I’m Sammie! Your 33-year-old non-belly Mama to an 8-year-old foster daughter* and 16 month old twin boys, turned belly mama through reciprocal IVF to a 5-month old little boy, living in a tiny 3-bedroom apartment in a pretty diverse suburb about 30 minutes outside of NYC, and I like to use exclamation points… A LOT! Mainly because my life is always lived on the edge, as if something AMAZING could happen at any second and also because I am an excitable person who is an over sharer that speaks my mind really loudly and totally feeds into that “loud Latina” stereotype. To say that my life (and my hands!) are full is quite the understatement.
I met my wife Callie 6 years ago at a backyard BBQ that her best friend was throwing. When someone asked if anyone wanted to play Spades, I said I did, and Callie said she did and that she’d be my partner (foreshadowing much?!), and people looked at me as if I had lost my mind. What I didn’t know is that Callie didn’t just play Spades, she annihilated Spades and people refused to be her partner. After 2+ hours of smack talking, Spades playing nonsense, Callie and I were victorious, scoring our 500 points and destroying the competition. I instantly thought, “I like this girl! We could totally hang out!” and a few months later, hanging out turned into a relationship, and that relationship turned into a marriage, and that marriage turned into our current life of work, play, and babies. Lots and lots of babies!
Initially, when I was younger, I didn’t want kids. Not in the least bit! Having come from a family of 7 (2 brothers and 2 sisters, mom and dad), with 36 first cousins, it was just way too many children and too many people and too much drama, and I just didn’t want that in my life. It was nice to be able to watch other people’s kids and care for them, but then give them back at the end of the day, wash my hands, sit back with a tumbler full of wine and watch my favorite TV shows.
It’s funny how when you meet “the one”, all of that changes. I loved Callie so much and so truly and so deeply, that I wanted to take it to the next level with her. I wanted to take all this excess love that I had for her and bottle it up and keep it forever. The most logical thing was…to have children!
So we talked, and talked, and talked ourselves in circles. We talked ourselves right into our fertility clinic, and 2 weeks later, feet were in stirrups and our first insemination was taking place. Eight IUI’s in the clinic, 4 ICI’s at home, and no successful pregnancies later, we decided that maybe our best option was probably to give Callie’s ovaries a much needed break and go the adoption route, but then we saw the figures and did some math, and fostering-to-adopt seemed the most feasible and realistic option for us.
We called the foster care hotline, completed a 10-week course, had our home inspection, and 6 months after we made the initial phone call, we were certified foster parents welcoming our first placement into our home. The first were twin 3.5-year-old girls, who stayed a short time but when they left took a piece of our hearts with them. About a month later we welcomed Mary into our home. She’s our spunky, rambunctious, athletic, funny, and opinionated 8-year-old. She’s our main girl, our best lady, and she sure does know it!
About a month after Mary came to live with us, the 6 months waiting period on my insurance was lifted and Callie was eligible for IVF, fully covered! So back into the stirrups she went, and about a months and a half later, 2 of our 9 embryos were implanted and 8.5 months later, our ridiculously handsome, and adorably fun twins Noah and Levi were born.
I’m still not exactly sure what we were thinking, when I decided that I wanted to carry a baby, or how we even came to decided our next move, but when the boys were 4 months old, we thought it was time and that we were ready to grow our family yet again. In early May of 2015, we walked into the fertility clinic, and decided that I would take my turn and make a nice, cozy, fluffy home for one of Callie’s embryos.
It was simultaneously a difficult and easy decision to make. What was a butch lesbian like me going to do with a pregnant body?! There was no men’s maternity section at the mall! Mainly, all of my concerns were surface stuff that was hard to let go of, but deep down, I knew that I was ready and that my body was ready to add another little life to our brood.
Mid-June 2015, we got the faintest sign of a positive and although he was born 10 weeks premature, our youngest boy made his way into the world kicking and screaming in mid-December, and looking like the perfect combination of his two brothers. After 6 long weeks in the NICU, our baby boy, Austin Ryan, came home and completed our family (for now)!
I still can’t believe that just over 2 years ago we were strugglig with infertility and getting started on this journey as foster parents, and now here we are, a family of 6 that is so, so awesome, if I do say so myself! Callie and I may not always parent the same, and we may not always agree on everything, but there is one thing that we do know for sure. These 4 babies are our whole lives and we would do any and everything to make sure that they are safe and sound and loved.
*Mary has recently been freed for adoption, but until her adoption is finalized, we will not be able to show pictures of her face in accordance with New York State foster care laws.
Sammie Mendez is a new writer for The Next Family and has her own blog, The Chronicles of a Non Belly Mama.