The Story of Three

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For as long as I can remember, I wanted to have children. Throughout my life I have been involved with organizations that center around children and education. I volunteered at MDAnderson Cancer Center in Pediatrics working with outpatient children, I acted as an advocate with Child Advocates, Inc. and I support the organization Yogiños: Yoga for Youth®, a research-based, trilingual, mindfulness and yoga program designed to empower people of all ages to make OHMazing® choices for their bodies, minds and hearts on and off the yoga mat. Most recently, I partnered with In-Powered, by One Significant Act, a non-profit organization to host retreats at Elm Flats Ranch. Through these retreats, we utilize the healing benefits of yoga to help empower our youth. And my proudest achievement has been to raise money to build a pre-kindergarten school in Bali for the Bali Children’s Project.

In the dream to have children, I cannot say that I ever thought that much about getting married. Even though the expectation in a traditional society is that you get married first and then you have babies. When I turned 35, I went to my gynecologist for a routine annual exam and he handed me a card after the exam with a fertility specialist’s name on it. I asked him, “what is this for?” and he looked at me and said, “you might want to consider having your eggs frozen.” I remember the shock I felt over his suggestion. I didn’t need to freeze my eggs. I had plenty of time. Before I left his office, I threw the card in the trash.

Fast forward to 38 years old at the end of 2012 and the abrogation of a difficult and painful relationship. The circumstances around its demise sent me to a very dark space in my life. I felt completely out of control and was literally breaking down. I was not stimulated in my work, the air at home tasted stale and my yoga practice was the only thing that brought me any peace. I was restless, as happens to me often and when I feel restless, I must travel. I needed a change in order to create space and distance for what would come next in my life. Kids.

I quit my job and my sister lovingly agreed to move into my house and take care of my dog while I gallivanted across the world for an indeterminate amount of time. In May 2013, I took off, leaving everything familiar for everything unfamiliar. My best friend lived in Malaysia and I had a network of friends in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where I spent the better part of 3 months off and on, along with a month each in Bali, Australia and India. During this time, I healed, I played, I practiced yoga, I contemplated having children as a single mother and unexpectedly, I fell madly in love.

We loved each other deeply and were very happy for the better part of two years, but our relationship was complicated by many factors, including long distance, different countries of residence and being at different life stages. Thus, ultimately, we made choices that were in the best interest of ourselves rather than our relationship. I believe, however, that this relationship prepared me for motherhood, as it has been the most generous, fulfilling and loving partnership I have ever entered into and I am grateful for all of it.

After six months away, I decided to return home from Asia. I began my research and purchased the book Choosing Single Motherhood, the Thinking Woman’s Guide, by Mikki Morrissette. I devoured everything in it. In my mind, there were two challenging aspects in consciously choosing single motherhood. The first challenge was raising a child without a father. I had an extremely close relationship with my father, who died when I was only 25. The difficult part for me was that my child would not get to experience that close bonding relationship. The question I had to ask myself at the time was, “is not providing a father for my child enough to keep me from pursuing my dream of having a family?” My answer, ultimately, was no. In my heart, I knew that everything my father had taught me about life would move through me and affect how I raised my children. The second challenge for me was the stigma attached to being an unwed single mother. I don’t know why this bothered me initially, as I love to challenge the status quo, so I got over that one pretty quickly.

In 2014, a lawyer friend of mine, also contemplating single motherhood, had made an appointment with a highly recommended fertility specialist at Baylor. I asked her if I could go with her to the interview so I could garner an impression of him. I liked him immediately. He was very honest about what he was willing and not willing to do given certain scenarios regarding a donor and he didn’t sugar coat the situation. But he was adventurous and hopeful and I liked that about him. I made my own appointment with him and began the process of testing to see what shape my reproductive system was in at 39 years of age. Everything looked good, except that my Anti-Mullerian Hormone levels were extremely low. We discussed my options and the statistics given my age, hormones and follicle status. We decided that we would start with IUI, also known as inter-uterine insemination.

During this period of time, I actively saw an Ayurvedic practitioner who helped me prepare my body for pregnancy. We started with Panchakarma, a week long purification and detoxification ritual in Eastern medicine that helps to restore balance to the body by removing deep seated stress, impurities and toxins. It was a perfect end to all that had come before and a clean slate for all that was to come. Over the course of the next six months, I took Ayurvedic herbs to stimulate my reproductive organs and create a hospitable environment for a baby.

The last thing I had to do was choose a donor. This process felt like online dating, except that I was choosing a biological daddy for my child. It was an enormous and overwhelming decision. Everyone asked me what I would be looking for in a donor. My family history is global like the United Nations. My father was a South African Jew who married a Texas born Lebanese Episcopalian, who converted and raised their family in the Jewish faith. I was not that concerned about finding a Jewish donor and there were not that many donors anyway. To me, the most important thing in finding a donor was what kind of human is he? I wanted to feel a resonance of the heart and soul. What did he believe in? What were his social views? Did he sound kind and sincere? Was he interested in service and love, kindness and equality? One of the first photos that grabbed my attention was of a child, whose smile took up his whole face and whose eyes shined bright. Something about his photo told me, this kid is happy and kind. When I clicked on his biography, one of the questions he had to answer was what do you want to teach your children? His answer was LOVE. It didn’t hurt that his mother was also Lebanese and he had spent a lot of time living abroad, eyes wide open to the world. I accumulated about twenty profiles and had to make a decision quickly, so I invited a good friend over and we opened a bottle of wine, had dinner and my sister, friend and I weeded out all the no’s. At the end of the night, I had five profiles to decide between. The next day, I sat in my office with the door closed, clock ticking and stress accumulating until I had but one option. I chose the happy child full of love. It was no contest really. I always came back to him.

My doctor told me that statistically, the number of times it takes to get pregnant with IUI is between five to seven times. From that analysis, I decided I would try three times. If it didn’t work, then I would think about IVF and adoption. In March of 2015, I became pregnant after the second IUI. I was elated, terrified and in disbelief. A month later, I went for my first ultrasound and imagine my surprise when my sister held up two fingers, eyes as big as saucers while the tech simultaneously announced that I was pregnant with twins! There is no doubt that I was floored by this news. I knew it would be challenging enough raising one child alone, but I was completely unequipped for two. I cried for two days.

Other twin moms pointed out to me what a blessing it was to have twins and how it would make my life easier in certain ways. What I did for one, I would do for the other and they would have each other to play with, rather than always looking to me for entertainment. At the time, I did not find any of this information comforting. I felt completely terrified over how I would financially be able to provide for two children. Eventually, I got over it and fourteen weeks into my pregnancy I discovered they were both girls. In my daydreams, I had always seen a little girl with bouncing curls running through the grass at our family’s ranch.

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I flew through the first half of my pregnancy with little fanfare. No morning sickness or weird ailments, but the exhaustion in the first trimester was remarkable. And then, at twenty weeks, I began fainting in random places. I would begin to get dizzy, then break out in cold sweats, ears buzzing and if I didn’t lay down wherever I was, I would pass out. It would take thirty minutes to an hour for me to recover after an episode and I never felt quite right after that. I once had to lay down on the floor of a movie theater under a row of seats. I missed half of the movie that night. Other interesting locations included floors of restaurants, doctor’s offices and fetal position in my car. I was a total mess and none of the doctors could truly reveal what was happening to me. After visits to neurologists and cardiologists, my doctors put me under house arrest. We set up my office at home and I worked when I was able to sit up. The twins were sucking all of my energy and I felt paralyzed. It was a humbling experience to not have any control over my own body, its reactions to specific activities or the two humans growing in my body. Every movement had to be deliberate and slow.

…I have been stripped naked. I stand empty and barren of who I believed myself to be, but belly full of who I am becoming. I have been put in my place and armed with the knowledge that I have no control over my body, what it is creating, nor what it will ultimately produce. I have been forced to surrender slowly, but assuredly. As these tiny creatures, these as yet to be named humans have forcibly slowed me down to a standstill, robbing me temporarily of  my ability to move my body or ponder on anything other than my next meal or whether I will make it to my next stop without being forced to lie down and restore…

I had a strong desire to birth these babies the old fashioned way. It was a long shot, as I was high risk and my first born spent more time breech than vertex, while my second child felt comfortable enough my whole pregnancy to lay sprawled out transverse like Cleopatra. My obstetrician planned to take them out at 37 weeks, but when it was clear that my body would not go into labor on its own, she waited until 38 weeks to call it. I could barely walk anymore and I felt ready.

The Women’s Hospital of Texas provided me with two phenomenal labor and delivery nurses who made me laugh and eased my anxiety about an epidural and were there every step of the way. My C-Section was unremarkable, except that my first born aspirated and had to be sent to the NICU for a few hours and then spent two days under the photon lights for jaundice. But both of my girls, Sydney and Sasha, were born healthy and came into my arms eyes wide open and ready to take on the world.

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When I first touched Sydney’s hand, she was purple and wrinkly and I asked her if she would like the name Sydney Celeste and she gladly accepted it. I did the same for Sasha Adele. I could not believe how easy it was to fall so madly in love with the both of them. I have been mesmerized by every single moment with them. We all went home after three days to begin our life together.

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Everyone in my life supported the choice I made to be a single mother. My mother was cautious and thought I was a little insane, but these children have brought our family closer together in ways I never could have imagined. And I know that she is happy to be a grandma. My sister has been an unbelievable auntie to my girls and the best kind of friend to me. It is outstanding to witness how much she loves them and I know without a doubt that if anything were ever to happen to me, she would raise my children as if they were her own.

…Tiny hands gently palm my face, exploring with genuine curiosity at what I can only imagine is love. Their lustrous eyes discover mine and their mouths fall open to adorable smiles. Indiscriminate tones incite them to giggle, pleasing the senses in the most heavenly way. As they discover new tastes, a delayed reaction produces sounds from their lips with exuberant glee. My heart swells with enough propulsion to explode out of my chest, leaving me susceptible to the deepest kind of vulnerability. I feel an uncontrollable desire to drop to my knees and thank whomever is in charge for giving me the honor of guarding their souls.
After 6 months, it is all things. Equal parts an indescribable kind of love, exhaustion, elation, loss of distinction between self and children and the most awesome responsibility imaginable. Happy 6 months #sydandsash

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Syd and Sash at 6 months

I will never again be the woman I was before I had these sweet babies. I notice the significance of that as I begin to come out of the fog of being a new mama, in an attempt to reclaim some of my life. The friendships that have disappeared are mostly those of childless friends who do not appear to connect to my changed lifestyle and lack of freedom to pick up and go. I miss those relationships and yet I understand the circumstances. There are other friendships, however, where bonds have been created or deepened that I did not expect. They feel a profound connection to my children or me that has driven them to seek out more connectivity and time spent with us. I genuinely appreciate everyone’s patience while I learn to navigate the way of things.

Raising children as a single mother by choice, with a full time career is by far the most challenging undertaking of my life and also the wisest decision I have ever made. I do not have a single regret. These beautiful children are little miracles and a blessing of epic proportions. My emotions and expressions of what it feels like to be a mother are best summarized in A Letter of Love to My Babes on their First Birthday.

I have been approached by several women over the last few years who have shared with me their stories of longing to be a mother. They are all unmarried and approaching 40 or have surpassed it. They commend me on my choice to be a single mother, but either do not feel that it is right for them or are still trying to decide whether they can realistically handle the choice. I share the story of three to demystify what it means to consciously choose single motherhood and to remove the stigma surrounding what a family “should” look like. The naked truth is that parenting is difficult, whether one is married or not, whether there are two parents or only one. Today, families are created in many different forms and I believe the most fundamental importance in raising a family is how much those children will be loved and provided with the best tools to lead a happy and productive life. The wisdom of uncertainty is that life does not take all of us in the same direction. Sometimes, we must be brave enough to forge a new path in order to live the life we want.

Mom & Syd 18 monthsMom & Sash VDay

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9 thoughts on “The Story of Three

  1. Chaka Varley says:

    Thanks for sharing your amazing story and process of what you went thru to bring these special light beings into the world. So good to read how it has brought your family together😍
    You are one brave courageous woman following your heart song💕Many blessings your way🍃💙🍃

  2. Samantha Ocean says:

  3. Beverly says:

    Jenn
    I am so moved by your words
    Always knew you were special and loved you for it
    This affirms your incredible insight and I love the human you are. And of course the delicious duo sydsash💞

  4. Angela Pater says:

    Dear Jenn, Childhood Friend and Inspiring Mama, I’m so glad you wrote this all out – every word is so perfect and beautiful. Thank you and keep it up, you have so very much to share, you always have. We’re listening and we’re here for you always : )
    I love you and yours!

  5. Melissa Smith says:

    I love you so. beautifully written. thank you for sharing your heart.

    xo >

    • jplesz says:

      I love you more. Thank you for the encouragement and continual love and support for everything I do. The container. The twin. The noble adversary. The mirror. The mystic friend. The conscious partner. All things.

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