When I was only two-years-old, my appendix ruptured. Gangrene had spread throughout my abdomen and the doctors surgically repaired everything.They told my mom “she’s going to be fine but she may have problems with her menstrual cycles when she gets older." So I grew up and went on and became a competitive dancer - I was really healthy. Then when I was age 7, the doctor's removed intestinal adhesions but at that time, found no other infection.
The summer before my sixth grade, I was on top of the world! I went to spend the weekend at my uncle’s farm with a friend and we were studying the Civil War in school. My uncle had an old cemetery on his property and there was this tombstone from that era that was broken up, so we took a little piece of it (which now is awful to think of!) It was so heavy that we carried it on my right hip the entire time together. (We’re thinking the weight of carrying the tombstone, caused the rupturing issues I will explain later).
The next morning my teacher said my "color was really off." I started having pain throughout my right side and felt like I broke my hip, but I didn’t because I could walk. The doctor said it was stomach flu. He almost almost sent me home, but thankfully ran some blood tests before I left and my white blood count came back at over 10,000, which is like cancer, so they put me in the hospital! After a week, the doctors could not figure out what was wrong with me but did know I was essentially dying! Then my pediatrician ran some more tests and looked at my chart and also was panicked!
So, in 1983, at the age of 11, I became gravely ill with this rare bacterial infection. I underwent an emergency hysterectomy. I was the youngest female known to have a hysterectomy. My case was even sent to a conference in South Africa and studied because no doctor had never heard of this type of bacteria at that time, and what it was doing what it did to my body was almost unheard of!
My obstetrician and gynecologist (OB/GYN), was a young and innovative new doctor, and was called in to perform the eight hour surgery that saved my life. It also impacted his life. I had many months of recovery and in several ways, my survival from the infection that at that point had spread throughout my abdomen, is a miracle. My uterus was the size of an adult woman's and totally infected just like my right ovary. My fallopian tube was the size of hot dog, and the infection was causing bladder to stick to my abdomen wall.
I brought my cards and books because they are still so special to me! Children weren’t allowed on the pediatric floor so friends and students just started sending cards and pictures. The book was given to me by my sixth grade teacher, Scott Martin, who when he found out what was going on with me, tutored me at the hospital almost everyday!
He gave me a book and told me to read it as my reading assignment. I read the book and gave a report to him but I didn't really understand it at the time. Then I pulled the book back out just about six years ago and read what the fox says..about seeing what's important but not seeing with your eyes but with your heart and being responsible for your rose - the way I now relate that to my life is that the rose is my story. and even though I'm not responsible for what happened to me, I am responsible for how I let it affect who am. I now understand what Mr. Martin maybe wanted me to get out of the book.
My story didn't end here. It has unfolded to include adoption through foster care and reaching out to others through my personal blog (BarrentoBlessed.wordpress.com). Infertility is such a heartbreaking struggle, and often, people feel completely hopeless and that God has forsaken them. I felt that, too. However, through the gift of children and the ability now to use my story to encourage others, I've realized that my womb may be barren, but my life and soul are not! My life is not a wasteland. It is exactly the opposite. My hope of sharing my story is that other couples/singles who are walking through the desert of infertility will continue to walk on, one step at a time, and not give up in their sojourn to becoming parents.
I would have never guessed that 32-years-later, I would be writing for an adoption website, working in child welfare and sharing my story through my blog. I am also the mommy of three amazing and desperately loved children! As a young girl, I was confused by my illness and at the time did not understand the lifelong impact of it - I never imagined how much of a blessing that my experience really is, and I would not change anything about it.! All of our stories matter. All of us have lived unique lives, but what I've realized is that we're all living God's story through us. What a blessing that is!
UPDATE - One Year Later
I am just so thankful for the opportunity to tell my story and to be a part of the 7 Billion Ones family and board of directors.. Sharing my journey of barrenness and getting to know a bit about other people’s walk on Earth has convicted me even more than ever that storytelling and releasing our witness of life is powerful.
My children are a year older now and as I watch them change and grow, I am even more enamored by their quirks, imperfections and gifts. Parenting is a gift. Being a parent through adoption is unique and challenging, but with each day, I gain wisdom in the truth that my children and our family are exactly who we were meant to be. I’m so thankful for this.
For many years following my hysterectomy and before adoption, I stuck a label on myself. I was barren and broken and motherhood would never come. Ripping that label off and revealing it to the world has been so incredibly healing.
For anyone who is struggling with infertility, I want you to know that what you are going through does not define you who you are. I’m not going to tell you that “If it is God’s will, then it will happen” because I don’t know God’s will for your life and I know you’ve probably heard that way too often. However, I will tell you that you are precious, infertility is extremely difficult, it’s okay to grieve, and to hold your head high. Thank you to 7 Billion Ones for giving so many the opportunities to speak their truths and to share their lives with the world.