A blog about babies: the babies I lost, the babies I never had, the baby who made me a Mama.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Coping; or, Things that Make Me Happy Today*

1) It may sound odd to say it, but I sense spring in the air. The birds have a different quality to their chirping and the sun has a mellower cast in the mornings. I can feel that winter is on its way out.

2) Snow. While this may contradict the previous statement, I love seeing my neighborhood blanketed in snow and I am thrilled we've had so much this winter. If it has to be winter, at least it's a pretty one.

3) Morning. My college-aged self would be appalled, but I like getting up at 7:30 every day now. The light has a hopeful, bashful tinge to it that it doesn't at any other time of day. It feels like a secret, stolen interlude with my husband every time we walk together down quiet, just-waking streets.

4) Jane Eyre. I have to finish the book today to present on it tomorrow. What a chore, right?

5) We're taking my father-in-law and his wife out to dinner for their birthdays tonight. We're going to this place (one of the best restaurants in Brooklyn, if not the city as a whole).

6) Yellow Tulips. I bought them on Friday, and my kitchen looks bright and cheerful.

7) My husband. He's making us breakfast burritos as I type.

*CD 1. Looks like I'm taking my Orals before I have a baby, after all. Which is also a good thing.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Backsliding; or, Having the Hard Conversations

Last night was rough. Very, very rough.

It started with the revelation that Lawyer Guy's 26-year-old cousin is pregnant with her third unplanned pregnancy. It ended with an hour-and-a-half of tears and soul searching in bed.

Despite my best intentions, pregnancy announcements knock me on my ass. I recover eventually (even quickly) and suck it up and smile and muddle through. But the first day I hear about a new baby on the way? Let's just say "poise" is not a word I'm worthy of in those moments.

This announcement was especially bad for several reasons: I'm deep in an increasingly pessimistic two week wait; I'm the only one of the 4 married cousins on that side of Lawyer Guy's family to not have a viable pregnancy in the past year; everyone in his family kept this a secret from me for over a month.

Yup, my husband has known about this since before we left for our cruise on January 14th. He's so worried about my mental fragility, he hid this from me for six weeks. And the worst part is, he's right. Learning about it sent me into a tailspin.

And about that mental fragility-- there's been a major backslide this week. I underestimated the psychic stress of getting back into trying to conceive after a miscarriage. My longing to get pregnant is even greater than it was before (if you can believe that) because it feels like the only thing that will make my miscarriage bearable. The waiting has worn me down over the past six days. I'm increasingly in despair (that's not an overstatement), increasingly convinced that this cycle is hopeless, increasingly convinced that I'll see red at the end of this.

So I've been moping a lot and crying a lot and generally in a funk. But I know that this is only the first cycle and that while getting my period sucks, I'll come out optimistic and hopeful (even if scared) the next cycle, and the next, and the next.

But for my husband, this backslide has been very upsetting. And last night, as he came into the bedroom, he told me that "I don't seem happy in our marriage."

Cue copious tears. Our marriage is the only thing that makes me happy. Our marriage is the rock that holds me up. So we talked and talked, and cried and cried and both said things we've been thinking for a long time. Ultimately, he said he's been scared by something I said in the days following the miscarriage: that I don't think I'll ever be happy until I'm pregnant again.

And while I don't feel exactly that way three months later (I'm happy sometimes, even frequently), I know there's a sadness in my heart that won't be erased until I have a baby.

And maybe not even totally then. Maybe I'll always have this sadness, but counterbalanced by joy.

We didn't come to any resolutions, but it was important (even though stressful) to share these feelings with each other.

I just hope the failed cycles are more tolerable with time.

Friday, February 26, 2010

I Swore I Wouldn't Do This; or, Letter to My Future Self

Dear Secret Sloper,

Hi, girl. Sorry you're not pregnant yet. It sucks.

We'd both agree I know you pretty well, right? We've been hanging out for almost 30 years now (maybe even over 30 years, depending on when you're reading this). And in that time, I've learned some things about you. You can't leave the house without forgetting your wallet, keys, or phone. Every time you swear you have a fever your temperature is a solid 97.8 (you never get sick). And without fail you forget what pms feels like every. single. month.

I even know what you're doing right now. You're probably 9, 10, 11 dpo and you're thinking, "Maybe this is it! Maybe this is the month!" And you're checking the didn't-know-I-was-pregnant-yet posts from October and feeling like maybe kinda that's sorta what you're feeling. So this is a public service announcement, from me to you:


I know, you've got cramps. THAT IS PMS!

And they sort of come and go and are really low in your pubic bone and your cervix sometimes cramps a little too. THAT IS ALSO PMS!

And okay, you're skin is relatively clear. But it's oily. YOU HAVE PMS.

And man, you're really hungry. You just ate two pieces of cheesecake. SO WHAT!? P.M.S.

And you're bloated. OKAY, THAT'S DEFINITELY PMS

And your boobs sort of hurt in the middle and not so much on the sides like usual and when you pinch the nipples or lie on them in this certain-- JUST STOP! YOUR BOOBS HURT BECAUSE YOU ARE POKING THEM NONSTOP. AND ALSO BECAUSE OF PMS.

And you've got this twingy, comes-and-goes backache just like your BFP month. AND ALSO JUST LIKE YOUR POST-M/C CYCLE. IT'S CALLED PMS!

Did I get them all? Just in case, I'll throw a few more out there: Did you have an "implantation dip"? Is your nose kind of dry? Are you taking a lot of midday naps? Do you cry at bizarre and unaccountable things, like Candide's "Glitter and Be Gay" ("I just *sob* love that song!") or The Daily Show ("Jon Stewart really *sob* loves his family").


Let me make myself perfectly plain: YOU ARE NOT PREGNANT!

It's tough to hear, I know. But let's try to take that long road back to sanity together.

Yours Always,

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Just Deserts; or, How to Earn a Baby Without Really Trying

I'm 10 dpo, so to keep myself from going crazy (checking for hints of pms zits, spotting in my CM, or other surefire AF signs), I'm going to post on some general, non-2ww related conception stuff.

I've been thinking a lot of desert (as in "just deserts", not the Sahara) and how we conceive of what we do or don't deserve when it comes to making and having babies. On the message board I frequent for women trying to get pregnant after loss, we frequently write "You don't deserve this" or "No one deserves this" to stories about recent or ongoing miscarriages. And I believe that with all my heart. You don't deserve a miscarriage (or infertility) because you're not married yet. You don't deserve it because you already have children. You don't deserve it because you're too thin (or too heavy). You don't deserve it because you're too old or too young. You just don't deserve it.

And so far we're all in agreement, I'm sure.

But then a lot of time, women on the board will complain (understandably) about how unfair it is to read or see on the news or personally know drug addicts getting pregnant easily, or women who sleep with men in prison, or women without jobs with too many children to care for as is, or... you get the idea. And most of the time they ask, "Why them? I pay my taxes, I'm financially sound, I 'm responsible and have a job and got married and bought a house. Why not me?"

But I think the implication of this question is: "They don't deserve it. I do."

I have a lot of problems with this line of thinking. Because if no one deserves a miscarriage--if infertility is a fact of fate and biology, not a measure of success or worth--then no one doesn't deserve a child, the flipside of our struggles*.

Or to put it another way: I don't believe I deserve to have children. I don't believe you deserve to have children. I don't believe anyone deserves to have children.

No one is smart enough, kind enough, patient enough, wise enough, present enough, interesting enough, artistic enough, athletic enough, involved enough, detached enough, calm enough, and sane enough to earn the right to have children. None of us is truly worthy of this privilege.

On one of my darkest days in November, during the awful week between our first and final bad ultrasounds, I told my parents about my pregnancy, over the phone, while crying. (Not how I dreamed of that moment, for sure).

And my dad said, "This is why children are called a gift. We're so lucky when they come to us."

So where does this leave me? I'm forced to admit that women with infertility, women who've suffered miscarriages don't deserve their children more than women who don't or didn't. We don't "earn" our children.

But we also don't deserve them less. Super fertile women are not worthier or better mothers or "born" to do this.

They're luckier. We're unluckier.

Because it's not about desert.

*Obviously some people don't deserve to raise their children. Molesters, abusers, neglectors: you can forfeit your right to be a parent through your actions. But the simple fact of conception and delivery--let's just take the idea of desert out of that.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Award Season; or, Many Thanks

Thank you! to Type A for the Happy 101 Blog Award- my first one! I have to list 10 things that make me happy and 10 bloggers I want to award. This is a great exercise for a crappy day when things just seem all wrong. I have to remind myself that even in the midst of my deepest sadness, my life is beautiful and grand.

1. Watching Lawyer Guy work on his "kitchen projects." He loves to play around with gadgets-- our new popcorn air popper, our pressure cooker. He gets so intense about making his little dishes and he's just so cute.

2. My puppy, Bella-belle. We call her the anxiety sponge. I love when she curls up against my hip when we're taking a midday nap in bed.

3. Getting an unexpected treat in the mail. My good friend Z just sent us a doggy lifevest for Bella to wear at the beach this summer!

4. Yoga. Seriously, I walk out of class feeling so refreshed and centered. It is beyond what I needed.

5. Lunch dates with friends. Enough of them are in grad school and have flexible schedules like me that I have at least one a week. They're so much more relaxed than dinner, but feel slightly naughty, too, especially when there's wine involved.

6. Jane Austen and Lord Byron. I love reading their work, talking about them in seminars, and writing about and researching them.

7. Red Velvet cake. How did I live without it until I was 25? Even better, the patisserie near my house makes Red Velvet Whoopie Pie. Awesome.

8. Having all three of my sisters live within easy traveling distance. This hasn't happened in years and it's so wonderful to see them every few weeks.

9. NY Times Saturday and Sunday crosswords. We do them in pen. In under an hour. We're hardcore.

10. Getting comments on my blog. They always give me a lift.

I give this award to:

Baby Blakely
Mission: Gidgelet
Mission: Motherhood
Such a Good Egg
The Impatient Optimist
In Our Own Weird Way
Evolutionary Dead End?
Mrs. Lemon Cake
Three Is a Magic Number
Little Bluebirds Fly

Thanks for helping keep me happy :)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Join Me on this Carnival Ride; or, One Week Down

This two week wait has been maddening. I feel like I'm on a tilt-a-whirl: up, down, sidewise, back, and forth, and with a huge mechanical jolt every time the ride changes direction.

Yesterday I woke up convinced there is no way I'm pregnant and went to bed convinced that I am. I can't put much stock in intuition, because I "felt" I was pregnant during all six of our previous failed cycles last spring and summer, so I'm clearly not the best judge. A huge temp drop (of one full degree) this morning at 7 dpo has also messed with my head: maybe it's implantation; but I had drops like that in other failed cycles; maybe I now have a luteal phase defect and I'm going to get my period tomorrow; maybe I'll never ever get pregnant again.

Today was my last day temping until AF. I don't need the fodder for senseless analysis.

And I'm going to spend the rest of the 2ww blogging about other things than my imaginary symptoms, issues I've been considering these past months and need to share. I'm going to try to stop mashing my breasts to check or "tenderness" every four minutes and eating mac n cheese every three days in an effort to "prove" that I'm ravenous. I won't test before 15 dpo, which is a week from Tuesday. I'll most likely get my period between Saturday and Monday.

I know I've got a good shot this month-- well-timed sex and a strong ovulation. But I also know that even the most fertile couples are lucky (incredibly lucky!) to conceive their first time trying. And forgive me for my cynicism, but luck hasn't been much of a companion on this trip thus far.

One week to go. Or less.

Probably less.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Consolations; or, Excitations (But Not Good Vibrations)

Three things have happened in the last few days to give me more optimism about my situation.

1) First (and most excitingly) I asked my favorite professor to be my Oral Exam committee chair, and she agreed!

(For those unfamiliar with the doctoral process, Orals are the qualifying exam that mark the point between coursework (classes) and the dissertation. At my university, they consist of three reading lists of 30-40 texts a piece (so roughly 100 works total) that you choose in conjunction with your three examiners (the professors who are your advisers, who administer your exam, and who will probably read your dissertation). You base these lists around your research interests, read and draw connections between them for several months, and then at the end there's a two-hour Oral Exam, wherein your examiners ask you questions about (potentially) any of the books you were responsible for reading.)

I am legitimately stoked to start reading and prepping for my Orals. Months to devote to delving deeply into Romantic and early-Victorian narrative poetry and novels just sounds like an awesome way to pass the time. My adviser is both brilliant and kind, and I am thrilled to be working with her on Jane Austen, Lord Byron, Walter Scott, and a bunch of other late-18th/early-19th century writers.

I had sort of seized on early February as my potential Orals date, but my adviser thought I could (and should) finish earlier. So now my mental endpoint is November. As in 9 months from now. As in, if I'm not pregnant right now. Which is great! Because if/when I get AF this month I can console myself with the fact that I don't have to delay my exam.

2) The second thing that happened is a result of my Lenten resolution to do nice things for pregnant people. I spoke with my friend E who (some of you may remember) gave birth the day after we found out we'd lost the m&m. E and I had a long chat, we talked about her baby boy, her difficulty breast-feeding because of thrush, and what it's like being a mom.

E also mentioned that her husband (a lawyer) is losing his job and has to find another one. They're looking everywhere--NYC, Colorado, even the Middle East. He was laid off just two years ago after the economy tanked, so this is not something they wanted to go through again, especially not with a new baby. E now most likely has to go back to work very soon, rather than getting the year at home with the baby that she wanted.

And instead of thinking yeah, but at least you have a baby (which in certain moods I might have), I thought I'm really glad I'm not in that situation. I was reminded of the fact that we've all got struggles that try us in different ways. And I know that I can handle mine.

3) The final thing that happened is so insane I hesitate to even mention it. So here goes: yesterday, at 4 dpo, I became convinced that I'm pregnant. I know. Madness. A little cramping does not a pregnancy indicate. I think I've forgotten what a regular 2ww feels like, since I haven't had one in almost six months. And then I woke up a little early this morning to pee. I don't even need a pee stick to make this diagnosis, right?

This is complete insanity that's going to bite me in the ass so hard it'll leave teeth marks. So it's a good thing I've got reason #1 to keep my dreams in check.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Something Like Success; or, It Starts

Isn't this a pretty sight:

Today's a "this isn't going to work" day. Today's a "things can't be that easy" day. Today's a "don't get your hopes up" day.

But I ovulated, so that's a start.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Lent; or, The Two Week Wait

Today is the start of Lent, and in an hour or so I will go to church to get my ashes. Today is a day of fasting, which I always try to keep, even though I know my energy will be flagging by my 4:15 class tonight. Beginning today I won't eat meat until Easter--and this year I'm going to give up alcohol, as well.

Every year I think to myself I should, and every year I find some reason why I can't (a wedding or big party in the middle of Lent; or last year the thought that I would be pregnant soon, so I needed to enjoy drinking while I could). This year I have no excuses. I've got no parties to worry about, and I'm pretty sure I won't mind having missed a few weeks of potential drinking if I get pregnant shortly after Easter.

I'm also going to try to do something about my attitude. I think I've healed emotionally and psychologically tremendously in the past three months, but I still have too many self-pitying days, too many days of fatalistic negativity, and far too much jealousy of my friends' babies and my sister-in-law's pregnancy. There isn't a need to "make amends" because I don't think these people realize the anger and frustration I feel so often. But I need to make amends to myself, to reassure myself that I'm not a bitter person, that I can feel happiness for others while sadness for myself.

So-- I'm going to do one nice thing for a pregnant person or new mother each week as part of my Lenten sacrifice. This might be an e-mail or phone call when I'm really not feeling up to it (as sad as my miscarriage makes me, I know they are preoccupied and stressed by motherhood). It might be a donation of clothing or time or money to an organization that benefits indigent pregnant women and mothers in the city. I'll do something to try to give love out instead of envy.

Lent is 40 days (plus Sundays) of waiting and preparation, and I have started a waiting period of my own. As I'm pretty sure this is my first time ovulating since October, I'm in my first real two-week wait since the miscarriage. I've had two days of a temp rise and am waiting for crosshairs on Fertility Friend before I post my chart. After all my moaning and fit pitching, we had decently timed sex in the end. And now there's a full blown Mind Fetus residing in my uterus, a boy or girl with a November birthday, a name, and a very happy life all planned out by his or her mother.

I hate that I'm feeling so excited and positive about this cycle, because I know I'll only feel it the worse when my period inevitably shows.

But wouldn't it be lovely to live an easy life like that?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentines Day!; or, Come On Girls, You Can Do It

My Dear Ovaries,

I just adore the unexpected Valentine's Day gift I found you'd left me this morning. Two Peaks in a row? How thoughtful! I haven't seen one of those since early October.

You're really just far too generous.

I feel awful that I have nothing in return. But if you're in a giving mood and can throw in some sex tonight and a temp rise tomorrow I'll do my best to reward you with nine or so months off.

And seriously, ladies. I know how lazy you are.

Your friend,

Secret Sloper

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Updates; or Odds and Ends

A huge and hearty THANK YOU to everyone who commented on yesterday's post or e-mailed with advice. You have made me feel less alone, less like one half of the freakish couple with sex problems. Taking some of your suggestions to heart, I had a calm, difficult, but loving and productive chat with Lawyer Guy last night before bed, and we have made some decisions about what to do to make this process less stressful on both of us.

Rereading my post, I'm struck by the anger in my tone. Truthfully, I do not usually feel that way about my husband, not even around this issue. I suppose that's why the feeling shocks me so much when it springs up in the aftermath of a difficult moment--I am pretty much the least anger-prone person alive. I'm in a much better headspace today (probably as a result of our good conversation last night) and am back to my usual loving self.

Also, out of respect to my husband, I won't be discussing this issue again. He knows of my blog and has agreed not to read it, but I still feel some guilt about sharing a concern of his that he would NOT like the world to hear about (that was a pretty constant refrain as we talked about our husbands, wasn't it? If only they could all get together and have this chat). So know that I appreciate your advice and support and that he and I are working on this as we move forward.

* * *
I've been through the wringer the last few months with trying to get the tissue test results back on the m&m following our d&c. Unreturned phone calls, misleading information, multiple calls to multiple doctors offices. I thought the situation was FINALLY resolved yesterday when I called my office to get the results (12 weeks after the procedure). And yet another road block has been put in my way: I never signed a release form for the office that performed the d&c to send the results to my regular doctor's office. And I never signed a form because they never told me to or gave me a form to sign! And it took a month and a half for them to let me know this (the results were in after 6 weeks)!

Now I need to fax a letter giving them permission to release the forms, wait for them to send the forms to my doctor, and I'm sure hurdle over another carpenter's horse before I learn what made us lose our baby. At this point, it's not even about the results, which I doubt will be all that informative, surprising, or helpful. It's the principal of the thing--don't make a grieving non-mother wait a FULL TRIMESTER to put her dead baby to rest.

Finally, today it has been three months since we learned we lost the m&m. I had a little breakdown yesterday, brought on partly because of the stressful marital situation but mostly because I just miss my baby.

Days get easier and the world seems brighter all the time. I'm committed to my schoolwork, loving my marriage, and finding a peace through yoga that feels enriching and well earned. I'm truly hopeful that I'll be pregnant again sooner rather than later and will have a baby at the end of those nine months.

But I will never have my m&m. I can accept what life has given me and still mourn what might have been.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Conversations; or, Confessions

I've been talking a lot about the m&m recently. Immediately after the miscarriage, I felt like this wall of silence was put between me and the people around me--I was grieving harder than I'd ever grieved in my life but I felt like I couldn't tell the people I interacted with on a daily basis--not my students, not my classmates, not my teachers, not my Junior League committee members.

That was probably smart. I found it hard to even think about the baby without sobbing--talking about him or her was probably beyond my ability at that point.

Now, however, I've been telling people about the miscarriage frequently (though I hope not indiscriminately and not in detail--merely the fact that it happened). And with each person I tell, it's like a little weight is lifted off my chest. I hate the burden of secrecy. I hated not only feeling loss and sadness but having to hide the source of those feelings.

I know why others choose to keep their emotions private and conceal their pain. But I've learned how healing it is for me to share my experience, and so I refuse to feel guilty for talking about this. I'm also lucky that none of the colleagues and friends I've told have given me the crappy, standard post-miscarriage responses. They've all responded with compassion and understanding.

I've learned that my former Junior League chair had a miscarriage two years before her toddler daughter was born. I've had a fellow grad student, the mommy to two little girls, tell me that the mommy part of my life has started now, even though I don't have a baby yet. I've had lots of hugs. And even when all I hear is, "I'm so sorry," it feels nice to be open and honest, nice to acknowledge that there was a baby, a baby who is gone now, a baby who left a sadness behind that will always endure.

So for my gals out there starting that long walk back to recovery after a miscarriage, I don't suggest you do things my way. But sometimes it's good to give people the opportunity to surprise you with their kindness and sympathy.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Next to Normal; or, Charts and Graphs

Things have been busy in the Sloper's household the last week: I'm taking three fantastic seminars for my final semester of coursework. I'm teaching another class of college freshmen how to write. I'm attending Junior League meetings and birthday parties and christenings and girls nights on the town and date nights with my husband. I'm reading a lot and writing not as much as I should be.

I'm also taking my temperature every morning:

Hmmm. Not one of my "pretty" charts of yore. But then again, those pretty charts never got me pregnant, so what did they know?

Post-miscarriage, my body feels like a stranger to me--I don't know what "normal" is anymore. I'm honestly charting to figure that out, not as some magic ticket to pregnancy achievement. Maybe that's why the terrible insomnia and anxiety that accompanied my first go-round with the BBT has been notably absent this last week or so.

Maybe I'm just all out of anxiety for the time being.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Back at One; or, Be Gentle, It's All So New to Me

My 1 year anniversary is coming up in March. Not my wedding anniversary (we're going on 3 years) or a grad school anniversary (this is my 4th year) or an apartment anniversary (we've been in Park Slope almost 2). Nope, I'm gearing up for my 1 year anniversary of trying to conceive a child.

First year TTC anniversaries are momentous things. They usually mean a full complement of blood work and semen analysis and a visit to the friendly neighborhood RE. But mine won't. Mine will most likely mean another pee stick in the fertility monitor, another temp charted on my fertility software, another night of hoping this one works and this one sticks. And another blog post (that one I can guarantee).

Because I won't have been trying to have a baby for 12 months. I won't be on my 9th cycle of fucking with purpose. I'll be on my second month, second cycle. A total newbie!

Miscarriages restart the clock. After all, the process worked (well, it didn't really if the goal was a child in my arms rather than a vial full of "products of human conception" in a lab somewhere, but you know what I mean). Pregnancy #1 was achieved. #2 is a different beast.

Most of the time, this feels like a good thing. I'm glad to let go of the accumulated disappointment and despair of March-December 2009. I'm glad to be starting over, a nice low number on the calendar and plenty of reason for optismism. It'll take 3 months, right? Sure, why not. It does for other people.

Other times I think--what if? What if it takes a full year? What if it takes 9 months and then I lose that one, too? And suddenly, I'm seeing second anniversaries, third anniversaries. Suddenly, I'm seeing how couples wind up waiting two or more years before trying any treatments, something I swore once upon a time I would never do.

But most of the time I don't think about the what ifs. And it's not just because they'll fuck with your head.

I'm new to this whole thing, remember? I'm counting on beginner's luck.