Category Archives: Gracie and Hudson

Around mid-2011, I got a text from this guy. It was all stiff and formal. Like “Hi Jennings. This is Dave’s friend, Ryan.” 😐 like that was it. But I was in this giggly silly mood that day, and my first thought was Hudson’s middle name is Ryan. This guy is named Ryan. So I texted him back, “Ryan!  Let’s get married!  That way my son’s middle name will match your first name! 😁👍🏻”

And then?  Nothing. Bitter silence. One heartbeat later when I didn’t see the …typing…dot dot dot… thing, I wrote him off as a humorless tool and went about my business editing photos. I always thought my friend Sabrina’s husband, Dave, was a funny guy, but his friend was sure boring. Oh well. Also, I had no room for men who weren’t awesome in my world back then.  I was 30 years old, still young and fun and full of good and bad ideas.  The politician was texting me at the same time wanting to take me out again, but I wasn’t really feeling it. Then there was the old guy I couldn’t seem to get rid of. He made me laugh, so I put up with the rest of it. In any case, I wasn’t desperate for any boring losers with no sense of humor. So I forgot about Dave’s square friend. Ryan Squarepants missed out. Too bad for him.
Hud’s middle name really is Ryan, though. I can’t tell you why I wanted him to have that name. I just liked it, and I liked the way it sounded with Hudson. Before I adopted him, and before he was born, I was discussing his name with his birthmother and told her I wanted it to be Hudson Ryan. She liked the Hudson part, but said she always liked the name Ryder. I wanted to let her make that decision and give him his middle name, but I am just not a mom to a Ryder. I insisted on Ryan, and she didn’t mind. I still think that’s a classy, smart-sounding name. It doesn’t really go with Hudson’s personality, but the boy has a good name at least. He was a year and a half old and had recently been abandoned by my first husband, who had some sort of mental breakdown before Hudson was even a year old. I was thinking of all that stuff during the short text exchange with Ryan. Although I wasn’t serious about the boring guy in San Diego, I was thinking how nice it is when a child is named after their father, and their father is a good dad. My kids didn’t have a dad, which is so weird considering how much trouble it was for my ex to adopt them and become their dad in the first place – but enough about Voldemort, this story is about Ryan and Hudson.
Anyway, three days later, my phone totally blew up with text after text after text. All from Ryan Squarepants, of all people. Turns out he texted me on the way up a mountain in San Diego where he and Dave were going to camp. He asked for my number and texted hello right before losing cell service for the duration of the camping trip.  He got my funny marriage proposal text and realized quite a few texts later that his responses weren’t going through.  So while I was writing him off as the lamest dude on the planet cuz he couldn’t take a joke, he was trying to joke and talk right back. His responses were really funny, actually, when I finally got them three (years) days later. They started in the middle of a 3-day-old conversation all chatty and full of lol’s and stuff. Normal.  The dude was normal. Then his texts became one-sided on his end and he texted that I probably wasn’t getting these messages. Then he started worrying about that (as he should have because he was already dead to me by then) and finally he set off on a five-mile hike to the top of a mountain peak somewhere around San Diego to see if he could get cell service to send the messages. He said it was a nice hike, but no luck on service. None of the messages came through until they drove back down the mountain to civilization and cell service.  As another fellow camping lover, it was easy to forgive Ryan for his silent treatment.  By the time I was done reading all of his messages, I changed my mind about him completely. He wasn’t boring. He WAS funny, and charming, and smart and nice. I liked him after all. A lot, as it turned out.
To make a long story short, he asked me out. We met at Disneyland and had the best first date ever. He moved for me, he proposed, we got married and he adopted the kids. Now, no kidding, Hudson is named after his dad, who he didn’t even meet until he was almost two years old. Now, all I need is some film clips to go with some photos of Ryan and Hudson together.  They look alike, too, which is super weird.  No one would ever guess our kids are adopted by looking, or that Ryan is actually the most recent addition to our family.  But life is strange and wonderful like that, isn’t it?
I have many a story about my funny little family. This is just one of them. I want to help you tell your family story. One day, it will make the very best memories for yourself and your family.  You need a Storybook Session, just to remind you what your family was like at this time in your lives.  You think you have all this time, but here we are 6 years later, and I honestly don’t have that many good pictures of Hudson and Ryan.  But this sequence….takes my breath away.  It was shot by the fabulously talented Toki Lee in Pasadena in 2014.  Hudson was 4 and Gracie was 8.  Their adoption became official the following year, but Ryan was the kids’ father from the day they met.  He was always meant to be the one.  This photo sequence is printed on a beautiful canvas in Hudson’s room where he can see it every day and know how loved he is.
Do you have an interesting or entertaining story about your family?  If so, we would love to hear it. Introducing new monthly storybook session giveaways for the family with the best story that we can feature on the blog or website. Text 805-490-1180 for more details. Win a free storybook session with me and a pro videographer and keep the slideshow!  Giveaway also includes a huge spending credit for anything we offer!

So I looked at my last blog post just not and saw that it was in May.  May…June…it’s July…..that’s pretty good for me!  I blogged just a couple of months ago!  And then I saw that it said 2017 next to the month.  WHAT?!  I HAVEN’T BLOGGED IN OVER A YEAR!?!??  I’M THE WORST!!!  All I can say for myself is….Facebook.  I live there, in iphone land, while I pretend to parent Gracie and Hudson in real life.

It’s summer, so the kids are home from school and for the first time, I didn’t put them in any kind of summer camp.  They just wanted to stay home like little slugs.  Gracie, at 12, is really into making art.  She draws, paints, sews and sculpts all day, every day.  She lives in an online art community of kids who draw things for each other and send them online.  It’s awesome.  I can’t discourage such a thing.  Even her friends from school are artists.  She has a couple of little girl friends who come over and hole up in her room with her to make art.  The only time I ever see them is when they make animated videos and need to film each other somewhere outside of Gracie’s bedroom.  Really, I can’t complain.  As long as I leave her alone to work on her art, she’s a happy girl.  She never bothers me to take her places or buy her things.  She just hopes I don’t drag her away from her nest to go on a Jeep adventure.  She’s sick of my adventures.  The kids are kind of Jeep’d out.  Not me. My Jeep addiction is going strong.

Hudson is 8 now.  He was diagnosed with ADHD.  We tried changing his diet, using nutritional supplements and this light/sound therapy before resorting to medication.  I was hesitant to give him any kind of prescription medications due to the fact that he was born addicted to opiates when I adopted him.  He has a genetic history of drug addiction, so I didn’t want to put him on any controlled substances.  When Hudson was a newborn, I held him every day in the NICU while his tiny body went through drug withdrawals.  The doctors kept him very sedated so he wouldn’t suffer, but it was still a terrible time for me.  I’ll never forget the way he would stiffen up, jerk and sneeze a lot when he was so tiny.  He had a feeding tube the first few days because he wouldn’t eat.  By the third day, he took a bottle from me and ripped his own feeding tube out, though, and showed the doctors he was healthy and strong.  He was such a good baby.  For the first month, he was so sleepy from the anti-withdrawal medications, I didn’t even know what his cry sounded like.  He barely woke up enough to fuss over a dirty diaper or hunger.  The rest of the time, I just held him or wore him in a sling, and he slept.  Since then, he hasn’t had any developmental delays at all.  He has done well in school, except for his hyperactive tendencies.  To make a long story short, after trying several holistic approaches to treat his ADHD, I finally just asked our family doctor for medication.  He prescribed low-dose Vyvanse and since then, Hudson has excelled in school and at home.  He’s a pleasure to be around.  He’s smart.  He can read! Really well!  He’s a changed boy.  So….in spite of my hesitation to medicate a boy once addicted to controlled substances, doing so has been wonderful for Hudson.  I’m just glad we don’t have a lot of the struggles with him that we used to.

He likes playing games – any kind of game – and he’s really good at most of them.  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve played his first game of Monopoly, trying to go easy on him, only to have him make huge, bold moves and proceed to quickly beat all of us.  He is so good at Connect 4, he teases his opponents saying things like “don’t let me win just yet….” and then his opponent is dumbfounded and has no idea where to go next.  And damn if Hudson doesn’t do exactly what he says he’s going to do.  Every time.  He’ll be like “I’m gonna roll a 3 and a 4, take the pirate gold, and head back to my port.”  And then he’ll do it.  I don’t know if there’s some career in gaming, but if there is, Hudson will find it.

JPP is doing really well this year!  With a lighter workload, I’ve been able to put more time and energy into each session.  I filmed a commercial for my business earlier this year with the talented Jackie Palmer Films.  She managed to capture everything about me and what I do in just over a minute-long film.  Check it out here: commercial film JPP 2018.

Making the commercial inspired me to offer integrated film and photography sessions, which I’ve named Storybook Sessions.  Now they are my absolute favorite sessions.  It’s more work for me to make a slideshow incorporating film and the final images, but the results are so worth it.  These slideshows will be cherished by my clients for the rest of their lives.  I can see each one of them watching it ten years from now, saying how glad they are they had it done.  In fact, I want it done for my family.  Emily is a photographer now, and she’s really, really good.  She’s helped me film my storybook sessions, and I’ve also hired a videographer a few times.  They basically film my clients while I’m posing and photographing them.  Later, the final images are worked into the film clips, which are slowed down and set to music.  The emotional impact is intense.  Every one of them makes me choke up with tears, and laugh, and smile.  Imagine how the parents in the films must feel!  I need Emily to help me do my own family’s storybook session.  In the meantime, here’s one I made for the Lloyd family.  This is one of my first ever Storybook Sessions.  Judging by the parents reaction to the photos, I’d say it was a huge success! JPP Storybook Session

I’m trying to offer discounted Storybook Sessions to my former clients so they can try it.  Even if it’s something you only do once, I think every family should do it.  The memories we make last a lifetime.  The only regret you’ll have is not doing it more often.  It’s so worth the effort.  If you’d like more info on our $250 for $500 summer storybook session, call Dani at 805-490-1180.  🙂

Here’s a whole bunch of recent sessions I’ve done!


Dear Julian Griffin Ashker and Aria Paige,

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You were the most loved and wanted babies that ever graced this Earth.  As much as it still hurts, I want to tell you your story so you can take it with you always. Hold it in your hearts like we will hold you in ours.

I met your daddy on a somewhat-blind date at Disneyland in 2011. Your big sister Gracie was 5 at the time, and your big brother Hudson was almost 2.

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I’m not sure if I believe in love at first sight, but it was something like that when I first saw your daddy, buying coffee at Panera Bread before we were going to meet inside the park.

We had already talked a lot by text, but 11/1/11 was the first time we actually met. He lived in San Diego and I lived in Thousand Oaks – about 3 hours away.

By the end of that wonderful day at Disneyland, we were already talking about you, and which one of us was going to move. I told your daddy right away that I couldn’t carry a baby myself, but our friends, Dave and Sabrina, who helped us meet, had used a surrogate to carry one of their babies, so he said that sounded okay to him. If we wanted children, we could find a surrogate, too.

After we got married the next year, we talked about having a baby often. Your daddy never had a baby, and he wanted to experience it from the beginning. I have always loved babies and have always had to try very hard to have them. I wanted more, and I wanted to share the experience of a new baby with your daddy. He just seemed made for it, and I knew If I saw him loving on our baby, I would love him even more. We started the process for him to adopt Gracie and Hudson legally, and we started looking into surrogacy to have a baby.

After a lot of thinking and juggling finances and talking to my old fertility doctor, we found out we just couldn’t afford it. It would have wiped us out financially to the point that we could’ve easily wound up broke, bankrupt or homeless. We couldn’t risk that for our family, so we abandoned the plan. I was sad, but back then, I didn’t even know what sadness really was.

It’s just that the wanting you never went away.  I missed the time that normal mommies and daddies have together to bond with a new baby. I wanted to experience that with your daddy even more than I had before. I wanted to know what his babies would look like. Gracie and Hudson were long out of the tiny baby stage. I was sad that he wouldn’t get to experience having a new baby with me. I found myself walking though the baby aisles at Target and touching baby bottles, all shiny in rows on store shelves. It was all so fun, but like a far-off dream that couldn’t come true.

One night in early 2014, your daddy and I went to a party and met a whole bunch of wonderful surrogates and intended parents, and I took pictures of all of them to help promote Surrogacy Together. A pretty girl in a red and white polka dot dress approached me when I was taking pictures and chatted with me for awhile.  She asked if I was a surrogate, and I said no, I was a photographer and actually looking for a surrogate of our own.  She said surrogacy was something she’d always wanted to do when the time felt right.

A couple of days after the party, the cute girl in the red dress wanted to be our surrogate!  We were thrilled.

Daddy and I met her and her husband a few days later at a pizza place. Your daddy had just that day had a skin cancer removed from the top of his head, and was wrapped up like a mummy all over his poor head to protect his wound. We were a little afraid we would scare them off with his mummy head, but they were super nice about it.

Daddy and our surrogate, along with her husband and I, hit it off instantly. We told each other about our children, and found out we both had an 8-year-old named Gracie!  We also found out we both had four-year-olds, too. They had their daughter, and we had your big brother, Hudson. They also had a third child, who was the oldest. We soon grew to love all of them, too.

After much talking and laughing over pizza and beer with me, your mummified daddy and the couple, we were very excited to get to work on making you. We had the green light to make a baby!  Yay!!

Your daddy and I did a procedure called in vitro fertilization, where the doctors take one mommy cell and one daddy cell together and put them together in a tiny dish in a laboratory, and let it grow into an embryo, which is just a tiny cluster of baby cells, smaller than you can see with the naked eye. On the fifth day, the doctors put the embryo into a cozy warm womb like our surrogate’s, and the parents-to-be wait and hope that the embryo will grow into a baby.

We had seven embryos tested for genetic abnormalities, which happened to tell us the sex of each one, too. We had 3 boys and 2 girls, plus 2 more that couldn’t be tested because their equipment failed. But which one to put in our surrogate?  A boy?  Or a girl?  We already had one of each at home, so that didn’t help. Your brother and sister didn’t help us decide, either. Hudson only wanted both a brother and a sister, and Gracie wasn’t all that thrilled about having any new babies in the house.

The night before the transfer, your mommy (that’s me) had a stroke of genius. I told Daddy, let’s put back one of each and see what God decides to give us!  Daddy was worried about having to buy a bigger car and buying two of everything and paying for all of it (twice), but I told him to man up. We had already been through a lot and came out on top. If anyone could handle twins and two older kids, it was us. We would figure it out. Two it was.  Our surrogate agreed. Two embryos!

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You can only imagine the surprise and delight when we discovered you both stuck in our surrogate’s tummy!!  The doctor showed us each of your beautiful beating hearts and counted the beats. At 8 weeks, we heard your hearts beating and saw the beginnings of your faces starting to form!  Daddy and I had never seen anything so amazing in our lives.  We made you guys, and we admired our hard work.  We showed you off to anyone willing to look at your pictures or listen to us talk about you.

The four of us met up a lot to check on you two and hang out together. We became fast friends, and then our kids did, too.  We went out to eat together and went to the movies together. We went shopping for baby clothes and craft beers.  We went to the lake and went boating, too.  They were our family, just like you.

In November 2014, we went to see you on a 3D ultrasound at only 10 weeks with your big brother and sister. You guys were so adorable, even at that age!

twins 3D

You had little legs and arms, and we couldn’t help but notice how active you were, Aria. We laughed as you flipped and kicked and waved your tiny hands and feet. Julian, you also gave us a show, but it was your sister always stealing the limelight.  We could see you, Aria, poking at your sac where Julian was just on the other side, almost like you knew he was there with you and you wanted to say hello. The kids were delighted by your little baby antics, and we left with some cute photos and a DVD video. We adored you and just couldn’t wait to meet you.

At 12 weeks, you passed all your tests with flying colors and we graduated from the fertility clinic and started seeing a high risk baby doctor in San Diego, closer to where our surrogate lived.  At 14 weeks, you really looked like babies, with clearly defined fingers and toes and faces. Just beautiful. Nana and Papi (Daddy’s parents) came to your 14 week 3D ultrasound. They had never seen one before!  I sat next to our surrogate on the table and we watched you two again with all the kids, only this place had a huge movie screen!  Again, Aria, you were all over the place. Kicking your poor brother in the head, crossing and uncrossing your legs like you were a tiny dancer.  Julian kicked back a bit more by then. I think you were starting to annoy him.

Gracie and Hudson got to pick out a stuffed animal and put an audio recording of your heartbeats inside the stuffed animal. Gracie picked a little wolf for your heartbeat, Julian, and Hudson picked out a little lamb to put your heartbeat in, Aria. We will treasure these memories of you always.

Ashker twins baby A

Ashker twins baby A

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It still seemed like forever till we could meet you, although I met you far sooner than I wanted to. But to pass what I thought would be a very long time, I designed the best nursery you’ve ever seen for you guys! You would have loved it!

Daddy and I built you a nice dresser that would double as a changing table.  We bought up the entire newborn section of carters clothes one day. And when our friend Emily got a good employee discount at nordstroms, we stocked up on all the baby gear they had. Two fancy swings, two baby carriers, a diaper bag, more clothes, pacifiers and bottles and sterilizers and diapers and formula machines and teething giraffes. All for you!  All with love so you would be comfy and happy in your new home.  I felt like you both growing in our surrogate’s tummy so perfectly was your gift to me, and your beautiful nursery was going to be my gift to you. I also ordered you a custom metal art moon that lights up and says I love you to the moon and back. And I found a cute shaggy gray rug at pottery barn kids to match your theme. The cribs were on back order until February, so we left the guest room as was until we got all the pieces together.

The Monday before you were born, I went to see you on a 3D ultrasound again.  It felt like I hadn’t seen you in so long. You were 20 weeks by then, looking so cute.  I was hoping to see what your faces looked like. Daddy had to work that day, so he couldn’t be there, but of course our surrogate and her husband were able to join us, and so did two of our friends.

To my surprise, I could actually tell what you both looked like!  It was hard to see your eye shapes on the ultrasound, but you both had your daddy’s nose and mouth for sure. You were gorgeous. You were growing perfectly and still very active in there. You two were always so playful!  You must have sensed each other’s presence early on. We watched your little personalities develop before our eyes. I texted all the pictures to your daddy, and your Hamma (my mom) and to Nana and Papi (Daddy’s parents). I even texted them to our fertility doctor to congratulate him on his beautiful work!  I also visited my friend Sabrina, who was in the hospital scared she might deliver her baby, Nash, too soon. Her body calmed down and Nash was fine. Sabrina and I think you two had a lot to do with that, and she thanks you both for helping Nash stay inside and grow big enough to be born. All was well, so I drove home to work and be with my favorite people.

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On Thursday, January 29, 2015, suddenly everything changed. I was back to work, happy as can be, doing photo shoots and training my new employee.

Our surrogate called me around 5:00 pm and told me she was bleeding. I told her not to panic. Bleeding is very common in pregnancy, especially with twins. I started googling bleeding at 21 weeks with twins while she and her husband drove as fast as they could to the hospital to check on you both.  Our surrogate told me she was really scared. I told her over and over to breathe. My best friend just went through this and she was fine, the baby was fine.  Sabrina was still upstairs at the same hospital our surrogate was going to so they could check on you.  Daddy texted me on his way home from work, to go outside and look how beautiful the sky was.  Indeed, it was the most breathtaking sunset we’ve ever seen here.  I felt….uneasy…about the sunset.  It looked a little too heavenly for my taste.  I told him what was going on as soon as he got home.


Our surrogate was checked into the triage unit at the hospital within 30 minutes of her first call.  They hooked her belly up to monitor her contractions, which were coming about 2 minutes apart. That’s too many contractions for so early in the pregnancy, so they gave her two medicines that are supposed to quiet the uterus and not allow it to dilate any more.  Her labor progressed anyway, and rapidly.  I told Ryan what was going on when he got home with the kids, and we tried to stay calm.  I started texting with our surrogate’s husband, and everything just happened so fast.  Nothing happened the way it should have.  Our story should have ended the same way my best friend’s did – with a healthy baby after a premature labor scare.  It didn’t.

I heard from our surrogate and her husband that the ultrasound machine came and the doctor on call saw that baby A’s (that’s you, Julian) sac was bulging out of the uterus a tiny bit, and her cervix was dilated 1.5 cm (not much, but not great). At first, it didn’t sound so urgent.  They said they had to stop the contractions first, and then they would put it an emergency cerclage in the morning – that’s where they stitch up the opening so you can’t come out early.  Your sac had not ruptured.  Her husband and I texted each other as I sat in the closet in my bedroom and cried and prayed.  You weren’t fine. You were in danger.  I quickly grew worried, then scared, then plain terrified.  My worst nightmare unfolded in the next hour.

You were both born anyway at 8:11 and 8:13 p.m. that day, in spite of everything the doctors and nurses tried to do to stop it.  You both lived for a little while in our surrogate and her husband’s arms.  We couldn’t get there in time to hold you while you took your last breaths.  I’m so, so sorry for that.  I wish I could have told you in person, while your ears were still working, how much we loved and wanted you.  How our hearts would never be whole again without you.  I wish I could’ve held you in my arms with your Daddy when you first came into this world and then left it, just like a whisper in the dark.  I pray you both know how badly we wanted you both anyway.  I hope you know that we were connected spiritually long before we ever met or said goodbye.  We were yours and you were ours.  You were real and you were here.  You matter.

I texted my mom that night, when we knew you were coming any minute and you weren’t going to survive.  I just said “can you come over?”  She texted back “What’s wrong?”  And I wrote “I’m so sorry to say.  The babies are coming.  They can’t stop it.  We have to go hold them.  They’re not going to make it.”  And with those words written, my heart officially shattered into pieces and I just lay on my closet floor and sobbed, shocked.  I couldn’t even speak when Ryan came in to ask for the update.  I only showed him the text messages.  He held me there on the closet floor while I cried and cried, unable to speak at all.  Our friend Emily was downstairs making tacos for all of us.  I said “I don’t know what to do.  I don’t know what to do.”  About a hundred times.  No one knew what to do.  I told him we can’t get there in time, that you were going to die before we could make the 3 hour drive.  Eventually, your daddy said, “We have to go.  Let’s just go now.”  I packed an overnight back in a complete fog of shock, confusion, pain…and a strange feeling of guilt I couldn’t put my finger on.

I couldn’t hide my tears when your 5-year-old brother Hudson came upstairs to my bedroom looking for me to tell me dinner was ready.  I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I told him I had some really bad news about our babies.  I said something happened to our surrogate, and the babies were born before they were ready and were too small to survive.  I told him the truth.  You were already born and you died and went to Heaven to be angels, and how sorry I was to have to break his heart by telling him the news.  Daddy and I had to leave right away, so we could come hold you and tell you how much we would miss you.  I remember apologizing over and over to my little boy, that we weren’t going to get to bring the babies home to be his little brother and sister like we thought we would.  I watched helplessly as his little face crumpled and he started to cry. His tears were the real grieving kind.  The raw pain kind of crying that sounds and feels so different from other crying spells.  We held each other for awhile there on my closet floor.  I told him it was going to hurt for a long time, and we would always miss our babies, but we were still a family.  I told him I was so thankful I already had the little boy of my dreams there to hug and kiss, and I felt so lucky to have his sister, too.  We couldn’t get up from the closet floor for awhile.  We just rocked there in the dark and held each other.  Finally, Hudson told me I needed to bring each of you a lollipop to take to Heaven, from him.  We decided to go downstairs together and pick out the best two lollipops to give to our beloved babies.  I still had to tell Gracie, and Emily, and the rest of the world.  I couldn’t eat one bite of our freshly made taco dinner.  I wanted to throw up, but I took two anti-anxiety pills instead.  I’m not sure those pills even took the edge off the piercing heartache of that night.

Your sister Gracie was happily coloring on the kitchen table when we went downstairs.  I had to sit down with her and tell her the same thing.  She had just turned 10, and I truly thought she wasn’t as emotionally invested in you as we were, or like Hudson was.  I was so wrong.  My heart shattered for the third time in 30 minutes when I saw her face also crumple and her big eyes fill with tears.  She cried much harder and longer than I expected.  She, like many of us, had grown very attached to you two specifically.  She asked me if she could come with us to the hospital to meet you and hold you, but we knew we would be gone a long time, far from home, and it was going to be too sad for too long.  If we lived closer, I would have let her.  Sometimes I still regret not taking them with us.  At the time, I didn’t think an adolescent girl with a big tender heart could handle two days of watching her parents in total despair.  We told her to stay with Hamma and Hudson and comfort each other until we came back.  I kissed her and hugged her and reminder her I wasn’t a mom at all before God gave me her.  I reassured her that we loved her, and we would make it through this hard time because our love is so strong.

My mom arrived at our house shortly after.  Hudson ran out to her in the driveway and cried “Hamma, our babies died!” and started sobbing all over again.  My mom hugged us all and held the kids tight, and Daddy and I left to go meet you.  It was the shortest and longest 3-hour drive of my life.  I felt like we were actually barreling at light speed toward something unbearable.  At the same time, my need to hold you and see you grew enormous.  Half of me couldn’t accept it as the new reality, and half of me accepted it immediately and wanted to savor my time with your little bodies, which I knew would be way too short.

When we finally checked in as “visitors” and walked into the hospital room, our surrogate and her husband were both holding you guys, studying your sweet faces.  Her husband got up to hug me first, and I thanked him for holding you while you lived and died.  Then I climbed right in the little hospital bed with our surrogate and hugged her tight and told her how much I loved her, and how we did not blame her and never would, and how it was not her fault.  We cried together, and then, finally, I reached out to hold the two of you.

How can I describe how beautiful you were?  I’ve never been a huge religious person, but I felt like I was looking directly at the face of God in your sweet faces.  I was so happy that I recognized you from your ultrasound photos.  I was so delighted to see you had your Daddy’s nose and mouth like I thought.  Aria, your mouth was a little prettier, just like a little girl, and Julian, you just had Daddy’s mouth exactly.  You both have his upper lip, and his nose, although your nose, Aria, looked daintier.  Your sweet little peaceful faces told me that you had not suffered very much before you died.  Even though you had died hours before, you both looked so perfectly content.  Aria, sometimes I felt like I was catching you smiling in your sleep.  I don’t know what your eyes looked like.  You were still so small, your eyes were sealed shut.  I wish I knew what color eyes you would have had.  I’m guessing blue, but I’ll have to wait until I join you in Heaven to find out.

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Julian, my little man.  You were perfection.  I unwrapped you and checked you out, head to toe.  You had little hair on your head!  It looked light brown.  Your tiny head was bruised because you came out first, but your hairline was cute just like your Daddy’s.  Aria, you had peach fuzz lighter-colored hair, and not as much as your brother.  I think you may have been one of those kids who would have been born with blond hair that slowly turned to brown hair, and your twin brother would have had a lot of brown hair.  I wish I could’ve watched you grow and found out.  Even on that sad night, I was surprised and delighted by how perfect you both were.  It’s the most amazing miracle that you grew into tiny but perfect human being in just 21 short weeks.  You each had tiny eyebrows and eyelashes.  When I opened your little mouths, you had a tiny pink tongue and miniature gums!  I kissed every one of your ten fingers and toes, and I covered your sweet little faces with my tears and kisses.  I touched your tiny ears.  I held your hands on my pinky finger.  You were the most beautiful babies I’ve ever seen.  I did not cry when I held you.  My heart was happy.  I thought you were worth any amount of pain when I held you in my arms.  You both had straight little backs, long legs, your daddy’s feet and other recognizable and precious features. I could’ve kept kissing you for the rest of my life.

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Aria, my sweet little princess, your features were dainty, precious, and almost…happy looking.  You weighed the same as your brother (13.9 ounces), you were a half an inch shorter (10.5 an 11 inches each), with a slightly smaller nose, eyes, hands and feet.  I was so in awe of you both.  I bent and straightened your legs and watched your tiny calf muscles move, your ankles flex, your knees moved the same as any sleeping baby.  You actually had the most beautiful curvy little legs I’ve ever seen.  You were strong.  I imagine you would’ve had a strong personality, like your sister, Gracie.  I think that’s why Gracie was so excited to be your big sister.  She’s the kind of girl who thinks it’s cool to kick your brother in the face and do cartwheels in the tummy.

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I could feel God in the room with us that night, holding all of us in His arms through our love for you.

Your Daddy held you for a long time and told you he couldn’t wait to meet you again, either in this life in other bodies, or in Heaven when he can see you again.  He told you how much he loved you.  Then I took you back.  A chaplain came to bless your souls so you could open your eyes for the first time and see Jesus.  I know you already had.  We passed your beautiful lifeless bodies back and forth for hours that night, and the next day, too.  Holding you was actually like holding a piece of Heaven on Earth.  I fell in love with you when I saw your faces, but once I held you both, I knew a part of me had forever died with you.  They say some people only dream of angels, while others get to hold one in their arms.  I suppose that’s true, but holding my own angel babies was more like a nightmare I wanted so badly to wake from.  You were worth the hurt, though. I love you so much, and so does your daddy, and your big brother and sister, and your grandparents, and everyone who ever laid eyes on you or heard your story.

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  You are so loved, little angels.  By so many people.  Thousands of people all over the world have cried at your loss and are hurting with us.  But we will celebrate your life and take the good from it.

I’ll always be your mommy, and I’ll always love you with all my heart.  I can’t wait to hold you in Heaven and see you again.  Until then, I will hold you in my heart, and I will write to you when I feel far away from you.  You will never be forgotten.  Thank you for being my angels.  I am honored to be the one you chose to be your mom, even though I didn’t get a chance to raise you like I dreamed.

Love you forever and always,


All of my children have come to me quite magically.  My mom gave me the birds and the bees talk about how babies are made when I was in third grade.  I learned all about it in health class, and since I was always obsessed with the subject of babies, I went out of my way to read books on obstetrics and childbirth and babies when I was young.  I always knew how babies were made, but it turns out that’s nothing like how I got my two babies.  I think my next baby will be just as magical.

So here’s my whole post, in a nutshell.  I was infertile.  I became friends with Sabrina, who recommended Dr. Hubert to me.  He became my doctor.  His efforts did not result in a baby.  I adopted Gracie Makana.  Four years later, Gracie’s birthfather made a half-sibling with another woman.  I adopted that baby – Hudson Ryan.  Sabrina’s husband’s best friend Ryan texted me one day when I was a single mom.  I liked that my son’s middle name matched his first name.  I fell in love with him and then I married him.  He’s adopting Gracie and Hudson.

I said before that infertility blows.  And it does.  But now I think, if I hadn’t been infertile, I’d be a sad single mom to my ex-husband Voldemort’s kids.  They’d be ugly, probably, and the girls would have endometriosis and the boys would have mental health issues.  I wouldn’t have met my best friend, Sabrina.  I wouldn’t have met Ryan or Gracie or Hudson or any of the people in my life….  It’s really a good thing I had raging endometriosis.  It was worth it.

When I adopted Gracie, I was already best friends with Sabrina.  She used a surrogate and ended up having triplets just before I adopted Gracie.  By that time, I was married to Voldemort and had completed two cycles of in vitro fertilization (IVF) and had had two surgeries to clean out my raging stage 4 endometriosis.  Voldemort and I borrowed a lot of money to pay for another cycle of  IVF and the cost of a private domestic infant adoption.  I was paying the fertility clinic and the adoption attorney at the same time, hoping to get a baby as fast as humanly possible.  I didn’t like the idea of waiting 9 months to grow my own baby.  I just wanted any baby, like yesterday.  So I was hedging my bets, see. As was always the case with my fertility treatments, we had problems right away.  The IVF cycle couldn’t even begin.  I developed a huge cyst inside one of my ovaries, that I lovingly named Pedro.  And this cyst, Pedro, looked just like an alien from Mars Attacks with a big head and small eyes and a mouth.


He was kind of a cute cyst, but I had to kill him.  We scheduled surgery #3 while I busied myself filling out adoption paperwork and completing the first steps of a home study.  I made a cute resume for our attorney to give to potential birthmoms, and I put together the world’s coolest Hawaiian nursery for my upcoming baby, wherever it came from. Five weeks after we met with the attorney and signed the retainer agreement, the lawyer called to tell us we had been chosen by a birthmother in Las Vegas, and she was 7 months pregnant and both bio parents wanted to meet us.  A week later, my ex and I were in Vegas at the Hilton Benihana, becoming friends with Gracie’s birthparents over dinner.  We found out our baby was a girl, and every single hope and dream I’d ever had for myself was fulfilled when Gracie Makana was born on January 8, 2006.

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We spent a week in Vegas waiting for our clearances, then all the papers were signed and we took her home to be our daughter forever.  Compared to my struggles with infertility and endometriosis, adoption was a walk in the park.  All my fears about the process turned out to be unfounded.  The birthmother never changed her mind or even scared me that she might.  Both birthparents signed the adoption papers 72 hours after the birth, right on time, with big smiles on their faces.  We got our interstate clearance, took our 6 lbs of love home to California, and lived happily ever after (well, at least until my ex turned crazy and became a homeless eternal victim and never recovered – but Gracie and I stayed happy and together the whole time). When we adopted Hudson four years after Gracie, his adoption was even easier!  Our adoption attorney called one day when my husband had just sold his company and we happened to have a few hundred thousand dollars that had just been wire transferred into our account, to tell me that Gracie’s birthfather had impregnated another woman, who also wanted to place the baby for adoption.  A biological half-sibling to Gracie!   That call came after I’d had 2 more surgeries to clean up my endo, three more IVF cycles which resulted in two ectopic (tubal) pregnancies that had to be terminated, and a blighted ovum pregnancy, which is when a pregnancy and embryonic sac forms in the uterus, but with no baby inside.  Those sucked.  Then I had a hysterectomy.  Then my ex sold his business, then I got this phone call.  Literally the same morning we got paid, the attorney called to tell me about this baby and asked if we wanted to adopt him.  Ummmmm yes???  We met his birthmother in Encino, where she lived until after Hudson was born.  We moved to Thousand Oaks 4 days before Hudson was born – on January 15, 2010.  We paid cash for his adoption (imagine that) and brought him home from the hospital at 6 days old. Easy!  And he is, by the way, the love of my life.  My cuddly mama’s boy who needs me and tells me every day “Mom, I wuv you sooooo much.  I will never weave you.”  haha.  He’s just a ball of love and joy, that one.Jennings Paige Horse Ranch Thousand Oaks 09

Now, they have a WAY BETTER father, too.  Ryan was the dad they always had coming to them, but none of us expected how or when or under what circumstances.  As Garth sings, “some of God’s greatest gifts are unanswered prayers”.