Mothers Day looks a whole lot different this year,
Do you remember Angelina and Rob's story that we shared through The Mother Series last May 2019? Well... it's time for an update.
A BIG update!
Rob and Angelina experienced infertility and infant loss like so many families unfortunately face. Not to mention that she almost lost her life on her journey to motherhood... ultimately the path of surrogacy led the Stirton's to newly welcoming their children to the world! We would like to share the following piece of writing and update from the new parents.
Below our update is also the original article shared last May.
Five Mothers Day in a row were spent the same way, I would be laying in bed alone in our house willing myself to get out of bed and attempting to be the better person by messaging or calling all the “Mothers” in my life wishing them the best day, each phone call i would sound happy and peppy, I would hang up and cry and tell myself to pull up my big girl panties again and make another call. I dont explain any of this for people to feel sorry for me, I share this to hopefully gain insight on what so many people are going through in the shadows of a warm spring day, there are so many women across our country that are fighting their tears and heartache so that they don't take away from someone else happiness and a day that is meant for celebration and family. I feel for this woman, I was one of those women. Not this year, this year I will be waking up to crying, but not of my own- I will be waking up to two hungry little people, twins that we finally get to call our own.
Who knew so much could change in 365 days, who knew that when I was meeting with MyWhy and at the beginning of sharing our journey a woman barren but on a mission to have her own children nonetheless would be where she is now. This day last year, I was cooking up a fancy supper for Mother’s Day. We had invited our parents over and prepared a small gift for them, nothing extravagant: a small bag with a picture frame in it. We sat our parents down, and decided to start the conversation. “So we have found an amazing couple who are wanting to help us become parents”, we kept the supper very business-like and explained the surrogacy contract and our experience thus far. We set up boundaries, but did not let onto the news we were about to share. We took our parents out to the deck and handed them their gifts- my mom, my mother in law, and my dad. They opened their gifts and what did they see a small picture frame with a picture of a word board that said "sometimes when you pray for a miracle, God gives you two. (see photo(s) below)
We come from a large family and we wanted to share the news with our parents first and then our siblings and closest friends. We were expecting twins in November via our surrogate!
They say it takes a village to raise your children, in our case it has taken a village to bring them into the world. Following our third miscarriage in the spring of 2017 we decided to put our dreams of a family on hold and start working towards the future in other areas. We were getting married and over the previous 4 years we had become so disconnected as a couple, I myself was to goal oriented to see anything but being a mom and at times I didn't see or recognize that in the pursuit of motherhood, I was losing all other identities that I worked so hard to become, I no longer was the daughter, sister, friend, nurse and most of all spouse that I once was. We were married in the spring of 2018 and I wish I could say that i enjoyed all the moments leading up to it but in the back of my mind i knew that once the wedding was over- the focus was going to shift back onto our pursuit to becoming parents. I was already in contact with our fertility clinic while on our honeymoon… I was sitting in a golf cart in Waskesiu planning my first appointment.
The fall of 2018 we did another two embryo transfers, there were more doctors and specialists involved since being diagnosed with Antiphosphid Lipid Syndrome, I was put on injection blood thinners and placed on bedrest following the transfer. We were told that the transfer was successful and we were getting ready for one of our ultrasounds. At one of the doctors appointments following being told we were pregnant our doctor confirmed that I had lost the pregnancy there was no heartbeat. At that time we were given three options, miscarry naturally, take medication to induce the miscarriage or go in for a D&C, we chose option two miscarrying at home. Why? Because I wanted to be in my own home, with my husband in the comfort of my bed. What we thought would be a pretty safe way to pass the baby turned horrifically wrong 12 hours later, I started hemorrhaging in our bathroom, my husband had contacted the doctor on call and he was told to get me to the emergency room right away because what I was experiencing was catastrophic blood loss and I was in serious danger. The medication was working to pass the baby but because of the injection blood thinners I was on it was a grave situation. When we arrived at the hospital I was given IV medication that assisted with slowing down the blood loss, when we left the hospital the couple days that followed I noticed that I had an ache in my forearm that won't go away, I noticed my arm was swollen, red, and painful to touch. The nurse in me knew that there was something wrong but I didn't want to make a big deal of it so I went to the minor walk in clinic, went for a ultrasound the following day and received a phone call at midnight from a “private caller’ it was the doctor telling me that I had a subclavian blood clot in my forearm directly in line with my heart and lungs and i was to go to the emergency room right away and they were expecting me.
Following the miscarriage and blood clot I was diagnosed with Postpartum Depression and told I was experiencing a hormone storm. We met with our fertility doctor and at this appointment we were told that I would never be able to carry my own children, that it wasn't an option and I would die. As ridiculous as this may sound, I actually found it funny, my husband not so much. We were told that if I chose to carry again that it would be catastrophic.
As a person who doesn't take kindly to being told what to do, I also don't take kindly to people telling me that I can't do something as well. I wrote a post on my personal page and put a picture of a Christmas ornament of a ceramic feather I purchased five and wrote the miscarriage date of all five babies on it. I titled this post “The Stork with a Broken Wing” and I knew that we were going to create a social media page to follow. The reason in which I chose the Stork - I was thinking during my childhood, “Where did babies come from?” In the movie Dumbo they are carried by Storks, I needed someone to carry my child; I needed a stork! In the original post I explained a short version of our story, I explained that we were looking for a surrogate or a possible young woman who was considering adoption. The response we received was astounding over 500 shares, countless comments and so many private messages.
Seven days, seven days is all it took for this beautiful women, mother of 3 to reach out to me and tell me she was open to considering being our surrogate. Her name is Shaylene and her husband Brian was on board too and they would like to meet us. It is so strange to think that this couple that we now consider family were strangers less then a year and half ago. We set up a lunch and met them blindly, you think a blind date is scary, think about meeting the person you know could change your life.
Everything happened so quickly doctors appointments, lawyer appointments and by February 14th we were doing our first transfer, we waited our two weeks and unfortunately that first transfer was unsuccessful- I was heartbroken, I was so worried about our surrogate and how she was feeling- she was so determined to become pregnant and make us parents that we went ahead and set up an appointment for another embryo transfer the following month, but after a lot of consideration and a very confident Shaylene we decided to do two embryos this time. We received the news that she was pregnant the morning I did the TV interview with My Why. I was trying so hard to act normal and not get overly excited but her beta was high and we were vibrating with excitement. We chose not to tell and keep this very quiet for the time being. I actually loved walking around with a little pep in my step knowing I had a secret to hold even if I wasn't carrying my child. Easter Monday we went to the city. We had a fun filled morning at Ruckers and lunch at Fuddruckers because school was the whole family was there with us the four of us piled into the little room in the doctor's office, our wonderful doctor walked in with a smile on her face, I was so nervous and was fighting off tears but trying to hide behind a smile. I felt in that moment I needed to be brave for Shaylene and not wanting her to see any disappointment that I was preparing for. Our doctor started the ultrasound, the room was so quiet you could hear a pin drop, it felt like every second was an hour. Our doctor showed us the screen… two little sacs, two little flickers. I fell apart, I was so excited and so nervous and I couldn't believe that after all this time we were going to be parents.
Overall the pregnancy seemed to be okay, poor Shaylene had the worst morning sickness and I felt so guilty that this woman was putting her body through so much already and had to deal with morning sickness, she never complained, she never once made me feel like the pregnancy was a burden. She showed up to every ultrasound, doctor's appointment full of peace. The four of us became a package deal, every ultrasound there we were excited about seeing the babies- I lived for these appointments and wanted them to go on forever, it felt like that was the only time I felt like i was a part of the pregnancy and what was inevitably going to be inevitably our new life.
We did the anatomy scan and the baby's genders were confirmed a small envelope was given to Shaylene and Brian and we had set up a small BBQ. a way in which our families could meet Shaylene and Brian but not overwhelm them. It was a beautiful day, followed by a crazy thunderstorm. Shaylene and Brian filled two boxes with balloons and we opened Baby B box first- PINK BALLOONS! Baby A box next- BLUE BALLOONS! After all this time we were going to have the million dollar family!
In August,I received a phone call that was going to change my life forever. My dad had a fall and ended up in the hospital, a couple days later we received the news that my 59 year old father had terminal cancer, I missed my first and only ultrasound appointment during those days my heart was split into two be with my dad whose days were now numbered or be with Shaylene, Brian and Robbie and see my twins. Shaylene and Brian were remarkable and so very supportive during this time. A couple weeks later I brought my dad with me to an ultrasound to see the twins with Shaylene's permission. I pulled up to the house to pick him up and he was so excited, sitting on his steps waiting for me. We headed to the hospital but the wait was longer than usual and the appointment was pushed back, dad definitely tried to stay awake but by the time we got into the ultrasound room, the lights went out and they started the sonogram. I looked over to find my dad sleeping in the chair. It broke my heart in one small moment. I was seeing both new life and imminent death.
The twins actual due date was December 12, 2019, but because of being a multiple pregnancy the projected date of delivery was November 25, 2019. Shaylene was doing so well, she was such a trooper through it all, she was obviously becoming more uncomfortable and the babies were moving and taking up more and more room in her body- she would never complain. I looked at her numerous times during the appointments and was in disbelief that this amazing person was putting her body through this discomfort for us. I never knew what we did to deserve it. Throughout the pregnancy i definitely struggled with jealousy, I wanted to feel my babies move inside me, I even wished to be the one experiencing the morning sickness, but i kept reminding myself, “I don't get the first nine months of their life, But I get the rest of my life to be there mother”. The appointments were becoming more frequent but the doctors seemed pretty confident that Shaylene was going to make it to the estimated delivery date.
On October 23rd we received a text message from Brian letting us know that he had to take Shaylene to the hospital. The poor girl was extremely dehydrated and very sick. The morning sickness unfortunately didn't just last the first trimester but continued on. We received an update that she was being transferred to Saskatoon for further assessment and we planned to meet her there, Robbie had just completed harvest and I was getting ready to work a night shift. We packed a small bag 'just in case' and headed to Saskatoon on the highway we were passed by Shaylene's ambulance and that concerned us- we were texting back and forth but at this point I was concerned for Shaylene first and our babies second. We arrived at the hospital shortly after Shaylene. She was assessed by a doctor and he came out and said to the nurses, “She is already 4cm dilated, these babies are coming today”, my stomach flipped. I was both scared and excited. Today was the day we were going to meet our babies.
Shaylene delivered our twins our son Salvino Robert Donald was born at 7:10pm weighing 4lbs 5oz and he was 15 inches long and our daughter Avae Maria Shay was born at 7:12pm weighing 4lbs 17inches long. They both were in distress and needed medical interventions immediately following their birth. It was such a surreal experience I followed the NICU team up with Avae and Robbie followed closely behind with Vino. The scene we witnessed following their birth was something out of a movie, there were easily 20 people working on our children. Vino needed alot of assistance with his breathing and Avaes blood sugars were dangerously low. Once again my heart was torn in two places we were with our children who were receiving the best possible care however we left Shaylene in a surgical room. I felt so guilty that there were two floors between us, I was so grateful that she had Brian with her but I wanted to be with her and make sure she was safe and okay after everything she had sacrificed for us to bring our children into the world and we left her on a sterile table. Brian came up to see the babies and gave us an update on how Shaylene was doing. We went down a couple hours after she was moved out of recovery. The next few days we shared some quiet intimate moments with the 6 of us.
So many people see the amazing gift that Shaylene had so selflessly given us- but I wish people could see the support, love and guidance that Brian provided. If Brian wasn't in agreeance for Shaylene to carry a child, or in our case children it never would have happened. He just like her sacrificed so much, sleep, time off and family commitments. He always had an amazing presence, support text or words to share and he just made you feel safe. The mutual respect and admiration these two have for eachother is what story books are written about. They are a couple goals, they are two people you strive to be.
The babies spent just under a month in the NICU, they were doing amazing, they were just small and needed time to adjust to the world that they were not meant to be in yet. We never left their sides and stayed around the clock, one of the hardest days in NICU for me was when Shaylene was being discharged and the four of us were being separated we had so many plans to have dinners and supports in place to ease Shaylenes healing- I was so disappointed that I couldn't be there for her after everything she had given us. I still feel guilty.
The babies are doing amazing. They are 6 months old and absolutely everything we dreamed of and more. I don't think I was prepared for the isolation aspect of motherhood, I am a very social person and having immunocompromised babies socializing isn't an option. The last six months have been bittersweet and beautifully chaotic. I am navigating a world where I need to tend to two babies, while navigating a significant loss, my father passed away comfortably on January 3 2020 at the age of 59. I am so sad that my children will not know the love of my dad and his embrace when we didn't know if my dad would be here to meet my children earth side he told me, “Honey if I don't hold them in this world, know that I have held them first, given them a kiss and sent them to you, they will be heaven sent.” I miss my dad everyday and I hope I am making him proud.
On this Mothers Day, I am going to celebrate the little moments, the cuddles, the cries and I am going to be so ever present. Because I have been given a gift that not everyone gets; I get to be a Mother. The reason why is because a selfless woman who is a mother decided she had it in her heart to give us the ultimate gift. Happy Mothers Day Shaylene because if it weren't for you, I wouldn't have this day.
I love you.
ORIGINAL ARTICLE, May 2019
When you first meet Angelina Stirton you are immediately drawn to her vivacious, energetic spirit and her smile almost literally lights up the room. While she embodies optimism, positivity, confidence and enthusiasm, Angelina and her husband Rob, are faced a challenging and arduous journey. Angelina, a Licensed Practical Nurse, may not be a “mother” yet however, she knows her and her husband will be parents one day.
Rob and Angelina have experienced infertility and infant loss like so many families unfortunately face. Through In Vitro Fertilization, Angelina experienced endless blood work, injections and countless appointments. All felt worth it if they could just have their own baby. That was not the result and they had four miscarriages in three years losing a total of five babies. During the last miscarriage Angelina was diagnosed with anxiety and postpartum depression. As Angelina comments, “Who would’ve thought a 33 year old lady with no children would have postpartum?” It is not often society engages in discussions about postpartum depression and typically it’s not associate it with those who may not have that baby to hold in their arms.
When they lost their last baby Angelina not only lost a child but she suffered a major hemorrhage, jeopardizing her life for the second time. She survived a subclavian blood clot, which can often be fatal, and they were told that she was no longer able to carry a child without “catastrophic consequences”. The thought of risking Angelina’s life to have this dream realized was not an option for this couple. Instead of letting the fantasy fade, Rob and Angelina have just evolved their dream.
“In my heart of hearts I feel that at least one of our children is in this world,” said Angelina. “I have told close family and friends this. I feel there is a child that was not made of my bones or shares the same blood but I feel connected to adoption and to this mystery child. In my dreams it’s a beautiful tanned boy with a gorgeous smile. He is about 2.5 years old. Sometimes I see a second boy and the two are skating together and someone asks me if I know them, I say “those are my boys.” I always wake up feeling content and that this is the path for us.”
As much as the couple has accepted that surrogacy or adoption will be their pathway to becoming parents, the process is not easy. “We went to our first adoption meeting with a social worker and it wasn’t the best experience,” Angelina shared. “It makes me very sad to have someone ask you how much alcohol, drug and substance abuse you are okay with the birth mother doing during pregnancy. Or, how much physical, emotional and sexual abuse are you okay with a birth mother or child experiencing?” The meeting was the definition of disconcerting for the couple, “Not because we don’t want to be parents to these children but we were saddened by how much a woman can abuse her body while carrying what would be an ultimate gift for us. Many children are born with challenges before even taking their first breath. No one wants to see a child being dealt this hand.”
Following the last loss, Angelina describes her feelings as a “hormone storm”. She explained it to be the “darkest of the dark, saddest of the sad and lowest of the lows.” There was a time she feared she would never see the light again and felt as though her husband may never get her back. As if the fluctuating and overwhelming hormones and insomnia weren’t enough, the couple was inundated with unsolicited advice, mean spirited comments and gossip. Through the dark times Rob and Angelina had the insight and strength to take time off trying and tackling these unchartered waters to “heal and reconnect”. Angelina has gone to counselling, adapted her diet, gone for massages and other health therapies to regain strength. They also sought professional support and Angelina ultimately decided to start sharing their story to help others and quell any misconceptions that surrounded their journey. At the end of everyday Angelina shared that they will, “continue to love each other and search for our rainbow- just sometimes the cloud seems dark and heavy.”
If you would like to follow the Stirton’s as they continue on their path to becoming parents you can check out Angelina’s blog: The Stork With a Broken Wing@thestorkwithabrokenwing on Facebook. The My Why Team would like to thank Rob and Angelina for participating in “The Mother Series”. This personal story and complete campaign are funded by Project Sunrise, a mental health initiative by the Lloydminster Region Health Foundation.