“Birth parent,” instead of “real parent.” “Placing for adoption,” not “giving up.” “Parent,” in place of “adoptive parent.” These are some of the terms Shasta Reeves has gained along her motherhood journey. The 35-year-old always wanted a big family. Today, with six children under 6 and her husband, Stephen’s two eldest, Alex and Drea, the Fort Myers native sees her dreams realized.
When the couple got married and started trying for a baby, Shasta suffered three miscarriages in a year before they began talking about adoption. For months, they navigated background checks, medical clearances and financial assessments. Simultaneously, Shasta was facing the reality of her infertility—her doctor said she’d likely never have kids without intervention. She was on oral fertility medications for one cycle before getting pregnant with her firstborn, Willow. Ten weeks in, Shasta woke up in a pool of blood due to a subchorionic hemorrhage and spent the next couple of months on bed rest. But mother and daughter prevailed, and Willow was born in November 2017.
Six months later, Stephen and Shasta adopted 10-week-old Gunner. Then, they started trying for another baby. After nine unsuccessful cycles with fertility drugs, Shasta got another call: Gunner’s birth mother had a newborn boy who needed a home. The couple fostered, then adopted, Harrison, or “Harry.”
When Harry was 7 months old and Gunner and Willow were nearly 2, Shasta discovered she was pregnant, without any fertility treatments. Stephen joked and said, “What’s one more?” Born at 34 weeks, Maverick was transferred from Cape Coral Hospital to the NICU at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida for 10 days. Shasta was only allowed to see him for two hours a day. “It was one of the most traumatic things I’ve been through,” she says.
About a year later, Shasta learned Gunner and Harry’s birth mother was pregnant again. She pushed through the overwhelm, and the day after Walker was born, Shasta was in the hospital with a court order to pick up her son. A year later, the couple found out about their surprise baby Stetson and embraced the change. Shasta suffered a high-risk pregnancy, and the 5-day-old baby had to be airlifted to Memorial West Hospital in Pembroke Pines a day after Hurricane Ian hit Southwest Florida. The next 10 days involved long drives to the east coast and back, all while keeping a close eye on the tots at home.
Shasta marvels at her family’s journey and believes it’s important to be open about her kids’ backgrounds. “We told them … some babies come out of their mommy’s tummies, and some babies come out of other ladies’ tummies,” she says. As they get older and ask more questions, Shasta’s ready for the conversation. —Addison Pezoldt
One night during her pregnancy with Nokomis, Lymarie Jimenez had a dream of a 3-year-old girl with dark curls in a messy bun, painting and giggling. When she woke up, she turned to her husband, Darren Nelson, and said, “I think I just saw our daughter.”
Nearly two years prior, the couple had met with a fertility doctor after four years of trying for a child. Lymarie, then 36, was considered to be of advanced maternal age for pregnancy, and tests determined Darren had signs of increased infertility. When her doctor suggested in vitro fertilization (IVF), where an egg is fertilized outside of the body and implanted in the uterus, the pair was pragmatic about the outcome. “We said, ‘We’re going to do this once,’” she says. They didn’t want to mortgage the house or take out loans for multiple cycles and were prepared to walk away without ever having kids.
The road forward included a hysteroscopy to examine the inside of the womb, countless appointments during the height of COVID-19 (so Lymarie was mostly on her own), and multiple injections a day for months. Throughout this time, Lymarie hardly told anyone what she was going through, meanwhile fielding questions about when she would have kids. “You’re literally dying on the inside [and thinking], ‘If only you knew how hard I’m trying,’” she says. She leaned on her husband while bottling her feelings from others. “We’ve been conditioned as women to not want to disappoint people; we’re people pleasers,” she says. “That’s part of the reason I think a lot of people keep it on the inside.”
In early 2020, Lymarie’s doctor scheduled her egg retrieval—only one of six survived, and it took Lymarie’s body seven months to be ready for insemination. After the procedure, she felt like she was in limbo. “The world stops for two weeks,” she says. “No more doctor’s appointments, no more ultrasounds, no more lab draws, no more anything. It just stops.”
The Estero couple discovered Lymarie was pregnant the Monday after the 4th of July weekend. The news brought happy tears and anxious thoughts. Still, Lymarie says her baby was good to her during her pregnancy. She gave birth to Nokomis Victoria Jimenez on March 8, 2021—International Women’s Day. The mother’s candle-making company, Nokomis Home Fragrance, was inspired by her daughter. Lymarie is now vocal about her fertility journey and has used proceeds from her candles to help other parents pursuing IVF. “[I want women] to know that there are many, many other women suffering, too, so they don’t feel alone,” Lymarie says.
Nokomis, now 2, looks almost exactly like the girl Lymarie remembers from her dream. As she raises her daughter, she hopes her child finds her place in the world. “I want her to be her, whatever that means.”—A.P.
At a 2021 event, Brian Roland—a Naples celebrity chef known for catering company Crave Culinaire, which he runs with his wife, Nicole—suffered a traumatic accident that left him in the hospital for months. “I didn’t know whether my husband was going to live or die,” Nicole, who had recently given birth to the couple’s daughter, says. “At that point, you’re just in survival mode.” Brian was in the hospital for nearly two months before he could spend quality time with their newborn, Remi, and Nicole was alone with an infant and two booming companies to tend to.
Before that, Nicole and Brian had tried for a year to conceive naturally. They experienced two miscarriages due to ectopic pregnancies—meaning the embryo gets stuck in the fallopian tubes, putting mom and baby at a potentially fatal risk. Nicole’s gynecologist suggested they see a fertility specialist. When the couple found out Nicole was pregnant (without fertility treatments), they were ecstatic. “When we went in for our first ultrasound, which was on our wedding anniversary, they told us there was no heartbeat,” Nicole recalls. The same day, the pair turned around and hosted a drive for Hurricane Dorian relief.
Because Nicole was under 35 when they started fertility treatments, they opted for intrauterine insemination (IUI), where the sperm is inserted directly into the uterus via a catheter—a less invasive and less costly treatment than IVF. “We did three IUIs, and none of them worked,” she says. “Then we got pregnant on our own again, and that was another ectopic pregnancy.” Doctors had to remove one of Nicole’s fallopian tubes. Ultimately, they turned to IVF, and she got only one viable embryo from the egg retrieval to transfer.
In a way, the experience inspired their daughter’s name. “When you’re going through IVF you have appointments at certain points literally every day to get bloodwork,” Nicole recalls. “I was pulling out of the IVF office that I had been going to for two years, and across the street there’s a neighborhood called Remington Reserve. I never noticed it before. That kind of solidified, ‘OK, this is the name.’”
A spitting image of her dad in a few ways, Remi already has a refined palette. The toddler loves takeout from Passage to India, and green olives are her favorite food. Mom strives to raise a strong daughter: “Infertility and miscarriage and all those issues teach you how strong you can be and how much you can handle,” Nicole says. “I developed this mantra every time I walked into the doctor’s office, when I had to walk alone into the hospital to get my fallopian tube removed and when I had to walk alone into that hospital that night when my husband was in the accident. I always repeat to myself, ‘You are strong. You are brave. You can do hard things.’ And I tell that to Remi all the time.” —Jaynie Bartley
Laura Richardson Bright
Laura Richardson Bright does not remember her adoption: She was an infant when her parents adopted her in Pennsylvania. She does, however, wonder what her daughter, Isabelle, or “Izzy,” will remember of her own adoption experience one day. When Izzy moved in right after Easter in 2021, Laura and her husband, Chris, had already fostered three other children. The couple first discussed adoption in 2020 after trying to have children for a year. Once they connected with Lutheran Services Florida and Children’s Network of Southwest Florida to take classes and get registered, they realized the need for foster parents in the region was too great and changed course. “Literally, the day we got our license, someone called,” Laura says.
Laura and Chris’ other foster children all reconnected with their birth families, but Izzy’s birth parents weren’t making the necessary improvements for reunification. Court hearings began about the parents suspending their rights. For Laura and Chris, adopting Izzy was a no-brainer. The pair had talked about adopting any of their foster kids if something fell through since the first child came through their doors.
While pursuing Izzy’s adoption, Laura kept looking into alternative methods to get pregnant. She and Chris met with a fertility specialist and decided the best process for her was IUI. Her doctor told her she had less than a 13 percent chance of getting pregnant. “I was remaining super realistic … The chances are just so low, and that’s just to get pregnant, but then to remain pregnant, right?” Laura reflects.
Despite the odds, the procedure worked on their first try. While having nine months to prepare for a baby was significantly easier than the few days or hours they had when a foster child came home, Laura’s pregnancy wasn’t easy. She felt sick a lot of the time and was still working through Izzy’s adoption. Harrison was born in November 2022, and Izzy, now 4, was adopted five months later.
While not currently fostering, Laura and Chris think they’ll host children again in the future. Meanwhile, as chief advancement officer at Golisano Children’s Museum of Naples, the 38-year-old helps implement programs to make the museum more accessible for families on government assistance, and about once a month, they open the museum after-hours exclusively for children in shelters or foster care.
For now, the family of four celebrates the blessings of finding their way to each other. “People get so distraught when they’re not physically able to have a child,” Laura says. “Just know there are so many other children out there who need love and care.”—A.P.