One families journey through PCOS and infertility led to 7 amazing children.

Lani’s Rainbow Photo Credit Reflections by Luna

“I never thought I would have one kiddo – let alone six. They are all the colors of my rainbow, – and little Nash just happens to be the pot of gold at the end,” said Lani Burden. There is hope not only for those who suffer from infertility and may not be able to have kids naturally but also that even when the odds are against you, you can still find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Between 2013 and 2020, Lani and her now husband Brandon have been on one journey after another. When Lani was single, she discovered through testing that she would not be able to have children naturally due to a heart-shaped uterus and PCOS. She now has seven children. Three are siblings, 2 are adopted and one she has guardianship of. One is her husband’s daughter and her now bonus daughter and three of them were conceived and carried naturally one of which is now an angel.  

Lani found out at a young age that she had two different conditions that would prevent her from having children in the future. She has polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). According to an article on PCOS by the Office of Women’s Health, PCOS is an  “imbalance of reproductive hormones.”

It affects 1 in 10 women. It is known as one of the most common causes of infertility in women because it affects the hormone levels which affect the body’s ability to release the egg. It can also affect the development of the egg.

From left to right Ally 22, Sunny 11, Kevin 20, Wyatt 4, Shelby 15, Nash 2 Photo Credit Reflections By Luna

She also has a condition called a “heart-shaped uterus.” This is known in the medical world as a bicornuate uterus. IVI, a fertility clinic in the UK explains a bicornuate uterus as “a condition in which the womb is heart-shaped as opposed to its normal form (inverted pear).”

Although her heart-shaped uterus would not directly affect her infertility, it could cause problems during pregnancy such as an increased risk of recurrent miscarriages, preterm birth, and/or breech delivery. Due to this diagnosis, Lani decided not to attempt getting pregnant at all.

Many other women suffer from similar diagnoses. PCOS is one of the most common forms of infertility. According to an article released by the Endocrine Society titled, Treating polycystic ovary syndrome costs $8 billion a year in the U.S. alone; “PCOS affects between 5% and 20% of all women of reproductive age, depending on the diagnostic criteria used. PCOS is a leading cause of infertility. The disease is also associated with obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, which are often life-long conditions.”

Sunny, Kevin, and Ally (Girls were adopted at ages 4 and 14. She gained guardianship of Kevin when he was 13. Photo Credit Reflections By Luna

Some women upon receiving this diagnosis decide to explore alternative therapies to try and get pregnant or have children. In Lani’s case, and because of her background working for DFCS, she decided to adopt.

She was able to adopt a sibling group from foster care as a single mom in 2016. They were four and 14 at the time of adoption. She was then able to get guardianship/custody of their brother in 2017. During the time of these adoptions, she was good friends with her now-husband Brandon.

He had a daughter from a previous relationship. They started dating in 2017 and were later married in 2018. He was able to adopt the younger of the three siblings since the oldest was already 18 and she only had guardianship of the brother when they got married. At this point, she had four children, two adopted one guardianship and one stepchild. Thankfully blending the two families went smoothly.

Shelby and Brandon- Shelby Is Brandon’s daughter and Lani’s bonus daughter. Photo Credit Reflections By Luna

“My kids knew Brandon and Shelby from day one- My oldest always wanted us to date but I wanted to focus on the girls, so we just stayed friends. When we finally decided to date, they were all happy including Shelby” she said. “She was used to being the only one and getting all the attention so that took some adjusting. She also didn’t want Sunny (Lani’s younger daughter) to call Brandon Daddy… she eventually came around and now they are super close.”

Lani’s story continues with some exciting surprises. “In Sept of 2017, I found out I was pregnant with Wyatt,”  Lani said. “It was a shock and scared me to death! He was born in May of 2018.”) Keep in mind that she had been told she would never have children. She found out one year later that she was pregnant with her second child.

“In Aug of 2019, I found out I was pregnant with my 2nd biological child – then I miscarried at 16 weeks around November 2019,” Lani said during our interview. “At this point, we decided Wyatt was going to be our only biological baby. I went back in Dec of 2019 to have an IUD put in and found out I was pregnant with Nash. This was a total surprise because we were told the chance of having another was very unlikely.”

Wyatt (4) and Nash (almost 2) Biological children and miracle babies of Brandon and Lani Photo Credit Reflections By Luna

Her third pregnancy with her rainbow was very high risk and started very scary. It was filled with fear and anxiety after just losing the 2nd baby at 16 weeks. She had a bad bleed early on but after that, the doctors monitored her closely. They told the other kids at the hospital that they were expecting again.

Lani said “I will never forget the sound of his little heartbeat on ultrasound and the tech saying ‘well momma, this tough little cookie is still here with us! You can breathe now.” Since her pregnancy with Nash was during the pandemic, she had to go to all her appointments alone, on top of the anxiety of not knowing if he would make it and the complications that could occur. Thankfully, she had an amazing doctor and group of nurses that became like family and supported her through the whole pregnancy.

“So, from then on – I was seen weekly – and each week ultrasound was given. My heart would stop until I could see him and hear him. This was the start of the pandemic, so I was alone for all the visits – but I have to say, my doctor, nurses, and ultrasound staff are like family. They celebrated this whole pregnancy with us – and each week they held my hand until we knew. We were very fortunate to have the best doctors for both the miscarriage and the pregnancies. They cried with me when we couldn’t find the heartbeat and cried with me when Nash was born. To this day, they hug and ask about him when I go into the office. Rainbow baby Nash was born at 34 weeks.”

She also had a lot of support at home. Sunny and Shelby (two of her daughters) were affected the most by her loss and worried even more during the third pregnancy.

When it comes to sharing with older siblings what is going on with the loss of a pregnancy or a new pregnancy, she said, “To be open with your kids, give them a safe space to express not only sadness but also anger and fear. Talk about it – don’t hide it – because as much as you and your spouse are hurting, they are too. “(Lani Burden)

Brandon and Lani with Nash Photo Credit Reflections By Luna

Her husband was also a huge support to her both during the loss and third pregnancy fears. Although he was grieving as well, his concern and love were directed at her and their third unborn child. He said, “I was worried about how the loss would affect Lani emotionally and physically.” He kept his focus off his grief and put all his focus into supporting her through her grief and the pregnancy. The hardest part about the rainbow pregnancy for him was seeing “the effects on Lani and feeling like I could not do enough to help her get past loss” he said.

She wishes she had been able to enjoy her final pregnancy with Nash more without worrying. She wants more people to speak up, to talk about what they have been through, to normalize pregnancy/infant loss because it happens more than we realize.

Lani talks about the hardest parts of her rainbow pregnancy after her loss. She said, “For me, the worst was the looks of sadness people had for weeks when they saw me after I lost him. I wanted a sense of normalcy. I also wish more people would talk about it because it affects so many people. But you don’t realize that or know it normally until you have gone through it.” Seeing those looks just made her think about the loss even more and didn’t help her heal. She didn’t want pity. She wanted to be supported. She wanted love. She wanted normalcy.

So far, she had a happy ending to her story of infertility. However, this isn’t always how the story ends. Some families adopt children because of infertility or just to give those children a chance but for one reason or another it doesn’t work out and the child(ren) ends up back in the foster care system. Some families adopt because of infertility but then find out they are expecting a biological child and choose to give the adopted child back.

According to the article, “When families Un-adopt a child,” in The Atlantic, “the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that of the approximately 135,000 adoptions finalized every year in the U.S., between 1 and 5% of them end up being legally dissolved.”

Lani works with families at DFCS to try to prevent the children from going back into the foster care system. She “tries to provide resources to the families to prevent the re-entry of kids into foster care that has been adopted.” She says, “the most common reason is our failing mental health system and people being equipped to deal with kids with trauma… Adoption equals loss no matter how you spin it – and at some point, that pain will come out – it might be gradual or all at once. Don’t walk away from them because they are trying to push you away, stand by and with them – just like you would your bio kid. Bottom line – Kids (adopted or biological) don’t have return policies.”

On top of choosing to adopt, she chooses to adopt older children. Children that might not have the chance to be adopted and get safe home to grow up in.

The article “What does age have to do with adoption?” on Partners for our Children, talks about the ages of the most common children adopted each year. “Children aged 1, 2, and 3 average 37% of adoptions. Children under age 5 make up around 50% of all adoptions. However, teenagers 13-17 account for less than 10% of all adoptions.” The children she adopted were 14, and 4. Then she goes on to have not 1, not 2 but 3 kids biologically.

Lani and her family have been through a lot in a very short amount of time. Between finding out she wouldn’t be able to have kids, adopting a sibling group ages 14, 12, and 4 as a single mom, getting married and adding a bonus child, finding out she was pregnant and having 3 natural pregnancies she was never supposed to have. The adjustments and struggles may have been difficult, especially with a lack of mental health resources for those in foster care and those who go through adoption. But the result was so rewarding. She now has her perfect rainbow- 7 children total that she never dreamed of having. And yes, that counts the one they lost because he is and always will be a part of their family. They all have a very close relationship with each other, and their bond is strong, and their angel sibling is watching over them from above.

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