the best guarantee of leaving a contribution to mankind. Releasing one’s genes back into the playing field directly affects future generations. Indirectly, you may have gifted the world with the next Thomas Jefferson or Socrates. Your argument regarding expense would be valid for low-income families, but if one has the money, I don’t see any problem with someone attempting to pursue fostering children that has their own genetic code.

My young sons, maybe about the same age as Javier, are fans of Reddit (I don’t go there). My oldest who is now 21 claims he is never going to have children. I’m certainly not going to argue that with him. Though recently we did point out that my husband was 35 before he decided that he did want to have children after all. This is because my son is encouraging us to get rid of all this “kid stuff” that we have been saving for the day when our sons have children of their own. This son has always known from a very young age, his own mind, and has not been wrong any time he as asserted anything so important. I have to take him at his word.

All In One

Mom via adoption, IVF and surrogacy

Infertility is a difficult path for any woman. For many of us the expectation is that we will have children at some point in our life. The Atluri family now has 7 children but it took every trick in the assisted reproduction toolkit to get them to this outcome. Josephine is one of the 1 in 8 women requiring fertility assistance, and also one of the 1 in 4 women who have experienced a miscarriage or pregnancy loss.

My blog today comes thanks to an article in LINK> The Huffington Post by Josephine Atluri. The family also had decisions to make regarding their frozen embryos, a situation in light of the uncertainties brought about by the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v Wade and the rush to close and lock doors in many Republican controlled states. Not that this was a factor in the Atluri family’s calculations but it has become a factor for many couples who have used IVF now.

The first child added to this family came by way of adoption. During the 3 years they attempted to create their family with assisted reproduction through IVF, she experienced chemical pregnancies, miscarriages and flat-out failed cycles. After losing a twin pregnancy at 17 weeks, she realized that she could no longer handle the physical, mental and emotional toll of another IVF cycle. Thus, half a year after the loss of their twins, they pivoted in their approach to parenthood and pursued an international adoption. They adopted a 10-month-old boy who became the physical manifestation of their hopes to have a family.

After a year of joyful parenthood, their sense of optimism had renewed enough to try one more IVF cycle at a new fertility center in Denver. Thankfully, they succeeded, becoming pregnant with twins again and this time the pregnancy went to term. They became the parents of healthy boy and girl twins.

The happy ending did not erase the pain experienced from infertility, miscarriage or pregnancy loss for Josephine. This eventually manifested in a fight to control her body as untreated mental health issues snowballed into bulimia. During the healing process, she discovered that she felt the need to “control” her body through her eating disorder partly because it was uncooperative reproductively. 

Every year after the birth of their twins, they received a letter from the storage facility that safeguarded the many embryos from their last IVF procedure. For four years they decided to keep them frozen. On the fifth year, her husband said, “I think it’s time we give these embryos a chance.” After a drawn-out moment, she expressed another truth she had confronted during her healing journey. “I can’t. I just can’t do it again. I’m so sorry.”

It was at this point they decided to pursue surrogacy. She says, “At every step of the process, an unthinkable level of trust, vulnerability, collaboration and communication was required.” Without complications, their surrogate gave birth to their twin boys. Even so, they continued to receive annual reminders regarding their remaining frozen embryos, They tried surrogacy again and two decades after their first IVF cycle, they are now the proud parents of seven children: a 15-year-old son, 13-year-old boy/girl twins, 6-year-old twin boys and 1-year-old twin girls.

She thinks of herself as a warrior in a 17 year long war against infertility. Thanks to the support of online community, she was able to find strength in her story and voice. She speaks up about women’s physical and mental health issues in an effort to destigmatize and normalize these important conversations. She has become a fertility, pregnancy and parenting mindfulness coach.

So Many Siblings

There is a difference between sperm and egg donations which are utilized in assisted reproduction to enable a couple to become parents. A man donating sperm can father a lot of genetically related children – which is now becoming apparent to many of the maturing individuals who owe their lives to that process. It is a lot more complicated and involved for the woman who donates her eggs. Generally, she is never going to be involved in the number of offspring that a man donating sperms can theoretically create.

Donor conceived persons do have some concerns in common with adoptees as it relates to their medical family history and cultural genetics and the unknowns that such conceptions entail. Therefore, my blog today is inspired by a story in The Guardian about Chrysta Bilton. Her father was a prolific sperm donor. In her 20s, she discovered that she had dozens, and most likely hundreds, of biological siblings growing up all over the US. That the man she knew only as her dad, the one who struggled with homelessness and drug addiction, was secretly one of the most prolific sperm donors at the California Cryobank.

Chrysta’s story is complex, worth the time to read it, if it interests you. I was a young adult in the 80s and settled down into the married life that is mine late in that decade but I have some sense of what it was like. My life does not resemble Chrysta’s in the least really but there were the unconventional choices that I made as well – to leave my daughter with her paternal grandmother (I was already divorced from her dad) while I tried out driving an 18-wheel truck, which I found I could do. That led to taking off to live without much of a safety net in the marijuana growing region of Humboldt county. We had some bags of dried beans and the guys (I was the only woman and did the cooking and cleaning up afterwards) shot critters for us to eat. We also got some Salmon from the local indigenous people. Those were my wild days.

I do have some understanding of the issues related to donor conception. With the advent of inexpensive DHA testing, something that seemed like it could be kept private within the closest family, is not something that can or should be kept private today. I’m grateful my husband and I have always been open, honest and transparent about our own choices regarding how we became the parents of our two sons.

Chrysta ends her story with this contemplation – What is family? What does it mean to be in someone’s family? What responsibilities do you have to those people? Meeting her 35 new siblings, she realized “something shared between all of us is that we all had a mother who desperately wanted us to exist.” That is a truth, children born by assisted reproduction are not accidents. They were intended. I believe that is an important factor.

In Britain today, donor children born since 2005 have the right to find out the identity of their biological parents when they reach 18. This “removal of anonymity” law came about after studies found that adopted and donor-conceived children benefited emotionally from knowing who their biological parents were, regardless of whether or not they had any contact with them.

As of late 2021, in the US, it is still technically possible to have anonymous donations. There is a Right to Know movement that is seeking to unseal closed adoption records but that has only been accomplished in about half of these 50 United States jurisdictions.

Chrysta’s book about her experiences is titled – A Normal Family. Her book is available in the US at all the usual booksellers.

A Strong Urge to Parent and Infertility

Like I believe all Coen Brothers films, this one is quirky. Holly Hunter is excellent as a fierce mom. Her infertility coincides with the birth of quintuplets to a local business owner. Like many infertile women, the fact that some people have many children (including her husband Hi’s supervisor at work) while some are denied the joys of parenthood seems very unfair. She concludes that the Arizona (their last name and the state where this takes place) family has more children than they can handle (due to fertility drugs) and she hatches a plan to take one of the quintuplets as the child they want in their life.

Not only is Hunter’s character, Ed, infertile but they cannot adopt due to Hi’s criminal record. And actually, that is a bright spot as far as anyone who would like to see less adoptions is concerned. The kidnapping scene is hilarious as the babies go every which way and Hi tries to corral them, sometimes carrying one under each arm. Quite a few of the characters are exaggerated and not meant to be taken seriously – from Hi, to 2 escaped former convicts who force their way into the couple’s lives to the crazed bounty hunter like something from a Mad Max or similar movie. Also funny also is his supervisor’s large and unruly family who visit the couple causing chaos everywhere.

In the end, Hunter’s character only wants to make things right again and returns the baby as well as turning down the $25,000 reward. But I did fall in love with the fierceness of her mothering instinct to protect the baby against all threats. That was beautiful to behold.

Holly Hunter w Nathan Jr

Confusing An Embryo With a Live Baby

I think a lot of the emotion on the pro-Life side of things comes from misinterpreting an embryo by thinking of a live baby. Our frozens from the medical assistance we received to conceive my oldest son didn’t take when we tried for a second child. We had frozens leftover from our second attempt that did succeed but we knew that we had taken an unacceptable risk with my pregnancy and our son’s well being with that effort (if we had known, we would not have even tried but I am forever grateful that we did). Not wanting to simply dispose of these frozens, we did donate them to a couple trying to conceive. After initially receiving the good news of a pregnancy, that hoped for event subsequently failed to progress. I am still glad that we chose to give these frozens a chance.

For many years, it seemed that we had been lucky with our youngest son as there were no unfortunate effects. Then, around late 2014, I realized that he couldn’t see at a distance very well. An eye exam resulted in glasses. Due to the pandemic, follow-ups with his eye doctor were delayed. In that intervening time, his eyesight worsened significantly and an option that might have been available as a corrective could not be employed due to his now age of 17 (he actually was glad and I was glad for him – he didn’t want to do that one). Now, he does eye drops before sleep to hopefully hold the line on any more regression of his eyesight worsening.

Though my husband had tended to blame my son’s love of computer games and Discord relationships, in researching the issue, that potential cause has never been proven. What has turned up in studies is a statistical effect from gestational diabetes. Due to my age at his conception, a condition that I had only experienced late in the previous pregnancy, emerged as early (or even earlier, unknown to us) as 6 weeks gestation. It took insulin and Metformin both to control it and I still ended up on bedrest for 6 weeks as he was so large my womb could hardly tolerate it and threatened to deliver early.

I have admitted to my son my probable complicity in his condition. He has been very kind about it, acknowledging that I did not intentionally damage him. I do feel responsibility regardless. I share my story because although medical science has made it possible for women of an advanced age to conceive and successfully carry a pregnancy, better to have your children when you are still young enough to do so without extraordinary measures. My son has always felt like my reward – my peacemaker (a story on CD told in song by Joanne Shenandoah that I listened to in the first days of his conception). He is the sweetest son and I am glad he is in our lives.

Snowflake Babies

These IVF Embryos do look like Snowflakes

Seems there is always a trendy term or a label given to everything these days – GenZ – for example. Today I learned one I had not heard before but I have had personal experience with.

Embryo donation seems to be in vogue these days with couples experiencing infertility issues. In the religious community sphere embryo donation seems to have become yet another pro-Life issue. Elle Magazine published a feature, The Leftover Embryo Crisis, in 2017 that indicated there were an estimated 1 million frozen embryos in storage at that time.

Both of my sons were conceived via IVF. The youngest was born in 2004 and so, when 2005 rolled around, knowing we had no intention of attempting another pregnancy at my advanced age (and honestly there are very real risks in giving birth at age 50 that I am glad we didn’t understand at the time but I knew then about the potential risks and would not have done that to yet another child at that point – I will say we are all grateful that my youngest son is in our lives) we were faced with paying another year’s storage fee on the leftover frozen embryos.

A woman in my mom’s group told me about Miracles Waiting. We felt we needed to at least give these potential children an opportunity to be born. We just couldn’t simply destroy the embryos. The response to our listing was overwhelming. Quickly we were matched. The couple put us and our original egg donor through a LOT of hoops but eventually everything was agreed to, including the recipients agreeing to share in some of our original expenses directly connected to the creation of their embryos. There was also communication about their hoped for child eventually having a relationship with our two sons.

The woman did conceive and we were all very happy for her chance to experience pregnancy, give birth and maybe even breastfeeding her baby (which I did for over a year with both of our sons). It had been her lifelong dream to have those experiences. Sadly, it did not end well. She had transferred all 3 of our only leftover embryos and so, there was no second chance for her in that regard.

Almost 2 months after that attempt and a positive pregnancy test, her husband wrote us. “I just wanted to let you know that the baby did not survive. The ultrasound today showed only the gestation sack but no yoke sack, and they did not grow as much as the doctor wanted. In a nut shell, . . . We are very devastated as we now know that our chances for conceiving are past us.”

About 1 month later, the woman wrote us – “Thanks for your continued kind thoughts.   The past weeks have been very difficult for me.   The baby not surviving was my last chance to experience pregnancy.  Sorry that I haven’t written sooner, I just haven’t been able to put any of my thoughts into words.”

“As a blessing from above we have been given the opportunity to foster parent, if only for a short time, a baby boy that was abandoned by his birthmom at birth.   This 17 year old gave birth at home, put this sweet little boy into a plastic trash bag and threw him over a fence into a retention pond area.   Within an hour people heard his cries and rescued him.   Caring for another is a good way to stop thinking about your self.”

“I am so saddened. It still is hard for me to accept. I was going between denial and anger.   Now, with feeding the baby every two hours round the clock, I don’t have time to think about it.”

I do believe they eventually adopted the baby. I also believe that God always answers our prayers. Maybe not the way we thought they would be answered. To my understanding, even a “No” is an answer. I do not regret donating the embryos. Of course, I am sad for this couple that it did not bring the results they hoped for.

Sharing this experience is not intended to support nor deny the option to donate one’s frozen embryos or acquire someone else’s. Compared to adopting a newborn infant, I do believe that a baby growing in the womb of the mother who will be raising the child pretty much eliminates 100% mother/child separation trauma. Some donor conceived persons do have issues with the way they were conceived and I am well aware of them. Though my husband and I did not see inexpensive DNA testing coming, it seems in our good hearts and ignorance, we have handled our own family’s situation almost perfectly. Someday, our sons may view their own conceptions differently than we do but, at almost 18 and 21, they seem to understand clearly and have no issues with it. They know – bottom line – they would not exist otherwise. They know they are loved and that they live in a “very close at heart and 24/7 everyday” life family. And I do think that as boys, their 50% genetic connection to their father matters as genetic mirrors for them. Some sadness in my youngest son that he doesn’t have any of my genes but our love for one another seems genuine.

Is Infertility A Disability ?

Sunshine, Angel, Rainbow

This morning has been a learning experience for me. Infertility is a leading cause of adoption. One adoptee wrote – I find it hard to sympathize with infertility and I’m aware it’s because that was the only reason I was adopted by my adoptive parents. I’m angry because of the abuse I’ve suffered because of that issue. In the adoption community, women are counseled that they must deal with their mental and emotional issues related to infertility before choosing to adopt a child. An adopted child will never be a replacement for a baby you lost or failed to conceive. An adopted child was conceived and birthed by another woman who will always be that child’s first mother.

Is infertility a disability ? – turns out that legally it is.

In 1998, the US Supreme Court found in Bragdon v Abbott that reproduction is a “major life activity.” And the Court held that the risks of passing the disease to offspring constituted a “substantial limitation” on reproduction. Consequently, infertility met the ADA’s criteria as a disability.

According to the World Health Organization – Infertility has significant negative social impacts on the lives of infertile couples and particularly women, who frequently experience violence, divorce, social stigma, emotional stress, depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. A diagnosis of infertility is determined as the inability to get pregnant after a year or more of trying. Infertility can trigger feelings of shame and a sense of failing to live up to traditional gender expectations. Infertility can strain romantic relationships that included the expectation of shared parenthood. (We watched the 2020 movie Ammonite last night which dramatizes that strain.)

The National Institutes of Health notes that – infertility could be a source of social and psychological suffering for women in particular. In some communities, the childbearing inability is only attributed to women, hence there is a gender related bias when it comes to a couple’s infertility.

Psychologists also must understand that infertility is a kind of trauma, often a complex trauma. Anxiety, depression, grief and loss are part of the psychological impact of infertility. There may even be more to the experience when defined by the individual. At the extreme, the process can be so stressful that a woman who undergoes fertility treatments may develop a form of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

While defining infertility as a disability may have legal and medical applications, most women do not see their infertility as a disability. When I experienced secondary infertility, I never thought of myself as disabled. I simply had reached an age where my own fertility (I gave birth to a daughter at 19 and had a pregnancy aborted at age 22 or 23) naturally had ended. While it did make me sad that my husband now desired fatherhood after I was too old to gift him with that, I still did not think of myself as disabled. Women in my adoption community who have experienced infertility do not consider themselves disabled either.

Part of my learning experience today was learning about all the “baby” symbolic concepts that I didn’t know before. Angel baby always was understood by my heart. I find it interesting that a mom’s group that I have been part of for over 18 years initially gave our group the name Sunshine Babies because our babies were all born between April and August. Later, we simply changed that to Sunshine Moms. We knew nothing of the use of such words when we chose that concept as our group symbol. We never knew that word “sunshine” had a larger meaning outside of our group.. We all conceived via assisted reproduction. Therefore, a sunshine baby can have different meanings for different families.

My own daughter experienced a still birth prior to giving birth to my grandson and later my granddaughter. It was a sad and traumatic event to be certain. The terms acknowledge the complexity of pregnancy and infant loss as well as any pregnancies that follow such a loss. For those as clueless as I was before this morning – here are some commonly used phrases related to pregnancy outcomes.

The term rainbow baby refers to a baby born to a family after a miscarriage, stillbirth or neonatal death. The concept of a rainbow baby relates to the concept of a beautiful rainbow appearing after a turbulent storm. The concept symbolizes hope and healing. I always have loved rainbows. After every storm there is a rainbow. A rainbow baby brings an unimaginable amount of joy and a sense of peace, knowing that you now have a beautiful, precious little baby.

The sunshine symbol is often used to refer to calm moments before a storm. Therefore, a sunshine baby is the child who was born before you encountered a loss. Your loss could be the result of a miscarriage which is defined as the loss of a pregnancy in the first 20 to 24 weeks. A sunshine baby represents hope. Their presence allows you to believe that you can conceive a baby successfully. Your sunshine baby is a reminder that you are fully capable of maintaining a pregnancy and delivering a healthy baby.

There are even more terms as well – a Golden baby: a baby born after a rainbow baby, a Sunset baby: a twin who dies in the womb (I did experience a “vanishing” twin in my first son’s pregnancy), a Sunrise baby: the surviving twin of a baby who dies in the womb.

If you have a biological child, you are simply lucky. Some people will never have that chance or will have had the opportunity to parent taken away from them by miscarriage or infant death. When an intractable infertility may become an awareness after a first pregnancy results in a loss. Some women will mourn that loss all the more, realizing that they will never, ever experience having a child of their own genetic biology. This can be extended as well to a birth mother who loses her child to adoption for whatever reason, especially if that mother never experiences a reunion with her child (as happened to both my maternal and paternal original grandmothers).

The truth is, when you lose a baby from any cause, you develop a permanent psychological scar. In some women, it is difficult to imagine that they will ever have another baby. Losing a baby can change a person’s dreams and hopes of any future that includes being a parent. Some people will tell you that you should just “get over it.” This is not helpful advice to extend to a bereaved parent. The overwhelming feelings experienced following a loss are normal. Usually with grief and sorrow, the intensity does lessen as time passes.