Category Archives: adoption

Turner Syndrome: My Story

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Those who know me may or may not know that I have Turner Syndrome.  While I am open about Turner Syndrome, it isn’t something that comes up all that often.  I’ve struggled for years to put into words just what Turner Syndrome has meant in my life.  While I certainly wouldn’t be the same person I am today if I did not have Turner Syndrome, it has not defined me.  I admit, Turners has made certain things, such as motherhood, more challenging, but for every young girl with TS reading this, I want to make this as clear as possible:  Turner Syndrome has yet to stop me from achieving anything.  As tomorrow marks the beginning of Turner Syndrome awareness month, I am sharing my story.

My name is Lindsey Russell, and I was diagnosed with Turner Syndrome at 3 years old.  At that age, I fell off the growth charts, and I was fortunate enough to have a concerned pediatrician, Dr. Wright, who had previous experience with Turner Syndrome.  The fact that I have Turner Syndrome was then confirmed by an endocrinologist at Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan Medical Center.  Even though I attempted to find out if I have classic Turner Syndrome (the entire X chromosome is missing) or mosaic Turner Syndrome (only part of the X chromosome is missing) in my 20s, I never received those copies of my medical records.  Throughout my early childhood, I had yearly check-ups in Ann Abor.  Even though I didn’t know I have Turner Syndrome until I was 10 years old, I could sense that I was somehow different.

Fortunately, I do not have the more serious heart and kidney issues associated with Turner Syndrome.  I do have a large number of moles, short stature, and infertility.  I also had issues with reoccurring ear infections as young child, which resulted in several sets of tubes (I couldn’t even tell you how many) and slight hearing loss.  In fact, I hated seeing the ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist, Dr. Stoddard, because I dreaded getting another set of tubes.  For the record, Dr. Stoddard was one of the nicest doctors I ever had, and I feel terrible that I hated him so much as a child.  My fear of tubes stemmed from my memory of my last set of tubes at age four (I think).  I remember throwing up due to the anesthesia, and I was terrified I was going to have to go through that again.  For the record, I have yet to meet a girl or woman with Turner Syndrome who did not have several sets of tubes as a child.

When I was ten years old, everything changed.  In the early 1990s, HGH (human growth hormone) came into use for “treatment” of Turner Syndrome.  In fact, in later years, I met girls slightly older than me who participated in the clinical trials.  At age ten, I started daily injections of HGH.  I stayed on those shots until I was 15 years old.  In fact, the development of HGH treatment for girls with Turner Syndrome is how I found out I have TS.  In order to be considered for HGH treatment, I had to spend a night in the hospital for hourly blood tests.  As I was not sick, my parents were put in a position where they had to explain that I have Turner Syndrome.  I am deeply grateful to my parents for their honesty and their insistence that I could achieve whatever I desired.

Today, I have mixed feelings about the use of HGH for the treatment of Turner Syndrome.  I don’t believe that short stature should be treated as a disease.  It is that simple and that complex.  I completely understand why my parents decided to put me on HGH.  They simply wanted the best for me.  What I do not understand is the medical profession’s singular focus on height in girls with Turner Syndrome.  During my adolescence, there was little if any discussion of infertility, possible learning issues, or anything else.  The focus was almost exclusively on HGH, the timing of puberty and hormone replacement therapy (again, related to height), and, of course, final height.  I felt like a freak of nature.

Adolescence and puberty are hard enough; now imagine it planned, measured, and discussed at length.  Like any other adolescent girl, I just wanted to fit in.  I didn’t, and I never would.  At age 14, I had the opportunity to attend a camp exclusively for girls with Turner Syndrome.  It changed my life.  For the first time in my life, I met other girls with Turner Syndrome.  I finally met others who shared similar body and social issues.  I had the opportunity to travel halfway across the country on my own.  I attended two years, and I credit camp for giving me the confidence to study abroad repeatedly during my years at Michigan State.  By having the opportunity to meet others with TS, I realized that I am not a freak, and I am certainly not alone.

Today, after having earned degrees in supply chain management and Spanish from Michigan State University, I am going back to school to teach Spanish and/or social studies at the middle school and/or high school level.  Once I am established in my new career, I hope to adopt.  Even though the pain of infertility never fully goes away, I do believe that I am meant to adopt.  I am looking forward to the next chapter in my life.

Women and girls with Turner Syndrome face a wide variety of physical, emotional, and social challenges.  They also happen to be one of the most highly educated and determined group of women and girls I have ever met.  Never let a label define you or let anyone underestimate your ability.

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Adoption and Single Motherhood – Part 2

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BlogHer – I Want to Adopt and Become a Single Parent Someday – Stephanie Dolce

I decided to break this blog post into two parts because I feel there is one overwhelming issue regarding adoption that Stephanie Dolce addresses in her post that deserves its own response from me.  All of the myths surrounding adoption – many of which make the adoption process more difficult – need to be addressed and discussed openly.  Unfortunately, it seems as though there is still stigma associated with adoption.

In particular, Stephanie addresses the high cost of adoption.  In reality, there are a wide range of fees associated with adoption.  They vary widely depending on how one choses to adopt.  What most people don’t realize is that there are many reasons as to why and how people make the decision to adopt a child.  Some chose to become a foster parent first.  Others chose international adoption.  The length of time it takes to complete an adoption also varies widely depending on the type of adoption and the adoption law in the state where the adoption takes place.  The process can be so complicated and shrouded in mystery at times that it makes it extremely difficult to make generalizations.

I believe that was Stephanie Dolce’s point.  There just needs to be a lot more open discussion about adoption in general.  There are so many children that need homes, we don’t need to make adoption more difficult than necessary.  Like Stephanie, I wish there was much more discussion on the topic.  Everyone needs to know that you don’t have to be perfect to adopt.  Pregnant women dealing with an unwanted pregnancy also need to recognize that they don’t have to have an abortion.  Placing a child up for adoption is a possibility.  I’m not sure what it will take for people to discuss it more.  It breaks my heart.  I realize that adoption doesn’t always work out and that it isn’t for everyone, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t the best possible outcome in some cases.

Adoption and Single Motherhood – Part 1

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BlogHer – I Want to Adopt and Become a Single Parent Someday – Stephanie Dolce

Well, it is time to address the BlogHer article that piqued my interest in the first place.  I saved this particular blog post for last (last of the articles I came across late last week) because it hits so close to home.  Even though Stephanie and I may have differences regarding dating and the possibility for a meaningful relationship (more on that later), we share so much.  Where to begin?

First, Stephanie never shied away from her love of children.  She discusses her years spent as a teacher and coach, all that she has given to children in her life.  That just wasn’t the case earlier in my life.  During my 20s, I let my issues surrounding infertility get in the way of my love for children.  I simply thought that it hurt too much to spend day in, day out with kids not my own.  Well, I can’t believe just how wrong I was.  I finally got over myself and realized the truth that I am meant to be a teacher.  I am meant to make a difference in the lives of children.  I just wish I would have discovered that little gem of self-awareness earlier.  Then again, everything happens for a reason.  All of my experiences in business – good and bad – have made me who I am today.  I doubt I would be planning to take over my parents’ business with my brother if I didn’t have all of that business experience.

Speaking of my brother, Stephanie’s statement that her love of children began with her younger brother rang true to me.  Did I want children of my own before my brother was born?  Yes; it is one of the first and only things I wanted out of life.  However, when my brother was born, I was ten years old.  There was enough difference in our ages that we weren’t necessarily playmates.  My younger sister (three years younger) and I were each other playmates.  Instead, my brother taught me what it is to care for a child.  As his babysitter, I would make him bathe and help him fall asleep.  As his older sister, I made sure he had the opportunity to spend time with me during my college years.  I taught him to appreciate classic cartoons such as Looney Tunes and The Jetsons; he taught me how to ski.  In other words, he will always be my baby brother.  Nothing can change that.  No matter how many children I adopt, he will always be my oldest child.  If one day I am a successful parent, I will have my brother to thank, along with my parents, grandparents, and sister.

If I don’t at least attempt to adopt as a single woman, there will always be something missing in my life.  I think this is exactly what Stephanie is feeling as she approaches 40.  It is what I felt as I approached 30.  It is what gets me out of bed in the morning.  It is the reason why I decided to change careers and go back to school.  Everything in my life – at least anything worthwhile – relates to my dream of creating a family of my own.  Everything.

As a single woman, that dream becomes infinitely more complicated when it comes to the topic of men.  Stephanie comes across as extremely pessimistic when it comes to dating, particularly for a self-described love and relationship advice columnist.  Why?  Why not leave open that possibility that you will meet the right man, even as a single mom?  It might take more work to find the right man, but it can be done.

This is what I am struggling with at the moment:  Making room for others in my daily life.  As I go about creating a life I love, the life I’ve always wanted, I need to find ways to ensure that I am not getting too wrapped up in myself.  I need to make time for others, make sure that I am available.  How will I ever find the right man if he thinks I am too busy for any kind of meaningful relationship?  What kind of mother would I be if I put myself before my child?  Unfortunately, it can be too easy to shut the most important people out of your life, even if that isn’t your intention at all.

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