And so it has arrived, the final Surrounded by Supermommies story. Thank you all for following these amazing journeys with me and opening your hearts to these incredibly special mommies. I hope you will continue to share their stories with your family and friends, and across social media in case you have the gift of reaching somebody facing the same challenges and feeling completely alone in it. I will do a final roundup piece so you can find all of the stories in one place in the next few weeks. But for now it is time to shift our focus to our very special 10th Supermommy, Laurianne.
Laurianne and I were in highschool together. She was always a sincere, sweet, smiling person, which in an all-girls school is more rare than you might think; and I have warm memories of her from that time. As is too often the case, we lost touch after school and reconnected on Facebook in February last year.
Two days ago, Laurianne and her husband Ruaan celebrated the first birthday of their gorgeous son Harvey. While this is a very special day for all parents, it possibly holds a little bit more joy for this family. Because when Laurianne was 29 she was misdiagnosed several times and told that her fallopian tubes would need to be removed and, even though that surgery never happened, they suspected that a surgery she had sent her body into early menopause. After a few more years of challenges, in 2014 they decided to adopt and they welcomed their beautiful baby boy Harvey Daniel van Zyl into their hearts on 14 November 2014.
We started this series with a mommy who fought her way through infertility for 5 years before beginning her journey to motherhood through IVF. At the end of her story I added this, “For those of you who have found that your body cannot bring your child into this world; the last story of this series is that of a mommy who has adopted the baby of her heart and her dreams. It took all of her faith and heart and hard work and determination, and she is a mommy.” Well, here we are and …
This is her story
Laurianne and Ruaan have been together 13 years; they met studying electrical engineering, and married on 5 February 2010. They live in the Northern Suburbs of Cape Town with their son Harvey, their three fur babies, two chickens and a fish! They are surrounded by family and are members of the Hillsong church in Century City, which leaves them feeling incredibly supported in their lives and their journey to and through parenthood.
They have a full and busy life, and Laurianne has the most positive and loving attitude. She is also incredibly accomplished and is hoping to do her Masters degree at Harvard University in 2016; while also maintaining some very impressive hobbies.
In her own words
While life always presents challenges, speed bumps, hurdles – call them what you will, I still believe that I’m exceedingly blessed; for without trial, there can be no accomplishment.
I completed my bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering back in 2005 and settled in the Project Engineering Management arena shortly thereafter, completing my PMP, PRINCE2 and MDP certifications along the way. After a time as Programme Manager at a large, very corporate energy company, I took a step back and took on the position of Project Manager in a completely different (IT) sector to give me time to focus on starting a family. Now that we have little Harvey, I’m hoping to continue with my Master’s degree at Harvard University (in 2016, God willing) and retain a Programme Management position in the renewable energy sector.
I absolutely love learning languages and have been learning Spanish over the last 2 years. I also used to compete in Latin-American dancing… so, I’m sure there’s some Spanish blood in my veins! I love playing the saxophone, though I seldom get time these days and doing a little painting or craft work on the side and riding my motorcycle…
Challenges, speedbumps & hurdles
Laurianne has always wanted to be a mom and was sufficiently spooked by a nightmare at 20 to rush to the doctor to have her fertility checked. When all came back clear, she breathed a sigh of relief and carried on with her life. At 28, after 8 years together she got married and they decided to go off contraceptives and let nature take its course. Just 6 months later, on the 6th of August, Laurianne was rushed to hospital and headed into a year of misdiagnoses, surgeries and a devastating result.
In her own words
On the 6th August I was in intense pain and was admitted to hospital. They found multiple cysts on my ovaries, one of which had ruptured and caused an infection in my abdominal cavity. I was treated in hospital for about four days and sent home with a diagnosis of PID (Pelvic Inflammatory Disease) and put on bed rest for two weeks.
I didn’t think anything of it at the time but, when I had regained some strength, I thought I’d read up about it to educate myself on the diagnosis and what it meant for me going forward. I was horrified to discover that 99% of the time, PID is caused by an STD! I was so freaked out because, seriously, I’d just been married for 6 months to a man I had been with for years. I even phoned the doctor and asked if I could get it from a toilet seat! When I went back to my normal gynae she said it was a misdiagnosis and I was to return for a checkup a month later, just after my 29th birthday.
After more tests, I was diagnosed with Salpingitis, an infection of the Fallopian tubes, and was told that they would have to be removed. Needless to say, I was devastated; my worst nightmare had come true.
At 20 I had been told I had lots of time; and I had been to see the gynae for my annual check-up in March that year and everything was perfect! All that went through my mind was, “You’re so young! You’ve got lots of time!” The reality is, who are they to say how much time you have?
Nonetheless, I was scheduled to meet with a fertility doctor in early October and needed to do so while on my period… *ugh*. He suspected the Salpingitis was a misdiagnosis as well and that I had severe endometriosis (diagnosis #3) and I was scheduled for the first of 2 surgeries at the end of October. The surgery confirmed Stage 4 endometriosis.
The results of the surgery were good; but they discovered the stage four endometriosis and one of the cysts was so huge (about 12cm in diameter) that it had completely engulfed my ovary! I had to have a second surgery 3 months after a 3-month course of menopause-inducing hormones that was geared to shrink the cysts and suppress oestrogen production and temporarily cease menstruation.
The second surgery went exceptionally well and the doctor had no doubt we’d be able to conceive spontaneously once my cycles resumed. Only, a few months later, my cycles had still not returned. I went for blood tests and they found that my FSH levels were very high. As the doctor explained it, they may have operated me into menopause. YES! The dreaded M-word at 29!
Devastation hit once again, but, in that same moment, I was full steam ahead and ready to adopt a little latina baby from the US! LOL! (Side note, I’ve always had a fascination with the Latin culture – reckon it must be somewhere in my blood!) Unfortunately, hubby wasn’t quite ready to jump into adoption until my cycle had returned and we’d exhausted some more fertility options.
A few months later my cycle returned and another few months after that we were just pooped, and we decided to give it all a break and took a trip to Mauritius instead.
A year passed and still no baby… So we decided to see a different fertility specialist. Although the FSH was still high, he was SO much more optimistic! In his opinion, my ovaries were just sluggish from the surgery and required more FSH to produce mature eggs. *sigh* Huge relief, right?!?! We tried Clomid for 2 months and I responded well, but the side effects were epic; my vision was being compromised and the eggs were so big that I had severe pain at ovulation.
Again, we took a break and by this time we were just so over it all! This whole business of going two steps forward and three steps back was a killer on oneself and on our relationship. We decided then and there that come 2014, we’d pursue adoption.
From the tender age of 11, Laurianne was aware of the idea of adoption and wished her mother would adopt to provide her with a sibling. In January of 2014, she began contacting adoption agencies all over South Africa and slowly their journey to meeting their son began.
In her own words
As an only child, in a household constantly filled with people, including grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins by the dozen; I still felt lonely. I wondered why my mom never adopted a child if she had trouble conceiving a second one. Having watched all these “Hallmark” movies with my mother growing up, and having been through a “challenging” (to say the least) childhood myself, I could see there were kids who were worse off and needed a warm, loving home. I often wished that a baby would be dropped on our doorstep, just like in the movies, so that I could be his/her rescuer… the one who would always love, protect and care for them. I think that it was at this time when God planted the little seed of adoption in my heart.
In late 2013, I was going through a tough time at work and would pick random verses out of the Bible each morning to calm my soul before heading off. One day in October, a verse popped up that read, “by this time next year, you will be a mother.”
In January I called a host of adoption agencies; sadly ONE (yes, ONLY 1) responded. We met with Eloise from ProCare in March and were approved to adopt by June 2014! It was FINALLY with certainty that we knew we would be parents. All we didn’t know was “when”… In South Africa, biological parents have a 60 day waiver period from the time of signing consent for adoption. If the father is untraceable, an additional 30 days is required by the court to prove that the social workers have looked for him. So, the youngest baby you can get would be 61 days old.
Part of the adoption process is the preparation of a personal profile that’s given to the biological parents at eight months. They then get to choose the family that their baby will go to. When the baby is born, they sign the consent form and the baby is placed in safe care until he/she becomes “adoptable” – i.e. the waiver period has lapsed. About one week before the 60 days have lapsed, the agency calls you up and proposes a matching meeting.
Not knowing when we were going to get our baby, we were in the process of selling our house. We received a cash offer in October, but it just didn’t feel right… You know, there’s that little voice (and tons of red flags) that just says, “hold up!” So, not knowing what would happen next, we rejected the offer and took the house off the market.
A week or two later we got “the call”! We had our matching meeting where we got to see photos of our future baby and got to know his biological parents’ history. We then had 24 hours to accept or decline the match… We knew that we had put all our faith in God and that He would send us the baby that was destined to be ours, so we accepted!
Born on 5 September 2014, on 14 November 2014 our baby boy, who we named Harvey Daniel van Zyl, came home and he has been nothing but a blessing, even in the most challenging times!
Being a new mom
It makes no difference how you become a mom, being a mom to a small baby is incredibly challenging and overwhelming. There is constant doubt and panic and fear that the world has done something very very reckless by handing you this little human and trusting you to have any clue what to do with it or how to raise it.
When you are an adoptive parent, there are all of those concerns, all the lack of sleep, inconsolable crying, never knowing what is wrong or how to fix it; but there is a whole lot more to take into account as well.
In her own words
The first month was INTENSELY STRESSFUL! I remember that at times I wondered if we had made the right decision. I remember the guilt I felt when I struggled to bond with him and just didn’t understand what he wanted or how to comfort him. Some of the fear lifted when a friend told me that this happens to almost every new mom.
Throw adoption into the mix and of course it’s a difficult situation! You have to come to terms with the fact that this child, who looks nothing like you or your husband, is yours. You have to get to know him and forget that you didn’t carry him for nine months; forget that someone else gave birth to him.
And you have to keep remembering that how he became yours is irrelevant; because he is the one God chose for you and that’s all that matters. In that moment – and it totally blindsides you – he is yours and you are his… you may not forget that he has biological parents; but it becomes completely irrelevant.
While how he came into their lives is irrelevant, it has in part shaped the way Laurianne has parented him thus far. She has loved watching Ruaan become a father and believed they will definitely have more children.
In her own words
Being an adopted child, I never want him to have any sense of abandonment, so I never let him cry for long and I always try to reassure him that he’s not alone. It’s also why I didn’t want him to go to a school after I returned to work, but now that he’s older and wants to play with other kids, it’s probably time and the best thing for his development. I do believe that aside from love and security, the biggest gift I can give him is his independence.
Ruaan seemed to adapt to being a daddy with ease. He’s amazing. To date, I haven’t had to wash a single bottle… He spends so much time with Harvey, it’s crazy! I think he likes having another guy around and looks forward to the day they will get to have their Lego room!
We are planning to have more children without doubt… But, through my journey I’ve learned that the old saying is so true, “When we make plans, God laughs!” So, my mindset has been somewhat changed to, “If it’s in God’s plan, definitely!” It’s also taken a lot of stress out of everything because it’s really out of my control, one can only do so much, the rest takes a whole lotta faith!
Harvey ~ in her own words
Harvey is the most laid back, relaxed baby I’ve ever known. 9 times out of 10, he wakes up with the biggest smile and is always so happy to see you when you go into his room.
He loves being out and about and flirts with all the women (I will have to be very careful)! He is pleasant and extremely affectionate – always wanting to give kisses – even to the fur babies! He loves to share whatever he has, be it a toy or a biscuit… and yes, the fur-babies enjoy the latter too!
As of today, Laurianne sits in a position where there are two tests that contradict each other – one indicates that she has experienced early menopause and the other suggests everything is fine. One hormone level is extremely high, which suggests that menopause has occurred, but the physical exam, results and behavior of her body suggest that everything is fine. She is leaving it to the universe and enjoying raising an amazing warm loving little boy and pursuing her career dreams.
Words of Wisdom
All in all, I wish someone would have listened to me and I would have listened to, and stood up for, my gut instinct and that little voice inside that warned me about what would happen. But, everything happens for a reason and if things were different, we wouldn’t have Harvey, so it all worked out the way it was meant to and I wouldn’t change a thing!
Infertility is a terrible, negative word. I recently attended a seminar called “change your brain” by Dr. Caroline Leaf – a neuroscientist who confirms that your mind can change your brain, and if your brain controls your body, by changing your brain, you can change your body (unless of course you don’t have ovaries or a uterus). It’s been proven again and again…
BUT, when you so desperately want a baby and doctors tell you that you’re infertile, it’s SO easy to believe it and to focus on it, thus creating a vicious cycle of negative belief that you cannot conceive without further medical intervention, which is also a gamble. Do you know how hard it is to believe you can conceive naturally after hearing that they may have operated you into menopause at the age of 29? A million tests can disprove that statement, but when you’re trying to fall pregnant and want nothing more and then that dreaded monthly visit arrives… what do you think is the first thing that goes through your mind? How much more desperate do you think you become with each passing month and how do you think that desperation impacts you, as a person, and not to mention your relationship?
So, with my experiences in tow, my personal belief is that, with or without medical intervention, it’s all about God’s timing – which is out of your control. If it doesn’t work this time, it wasn’t meant to be… and, it’s NOT YOUR FAULT! You didn’t do anything wrong!
And yes, I believe we’ll have biological children in the future… but, how many people would willingly adopt, if they knew with certainty they could have biological children? Our trials mold us into the people we are and perhaps it gives us a heart to help another from suffering that same despair…
There are so many kids out there who need a warm loving home to grow up in. I tear up every time I think of Harvey’s biological family and the hardships he would have had to endure; and I am so thankful that I’ve been privileged to provide him with all that he deserves. I don’t by any means feel cheated to not have been pregnant; instead, I feel chosen to be Harvey’s mom.
On becoming a mom
Honestly, bringing Harvey into my life hasn’t changed me much, because I think I’ve always been a mom in many ways; whether it was taking care of the elderly or just being there to love and nurture younger kids… I don’t feel you don’t need to have a baby to be a “mom”.
That said, it’s hard to imagine life without him now that he’s here. In fact, I can’t even remember what it was like without him and the only word that comes to mind when I think of that time is “empty”. Harvey has truly filled our lives in every sense of the word and undoubtedly for the better. He gives me a purpose and I can’t think of a better purpose in life than being his mom and nurturing him to the best of my ability, so that he can be strong and ready for all that God has planned for him.
1. Don’t believe everything the doctors tell you; always do what feels right for you in your heart! If you feel like taking a break, do it… if you feel like you need to do IVF – do it! And, if you feel like you’ve been called to adopt – DO IT! Remember that any woman can have a baby, but not every woman can adopt… it’s a blessing and a calling.
2. Pray – and have lots of faith even when it’s hard… “Faith in God includes faith in his timing.” It’s beyond true and we never understand until our situation has come to pass; you just have to remind yourself of that every day – until one day everything will fall into place and you’ll be like, “Ah, now I totally get why it only happened NOW!”
3. Change your focus – I spent a lot of the time planning, organizing and analyzing every aspect of my being every day. And when good old Aunt Flo visits every month, you as an individual feel like a complete failure, which is so ridiculous because you’re trying to manage something that’s not within your control… so, focus on what you CAN control. Live life and be happy with what you have. Do things you’ve always wanted to do on that good ol’ bucket list. The right door will open at the right time and, until then, have fun visiting all the doors that are currently open! P.S. I really love the serenity prayer – it’s helped me through many a tough day!
This amazing mommy has had to face some incredibly testing and heartbreaking moments on her journey to parenthood; but through it all she has maintained a strength and faith that should inspire so many. Instead of staring at closed doors, she instantly starts searching for that open window; with unwavering belief that it will be there. She has faced recurring misdiagnosis, all saying she will not be able to have a child; only to have them disproven again and again. And she believes that she went through all of that because it was the way she would become the mom she is meant to be to the gorgeous Harvey. And today, after all of the fear and surrendering to the thought that she would not be able to carry her own baby, that too remains uncertain and she embraces that too.
She is a Supermommy.
There are so many mommies out there, staring at that closed door with their hearts aching and breaking. Lift your heads and look for that window; there are so many different roads that lead to what is actually only the beginning of the journey to parenthood.
Laurianne, you are inspiration in its truest form. The way you simply move forward with such confident grace on the journey to meet every one of your goals is incredible. Your achievement in every area of your life, from education to career to mommyhood, is a true testament to the woman you are. Every single mommy reading this is sending you every bit of luck and love on the rest of your journey. You are a Supermommy and I am so grateful and honoured that you shared your story with me and my readers.
So, that’s it… Thank you all again for taking this journey with me and the amazing Supermommies I am surrounded by. I hope that it has made you look a little bit closer at the mommies that move in and around your life, and stop to consider what incredible hurdles they may have faced or may still be facing. I hope that if you are one of the mommies who are facing these seemingly insurmountable challenges, the stories we have shared have held you in a safe space and shown you that you are NOT alone and you can overcome whatever stands so dauntingly ahead of you.
I hope you will take the extra second to click on the share buttons below to reach out to another mommy whose heart might be breaking right now as she gets the news that she will not be able to have her own babies or who is sitting in those first few weeks feeling overwhelmed, filled with doubt and fear that they have made a terrible mistake. Share so that she knows she is not alone and that it will pass and there is a way forward.
Sending so very much of all the love xx