Posts filed under ‘Amazing Moms’

Michelle: Survivor from Cancer to Katrina Part II

Michelle’s Story. Part II of II: Last week I introduced you to my friend, Michelle, who even in the middle of her fight with Leukemia, never gave up hope of one day being a mom.

The strain put on Michelle’s body by the cancer while she awaited a bone marrow donor had caused her to lose her cycle. And once she had her transplant followed by chemotherapy and radiation, she would be rendered completely infertile. But, one year after her cycle had stopped, much to everyone’s surprise, Michelle inexplicably became pregnant.

Against her doctor’s advice, Michelle and her husband, Ryan O’Regan decided they wanted to continue with the pregnancy and delay a transplant even though the odds of carrying the baby full-term were very slim. And the chances that Michelle could die from the cancer if she delayed her transplant any further were very great. It was a chance Michelle was willing to take. She felt it was her destiny to be a mom; all her life she had prepared for this and the very deep maternal nature in her could not terminate her pregnancy. Even if it meant losing her life. Ryan, not easily convinced, eventually agreed to his bride’s heartfelt wish.

The doctors warned Michelle that to continue would mean 100% bed rest and daily blood transfusions. She would likely not survive the birth, if she even got that far. Her risk of infection from the Leukemia alone meant that the slightest scratch could send her to the hospital. She had already spent two weeks in the hospital as a result of a popcorn kernel stuck in her teeth. So precarious was her situation that even shaving and brushing her teeth were forbidden. She was not dissuaded from continuing with the pregnancy. Then, only two weeks after discovering she was pregnant, at just 16 weeks, Michelle miscarried. It would seem the pregnancy was never meant to be as soon after, a donor was found. Michelle’s transplant was scheduled immediately.

A few years later, after many hurdles had been cleared and the cancer was now behind them, the O’Regans began exploring their options to have the family they always wanted. With Michelle’s medical history, In vitro was immediately eliminated. They began hearing about “open” adoption. After much education, counseling and talking to both adoptees and adopters who were living it, the O’Regans decided open adoption was the way to go. They were concerned that a closed adoption would leave their child feeling “incomplete” or like something was missing, and they wanted to be sure their daughter felt “whole.”

Molly

Once Michelle and Ryan had been chosen by the prospective birth parents, the date was set for the two moms to meet: September 11th, 2001. While many people’s plans were canceled that day, rocked by the events that started to unfold that morning, Michelle and Janice chose to keep their plans amidst the chaos. The adoption process would not be held up by any catastrophe, no matter how great. They spent the entire day getting to know each other and twelve days later, the day the United States flag was finally raised from half-mast and the nation officially came out of mourning, Molly was born.

Janice and Eric, Molly’s birth parents continue to play an important role in her life. They have big family gatherings in California a couple times a year with Janice and her family, which really has just become an extension of the O’Regan’s own family. Molly has more grandparents and family to dote on her and spoil her than any kid could wish for.

Meggie

Otherwise known as, “Hurricane Meggie,” the O’Regans adopted their second daughter through open adoption after Megan’s birth mom was almost lost in Hurricane Katrina. Rebecca, already the young mother of a toddler, was very pregnant and alone when the hurricane hit her home and sent her scrambling to the attic. She and her daughter spent two nights there before finally escaping to the roof where they were eventually found and evacuated to Houston. Like so many others, the O’Regans had also evacuated to Houston and were safe. Unbeknownst to the O’Regans, Rebecca had already chosen them to be her baby’s adoptive parents and their social worker, Danna had planned to call them with the news the day of the hurricane. But now, with everyone scattered to the wind, there was no way to reach them, or to even know if they or Rebecca were still alive.

Remarkably, Danna ended up at the same hotel as the O’Regans in Houston. They would bump into each other in the courtyard. But, with no way of knowing the whereabouts of Rebecca, Danna kept the news of the adoption to herself. Meanwhile, in another hotel in Houston, Rebecca was frantically calling the local Catholic Charities office, trying to find Michelle. Of the few possessions she had with her was the O’Regans profile album from the adoption agency.

Rebecca refused to give up on the O’Regans being her baby’s adoptive parents and continued to call Catholic Charities, never doubting that one day she would find them. Here’s where providence would again plays its’ hand: Danna began helping out at the Houston Catholic Charities office. Another social worker at the office, who knew Rebecca was looking for a family from New Orleans, had heard Danna was an evacuee and asked if she happened to know of the O’Regans. Danna was finally able to share the news with Michelle and Ryan that not only had they been chosen, but the birth mom was there in Houston looking for them. Their first meeting was a joyful one indeed.

In October, when everyone including Rebecca and the O’Regans were finally returning home to Louisiana to much clean-up and repairs, or no home at all, Megan was born. Their story made the local news and “Hurricane Meggie” was featured on TV and in the Times Picayune.

Rebecca has lost touch with the O’Regans, perhaps carrying some guilt about giving up a child after already being a mother. Janice, however, has taken on the role of Meggie’s birth mom, and her family has fully adopted Meggie as their own. Both girls are a very special gift of providence to Michelle, Ryan and their families and they will forever be surrounded with love.

Michelle is a frequent speaker for Catholic Charities on adoption and says she has loved both her girls since before they took their first breath.

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May 16, 2010 at 5:30 am 5 comments

Amazing Mom – Michelle: Survivor from Cancer to Katrina

A Mother’s Day tribute to an extraordinary Mom.

This Mother’s Day, just like last, I want to recognize a Mom in my life who inspires me to be a better Mom. There are so many ordinary women doing extraordinary things in ways that often go unacknowledged as mothers. We laud the accomplishments of women in the workplace, but, equally important are the sacrifices of the women who choose to stay home and raise the future members of our society with love and devotion. Against the grain. And, against the odds. Like Michelle.

Michelle’s Story. Part I of II: Michelle had dreamed of becoming a mother her entire life. It was all she ever wanted to do. It was her calling. And she was ready to answer her calling when she met and married Ryan while they were both still college students at the University of New Orleans. They had dated for just four months. Michelle was 21, Ryan 19. A few months into their marriage, Michelle started to feel fatigued. A stop in at the campus health clinic where she received a blood test resulted in an unexpected phone call from the doctor that same evening. He was sending her to see a Hematologist first thing in the morning. Her blood test showed that her hemoglobin was dangerously low, at a level where her organs could fail at any time. The next morning, she had her first bone marrow biopsy.

Michelle was diagnosed with Myelodysplastic Syndrome, or preleukemia, which meant she had no healthy blood cells. For the next two years, she underwent numerous blood and platelet transfusions, had her gall bladder removed and suffered endless infections because her body had become so weak. Time was running out for Michelle and her doctors knew it. Bone marrow transplants were still experimental at that time and none were being performed in the New Orleans area. Michelle was sent to Baylor University Hospital in Dallas to take part in an experimental bone marrow transplant program. The search was now on to find a donor.

After testing everyone in Michelle’s family, there were no matches. The odds today of being matched to a donor in the National Bone Marrow Registry are 1 in 20,000 to 1 in 100,000. But, incredibly, a match came up for Michelle at a time when even fewer people were registered. Unlike then, becoming registered today requires nothing more than a simple cheek swab. And, donating can be as easy as donating blood to collect the stem cells. (Join the Be the Match Registry and you could be the one to save a life.)

Michelle was moved into a facility in Dallas for treatment. At this same time, Ryan, an Engineering major who was now a senior at the University of New Orleans and top of his class, was recruited by the Army Corps of Engineers for an internship. That internship would provide the necessary insurance, working under federal employee guidelines to pay for the experimental treatment that could save Michelle’s life. Those guidelines don’t permit denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions. Without the internship, Michelle would be uninsurable and Ryan would lose his young bride to Cancer.

Ryan would now have to work 20 hours a week at his internship, carry a full course load in school and maintain his high G.P.A. to keep the internship and his scholarship. All the while his wife is about to undergo an untested and possibly life-saving transplant a state away. No sweat.

Treatment began with two days of chemotherapy and three days of full-body radiation before receiving her donor’s bone marrow. Michelle spent the next month fighting infections and on anti-rejection meds as her body tried to reject the donated marrow. She suffered from fevers, rashes, constant nausea and most painful, Mucositis which left her unable to swallow for ten days. But, in the end and against the odds, the transplant was a success!

While Ryan maintained his grueling work and class schedule, Michelle’s mother stayed with her at the hospital the entire 35 days. Their insurance paid for Michelle and her mother to be moved into an apartment for daily outpatient care for two months after that, and for Ryan to be able to fly out for visits two weekends a month. After three months, Ryan was finally able to bring Michelle home.

The fight didn’t end there. It would be a year and a half before Michelle would start to feel “normal” again. She would need constant care and supervision at home because of the risk of infection with her fragile immune system. The survival rate after transplant is 60% before the end of the first year. Michelle would have ten more bone marrow biopsies during the course of the next few years to confirm that the disease hadn’t returned. It never did.

Michelle was thankful to be alive. But, what of her dream? Would she ever become a mother? Next Sunday, read how Michelle and Ryan’s desire to become parents would not be impeded by two of the most tragic events in American history: 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.

May 9, 2010 at 6:00 am 3 comments

Announcing: Amazing Moms!

An overwhelming amount of visitors and support have flooded in for Alisa and her story since first being posted this past Sunday. It was an honor to also have the post chosen as the winner of the Blog Frog’s Favorite Mom contest for Mother’s Day.

Working on Alisa’s story has been an incredibly rewarding experience for both of us. Alisa has expressed feeling significantly released from her past since her story has run and is excited for however God should choose to use it in the future. For me, the challenge in writing her story was my own personal test of how far I want to take this blog. How serious am I about it? Will it be a pursuit of passion or just a passing fancy? The great sense of accomplishment I felt when finishing the two-part account has only been surpassed by the apparent confirmation I’ve received that maybe I should keep this blog thing going.

In fact, I’ve decided to make stories like Alisa’s a regular fixture on this blog in a feature to be called: Amazing Moms. We all know women like these, who go above and beyond where most moms go. Maybe it’s you? I would love to tell your story. Post a comment below if you have someone you’d like to nominate as an Amazing Mom.

Now, after all the great accomplishments being tossed about, I thought I’d bring things back down to earth a bit with a list of all the things that have gone unaccomplished since starting this blog less than one month ago:

1. Housework: My bathrooms haven’t seen more than a Clorox disposable wipe for longer than I’d like to publicly admit, and our dust not only has dust, Reagan has started to use our dining room table as her own personal Magna Doodle.

2. Shopping: My daughter’s shirts aren’t really supposed to show off her mid-rift a la Britney Spears, and her only pair of shoes that still fit are elastic sling-backs.

3. Grocery shopping: “Egg!” “I’m sorry baby, we don’t have any eggs.” “Apol!” “Sorry, sweetie, we don’t have any apples either.” “Pear!” “No, we’re out of those too.” “Nana!” “No bananas.” “No, no, sweetie… don’t eat your Playdoh! No!”

4. Personal hygiene: I haven’t had a pedicure in so long my toenails are starting to return to a healthy shade of pink.

5. TV watching: This sounds like a good thing, but what it really means is that our DVR is constantly 97% full because of a month’s worth of Lost, 24 and Prison Break, all of which my husband is threatening to delete and will then possibly have to take out a restraining order on me.

Send in your nominations! 🙂

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May 14, 2009 at 7:40 pm 3 comments

Single Mom and Survivor… Part II

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After being attacked and stalked by her ex-boyfriend, then seeing him go to prison for his actions, Alisa bravely chose to keep his baby that she carried throughout the trial. Only 22 and a senior in college, there would be many challenges ahead as a single mom on her own. She has faced them one by one and 10 years later is choosing to take her story public for the first time. I was honored she trusted me to share it here. She hopes that by doing so, other women will be inspired to take action against their abusers and choose life for themselves and their children. And, finally, she wants to impress upon people to offer a hand to the single moms in their lives however they feel prompted to. The desire for understanding and compassion is there, even if unspoken.

Following are Alisa’s very candid answers to some very personal questions. (You can read more of her story in Part I here.)

MamaBird: What gave you the strength to keep from dropping the charges against your abuser even after continuing your relationship with him?

Alisa: When I learned I was pregnant with my daughter, I felt God used that to motivate me not to drop the charges against my abuser. I didn’t want her to be around him, knowing he’d committed this crime against me and could harm her also.

MB: Would you say that your pregnancy saved you from allowing your abuser to go free and furthering your relationship with him?

A: I think having a sexual relationship with him outside of marriage was wrong. However, God shows us tremendous grace and mercy when we mess up. He says in His Word He is able to turn all things to good for those who love Him. I believe that’s what He’s done for me in this situation, and I am so grateful.

MB: What advice would you give to other women who feel stuck in an abusive relationship?

A: First of all, you’re not stuck. So don’t believe that lie. It’s scary to think about leaving, but you can do it. Don’t be led by your feelings. Muster up every ounce of faith you can, find help and GET OUT!

MB: At what point in your pregnancy did you know you were going to keep your baby?

A: I think deep down inside me, I always knew. Somewhere in my subconscious mind, God was preparing me for His answer. I spent most of my pregnancy seeking His will for mine and my baby’s life. When I knew God wanted me to parent her (rather than place her for adoption), He provided the confidence and grace for me to do it also.

MB: You were only 21 and in your senior year of college. Did the thought of terminating the pregnancy ever cross your mind?

A: Yes, the idea of having an abortion did tempt me. But I chose not to entertain that thought.

MB: Were there times as a young mother that you doubted that you had made the right choice?

A: Oh yes! [Laughs.] Doesn’t every mom? The level of loneliness I at times felt definitely would cause me to second guess my decision. Whatever the reason, I think all moms face doubt at some point.

MB: What insights can you share with others who may be struggling with that choice?

A: I highly recommend having a relationship with Jesus Christ. Knowing He is Who He said He is (God incarnate); did what He said He’d do (be the final sacrifice for sin); miraculously came back to life and is alive in heaven today (plus sent His Holy Spirit to live in me), has given me everything I need to overcome anything.

MB: How were your grades that last year of college?

A: I was determined to still succeed in college, so my grades were as good as they’d always been. Plus, God gave me favor with my professors who supported me.

MB: Do you feel like you missed out on your 20s?

A: Well… I didn’t miss out on my 20s; I still had to go through them! [Laughs.] But I know what you mean. I do feel like my early twenties were pretty tumultuous, coming out of what I did. There was a period of time when I felt so plagued by the assault, I sort of “checked out” mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I was trying to cover the wound, rather than let God take care of me. Thankfully, I’ve been delivered from all that.

MB: Were there ever times when you feared becoming homeless?

A: Before, and even shortly after, my daughter was born I looked for places to live. But at that time I wasn’t in a position to (a.) afford much or (b.) quickly find help to move. So I looked into the Salvation Army’s shelter for homeless adults. Once my mother learned I’d done that, she and my stepfather allowed me to live with them until school resumed a couple months later.

MB: What kind of baby was your daughter?

A: My daughter is filled to the brim with joy! She’s such a blessing. One of my favorite memories of her is when she would wake up in the morning and pull herself to a stand at the foot of her crib. I’d be still sleeping in the other room, so she’d laugh out loud to get my attention! What child responds that way instead of crying! [Laughs.] I don’t know, but I try not to take it for granted! [Laughs.]

MB: What age was your daughter when you first decided to start dating again and what were the challenges you faced?

A: Dating by design presents challenges! [Laughs.] Pretty much anytime people are involved, it’s tricky. So I don’t count myself unique in that regard. As I said, I would try to heal my hurt so I sought relationship. Finding men to be with wasn’t hard, especially when my daughter was a baby. As she got older though, I became more careful. In a way I felt more accountable as she grew up; I became more aware of the example I was setting. And that’s a good thing!

MB: If the right man walked into your life now, would you feel your life would be complete?

A: My life is complete today because of my relationship with Jesus Christ. Does that mean my daughter and I don’t desire relationship with the right man in our life? No. In fact, the past couple years we have been more fervently asking God for the husband He has for me and the father He has for her to come into our lives soon.

MB: What does your daughter know about her father?

A: I want her to always know the truth, in age appropriate ways. She knows that God values him as much as anyone else. That he wasn’t mentally, emotionally or spiritually well and needs healing. He made bad choices and is suffering the consequences of his actions. And, his behavior is not a reflection on her. You can’t really escape your child knowing about their father unless you lie.

MB: You have a very honest and open relationship with your daughter. Is there anything you haven’t told her that you dread her asking?

A: I haven’t told her the details of what happened with me and her father. But I don’t dread her asking me either. Whenever something good reminds me of him, I share it with her. She needs to understand love always believes the best in people.

MB: If your daughter wanted to meet her father in the future, would you support her in that decision?

A: It depends. If I had peace in my heart and knew she would be safe then yes, I would support her. There are some decisions kids are too young to make on their own. As her parent, I will exercise veto power.

MB: You were raised by a single mother since you were 13, do you think it made you grow up faster and what effect do you think it has on your own daughter?

A: I don’t know if my mom’s being a single parent made me grow up faster. Nor do I know if me being a single parent has caused my daughter to grow up faster either. But my daughter and I are often told we’re mature for our age. So maybe there’s a common denominator there. I’m not sure.

MB: Do you think not having a father during your teen years played a part in becoming involved with the man you did?

A: I think a woman’s relationship with her father influences the type of men she chooses to get involved with. I believe men and women can retrain themselves to line up with how God wants them to be attracted to the opposite sex. As I’ve continued walking with the Lord, my choices have certainly gotten better over the years! So there’s always hope.

MB: Do you fear that your daughter will repeat your mistakes?

A: I’ve been tempted to be afraid my daughter will make the same mistakes. But I’ve learned to quickly reform those thoughts with the truth. The truth is: I don’t have to worry about the future; I just have to trust God. Worrying is pointless.

MB: What has been the hardest part of being a single mom, and what has been the most rewarding?

A: Probably the hardest part about being a single mom is my daughter missing out on having a father. Daddies bring something different to the table that can’t be replaced by moms. Thankfully, God fills that gap. The most rewarding part of being a single mom is the special bond inevitably made with your child(ren).

MB: What do you want others to understand about being a single mom?

A: We’re not second-class citizens and we need people to reach out to us and our children more. Don’t be paranoid we’ll become co-dependent. We’re just grateful you care enough to put us before yourself.

This post is part of a world wide blogging tribute to Moms led by TheBlogFrog.

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May 12, 2009 at 1:37 am 9 comments

Single Mom and Survivor, a Modern-Day Widow’s Story

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No longer a victim, Alisa has faced incredible odds as a single mom.

Alisa’s Story: Part I of II
There is no denying that motherhood is the hardest job on earth. Sometimes it isn’t until you become a mom (or dad) that you actually appreciate how hard it really is. I have always had a place in my heart for the moms who shoulder this responsibility alone, doing their best to love their child enough for two people. That place in my heart grew in Dr. Seuss-size proportions last year when I suddenly found myself experiencing single motherhood while still married. After being diagnosed with cancer, my husband’s eight long months of treatment and the months of recovery that followed meant he and our then one-year-old daughter were depending on me to keep the ship afloat. The year passed slowly, seemingly one long day blurring into another; never knowing whether I had brushed my teeth that morning or showered in the past three days. If you had pointed me in the direction of “up,” I would’ve gotten lost on my way there. Anytime I would start to feel sorry for myself, I would just as quickly remember that it was my husband who was doing the real suffering. And then I would think of my friend, Alisa. Her story would inspire me daily to push forward towards the goal, and rely on God for strength and to fulfill our needs. While I knew that this would be but a blip on our family timeline, Alisa has persevered for ten years raising her daughter on her own and against the odds as a young single mother—the “modern-day widow.”

Just 21, Alisa was enjoying all that college-life had to offer as a young adult and student, especially since recently breaking off a two-year relationship with her boyfriend after she learned he had begun to abuse drugs. One morning, “Jimmy” came through the window of her home and attacked Alisa in a drug-induced fit of rage. He strangled her until she nearly blacked out. She remembers being unable to breathe or speak but in her mind willing Jimmy to release her in the name of Jesus. At that very moment he let go of her neck and collapsed in her lap where she sat. Still in a state of shock, and struggling to catch her breath, she watched as Jimmy suddenly got up and walked into the kitchen. Alisa could hear him fumbling around in a drawer and then falling to the floor. She became concerned he may have “hurt himself” when he didn’t reappear after a few minutes and instead of running for her life, she went to the kitchen to check on him. A Psychotherapist would later explain Alisa’s behavior as consistent with  “Stockholm syndrome” as she first sought to assure her attacker’s well-being rather than her own. Upon entering the kitchen, she found Jimmy sitting on the floor, holding a knife. To her surprise, he then came after her with it.  As she turned to run, he caught her by the hair and threw her to the ground with such force she sustained whiplash from the attack. He held her down and proceeded to verbally abuse and sexually assault her. Alisa began to scream so hysterically that she doesn’t even remember it being her own voice. It was enough to scare Jimmy away as he took off up the stairs leaving Alisa lying on the floor, terrified and confused, but alive. Her first instinct was to call her sister, who then implored her to get out of the house. Alisa ran across the street to a convenience store where there just happened to be a police officer filling up his car.

Alisa filed a police report that day and Jimmy was brought in on charges of aggravated assault. Though estranged, Alisa found she was unable to free herself completely from Jimmy. While in prison, he began stalking her with phone calls and letters which continued after he had been released on bond. Struggling with her feelings for and her even greater fear of him, she remained mentally in his grips and agreed to meet with him on several occasions. Her psyche now resembling that of a “battered woman,” she feared that if she didn’t meet with him, he would hurt her again and somewhere in the back reaches of her mind was also a small glimmer of hope that things could just go back to the way they had once been. It was during that time that Alisa became pregnant. It was devastating news. She chose to keep this a secret from Jimmy and maintained the strength to pursue the charges against him. He was convicted of aggravated assault in the 2nd degree and being a sexual deviant. He was sentenced and served seven years in prison. During the course of the trial, Alisa bravely chose to keep her baby and raise her on her own. Though he is now free, Alisa says she no longer has any fear of Jimmy entering her life again.

Finishing her senior year of college with a newborn baby and working nights, Alisa became a very resourceful mother. She lived in the single-parent housing on campus. Her girlfriends scheduled their classes around hers so they could watch the baby while she was in class. Her admissions officer babysat at night while Alisa worked and paid her own way through college along with taking out school loans. Though she desired a stronger family support network, it was just not made available to her. With little to no help, she struggled through school and to this day.

n648438243_1073094_4842After ten years, Alisa has become more financially stable as her career as a writer has blossomed. She has started to come into her own and through her journey she and her family have become stronger together. After battling post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety she is now living the happiest days of her life—just she and her daughter on their own. She sees God continually bringing people and situations into her life where she can share her story to help others who are struggling with their options concerning pregnancy and domestic violence. She hopes to one day see society care for its’ unwed mothers in the same way that God commanded that we take care of our widows—they are today’s single moms.

Read Part II of Alisa’s Story in a special Q&A to be posted on Tues., May 12th.

This post is part of a world wide blogging tribute to Moms led by TheBlogFrog.

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May 9, 2009 at 11:00 pm 9 comments


A half-hatched role-reversal takes flight on a wing and a prayer.

Life is a misadventure mixed with mayhem.

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