Saturday, March 10, 2012

the end: a beginning

A long time ago I decided I wanted to be a mother. I've been a lot of things since then, but in the back of my mind every road led back to the path of having my own family. I'm a planner, so everything had to be in place before I called my children down from the hovering ethos. I made sure my wild oats were sown, I made sure my husband and I had occupations conducive to family life. I made sure we had enough of everything and that my children would know that we planned for them and desperately wanted them.

And then we waited.

In the shadows of those long scary years, we saw our babies beckoning us from a distance, but it was so hard to keep going. To keep hoping. We'd catch glimpses of them, their heartbeats blinking on the ultrasound. Their branches under my belly. But just as we cupped our hands around them like a firefly, they'd disappear.

Who were these interlopers? What was I doing wrong that made them disappear just as we sighted them?

We waited.

We waited for test results, for levels to drop, for levels to rise, for hearts to beat, for cycles to start. We waited to wait for two weeks only to have to wait again. To hurry up and wait.

And then there was Jonah.

Like he'd always been there. His tiny heart under my heart. If I hadn't so meticulously recorded his conception I almost wouldn't believe it. I knew the second he came down that he would be our son. I wrote about it in this very blog. I dreamed about him. He is everything we could have hoped for and worth everything it took to find him.

Jonah's birth, like his conception was fraught with close calls and near misses and lots of waiting. I was due on 12/11, but I knew he'd keep us sitting on our hands as long as we let him. At 40 weeks my midwifery group, concerned with my lagging fundal height, ordered an ultrasound. I will forever regret getting it, but knew at the time we had to. Immediately afterwards they told me they suspected IUGR and wanted to induce right away. So we gave up our dreams of a peaceful waterbirth at a birth center and checked into the hospital. After 30 hours of unnecessary, excruciatingly cascading interventions, I reached between my legs and helped my son to his place in the world.

There is no feeling like that moment.

When you're describing a mural painted along the walls of a long hallway, where do you start? So much of each image relies on the entire scene to make sense, and trying to describe any part of it would ultimately fall short because it has no real beginning to anchor it. For me, that's what those first few moments with my son were like. Just when I wanted to give up, just when i felt myself ending, I felt him beginning.

They helped him up to my chest and he looked at me with these huge, clear, open eyes. There is no way to describe love like that without a cliche.

"Hi Jonah" I said. And he looked at me like he understood. Like he'd been waiting for me too.

Sometimes in coping with the nightmare of my labor, or the hyperbilirubin anema that kept him in the NICU for two days after that, in a box under UV lights instead of being in my arms, I go back to that first moment and lose myself in the little details. Like a mural, there are different places to begin and end, details to flesh out and linger over. His perfect tiny body on mine. Pulling him to my breast that first time... his shock of bright hair... his little fingers holding on to me for dear life.

There is nothing like becoming a mother. I know that a year ago those words would have broken my heart because there's nothing like *not* becoming a mother either. But no matter how long your road is, how hard and how lonely, every single step is worth it. Every glimpse of the babies that you never get to meet will be perfect in its own exquisitely painful way when you meet the baby you spent all that time finding.

Sometimes in an ocean of beginnings and endings its hard to tell where something opens and where it closes. Sometimes there is space in between and sometimes they crash into each other like waves. Sometimes what you think is an ending is actually a beginning. Sometimes the beginning you dreamt of and planned for never materializes and sometimes the ending comes too soon.

I wanted to write about love and how it doesn't have an ending or a beginning; how mourning the babies we lost doesn't end where finding our son begins. Our journey is ongoing.

A long time ago I decided I wanted to be a mother. We looked out into the abyss and jumped. We knew we were saying goodbye to a lot of things, but we had no idea how much we had to gain. We closed our eyes and hoped for the best.

It was a beginning and not an ending

Saturday, August 6, 2011


I've gotten a lot of requests for an update in the last few weeks, and a message asking if this blog was kaput or if we've moved on.

the thing is, I've been meaning to come on and give updates and pictures and share our good news, but it's trickier than i thought it would be. for starters, i'm not exactly sure what to say. i feel incredibly lucky every single day to be pregnant, but most of the people i bonded with through blogger are still TTC and so i am hesitant to share all for fear of being insensitive.

the fact is, at 22 weeks i still worry constantly that i won't have a baby to take home at the end of this. i know that isn't what anybody wants to hear and i understand that because i always thought that once i made it out of that scary first trimester or felt the baby move, or announced our pregnancy to the world that i would feel more strongly about everything. but the fact is, i still worry. i still have bad dreams. last weekend my husband and i were "baby-browsing" at this little boutique and ran into some acquaintances from work. they were really nice and chatty and everything was going fine until she said, "by the way! Jen told us you're expecting! congratulations!" and then i kind of got weird. i mumbled some responses and hurried my husband out of the store. when we got in the car i was beet red and shaking like a leaf. it felt weird to have word get around about my pregnancy. it's not a tightly contained secret anymore. everyone is telling everyone and that makes me feel incredibly vulnerable.

i'm also surprisingly still bitter about our losses and infertility. i thought pregnancy would cure that, but no. it still hurts to get the surprise "we're pregnant" bomb at a dinner party or out with friends. it still stings. a lot. way more than i ever would have expected. i should be happy to get some friends and a new support network for this new stage of my life, but i still don't feel like i fit in with all the "fertiles" and i still feel like an outsider, an observer of their world. a few days ago my cousin, who is more or less homeless and unemployed told me she was expecting and although i was very sweet and congratulatory to her, i ranted and raved for almost an hour to my sister later about said cousins ongoing stream of poor life choices. her response? "i can't believe you're still so bitter." it's true, i am.

this pregnancy, although very wanted and the result of years of trying, has been difficult too. i had severe all day sickness for several weeks and i actually still battle nausea and vomiting every couple of days even though i'm more than halfway done with pregnancy. at 22 weeks i have not officially gained any weight yet and i'm still about 10 pounds below what i was pre-pregnancy. and it feels unfair. if there was anybody on the planet who deserved a stress free and easy pregnancy, it's a person who's death with recurrent loss and infertility. i feel like i deserve a free pass, like "here you go, ttc was hard enough, don't worry pregnancy will be a breeze."

and the fact that i'm so miserable and sick and exhausted all the time makes me feel incredibly guilty, like i should be more grateful. like i should enjoy this more. like i'm squandering it.

there are good things to report too:

my son (yes! it's a boy!) is the most wanted, most beloved, and most beautiful person i can imagine existing. every time i feel him move inside of me it feels miraculous. i almost can't believe it's really happening. I have a son.

my husband and i feel so tremendously lucky, it's like we're on a second honeymoon. we've been to hell and back these last two years. infertility made us re-find each other and re-discover ourselves and now pregnancy has done the same. early on in our pregnancy we were out on one of those spring days that just feels amazing after a long chicago winter and laughing (we do a lot of laughing now) and my husband said to me "you're funny! were you always this funny?" and i said, "yeah, it's weird to have my personality back after being cripplingly depressed for over a year..." because it's like coming back from the dead.

earlier this year i posted about looking forward, never back, and moving on with my husband. but that isn't exactly how it's been. yes, we've moved forward, but we move forward as different people. our scars are a part of us now and denying their existence would be a disservice to the babies we've lost and the younger versions of ourselves that we've left behind. we move forward as a family, we look back constantly and wonder all the time why it happened this way, but every single day we are grateful for each other and the baby boy we have yet to meet but already know so well.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

a dream

There's something I need to get off my chest and record for my own memory here.

Ever since I got pregnant I've been dreaming it was twins; dreaming of twin ultrasounds, being chased by two babies, it was like every time my subconscious dealt with this pregnancy it always illustrated two babies. At first we thought it was a sign there really were two babies, but after our ultrasound showed only one and I kept dreaming in twos I realized that the babies were not twins, in fact one was noticeably larger than the other. They were more like siblings than twins. My husband and I talked about it and came to the eerie conclusion that because I had not technically passed my last due date, my subconscious still considered me pregnant. It was like the other baby was still here emotionally, still waiting for us to emotionally come to terms with her "birth" or lack there of...

Yesterday was an incredibly difficult day for us. Made even more so by the assumption that being pregnant again would somehow "fix" everything. Even my IF friends kept saying things like "just focus on the baby inside of you" as if this baby negates that one.

I felt an incredible need to have the baby we could have had acknowledged. I wanted very badly to remind everyone and even tell strangers "there is someone missing today. Someone was supposed to be born and isn't." I just wanted her existance validated. It was very confusing and overwhelming. And very isolating. It stormed all day yesterday and we were constantly under one tornado wat h after another. So my husband and I couldn't even go out and do the personal things we had planned. So we just let the day quietly pass.

But today, tonight in fact, I felt a lifting. A lightening of my heart and even in my belly. I know we passed that baby months ago, but I was still carrying her. I can't explain it. Its very psychological and emotional and I can't put the feeling exactly to words.

But I just woke up from a dream; I was getting an ultrasound and the tech said, "do you want to know the sex?" And we said "you can see that already?" And she said "here, see for yourself, its a girl!" And handed us the sonogram picture.

It was the first time my subconscious let me see a singleton pregnancy. It was one baby now. And she was perfect.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

today was my due date

my dear baby,

today, in another world, you are being born.

your daddy is panicking and hollering at anyone who dares look at him, and i am walking the hallway trying to bring you into the world. everyone is excited to meet you.

your grandma and aunties are telling me to breathe and clasping my hands, your papue is on the phone with your uncles.

in the midst of all the pandemonium there is you and me, still joined together. you are strong and feisty, kicking away and pushing down inside of me. and i can't wait to hold you in my arms and give you a name.

when it happens, it's like the world pauses for a few minutes. like a collective inhalation. there is great pressure, and then release. in that world, you are born perfect.

our midwife says "reach down and catch your baby!" and i do. i hold you and you are beautiful and glowing in your altogetherness. your daddy cries and cries. he kisses me, he kisses you. and the three of us are a family today in this alternate world.

i know you would have been tall like me, with your daddy's eyes and smile. i know everyone would want to meet you and know you and hold you. i know these things because even in this world they are still true.

we miss you so much. it's a complicated grief that we navigate every day. sometimes it doesn't ache very badly and we're able to imagine what you would be doing and how our lives would be different. some days it feels like there is a big hole in the world, like a mistake was made, like everything around us is lacking and monotonous.

then there are times i feel like we are still connected. like when the lilacs bloomed this spring and i thought, "i always wanted to have a spring baby" and when the air became hot and fragrant it was like you were smelling it with me. like we were blooming together into something different and not of this world.

mostly i am so grateful for the time you were inside of me. for the time you spent on this earth and changed us. there are not many babies who are purposefully conceived and wanted for every single second of their existence. i am so grateful that every moment you were alive you knew what it was like to be loved and wanted. there was not a moment we doubted you and there is not a moment to this day that we have ever regretted you. even the loss of you.

today we're going to focus on that; our gratitude. even while we are sad that we can only hold you in that other world, we are so happy you chose us as your parents. We love you.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

what the eff do you know?

i am so sick of hearing about doctors giving gloom and doom advice in an effort to avoid giving "false hope." it is seriously my hot button rage issue these days. i can't tell you the number of times one of my IF friends has wept about being told their chances of having a child were less than 5% only to conceive on their own or get a second opinion and find out that isn't true at all.

i keep thinking about how emotionally raw we were when we went back to the RE after our loss. here it was, less than two months after i was "10 weeks pregnant" and this guy sits us down and tells us it is very unlikely we will ever conceive and carry to term on our own. i think back on that meeting and i honestly can't remember a single thing he said after that. my head just disconnected from my body. i understand he didn't want to mislead us or give us false hope, but did he have to jump to the worst possible scenario so soon after our loss?

i have a friend on babycenter who had an AMH level of like .5 and her doctor gave her the scary news that she was going through premature ovarian failure, likely had no quality eggs, and had about a 3% chance of conceiving on her own. two months later she did.

i have a friend on Resolve who had an FSH level of over 40!! her doctor told her nothing would work, that she was entering menopause and there was nothing she could do to change that. it was donor eggs or nothing. she spent the next year considering that option, but also getting acupuncture and chinese medicine and undergoing dietary changes. she just got her FSH restested, it was 6.8. i still can't believe it.

i remember a conversation had several months ago with a few of my IF friends. we talked about how hope was the enemy. how we didn't want to get our hopes up anymore. how we just needed to focus on getting through this and doing whatever we needed to medically to get a baby. someone quoted the movie "Shawshank Redemption" and said, "hope's a dangerous thing, a man's got no use for it on the inside." and we all laughed. the funny thing is though, when i tried explaining this conversation to my husband, he just didn't get it. "you don't want to hope?" he kept asking incredulously.

one of the women on my birthboard posted a few weeks back that she was having a miscarriage. we all sympathized and wanted to know why she thought that. apparently her betas were coming back low. although they were rising appropriately, they remained "low" according to her doctor, which indicated a non-viable pregnancy. her first blood draw at 9dpo came back at 11, three days later it was 30, three days later it was 60-something. each time it was doubling, but for some reason her doctor had decided it was too low and would end. she went into her 6 week ultrasound expecting the worst. her beta was only coming back around 7000, still much too low according to her doctor. they saw a beautifully beating heart and a perfectly formed embryo. it's sad to think that if she hadn't gotten a beta so early she would probably not have stressed so much about losing the baby. but this is how the infertile medical world conditions us: don't get excited, don't get excited, there's a lot that can still go wrong, your beta/progesterone/uterine lining is not enough/too much. it's crazy. whats wrong with letting her enjoy her pregnancy while she has it even if it is doomed?

anyway, that's my rant for right now. i have a few friends in my thoughts and prayers this week. some of them are still pregnant (against all odds), some of them are losing their pregnancies or at "risk" of losing their pregnancies, and some are trying everything they can to conceive. i think of them often, i read their blogs and their updates and sometimes i tell my husband about them. i wanted to say to you guys, i know how dangerous it is to be hopeful. i know the rollercoaster just never ends. but try, every now and then, to ignore the fucktard doctors and specialists determined to look at the worst case scenario and let's just try to celebrate the busted up bodies we were given and be hopeful.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

a long one...

I’ve been having a rough week. A very rough week. And for the first time in my life I don’t know how to write about it. I moderate several miscarriage and loss boards on a website called babycenter, and I participate in several loss forums on Resolve. Many times people have come on, anxiously pregnant and looking for support. In order to protect those still trying to conceive, I redirect them to a pregnancy after loss board and close the discussion. I have gotten a lot of public flack for this, but many, many private thank yous. Women have been vicious to me. There was one woman who repeatedly messaged me mocking my losses and infertility and calling me names. She followed me from forum to forum ridiculing me and antagonizing me. What did I do to her? I’m still not sure, but she made sure to rub my nose in my repeat pregnancy loss as if I were the worst person on the planet.
I find it kind of funny when people do that. I mean, it’s horrible and I’m way too sensitive, but it’s kind of funny still; you’re sending me vicious hatemail that I wouldn’t send my worst enemy in order to “defend” someone whose post got locked? As if their right to post on the wrong board supersedes the rights of the hundreds of people who are posting on the right board and read the rules and abide by them? I wish I could say that was the first time and the last time that would happen. But people seem to get very upset when I enforce the rules that are clearly posted on the TTC board. I have gotten many messages that say something to the effect of, “I’m sorry your personal losses have made you bitter and overly sensitive, but I did nothing wrong by posting pictures of my ultrasound on the ttc after miscarriage board…” right…
Anyway, I’m getting off track here, what I’m trying to get at is an analogy I have often used in scenarios like this. When people come to a ttc board looking for support for their pregnancy I have been known to liken it to showing up at a homeless shelter and talking about the time you got locked out of your house. Yes, I’m sure it was terrifying to be standing on the outside with nowhere to go and no way to get back in, but you did eventually get back in. Women who have been TTC for a long time haven’t just been standing outside their house waiting to get back in, they’ve been wandering the streets for weeks, no destination, nowhere to go; just lost and hopeless and aimless.
With repeat pregnancy loss the analogy is a little different, getting pregnant doesn’t have the same finality. It’s more like showing up at a homeless shelter to talk about the time terrorists blew your home up in the middle of the night while you and your husband were sleeping inside of it. Yes, you got a new home, but who’s to say the terrorists won’t show up and blow this one up too? You’re not homeless anymore, but you’re not exactly safe either. So where do you go? There are not many support groups for people whose homes have been blown up, but there are homeless shelters on every other corner. Couldn’t you just go there and get support from them?
I may get a lot of flack for this, but I’m a stickler. And I don’t think your need for support is grounds for breaking the rules and asking for support from people who have none to give to your situation.
I miss my in-person support groups. A lot. I mean a real lot. I wonder how they’re doing and if their IVF worked and if they ever made peace with their insensitive mom. There’s something about female solidarity that is such a comfort to me. But there are many women in my groups (I went to 2) that have never been pregnant before. They don’t understand how scary it is to be pregnant after several losses, and my showing up to ask for support would be so hurtful to them. I know they would be sweet, and try to understand, but ultimately my ability to conceive (multiple times) would trump the feelings of failure they have after 3 or 4 IVFs and not a hint of a second line.  Ironically, the last time I went to group two of the women there said to me, “I hope you don’t take this the wrong way, but I am so jealous that you’ve been pregnant…”  I wanted to talk about what it felt like to deliver my fetus into the toilet after carrying it dead inside of me for a week, but I relented and bowed to the place of grief their comments came from. 
There’s a hierarchy of infertility and we always want to put ourselves and our personal pain at the top of it. Is it worse to struggle with multiple failed IVFs and FETs and half a decade of infertility OR conceiving somewhat easily and for some inexplicable reason never getting to meet these children? Is it worse to have secondary infertility or to never know the joy of having a child? What hurts the most? Obviously it’s whatever you personally are going through at that time. The hierarchy is bullshit, but all of us infertiles sign up for it and add our woes to the list. And then complain that it exists at all.
This has been a week from hell. I had a full blown anxiety attack on Saturday night after work. Why? Because I couldn’t find the pictures from my most recent ultrasound and I was sure that was a sign the pregnancy was doomed. I lashed out at my husband, screaming at him that he must have thrown them away. “those may be the only pictures we have of this baby and you threw them away like garbage!” Did he throw them away? No. In fact, my amazing husband stayed calm and didn’t argue with me. He went through every surface in our apartment until he found them. Did it help my anxiety when he handed them to me? No. In fact I was so deeply panicking by that time I could hardly breathe. All he could do was wrap himself around me and let me cry.
My OB refused to write me a refill for my progesterone. I’m ten weeks now and supposedly out of the danger of my pregnancy failing for that reason. “By ten weeks your baby has created a fully functional placenta which supplies all the hormones it needs. If your pregnancy fails now it will not be due to lack of progesterone.” Rationally I know she’s right. My husband agrees with her. Besides, what am I going to do? Stay on crinone suppositories for 9 months because I’m afraid to stop?
Stopping the progesterone has been a bit like freefalling. I have never had a pregnancy make it this far and so I have no coping mechanisms for this. What now? How do I know everything is ok in there? How do I know this house won’t be blown up in the middle of the night by terrorists?
The stasis is incredibly difficult. My OB agreed to do a heartbeat check on Monday with the warning that it was extremely unlikely we’d hear a heartbeat so early and it would probably make me more anxious. “no, no…” I assured her “I understand it’s a long shot…” And yet when she couldn’t find the heartbeat with the crappy doppler I barely made it out of the office without having a total meltdown. Last pregnancy my midwife tried to find the heartbeat with Doppler at 10 weeks exactly and couldn’t. I got the same schpeel about “it’s so early” and “it’s almost impossible to find now” and I believed it. Scheduled my ultrasound. And found out at 10w3d that our baby had died weeks before.
This week, my tenth week, has been by far the hardest. I start and end every day with the appeal “please don’t bleed.” My due date for my last pregnancy is next week and I keep thinking of myself with this huge round belly and a painted nursery…
It’s been a hard week but luckily I am coming out on the other side. When I had my miscarriage there were so many signs that that pregnancy was not going to work out, but this time the opposite is true. There are so many signs that things are going to work out. I just need to focus on that. I need to remind myself how sure I am and how strong this baby is. I have an order for an ultrasound and you know what? I’m not going to get it. I know that many women in my position want frequent ultrasounds, they want to see their baby constantly, and I understand why. But that has not been the case for me. in fact, this whole downward spiral of doubt and anxiety was, I believe, prompted by the ultrasound I got at 8w5d. I was confident and sure before that. Before I saw that tiny beating heart and got hit with just how vulnerable that tiny baby really is. I know I’m not the norm, but I dread the thought of getting another ultrasound. When I think about lying on that table I almost start to hyperventilate. So many ultrasounds have been disastrous for me it’s like I have post-traumatic stress disorder. I don’t want to be in that position again. Seeing the baby doesn’t make it stay alive. If I’m going to lose this pregnancy I don’t want it to end on that table looking at the dead baby trapped inside of me.
I know, it sounds crazy. But that’s where things are right now. It has been the week from hell. I have been so terrified I could barely function. But I’m still alive, and the baby is still alive, and my house is still standing.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

green-striped melons (a poem)

Green-Striped Melons -Jane Hirshfield

They lie
under stars in a field.
They lie under rain in a field.
Under sun.

Some people
are like this as well—
like a painting
hidden beneath another painting.

An unexpected weight
the sign of their ripeness.